I’m pretty sure by the title of this blog post, you’re probably aware what the topic is. If not, let me just explain. #MeToo is a hashtag that became popular amongst social media users, both men and women, when talking about their experiences with harassment and abuse. In a way, it is an outlet for those to open up and share without fear of judgement – knowing they’re not the only ones. The main aim, is to spread awareness about how much of an issue it is in the world. I’ve been wanting to write this post for a really long time. I’ve had many internal arguments with myself over it and weighed up the pros and cons. I’ve come to the conclusion that I’ve been silenced for too long and now that I have the freedom to speak up, I goddamn will.
As a woman who has grown up in this generation, it will come as no surprise to most of you that I have suffered from harassment on a daily basis. Cat calls from men in white vans, unwanted advances from drunk lads in clubs, inappropriate comments from those old enough to be my father. That’s to name a few, and I’m pretty sure it’s all so relatable. Sadly, it’s something I’ve gotten used to. It’s something I expect. Thankfully, I’ve realised now that it is well within my rights as a human being to stand up for myself and voice to those who commit such lewd acts that they are – basically – trash. I used to smile coyly whenever anyone made me feel uncomfortable or made advances on me. Now, I flip them the finger and politely tell them to ‘f*ck off’. Again, something I’m sure many of you can relate to. But, there is one part of my life that has been filled with abuse and harassment and absolute terror. Do you remember when I mentioned that at the beginning of this year, I went through a really tough time? You can see it briefly in this post. It’s also where I say I don’t want to talk about it. It’s time to change that. Now, it’s my time to talk.
It started when I was around 8/9. I can’t put a definite time on it because hey, it was over 10 years ago. But what I can do, and seem to have done very well, is remember very specific instances where I’ve felt terrified, attacked, vulnerable and victimised. When I was 8/9, I started to become scared of living in the family home, going home everyday from school and knowing what was potentially waiting for me. Even to this day, I still don’t understand why it was me. I still sit and think about anything that could possibly point the finger my way. I’ve tortured myself until I couldn’t take it anymore and just fell into a heap on the floor. Why me? I still don’t have the answer, but I know that it’s not the question that needs to be asked. The question is; how does he sleep at night?
I grew up in a house overruled by men, so to speak. Myself and my Mum were the only females living in the family home. There was my Dad (well, technically, my step-dad) who was the big protector of the family. There was Tom, my little big brother as I like to call him. Then, my eldest brother. The abusive, manipulative and nasty piece of work. As I like to call him. So, unless you haven’t guessed already, this is about my brother. Now, I’m not going to name him. Not for his sake, but for mine and my family. So, lets refer to him as ‘J’. If you know me, you may know him. It’s taken all of my willpower to not do this post. The consequences of it, I’m still unsure of. But, after keeping my mouth shut for nearly 2 decades now, there is nothing that can silence the need I have inside to tell you all about it. To raise that awareness. To make you all aware that sometimes – and really, more often than not – the abuse can be a little too close to home. To warn you all, even if someone seems like the nicest person in the world, they can have the darkest motives.
Ok, I’m going to say I was 9, just for my own point of reference. But, I’m not going to start from the beginning. Because the way it all started only came to light in the past year. So, to make this easy to follow, I’m going to do my favourite thing and bullet point. I’m going to touch on as briefly as I can the physical abuse I was subjected to. Ok, here goes…
- · I wanted to spend time with my other brother, Tom, which was always difficult because he shared a room with ‘J’. I went into my brother’s room and sat on Tom’s bed. Tom was playing a video game and I was watching him. ‘J’ made it very clear from the start that he didn’t want me around. I protested with him and tried to stand my ground. Eventually, he dragged me by my legs whilst I kept my fists firmly gripped on Tom’s bed frame. I refused to let go, refused to be handled in such a way. Instead, he started to lift my legs up and down, banging my shins on the metal bedframe every time he forced my legs down. I was 11, he was 15.
- · I was at home, in the living room with my parents and two brothers. We were playing some sort of quiz. I can’t quite remember how it escalated so quickly but before I knew it, ‘J’ grabbed me by the throat and pinned me against the wall. Nobody did anything. I couldn’t breathe. I was 9, he was 13.
