The recent months have been tough. Mental health has taken a hit, but there is respite in knowing that it is not a solitary phenomenon. Edging toward the tail end of the third lockdown, fatigue is ever-present among friends, family, and strangers I pass on my long woodland walks.
Without the regular distractions of full-time work and heavy socialising, me and many others have had to find alternative ways to manage the increasing struggle. Pandemic aside, the world is in a period of social transition which shows itself in many forms. One which has spoken to me is the activism and stand against the violence committed by men against non-women.
International women’s day was followed by a week of disappointing news: Meghan Markle’s interview with Oprah once again coaxed Piers Morgan from his misogynists resting place, Sarah Everard was found dead and a member of the Met Police arrested on suspicion of her kidnap and murder, and there was an outpouring of misogynoir and aggression against black women.
It was in the wake of this news week I decided to speak out about some of the injustices which have been committed against me.
Without telling anyone, I turned my Instagram into a temporary platform for me to speak about when I was raped.
I won’t recount the story here, but it’s available to watch on my Instagram @incredibillies as an IGTV video, though I give you fair warning it is graphic in nature and probably upsetting to watch. Regardless of these factors, I chose to share it because I had made my mind up that rape victims shouldn’t feel they have to keep what happened to them secret. They shouldn’t feel ashamed or dirty, and they should know these are things which happen TO them and not because of them.
One of the main spurs for me talking about my rape was the influx of non-men on my Instagram feed imploring people to listen to them. It is difficult to witness hundreds of voices rising in the wake of a tragic event, attempting to share their experiences, only to be told they are lying for attention.
The other reason was these people spoke gently of what happened to them. Without realising they made excuses for their abusers and refused to go into detail. I wondered why and realised all this must be to ‘spare’ the public from knowing what has happened to us in all the gory detail. This realisation stirred anger within me, leading me to record a video explicitly talking about the four men that raped me and how the police reacted to my situation.
Since posting the video I have had positive feedback. People have called me brave and thanked me for sharing. I know why they do it, but what I want is to create a norm where people aren’t too frightened or disgusted to tell the world of the abuse committed against them. A world where we talk about it enough to make people uncomfortable enough to make a change.
I may tell you I was ‘raped’, and you may sympathise with me and forget it a day later, but if I tell you how I was raped and what the people did to me, it becomes harder to make it go away. The more people who voice their story, the more graphic we are with the world, the more we fight for the right to never have these things happen to us.
Until things change, I will continue to ask my non-male friends to text me when they get home and to be careful if they’re going to be out after dark. I will continue to be cautious of any man in my near vicinity, and I will continue to upload stories of all the times I have experienced sexual harassment. It is hundreds.
Until things change, I will always encourage others to do the same.