- When I was about eight or nine, we were at my Dad’s brother’s house for a New Years Eve party. I went to lie down in one of the rooms set up for the kids because I was tired and my cousin, who was four or five years older than me, came in and laid beside me. He started to kiss me on the mouth and touch me. I pretended to be asleep and thankfully someone must have walked into the house because he got up and left. I told my mother and all she said was “Don’t tell your father.” A year or two later, my Dad’s brother’s family was moving house and my parents let them stay with us. Incredulously, they put me and my sister in the same room as the cousin who had touched me, even though my mother knew what he’d done. I was really horrible to him every day they lived with us and was always in trouble for talking to him that way. He was invited into our family home for years after that and every time I had to be nice to him because “poor [cousin’s name] has a hard life.” After my father finally exited my adult cousin and his brother and sister-in-law from his life for a completely different reason, I asked him “didn’t you ever wonder why I used to talk to him so badly for all those years Dad?” Then I told him in my 30s, in front of my mother, and he looked at her and said “is that true?”, she looked at the floor and nodded and he said nothing. Firstly, a big clue too, the daughter who never told lies, he didn’t believe me and had to get clarification from his wife.
- In grade seven in primary school, I was invited to a pool party and when I got there I was the only girl. I didn’t feel comfortable, but also didn’t have the courage to walk home because stranger danger was big at this point in the 70s. We were playing Marco Polo and this boy grabbed me and was trying to get his hand into my swim suit. If it wasn’t for a longtime friend that was also at the party stopping him, it would have gone further than it already had. I did get out after that and set out to walk home when a car pulled up all of a sudden and I ran back to the boy’s house and waited in the front yard til the car drove off. I felt like it was my fault because I was the only girl there and I didn’t decide to leave when I knew. I didn’t tell anyone what had happened.
- Roll forward to when I was 22 and I was working for a Piping Systems company. Every day the company accountant walked passed my desk to meet with the Group Marketing Manager. Every day I said “Hello [man’s name], how are you today?” One day a message notification arrived on the internal computer system and he’d sent me, what ended up being, a two page email of what he wanted to do to me if I met him in the corridor between the two offices we worked in. It was like a ‘no man’s land’ walkway. I responded with “is this a joke?” and he said “no, you really do it for me.” When I asked him, “what have I done for you to feel this way?” He responded with “You’re nice to me.” I printed it off and took it to my manager and he went white and said “I’ll handle it”. This company accountant was married and the son of a Uniting Church Minister, so very Godly. What happened was he was spoken to and told he wasn’t allowed to send messages like that. He continued his employment and also continued to walk passed my desk everyday. I stopped being polite by saying hello and he glared at me as he went by my desk. I was then transferred to a different location in Brisbane that added an extra hour onto my drive to work everyday.
- I was with the same company and had to travel to Rockhampton for training. It had been a big week and the team went out for drinks on the Friday night. I was staying with one of my colleagues and her husband on the Friday night with the plans of going to Great Keppel for the weekend. My colleague got that drunk she passed out when we got home and I was asleep on a couch in their sleep out when her husband came and sat beside me and started touching me saying we should just fool around. I fended him off until he had to leave for work at 5am, he was a butcher. I left a note for my colleague saying I’d heard from my family that I had an urgent need to get back to Brisbane. I didn’t know where I was in Rocky, so I walked up the road with my stuff until I found a cab and went straight to the airport and flew home.
- Again, still with the same company and I was now working in Cairns. One of the men I worked with wanted to go into a proper relationship with me and when I said I didn’t want to, he started a level of workplace bullying with me that ultimately caused me to lose my job. I had more sick leave in one year than I’d had in my whole working life and even though the state manager travelled to our office to interview me about my poor performance with a female witness, I was forced to ask him why he wasn’t asking me what was happening to me in the workplace. He knew who I was as an employee before I moved to Cairns. I was a model employee. In the end he just looked at me and said “what do you want?” All I said was pay for me to get back to Brisbane. Everyone signed the document and I lost my job after four years of a perfect record.
- When I moved to live in the UK, I landed a great job with an Oil and Gas company in London. I loved that job so much. One day I was at my desk on a Friday afternoon. It was quiet in the office because of the nine day fortnights we had there. A senior manager from another level in the building came down to my work station. He had a toothbrush in his pocket, which I thought was odd. He turned my chair around, put my hand on his penis and kissed me and then left. It wasn’t until my work visa was coming to an end and I had to look at leaving to come back home to Australia, that I told my favourite manager in the division I worked in what head happened. He was horrified one, at the behaviour of his colleague and two, that I didn’t say anything when it happened. He didn’t understand that I’d “grown up” in a culture of if you say something you lose. I couldn’t afford to lose my job with him as well as, I really loved it, I didn’t want to have to leave.