- · I was downstairs, arguing with my Mum and Dad. ‘J’ heard what was happening. He came downstairs and proceeded to put me in an arm/headlock. The sort of headlock security learns to restrain someone who is drunk/acting erratically. I pleaded with him to let go off me, I tried to struggle and all he did was whisper in my ear ‘fucking calm down you silly slag’. I dropped my whole body weight until he finally let go. Nobody did anything. I was 17, he was 21.
- · I was upstairs. Tom was no longer living in the family home. I asked ‘J’ if he could turn his TV down. He stood up, beckoned towards me and was not even an inch away from my face. Goading me, saying such awful things. I froze, he pushed, I fell. Nobody did anything. I was 19. He was 23.
Now don’t get me wrong, I know we can argue with our siblings, I used to with Tom. But this was different. ‘J’ terrified me. As well as all of the above and more, I was subjected to emotional abuse on a daily basis. I was called every name under the sun, I kid you not. All from my eldest brother. The person who should have been my number one protector was the one I was most terrified of. I was called a slag, a whore, a pervert, a prostitute, a dirty bitch. You name it. I was told I was going to be killed. I was told that my head was going to get bashed in. I was told that I should never have been born.
Throughout the whole time that all of this was going on, I protested with my parents to help me. To support me. To back my corner. I was met with the same response every single time. ‘Stop winding him up Melissa, you know he’s got an illness’. Oh yeah, disclaimer for you. ‘J’ has Asperger’s Syndrome. The reason I haven’t mentioned it until now is because it is so irrelevant to what I’m going through with you that I didn’t want anyone’s judgement to be clouded. I don’t want ANYONE to think that his behaviour can be excused because he has a mild form of Asperger’s. I don’t want ANYONE to try. What I do want you all to know is that if nothing is done, the abuser walks free and the victim is the one who suffers. I’m living proof of that. Now, let’s fast forward to April 2017. The month that really started to fuck with my head.
I have to be really careful with what I say now. Not because I want to hold back and not because I’m scared of doing so but because as far as I’m aware, it is still an ongoing investigation with the local police. So, I’m going to try my hardest to explain in the best way possible.
In April, I saw something that shook me to the core. I was exposed to behaviour committed by ‘J’ that literally made me feel sick to my stomach. It was something I’ve always deemed one of the worst things a person can participate in. And, it was something I was expecting. I knew, as soon as I saw, that I needed to take action. I reported my brother to the police for the safety of everyone. Whether that be me, my family and his kids. It was the best thing to do for everyone. Although, it wasn’t that simple. When ‘J’ found out that I was the one that reported him, the harassment started. To put a long story short, I received numerous message from ‘J’calming he was going to ruin my life, he knew where I lived, he was coming for me and I was fucked once he got his hands on me. I’m not going to put it lightly. I was absolutely terrified. He knew my address despite me not having contact with him in over a year. So, with encouragement from Burnie, my partner, I reported it. I wasn’t willing to put my life in danger but also the lives of Burnie and his children. It wasn’t just my house, it’s theirs and I didn’t want to risk anything. Cue the chaos.
For nearly 2 months, I was backwards and forwards with the police, TRYING so hard to prove to them the sort of person he was. To back my argument, I told them all about the violent outbursts that took place when I was a child and I revealed to them something I never told anyone. Not even a soul.
The reason I kept it so secret for so long is because I wasn’t 100% sure it happened. It was that faded in my memory that I really had to think whether it was real or a dream. But, something in my gut told me that it did. When I was 8/9, I remember my brother getting into my bed and asking me to kiss him. I obliged, I gave pecks to everyone in my family. I knew something was wrong the minute he stuck his tongue in my mouth. Again, I obliged. ‘J’ always had power over me and he knew that and used it to his advantage. I forgot about it, pretended like it was ok and moved on. Until it became a regular thing, that’s when I knew something wasn’t right. Tom wasn’t making me do this, so why was he? Then, came the moment that I knew in my gut that it was completely unacceptable. He guided my hands to his crotch. I remember immediately batting my hands away and threatened to tell Mum and Dad if he did it again. Then, it never happened again. I was 8/9. He was 12/13. Only now have I made the link with everything else that went on. He was ‘accidently’ walk into my room just as I was returning from the shower. He would never knock and walked on me numerous times when I was undressed. It made my skin crawl, to the point where I made my parents get me a lock for my door. Only then did I feel safe and comfortable in my room. There were signs everywhere, not only did he disrespect my privacy as a young woman, but he also didn’t privatise his actions either. On many occasions, I was exposed to things I shouldn’t have seen, the sort of things teenage boys do very well to keep hidden. I think that’s as much detail as you need.
