Why No Means No
Picture the scene, it’s a cold summers night and you are walking down a dimly lit alley. Your heart starts racing, your mind goes into overdrive but still you keep walking, hopeful that your outfit wont attract comment for the second day in a row. The clock strikes midnight and you hurry through the alley, aware that at the end of the tunnel is light and hope. But you are ambushed, 5ft from your home there are a group of men laughing among themselves as they look you up and down with slavish desire. Aren’t you a pretty little thing they say. You say nothing, it’s a rhetorical question and you have nothing left to give. You are mute in terror, like a deer in headlights as these strange men look at you like they want to pounce and ‘feast’ upon your innocence. What do you do?
They ask you personal questions. Where do you live? Where do you work? ‘None of your business’ you manage to choke out, scared as their leers turn into glares. There is nowhere to run to, but they come closer and closer, their hot fetid breath clouding you with undisguised interest. They want to force themselves on you, they believe that you are vulnerable enough to say yes but you prove them wrong. I choose no, You choose no, you don’t want to play their silly little games but they grab you, rough hands grip your fragile arms. You know that they can crush you if they choose to but still you say no. You will never say yes again, you will never let those who try to bully you into submission see you sweat. Eventually they let you go but for nights after you see their faces in your dreams, terrified that they will come for you again and silence your no with a yes.
For a while you are safe from the leering men, inconspicuous in your disguise. But then it begins again, a cycle of men who go out of their way to make you feel uncomfortable. You become a victim of sexual harassment, men trying to manipulate you into having sex with them. You speak to a landlord, a professional you are meant to trust. He turns nasty, begs you to sleep with him, he calls you a sexual slave and tells you that you ‘have to entertain him’. He calls you in the early hours of the morning, you block him but still he calls. He tries two other numbers posing as another person, hoping that you are gullible enough to fall for it. But you are not and you catch him out, he is a cold-blooded pervert, not 25 like he claimed. You act fast , inform the police but they do nothing despite the evidence. You show them the messages, the calls and the texts. They laugh in your face and you turn away defeated, knowing that yet another man has got away with it.
Do you remember the men who cornered you, told you that they were going to take you away with them, you said no means no.They didn’t care, you told them that you were under age and it was inappropriate. They leered and peered into your haunted eyes, they weren’t going to take no for an answer. You were another pawn in their sex game, too young and vulnerable to speak up. No one believed you, noone cared, noone bothered to listen. You are older now but the men still lurk, like flies circling a dead mans corpse.There is a girl, a mirror image of you at 14. She looks afraid, sat next to a man who is touching her up. You look around… noone does anything. You stand forward put yourself between them, that girl will not be a victim.
His breath is fetid on your neck, he shouts abuse at you. You stand strong, the young girl behind you, shaking like a leaf. He comes nearer, he calls you names, reaches into his pocket. You are afraid but you don’t show it, the crowd watches the game play out. He grabs your neck, tries to strangle you and you struggle to break free. Will you be another victim gone to waste? No! No means no, leave me the fuck alone. You escape his grasp he changes, shrinks into himself. Says sorry, begs for forgiveness, he sees the bruises on your neck, change of heart. You accept his apology but you never forget. The crowd turns and praises you for your heroism, you don’t feel like a hero. You feel sad, no one tried to help, noone stepped in. You could have died but still no one did anything.
You wear a midi skirt, feel sexy and empowered. Men call you names in the street, tell you that you what you are wearing will get you raped. You turn startled, angry at the pigs who blame women for being victims of their own rape. You rant and rave, dip into dangerous territory, defending your right to speak up. You tell them that what you wear does not define a man’s sexual behavior, does not give them the right to speak such evil words. Their eyes are bloodshot, they are high and drunk. You run in heels, aware that they begin chasing you down the street. You find it hard to breathe, find it hard to run. They are catching up now, you can smell their scent. These are no thugs but criminals, masterminds at exploiting young women at night.
They say you are disgusting, that your legs should be hidden, your bum is too big your chest too flat. You shout back enraged, you find a clearing and hide, they give up at last and you sigh relief. You hear them whistle as they work, can I have your number? No means no, what the fuck is wrong with you. They tell you to ‘get over your mood’, you will do what they say, claim that you bewitched them into harassing you. If you didn’t have a ‘big arse’ we wouldn’t have a problem would we? You swallow your retort, these men are killers, cold hearted scum who want to see you 6 ft under.
You and your friend are at work and become tired so you both stop to sit. A man comes up to you both, looks into your eyes. He looks at you in disgust and turns to your friend ‘you’re beautiful …so beautiful’. She is uncomfortable, squirming under his leering gaze; it’s invasive. He asks us both personal questions, what are you doing? Where are you going, where do you live? Your friend says nothing, you speak first. None of your business, no means no. He gets angry, the questions become more personal, calls your friend beautiful again. You tell him to stop and leave you both alone, his eyes turn red. “I am not talking to you shut the fuck up I am talking to her” he cries, it’s clear that he is high and drunk. She steps in and says he is making her uncomfortable. He takes no notice, I repeat my words stand my ground. I feel ugly, he never called me beautiful, is that how everyone sees me? I don’t feel beautiful seeking validation from a man who repulses me. But I feel jealous, disheartened at their being no validation. He goes eventually my friend thanks me. I say ‘he’s right you are beautiful’ , so are you she replies. No, no I am not…
Have You Ever Been A Victim Of Sexual Harassment?
In light of the #metoo campaign, now more than ever it is so important to speak up and speak out. We are not victims but warriors. I urge you to not judge those who have been hurt and don’t claim to know others ‘life stories’, instead be compassionate and aware of others because without your encouragement and support they may never have the courage to speak out. No matter what industry you work in or what you are wearing, no means no. If you have not given your consent, no means no no matter what the circumstances are. Don’t ever pressurize someone into doing something that is against their will , don’t force yourself upon someone who says no and above all don’t put someone else’s life in danger to satisfy your own fantasies. Do the right thing; if someone says no, don’t silence their no with a yes. Accept that no means no.
Resources On Sexual Abuse, Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment
Victim Support: Statistics On Rape and Sexual Assault
The Survivors Trust:National Helplines
NHS: Help After Rape And Sexual Assault
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