Thursday, August 30, 2012

Hell/Bus Stop

I started writing this blog post a couple of weeks ago now, during yet another another Hell Pizza debacle. As seen here, the company posted a winning entry in their weekly 'confessional' competition on their Facebook page, in which the entrant outlined the time they sexually assaulted a sleeping dude at a party. Hell has quite rightly been dragged over the coals for the post and have tried to make amends by donating to Wellington Rape Crisis. The incident is kind of ancient history in the media world now, but it's taken me some time to feel comfortable posting this, and the subject has ongoing pertinence.

One evening when I was 18, I was waiting at the bus stop on Willis Street after work. It was summer, twilight, and there were plenty of people like myself just waiting around to go home, but I was the only one sitting on a bench. I was absorbed in text messaging, so it probably took me up to a couple of minutes before I noticed a man had edged his way over to stand uncomfortably close to me, and a few seconds more to realise the newspaper he was holding was obscuring the view of his exposed erection from everyone but me. It makes me shake with anger right now to write about it, but in that moment I was absolutely terrified. I didn't react, feigned oblivion, and stared straight along the road until my bus finally arrived.

Once I was back at my flat I hid in my bed and cried - bewildered, embarrassed, and wondering whether it was something I was supposed to report to the Police. I eventually decided to contact them through an office line and was told it definitely had warranted a 111 emergency call. I ended up going to the station that night to make a statement, and a few weeks later identified the man from a page of mug shots. Turned out he'd targeted a number of victims in a similar ways, including children.

At the time, I thought the reason I was so hesitant to contact Police was due to a lack of education about what which kind of crimes are worthy of an emergency call to Police - is my life in danger? No? No lights and sirens required, ta - and that too much emphasis was placed on calls that wasted Police time. But as time's gone by, I've realised my uncertainty was probably because I shared what the Hell incident has shown me is a fairly widespread dismissive attitude towards sexual crimes. It seems to me that unless an innocent virgin is raped by a stranger in a dark alleyway, sexual assault and harassment is often belittled.

I rejected the Victim Support I was offered at the time, and I don't think I realised how much it had affected me until a few months later, when I met someone who told me about their sexual assault and I recognised several of their resulting feelings as similar to my own.

Sexual crimes aren't something most victims can stand up and speak out about because it's horribly traumatising. Compared to the incident described in the Hell confessional entry, my experience was very mild. But posting this is still incredibly scary, despite the fact it happened five years ago. And I kind of think the fact I feel I need to acknowledge it was 'minor' just shows what a big problem we face when trying to change society's attitude towards sexual crime.


Han said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

We have a non-emergency number here for our Police station and they are really helpful and the last time I called and explained that I didn't think the situation needed blues and twos but I did need assistance they were really understanding.

I think they'd much prefer that you rang the non-emergency line when you're not sure than block up the 999 (or 111 in your case) number for something that isn't an emergency in case something that is can't get through.

Nova said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Yeah I understand what you're saying. I've been sexually harassed in weird ways like this before as well, and it's kind of like...what do you do? I always think I might be overreacting until I get home or to work and feel increasingly upset about what happened.

Recently a like, 70 year old man came into my work (at the tattoo shop) and we were having a cool chat about what it was like back in his day in a tattoo shop and out of nowhere he starts talking to me about his penis!

I was like "I...don't know what to say to that...?" and luckily one of the guys I work with is very in tune to my tone of voice and came over. The old man seriously ran out the shop, it was very upsetting.

Later I was going over all the things I should have done... anyway it's tough. Glad you went ahead and called the police and helped identify the man!! Good on you!

Lauren said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

I had a massive conversation about this with someone last night. It was a male friend of mine and he's had two past girlfriends who have been victims of rape and said he had no idea how widespread the problem of sexual assault is.
And ex-boyfriend I was still friends with sexually assaulted me once and for ages afterwards I was just left thinking, "Did that actually happen?!"
I'm glad the police took you seriously. My old flatmate was raped and the police were dreadful.
I'm glad stuff like this is appearing more in the press (like Akin's "legitimate rape" crap). Over here in the UK, an idiot politician defended Julian Assange by saying you don't have to ask permission every time you have sex with someone you've already slept with! Like it's your right or something!
I could talk forever about this. Thanks for this post- I'm sure lots of people will relate to it x

samboy said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

What an awful thing to happen! It's so upsetting that people get their kicks by doing horrible things like that to other people.I just don't understand it at all.

Sorry you still find it tough to talk about, I can't imagine it being easy :( x

Holly Knitlightly said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Blah, I'm sorry that you had to experience that. I'm glad that when you did contact the police they were so good about it.

One of the reasons I left my job was because of the things the people outside of my work would say to me. I cried a few times because I was just so disgusted and I couldn't even do anything. And half of the time these people were saying things in the middle of the afternoon!

Caitlin said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Oh my gosh Alice, I'm so sorry that this happened to you, but good for you for writing about it. More people need to speak up against this kind of bullshit. Lots of love and support to you, friend.