IWD Series 2018: So Now I am Sixty
Guest post by Deborah Squires-Coleman
My name is Debbie and I live in Essex, England. I have been in love and married to my husband for 38 years. He’s supportive of my passion for equality but admits he doesn’t always understand my need for such vocal advocacy. He’s honest with me and I love him for that too. We have 5 amazing children and 10 even more amazing grandchildren. I am a Mormon. I love learning, I love my Church, I love life. I love it all enough to see the need for change.
From always, from forever, from my very beginnings. There was never a time when I was not aware.
I can see myself as a little one, listening as my mother talks of the physical abuse she received from the hands of her alcoholic father. As I grew older, I became aware that this physical abuse was also sexual in nature. Details of horrors described to me as I grew to adulthood are seared into my mind, but they are not mine to divulge. I remember the knowing looks and silences as my mother talked with her sisters in their circle of confidentiality, while we children played at their feet. I won’t be silent.
Only slightly upsetting!! I should have been horrified. I should have been horrified enough to tell my parents. A park should have been a safe space for a 13-year-old girl. I shouldn’t have known a group of young men crowding around me. Pinning me to the floor and holding a knife to my throat while my friend was dragged into the bushes. I shouldn’t have witnessed more knowing eyes and unspoken words as she came out with her blouse dishevelled and her breasts exposed. I should have been more than slightly upset. I am not upset now.
I’m pinned again. A middle-aged man standing opposite me on a train pushes against me and I can feel him. I can feel him hard against me. I think I know what’s happening. But I’m a good Mormon girl. 17 years old, timid, and not comfortable with the unkind thoughts I’m having about him. So I politely push him away. This train is crowded, and surely he can’t help it as he pushes back against me. But he pushes harder this time and although I’m still unsure, I dare to think it’s deliberate. I push him back again and again, but he keeps coming forward, rubbing against me. I’m surrounded by people, but I’m too scared, too unsure to say anything. He gets off at his stop. This man who I will never know, but whom I will never forget. I’m not timid anymore.
So now I am sixty. And when you ask why I have such strong opinions about the rights of women or wonder why I question so much or show such discontent, perhaps this might explain it a little for you. Or perhaps it’s because I’m older and have more time to think, more time to observe more time to feel. Or maybe it’s because I want better for my grandbabies. Perhaps it’s all these things and more.
Don’t be tempted to put my experiences down as minor assaults. This is what I did for many years, and I will not allow myself to think of them in this way anymore. No assault on a young person is minor and no assault should be diminished nor dismissed.
I am sad for that silent, slightly upset, timid girl. But I am no longer she. Today I will shout, get angry and be bold in calling out all the inequalities I witness.
As I use my voice for change and support International Women’s Day. I will
- supportively call-out inappropriate behaviour
- campaign for equality in meaningful ways
- be a role model for equality
- actively contribute to changing the status quo
You see, I want my sons and grandsons to remember always that this is their fight too. I want my daughters and grand-daughters to use their voice. And I want them to know something that I did not know: That every girl, every woman, every human– is entitled to be safe.