I always grew up with this faded memory in my mind but never let it affect me as an adult because I actually convinced myself that it didn’t happen. It wasn’t until recent events that I actually decided to open up about it. I was taking a huge risk because I didn’t even know if it was true, but I knew I had to tell them. It wasn’t until I heard back from the police that ‘J’ admitted to everything. Everything. All the things he venomously denied when were growing up. He held his hands up and went ‘Yeah, that happened’. Then, I crumbled.
All them years I thought I was in the wrong. I thought what was going on was normal. I wasn’t in the wrong, I had every right to feel the way I was. It wasn’t normal, it was predatory behaviour. It was harassment. It the biggest eye opener of my whole life. It opened up the floodgates and absolutely everything from my past that I had done so well to keep locked up tight had burst open. What resulted was the worst time in my life in regards to my mental health. Looking back on it, I had a mental breakdown. I was off work for almost 6 weeks. I became an absolute nightmare to be around. I shut myself off from everything and everyone and at one point, contemplated suicide. It was all too much for me, I couldn’t get my head around everything, and I don’t just mean my relationship with ‘J’. Nothing made sense anymore and I fell deep into the biggest hole I’ve ever fallen into. I never faced what happened to me, I was very aloof about it too. It wasn’t until my therapist said to me ‘Melissa, you do realise that what happened to you is one of the most traumatising things anyone can go through? And you act as if it’s nothing. It isn’t. It’s something’.
I’m now on my 9th week of therapy, I haven’t heard or seen of ‘J’ since and I never wish to. I’ve been back at work for nearly 7 weeks now. I’m slowly, trying my damned hardest to get my life back on track. Actually, I’m trying hard to start my life again. Start the life I want to live without the burden of anything on my shoulders anymore. It’s the hardest battle of my life and I know I’m getting there but there’s always something, y’know?
Now some of you reading this know me personally. Some of you don’t. Some of you reading this may know ‘J’. I don’t know, but what I do know is that I want this to be known. I was silenced for over 10 years, not speaking out because I wouldn’t dare speak against family, no matter what they do. But, my god, it is SO important to speak out. If I spoke out those who I knew would listen, things could’ve been different. It’s taken me a hell of a long time to come to terms with a lot of things in my past. I’ve spent so much time torturing myself with questions about what happened, thinking there was something wrong with me. I know now, that I was the victim and in all honesty, I am sick of my name being dragged through the mud by my abuser. Because that’s what he is. He’s not my brother, he was my abuser and I was the victim. The saddest thing about it is no-one else saw it whilst I was growing up, and I could go on all day about everything that’s occurred throughout my childhood but I want you guys to think about it. Think about what might be going on behind closed doors, think about how important it is to step forward and say ‘Yeah, me too’.
Whether it’s a parent, partner, friend, sibling or stranger – abuse is abuse. Harassment is harassment. Either way, it’s not right that they get to walk around living their life and pretending to everyone that they’re the innocent one. It’s not right that they’re manipulating everyone to believe them, manipulating them into thinking they’re a good person. I really hope some good comes from this, and if not, that’s fine too. If I’m going to receive a shitstorm, that’s ok too. I’ve waited too long to speak out and I’ll be damned if that man has anymore power over me. I’ve made it this far now and made a life for myself that I’m proud of. I’m proof that there’s strength there.
Thank you so much if you’ve read all the way through, just that itself means so much. Thank you to everyone who believed me when I spoke out. Thank you to everyone who understood why I kept quiet. Thank you to Burnie, again, for being my constant support and making me see that what happened to me wasn’t deserved. You helped me find the strength inside to speak out and I love you so much. And lastly, but by no means least, thank you to Tom. My little big brother. You were my protector when I needed you and made me realise just what a brother should be. I will never ever blame you for missing the signs because I kept it well hidden, and you shouldn’t either. When you were there, you protected me. You’re what everyone needs in a big brother and you will always be my best friend.
Until next time,