[Written by: Charlotte Dean]
*Trigger warning: abuse, sexual harassment, assault*
During a time where sexual harassment and abuse is becoming more public than ever, and the inequality of men and women is being tackled, I felt it was only appropriate to discuss what students might have to deal with at university. I know I haven’t discussed sexual tales yet, but before I do that I feel that the realities of what students and people alike can face these days needs to be spoken about. Without realising, one can be mentally abused in a relationship, and this can be just as soul-destroying as being physically abused. I recently read an article by The Independent online listing the main points of what occurs when in an abusive relationship.
Abusive relationships can easily result in you being distanced from your friends and family due to your partner’s distaste, as well as not having your feelings heard or taken seriously. One of the reasons many people stay is due to the lack of self-esteem and self-love – obviously regaining this within an abusive relationship is easily said that done. You also maybe think that your sex life is as good as it can be. That it’s always meant to be rough and it is only pleasurable for the guy. This doesn’t only happen in relationships, though, and while we all try and be polite to one another, some of my friends and I have found ourselves not being asked about certain things during the act.
Sex can be seen as something two lovers share to strengthen their bond, or just an act with an end goal in sight whilst drunken limbs flail around like they’ve been caught in the latest storm that Scotland has to offer. More often than not, though, in a conversation with a group of friends one can bring up the times in their past when someone was far too rough or their “beau” for the night “forgot” to wear a condom. The problem doesn’t stop there, but people’s preferences shall we say, ask the girl to be totally subdued.
Girls at university, more often than not, feel the pressure to commit to having sex without actually knowing if it’s what they want, and because they feel that without it the guy they desire won’t want them or have any respect for them. In the past, I have definitely felt like this. It was really soul-destroying, and I encourage anyone reading this not to follow into my mucky footsteps. My older friend with the pseudonym Plum encouraged me to stop letting myself feel that I had to commit to someone fully just because I was going home with them, we all have a choice and it shouldn’t be an expectation anymore. When you do invite someone back the idea that you must commit to everything needs to be erased.
Even if you don’t go with someone but wanted a fun night out with your friends, sexual harassment in clubs is something that every single girl can testify to. On a recent night out in Edinburgh a man grabbed my face and pulled it into his – I pushed him and slapped him in retaliation. But not everyone can do this or feel strong enough to push away. I didn’t tell my friends about the incident until it was time to leave the club – and they immediately told me to report him to the bouncer. Why is it that we just accept that these things happen? Creepy men and boys dot about in Viper, the place where bum pinching is qualified as a dance move.
The fact that girls have to fear the walk to a late pre-drinks or club in the dark from their flat is a shame, and Kelvin Way sends one into goose bumps after a certain hour. Even at home you feel like you have to listen out for any weird noises in your flat when you’re home alone out of fear of predators. All of these times when we should be having fun, we’re in fear of being approached due to numerous cases of assault we’ve read about in the papers, or have known someone who has, unfortunately, been a victim themselves.
Sometimes, even when you’re in a relationship, or have just had a fling with a person, you can still feel taken advantage of. You should feel safe in their company, but instead you find that you can’t defend yourself out of the fear of violence, be it mental or physical (or, in the direst of cases, both). During sex there are times when certain actions can be too much, and just because you have been with them before it makes you think that it is exactly what you desire. Even if you don’t have any commitment to a person but you have spent many nights with them in the past and over a long space of time, it is not expected of you to have sex with them again. When you’re with this previous lover and they do not listen to your retaliation, but instead keep trying to turn you on further and persuade you to change your mind, it can make you feel rotten for not wanting to have just one more time together. You can feel afraid that they won’t like you as much, so you turn the fifth “no” into a “yes” just to appease them and not damage a reputation you may or may not have. The result is they end up getting a half-hearted night with you and it only makes you feel used and disposable.
At the end of the day, whether you’re in a relationship or not, treat people the way you would like to be treated. There is no point being with someone out of the fear of being alone, you’re your own protector, as it were, and you are as strong as you dream of being. This is the time to do what you want to do and not succumb to what you think will make people like you better.
If you know someone who doesn’t quite realise that they’re being mentally or physically abused by their partner or someone, please talk to them. They might say, “oh I’m only saying the bad you know because I don’t think the good stuff is something you have to know” or insist that you don’t know what they’re really like. The list of the bad could seem endless to the friend listening and insignificant to the person in the relationship. However hard they might try and distance themselves from you, don’t let go of them, however mean or different their character has become. They need to see that there is safety and comfort outside their abusive relationship, and they just need the confidence and courage to escape.
If you’re reading this and struggling with your situation and can’t yet discuss your problems with your friends or family, then please try contacting one of the appropriate numbers listed below just to have a chat about things with no pressure of acting upon it, yet.
Support can be reached from the following places:
National Domestic Violence Hotline on 0808 2000 247 (staffed by Refuge and Women’s Aid).
Broken Rainbow on 0300 999 5428 or Galop UK on 0800 999 5428 (for LGBT relationships).
Men’s Advice Line on 0808 801 0327 (for male victims of domestic abuse).