An open letter to the guy who touched me without my permission at a festival on Saturday:
I was just sitting down on the grass, drinking my bottle of water, when you called out to me. I turned around and you were calling me over, telling me to come sit with you.
You were wearing a festival shirt so I thought that you were working, that you were on your break, that it was your job to be worried about a young woman sitting on her own away from the crowd.
I thought I would be safe.
Thinking back I can also feel my guard going up, knowing that if I chose not to go over to you, you could get mad, or offended, and I didn’t know what would happen then.
We talked for a few minutes and everything seemed okay. I asked if you were working and you said no. You had just bought your shirt. I made sure to mention my boyfriend, but even if I wasn’t there with one I would have made someone up, like all women have been taught to do.
You kept touching my knee because I was on my own. You felt sorry for me. I was nervous and uncomfortable, but I kept thinking about this article I read that talked about the importance of diffusing a situation rather than taking a stand. The importance of keeping yourself safe.
I nodded and smiled and you leaned in to tell me your name. Mark. You shouted in my ear. You kissed my cheek and I feel sick when I think about it now. My stomach dropped.
Since I was a teenager I’ve been touched and looked at and followed and cat called. And in response I’ve been angry and upset and indignant and annoyed. But this time I was scared.
I was scared what else you could do, what else you would do, before I could get myself away from you. The place you had called me over to was dark and loud and away from other people. I felt dirty and terrified and kept trying to think of how I could get myself out of that situation while keeping myself safe.
While I scanned around me trying to look for the nearest safe place to run to you put your hand on my leg and ran it up my thigh. That makes me feel sick too.
I saw a security guard walking past, though she was still so far away, and I just got up and walked to her as a fast as I could, but I turned and waved goodbye to you to make sure you weren’t following me.
As I told her what happened I could see you looking over at us talking. At me pointing you out and telling her what you did. I was still so scared of you. I still am.
But I also felt so helpless. What had you really done wrong? What could I say you actually did to me? How did you manage to make me feel like this from only a few touches?
You helped yourself to my body. You assumed that I was yours for the taking. You touched me without asking and you did it again and again. What you probably thought was being friendly was you invading my body and dismantling my sense of safety.
I have a right to decide when and where and by whom I am touched. I should not have to walk through this world trying to make sure that I don’t make any men angry because I know they have the power to hurt me. I should be able to feel safe and comfortable and in control of myself, so matter where or who I am with.
So to you, and any fellow men who think that touching a woman without her permission is no big deal:
You are not entitled to my body.