WARNING: This story may distress some readers.
FOR Jodie*, the #MeToo movement started with an increase in the coverage of violence against women.
“More people were speaking out about these atrocities, sharing statistics and asking what was being done. I was one of these people,” she said.
“Then when the Harvey Weinstein saga came out. I could not stop researching the victims' stories and was horrified by what these women had been through: The abuse of power... of shame, isolation...
“Talking to my husband about the details of some of the accounts one day in the car, I came upon an old memory of my own that I had locked far away in my mind for over 20 years. I stumbled through what happened and the obvious conclusion that I was raped.
“This memory I had repressed because I would not have been able to deal with it as a 16-year-old girl, at a party my parents didn’t know I was at, under the influence of alcohol and a joint the perpetrator – a male about seven years my senior – and friends had provided.
“My behaviour over the last few months started to make sense – the obsession over the Harvey Weinstein case and a higher level of anxiety.
“I was happy, loved my life, loved my husband and children, so why let this get me down?
“I was just so sad, crying while watering the garden, not sleeping at night, anxious for my children’s safety, feeling like I haven’t loved myself because of all the underlying shame I felt for what had happened to me.”
Jodie said she doubted herself and her feelings, asking herself questions like, ‘Did it even really happen?’ and ‘Is it really that serious?’ She would even tell herself to, ‘Get over it’.
“I had a lot of trouble accepting that I was raped and it made me very sad, made me feel unsafe, and made me feel like I had done something wrong,” she said.
For far too long, impunity, silence & stigma have allowed violence against women to escalate to pandemic proportions. Time for change is here & now. #16Days of Activism kick off on 25 Nov: https://t.co/kCHcjKhLe9#HearMeToo#orangetheworldpic.twitter.com/BcUVDz5Klv— UN Women (@UN_Women) November 11, 2018
She said she was grateful to have contacted the Loddon Campaspe Centre Against Sexual Assault and for the free counselling she received to help her work through the many layers of how sexual assaults had affected her life.
“I say ‘assaults’ as, during my therapy, I had many different memories surface of different sexual assaults and behaviour that I had never dealt with,” Jodie said.
“What about that other time when that guy made me do that when I told him I didn’t want to, or when that guy touched my breasts when I had not given him any indication of interest, or when that guy flashed me?
“So many different situations, all of which I was taking responsibility for, or where I didn’t want to make a scene, didn’t want the man to feel bad or embarrassed.
“These feelings are behaviours I am working on changing and continually identifying in our society’s culture.”
She believed holding perpetrators accountable was a big part of the change needed to reduce physical and sexual violence against women, which the World Health Organisation estimates to be experienced by about one in three women, worldwide.
“The #MeToo movement has helped me by providing me support,” Jodie said.
“In identifying with so many others I can take strength and be reminded that I am supported, I am not alone and I am going to make change, I’m going to talk about this.
“#MeToo is powerful in the number of victims saying, ‘No! No more – this is not our shame, it is every perpetrator’s shame!’ It is victims standing together, taking back control and, importantly, starting a conversation.
“I wont be ashamed anymore or take responsibility for these men’s actions and I will do whatever I can to keep this conversation going and improving our society’s views on respect and appropriate behaviours.”
In the process of taking back control, Jodie decided she wanted to hold her perpetrator accountable.
“I spoke to the police and started my report after months of counselling,” she said.
“Hardest thing I have ever done, talking about finer details of the circumstances and rape. After so long, trying to dredge up all the horrible details – hand was here, then touch was there, he said this...
“Do not think victims are lying or getting benefit from making reports. It is reliving trauma. It is dredging up more than you ever should.
“It is knowing that you will have to stand in a court of law, and the law allowing you to be character assassinated. The law enabling the fact you enjoy sex as a reason for that man to take what he wants from you. What you wore to become supporting evidence.”
Her bid for justice did not result in a conviction.
“I didn’t stand a chance, so I stopped the legal process and my perpetrator is another one of the many still out there,” Jodie said.
She felt the courts were set up in such a way that a survivor could be considered to be lying until a crime was proven beyond all reasonable doubt, yet a perpetrator did not even have to take the stand.
“Seriously, what hope do victims have?” she said.
“The laws and processes need to change, people who do these crimes are not being put away - support victims, not criminals.”
Some great advice on how to take action for #16days of activism from @UN_Women Tomorrow's @BgoAddy gives voice to women from our region as we stand united with our global sisters for #IDEVAW2018@UNWomenWatch@genderequityvic#orangetheworld#HearMeToohttps://t.co/vPuezeWxR1pic.twitter.com/FXnr2GCluJ— Nicole Ferrie (@nicoleferrie) November 23, 2018
By sharing her story, Jodie was hopeful fellow victims of survivors of sexual assault would know they were not alone.
“I hope they know it is not their fault, to hold their perpetrator accountable,” she said.
“I hope they can get strength out of the sharing of stories to know they don’t have to hide their story anymore, there is help out there.”
*name has been changed to protect privacy
- LCCASA offers free and confidential counselling, advocacy and support to children, women and men impacted by sexual violence. Contact LCCASA on 5441 0430, or the after hours Sexual Assault Crisis Line on 1800 806 292.
- For support with sexual assault, domestic or family violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit www.1800respect.org.au.
- In an emergency, call 000.