Last year, I encountered an issue where someone at a university club event made me feel uncomfortable and at the time, I didn’t know how to handle it.
Warning: This post discusses topics which are sensitive in nature and reference to an incident of sexual harassment.
If you or someone you know needs any support or help please contact
Beyond Blue 03 9810 6100, Lifeline 08 8238 6666, Headspace 1800 650 890. As a UoA student, you can also contact the Counselling Service on 8313 5663.
Catching up with some friends yesterday, the topic of that time when someone made me uncomfortable at an event came back up. They had only become aware of the issue after we had left but I know it still bothers them that they didn’t realise I wasn’t feeling safe.
And to be honest, for a while it bothered me that neither my friends nor the person noticed what I thought were clear signals of being ‘uncomfortable’. Then I fell into a phase of thinking it was my fault for not making it obvious enough. Maybe I should have said something more pointed, been more vocal, been more confident. But the truth is that at the time I thought I had to keep smiling and nodding because I couldn’t risk upsetting or offending the person. That is seemingly the curse of growing up when being polite and compliant were the values constantly relayed to me. But is a curse I am determined to break free from.
I know that if it had escalated, I would have said or done something but it was in that (in my head ‘grey’) area where I couldn’t at the time identify the intent and I didn’t want to cause a fuss, which I KNOW seems such a silly thought pattern. If I felt uncomfortable, I should have just acknowledged that regardless of the other person’s feelings and that is something I am always going to try and remember – to prioritise my own safety.
I am lucky enough to have a friend who is always vocal in her own autonomy and inspires me every time with her speed to state when someone is acting inappropriately toward her. We need to support that more. I want to be part of encouraging people to embrace being confident in stating that they are unhappy with what someone says or does. But more critically, putting the responsibility back on the actor, and demanding that they reflect on their own words and behaviour and how others respond to them is so important.
There is also the responsibility of an observer to notice when someone isn’t 100% there, that idea of being an active bystander. But the truth is, my friends are only human and they couldn’t have always notice everything and indeed, they haven’t been trained to notice by society. The best thing they can do for me is to promise to be vigilant, not just when out with me but when out with other female-identifying friends.
I am glad that I pursued the issue with club administration and we were able to establish a code of conduct and systems to prevent these issues. I am glad that I was in a position to seek a resolution as well.
Experiences like these are what make training like Consent Matters, awareness campaigns like Safer Campus Week and workshops like ALLY training so important. I know that I will be looking to improve my knowledge of things like bystander awareness and mental health first aid and I think this a testament to why we all should.
If you or someone you know need any support or help please contact
Beyond Blue 03 9810 6100
Lifeline 08 8238 6666
Headspace 1800 650 890