My earliest memory of anything sexually inappropriate begins at the age of twelve. It’s possible something may have happened earlier, but I doubt it. Regardless, I have no recollection.
When I was twelve, my parents had a very large party. It lasted three days.
If that sounds strange to you, this is Australia. We have a massive drinking culture. It’s not actually all that strange here. (Seriously, one of our ex-prime minsters is literally known for his ability to drink a lot of beer quickly. Seriously. He had a record at one fucking point.)
As my parents used to own a large farm, most people camped out in the backyard. Everyone had breakfast on the BBQ.
Everyone was drunk for roughly three days.
On the last night, however, things changed.
I went to my bed, completely over the party and all the drunk people, and all the people who were constantly in and out of my home (whilst we did hire outside toilets, people still needed to enter the house at a time. The house was largely off-limits to most people, but obviously there were some exceptions).
In my old home, I had large French doors looking on the outside. (You know the kind – the ones that are made completely of glass.)
As the party was at the entirely other end of the house – hundreds of metres in the opposite direction (so as not to disturb my brother and I), I didn’t feel the need to shut the curtains over my doors.
It was dark outside. No one was supposed to be on the opposite side of our house (we had 300 acres, before anyone questions this).
My bedroom door was closed. In my mind, I had nothing to fear. No reason to be cautious. No one would accidentally come in. The party wasn’t even close to where I was in the house.
I mean, who would be standing outside my bedroom window? In the dark?
I started unchanging. Completely. I was about to put on my pjs when someone must have come into the living room. The living room, near my bedroom, had an outside light. It must have been someone drunk or unfamiliar with the house as they didn’t hit the lounge room light – they hit the patio light for the lounge.
When they made their mistake, the unexpected light caught my attention, and I looked outside.
A man was staring at me through the windows. He was watching me while I changed.
I was twelve. I didn’t know how to react, so I giggled nervously and said sorry and quickly shut the curtains.
Yes. I apologised for a man spying on a twelve-year-old girl changing. (And if you think rape culture is just a feminist conspiracy, think about why a twelve year old who was being spied on by an adult would immediately think it was somehow her fault.)
It, unfortunately, did not end there.
He then decided to start entering my bedroom while I was in bed. He asked me a bunch of different questions. Each time he entered, he lingered longer. Each time he entered, I was terrified something would happen. Like any child, I turned off my lights and hid under the blankets, hoping it’d be a deterrent. I hoped I was just being silly, and thought that he was drunk, he’d see me “sleeping” and go away.
It wasn’t. He didn’t stop coming into my room, and seemed okay from disturbing me from my “sleep”.
He eventually did stop, because he passed out.
Regardless, my problem is less with how I, as a child, reacted. I don’t feel shame with reacting the way I did. I feel like I reacted the way most children would have. I was too young to truly understand his motivations – even though I feared him, and knew something was wrong – and I was isolated from almost everyone.
Hell, I’m not even that upset with the guy. At the time, I tried to convince myself it was all a misunderstanding, but even then, I knew it wasn’t.
Now I know for certain it wasn’t. A man doesn’t watch a twelve-year-old girl get undressed and then repeatedly enter her room.
I know now that he was testing me. He was testing my reaction. He was testing to see what I’d do. He was testing how far he could take it, if anyone would notice, if anyone would hear.
Luck just happened to be on my side, in a sense. Or alcohol.
No, that wasn’t the problem.
The problem was with my parents, when I finally told them what happened, and how I felt.
They dismissed it. It was nothing, they said. He was drunk, they told me. Nothing happened.
But that isn’t the truth. I was violated the moment he stood outside my window, looking in, whilst making sure I couldn’t see him. People don’t hide in the dark for no reason. Had no one turned on the patio light by accident when they did, I wouldn’t have known he was watching.
After watching a young girl undress, you don’t continuously come into her bedroom. Not a twelve-year-old, not a girl you don’t know, not when you’re drunk, not when she’s sleeping or trying to sleep (which was the message the blankets and the lack of lighting in my room was giving).
You don’t edge closer and closer to a young girl, while she’s in bed.
It’s not normal. It’s not okay. It was predatory behaviour.
And my parents, for all the love and care they offer me, condoned it the moment they dismissed any feelings I had on the subject. From that very moment, they told me that I was overreacting, and that men weren’t responsible for their actions if they were drunk.
That’s rape culture. I was twelve, and this man was in his 20’s.
And yet, he was offered a defence, and I was dismissed.
I’m sure they didn’t mean any harm. I’m sure that wasn’t meant to be the take-away: I’m sure they were relieved nothing happened, and didn’t want it to impact me, so dismissing it seemed best.
I also honestly think that they truly believe male actions can be excused if alcohol is involved.
Regardless, that’s rape culture. It’s not a feminist conspiracy. It’s not shitty parenting. (Or, at least, it’s not just shitty parenting.) It’s rape culture. My parents truly believe this, because society tells them it’s the case. That there’s “rape” and “real rape”. That “men can’t control themselves sometimes”.
Because society tells us this time and time again. Every time a woman is questioned about what she was doing and wearing and how she was behaving and if her actions could be seen as something else, that culture is further reinforced. It gives an excuse to the inexcusable, and fills the victims with a shame that they often burden for forever.
I’m not just a statistic.
And I am not alone.
It doesn’t matter if I’m a wife, a daughter, a sister, an anything, so please stop sharing the meme she’s someone’s [insert something here].
I’m a person. I was twelve.
I deserved better.
And the next twelve-year-old deserves better, too.