I'm a Nowhere Girl and I Wasn't Asking For It

*****Trigger Warnings: Rape, Consent*****

We all have a story. Some of us have a few. Whether it's the unwanted arse grab on a night out or those wandering eyes that find your breasts and feel it's their right to stare, or something more sinister. I was blessed with a a very small waist and a very large bottom. Apparently, that gives men the right to cop a feel whenever they choose. I used to turn and politely smile, as if what they were doing was okay. I was young, I was naive and honestly? I didn't know any better. Girls are led to believe that what they wear, how they talk, how much they drink, will affect what happens to them in their lives. I'm here to tell you: that is wrong.

I read a book yesterday that inspired this post. That inspired me to tell my story and that book is The Nowhere Girls by Amy Reed. I don't think I've ever read a book quite as empowering as this one. I've never had to take breaks before when reading a book; to process the words that I've read, to think about what those words mean to me, to shed a few tears at how close to home the words are, before delving back in.

The Nowhere Girls reminded me of Moxie. Think Moxie but more brutal, more honest and much darker. The Nowhere Girls tells the story of three misfits, Rosina, Grace and Erin. Three girls brought together by the rape of a previous student at their school. A rape that everyone chose to ignore. Each girl has their own story, their own struggles but they come together to fight against the way girls are treated and the way boys behave.

They form a group called "The Nowhere Girls", which schedules regular meetings for girls to meet up and share their stories and feelings towards men and the way society sees them, and how they can change that. Its only when you start taking notice that you realise how badly some men treat us. I want to emphasise the word some because this is not a man bashing book. Actually there's a quote from the book that's stuck in my mind which says something along the lines of "sometimes saying yes, is just as important as saying no" and it celebrates women enjoying sex (or not) and experimenting with sexual partners (or not). The book makes you feel comfortable with whatever decision you choose in your sex life.

The Real Men of Prescott is a blog run by an ex-student, one that has been raping and demeaning girls for years but because he does it when they're drunk, or high, or vulnerable, society just accepts it and the girls have had enough. The blog posts from The Real Men of Prescott are horrific. You sometimes hear glimpses of men saying things like it, but when you read it, in full context, on a page; it feels real, and honestly, it's terrifying.

The girls unite and things become serious as the police become involved and their whole world is turned upside down for standing up for what they believe in. I won't say anymore but I think this book should encourage us to share our stories. We shouldn't feel ashamed for a man's shitty actions. So here's mine.

The story I'm about to tell you involves 16 year old me. 16 year old me who had never had a boyfriend, certainly hadn't slept with anyone and had just had the occasional snog from a holiday romance. I was at work, wearing black trousers and a white round neck top, I was shy and very polite, I had consumed no alcohol (obviously) and I was working in a busy location. Please tell me, how was I asking for it? Let me also point out: I could have slept with 50 people. I could have been wearing a mini skirt and a crop top. I could have been completely intoxicated and kissing a single guy. Does it mean I'm asking for it then? No. It means, I want to get drunk, feel sexy and have a snog and guess what, blokes? That's okay. My body. My life. My rules.

Anyways, I was friends with a guy at work. He was 7 years older than me, very good looking, chatty and honestly? I had a crush on him. But he was engaged, I was still in school, so apart from the odd comment to my female co-worker about "how gorgeous he was" that day, I never saw anything coming from it. More importantly, I never wanted anything from it.

I remember this one particular day like it was yesterday. Me and the guy I mentioned above (let's call him Ben) had been texting for a few weeks, mainly about work but I will admit, there was some flirting, mainly from his side but it was nice to feel wanted, especially by this gorgeous 23 year old. I told my co-worker on this day (let's call her Phoebe) that he'd been very flirtatious today and something felt different between us. Near the end of our shift, Ben came over and asked me to help him in the kitchen. Everyone else was gone and it was just me, Ben and Phoebe. Phoebe looked at me, waggled her eyebrows and left us alone. I convinced myself he just needed help and went along to the kitchen.

Entering that empty kitchen, I knew something was going to happen. I'm not sure how, call it women's intuition but I thought it would be a quick kiss; that's all I knew. We were tidying for a while and then he was there, beside me. I could feel his breath on my neck and I wasn't okay, mainly because he was engaged but I also didn't want it.

Before I could even say the word, "no", his hands were squeezing my breasts, cupping my cheeks, grabbing my crotch. I just stood there, frozen. Slowly shaking my head side to side, my eyes squeezed shut. I'll never know if he saw the shake of my head, or was too busy claiming the parts of my body that weren't his. His lips grazed mine and then he stopped, laughed and said, "think I managed to touch every part of your body there". I stood still for the longest time, while he cleared away what was left of the job. I told Phoebe, she was excited for me. She assumed because I had a crush on him, I wanted it. I remember telling my mum, asking her if this was normal. She was horrified and wanted to tell my manager, but I loved my job and I didn't want to feel ashamed or embarrassed there. When I told my mum, she told me her story. It seems, we all have at least one.

What's funny is, I still carried on speaking to this guy. We carried on working with each other for another year, until I left. What's worse? I actually still liked him. I still have him on Facebook. He's still engaged to the same woman. Should I have told her? Should I have said something to him? At the time, I pushed it to the back of my mind and tried to forget it. I don't want to do that anymore. I want everyone to know how easy it is to blame yourself for someone else's actions. I did it for years. That was my first sexual experience and it put me off for three years. Don't blame yourself like I did, it's never the victim's fault.

If you have a story, share it. Whether you write it in a diary, whether you tell a friend, a family member, a stranger or post it on a blog for the world to see. Share it and make other people's stories feel valued.

And yes, as for the photo accompanying this post: guess what? I have breasts. And if I want to show them in all their glory, I will. Especially on a post like this. No one is "asking for it".

The Nowhere Girls is released 5th October. Pick up a copy, it's incredible.

1 comment

  1. I can't stop reading this; it's giving me goosebumps. You are amazing Zoe xx