You Have The Right To Say ‘No’ At All Times – Safety House motto in the 80s

Last week, just a short walk away from my old house Jill Meagher was abducted and murdered. I haven’t felt so stunned and effected by something in the news since Martin Bryant at Port Arthur. That is the first time I remember realising that this shit doesn’t just happen “out there”, it’s happening here. In MY country, MY neighbourhood. It’s been brought home. Literally. I feel so sad for her and her family. I can only imagine what they are going through and wonder at how someone could be so shut off from basic human emotion and compassion as to do something like that.

I’ve read a couple of blogs born from this murder and they are all wondering the same thing. Have we gotten to a point where the smaller occurrences are being overlooked, allowing the really awful, tragic ones to take place? Is our indifference and our inability to confront this issue enabling rapists and murderers to develop themselves, to hone their skills and strategies and to play out their ultimate fantasies at the expense of innocent people?

It’s so easy to brush off the sexual harassment we ladies endure on a day-to-day basis. In fact, there are times when it has almost felt like a necessity. Because if we were to really acknowledge what we are subjected to, it would probably be too overwhelming.

Sexual abuse happens to strippers in the clubs all the time, and when I point out to the boys/men that their behaviour is sexual assault or abuse, they always look shocked. They say things like “Steady on sweetheart”, “Woah, CHILL OUT”, or “I’m actually not like that. I’m a really nice guy.” It’s an ominous sign of our times. These people really don’t think it’s that bad to call someone a filthy whore, or try to digitally rape you, kick you in the back of your knees so you fall to the ground, steal your underwear, punch you in the face (or the vagina for that matter), lick you, pinch your arse, untie your clothing when you walk past, grope you, try to suck your nipples like a lollipop, tell you all the things they wanna do to you to make you scream. They do and say what they want because nobody holds them accountable for their behaviour – least of all the clubs and frequently, not even the girls.

Most girls who work as strippers will have a ‘dancers’ block’ at least once or twice a year. This is when you can’t face the idea of going to work. You don’t feel strong enough to cope with what might possibly be said or done to you. You cry as you are driving to the club, and have to turn the car around and head home again. Or you actually make it to work, and are standing on the stage looking out at the crowd and they seem to be dripping with darkness and sleaze. It’s when the backlog of things that you have ignored, or glossed over, or retold as funny tales, actually take their toll on your spirit. The dam caves and you can’t hold them back any longer.

I’m so tired of dealing with violations like this and being told by men and management not to over react. REALLY? How would you react if you saw someone treating your sister, niece, friend, mother or child that way? Would you stay silent? Would you turn and leave her to sort it out for herself? Would you tell your daughter after a guy has just stuck his fingers in her vagina or bent her over and tried to penetrate her arsehole, that she needs to stay at work, go upstairs, get on stage and do her show in front of a couple of hundred men, including the man who just assaulted her since his behaviour was not bad enough to have him escorted from the club?

In one of the clubs I have worked, the dancers were not even permitted to speak to security. If a situation arose, we were expected to talk to the DJ or the under 30s management who were often no where to be found and clearly not qualified in conflict resolution or counselling.

These are not all things that have happened to me. These are a collective of experiences that have happened to my friends, myself and girls that I work with. It is NOT the case that I simply have bad luck, or am excessively provocative. These are daily occurrences. And not just for strippers at work. For women in general.

The last time I went out for a girlfriend’s birthday here in Melbourne I was disgusted to find that because of the way I was looked at, groped and spoken to, I felt like it was just another night at work. Just one more night on the defensive.

I used to take the hard line on this behaviour. I never used to let these guys get away with it. I used to state my case – no touching, no filthy talk – and if they persisted I would throw the word “rapist” out there to verbally punch them in the face, to shock them into remembering that “no” does not mean “yes”.  Watch out Saturday night. The bitch is back and I will not be letting you guys off easily anymore. And the next dwarf to punch me in the vagina is gonna get his face kicked in with a shoe that has been biding its time as a weapon of mass destruction!

There is nothing I can say to make it feel better but my sincerest condolences go out to Jill Meagher and her family. What has happened is awful. Words cannot express.