- This is probably the biggest for me and the one I will finish on. When my first marriage crumbled, I had an uncle start ringing me to check in on me. As it turned out, he was an adult predator. They exist. In that relationship, I was always the child. I’d been in his life from when I was five. He was my Aunts husband. As a 26 year old woman though, in his eyes I was a sexual object. He propositioned me for sex a number of times over the phone when he would call to see if I was ok after my separation and divorce. I would play it down and change the subject. Then when I was on their farm, six hours from where I lived, he told me “it’s there if you want it” and because I was so shocked and my mind went blank with the fear of being blamed and losing the relationship with my aunt and cousins, I said “I would think about it.” I then went to bed and closed all the doors. When my Aunt was in the shower, he came into my room and started rubbing his hands all over my body and only stopped when he heard my aunt get out of the shower. I told him no, that I couldn’t take part in it and drove home early the next day, even though I was supposed to stay out there for a couple more days. When I got back to Brisbane, he still rang and would ask me what I was wearing. I had to be really rude and tell him he wasn’t able to talk to me like that anymore and I hung up. I told my mother too and the same as when I was eight or nine, with one extra sentence “Did he hurt you?” “No.” “Don’t tell your father.” Then nothing. Not one thing. She didn’t speak to her sister (my aunt) about her predatory husband, or ring my Uncle for that matter. I was the child in that relationship with no point of reference of what it looked like to have an uncle sexually attracted to me. My Aunt never asked me why I stopped sending birthday cards, or why I never visited anymore, even when I got back from the UK. When I finally did tell her in 2015 all she said was “[Uncle’s name] says distasteful things all the time.” I lost my entire family after that. When I told my Father what my Uncle had done the first thing out of his mouth was “That’s not fair, I was never sexually attracted to his daughters.”
So, you see, encounters and incidents don’t have to be violent.
It’s the culture that backs up the power of the perpetrator from all directions. The one thing that seems to be coming to light in the Weinstein story is that people knew. Like people knew about Rolf Harris’ behaviour and all the horrible atrocities in the Churches of the world. Because they hold the power, backed up by the next level of power, it takes decades for the abuse to make it to the light. The gift, finally, is that they actually are making it to light and they are forcing the hand of the overriding culture that is don’t say anything because it’s not going to end well for you.
In every one of my experiences, I lost out. Even with my divorce, my first husband threatened to kill me if I asked for anything I was entitled to after a ten year relationship with him. I had no ability to feel safe and secure in my life because of all the evidence I had of how much support was available to me from those who were the closest. I didn’t want to lose my life, so I walked away and even then, he wouldn’t stop phoning me and telling me we should still be together. So I had to ‘disappear’ to the UK.
As many of my friends have posted with their #metoo posts, this doesn’t define me. It used to, but not anymore, because I did the work. Every time the profound fear of working with men came to the surface in my role now as the Emotional Strength Trainer, I was able to do the intention work, and push through the fear, knowing that I’d recreated the energy around the kind of men I have in my life the minute I started a relationship with the man who has now been my partner for 19 years. Every man that has come into my life through my business or friendships ever since, has been one of those men who are the kind to stand in front of a man capable of sexually harassing a woman and saying “come on now.”
Today I celebrate every man that comes into my life who presents this way and I can say with unequivocal delight, there are loads of them. If a man is reading this who has been sexually harassed or assaulted, I want to encourage you to stand in the #metoo tagging fest and derive your courage from those who are also standing in their truth.
Finally, while I was scrolling through twitter this morning one tweet stood out for me as an indicator that some circles were trying to take this Weinstein stuff to a place that can only be deemed as a someone trying to change the subject.
If you think the Weinstein scandal means men can no longer flirt with women, you must be really fucking atrocious at flirting.
— Kristy Puchko (@KristyPuchko) October 15, 2017
I think it’s a really poignant part of the discussion. There’s a giant divide between normal human interaction that’s a bit of fun and sexual harassment. It’s also a giant opportunity for people to do a shit tonne of self-worth work and defining what is ok and what’s not okay and being strong enough to stand in that space. Stand tall in the affirmation that you only attract people in your life who are in alignment with you and your boundaries. That’s were you will build your person power from. As the culture grows and people aren’t using blame tactics, within a generation we should start to see more of a balance and less of the scandals.
We can only hope.
#If you would like a hand to clear the emotions you have around this #metoo epidemic, starting 24 October, 2017, I’ll be doing a 4 week mastermind helping you to shift the parts of your story so that you can live the “We go through what we go through to help other’s go through what we’ve been through” – the things that happened to you don’t have to rob you of your future life founded in happiness and security. A nominal fee of AU$22 is the only cost to take part.
CLICK HERE TO JOIN via PayPal and when payment is made it will take you to a facebook group. We start on the 24th of October, 2017.