Sexual Assault in Bali, Indonesia. Is Bali safe?
*sighs, for ages.* For fuck’s sake.
It is boring how many times I (or many of my friends) could have written this post. Honestly, life is such that sexual assault is so commonplace it is freaking tedious. Like oh, great, another one, another few hours (or a day or a week or a lifetime- I know people who have lost most of their life to mental health problems stemming from sexual assault) written off processing another shitty event, when I had plans for fun, people.
I was walking back from getting breakfast- a paper bag of rice, greens and tempeh. 50p. Two minutes’ walk from my house. A teenager was cycling on the same side of the road, towards me. I moved to the side to let him pass, wondering why he wasn’t using the space on the road. He swerved towards me, stuck his hand out, grabbed my boobs and squeezed. If he hadn’t legged it on the bike, and if utter shock wasn’t my first response he would have lost his fucking arm. After the rage, and the sadness, and more rage, I fantasised about what his head would have sounded like hitting the concrete and then I was low-key pissed off because there was nothing I could do to change what happened.
Recently, a friend told me that she was being harassed. It was sexual in nature, although people don’t like to call things what they are and say it’s sexual harassment, because we don’t want to tarnish a guy’s reputation with that, right? Especially when they’re fairly young. We don’t want to spoil young men’s lives with holding them properly accountable for their violent sexual behaviour. Much better to call it teasing or bantz or a mistake, like a marker smear on a whiteboard that can be erased with a degree or a few years in the workplace. I wonder how many adult sexual offenders would have been helped if, when they started this shit as a teenager, someone would have said to them “THAT’S SEXUAL ASSAULT, I’M CALLING YOUR PARENTS RIGHT NOW, STOP THIS SHIT OR YOU’LL END UP IN JAIL” instead of fairying around with guys, can we work this out, not the coolest?
This is why, after yesterday’s incident it took a bit of time before I was like “that was sexual assault”. Women are taught from a young age to not bother people with their issues about being sexually harassed. It’s just teasing, you can’t be that upset, your skirt is too short, what were you wearing, at least it wasn’t worse, it was only words, sticks and stones, blah, blah, blahhh.
I know, personally, a lot of women who have been sexually assaulted- harassed, touched up, raped. Not one of those women has had justice. Not one of those perpetrators have had their just desserts. Actually I haven’t heard many people I know talk about it with anything other than quiet shame, and when it is spoken about a little bit louder, we are pre-programmed to have a cringe reaction. It’s why we DON’T talk about it, and we minimise it, and we wonder why we feel messed up. We’d really push for punishment for that? Really? Isn’t that a bit harsh?
Here’s my truth: if I’d caught the guy who grabbed me up yesterday (he was on a bike and fled as soon as he heard my ROAR that was louder than anything I think has come out of me before- louder than any noise I made in labour), I think I could have done him serious physical damage.
When people are mistreated, when they see injustice, when those around them are mistreated with no repercussions, every little event accumulates. When there is no justice, no result, nothing- when the ENTIRE burden of the situations are placed on the person who experienced them, the weight gets so heavy that there is a freaking TON of justice coming out of fists and keys and anything else that can be rained down on the perpetrator. It’s no wonder that there are endless articles about sexual offenders being dealt with by groups of vigilantes in remote villages, because justice everywhere is weak.
What this guy did deserves serious misery and shame placed on him and I would happily put him in a position where he could feel exactly the same thing. Forgiveness is essential in life, and so is justice.
What happens when he does it to someone else (and of course he will; why wouldn’t he?)
What happens when he is alone with a woman and decides to act out the same thing, when he and she have nowhere to go on a bike? Why would he bother stopping at grabbing when there are no consequences?
We know the ending to this. It’s played out every day, in every country, in every circle of society. Not enough men care enough about sexual assault– if they did, it wouldn’t be the pandemic of vileness that it is.
And my advice for my kids? If anyone, ever, touches them in a way they are not happy with, the perpetrator is going to have a shock. Kick, scream, elbow, gouge their eyes, rip parts off them. Scream FUCK OFF and THIS IS SEXUAL ASSAULT at the top of your lungs, whether you are 6, or 13, or 25, or 60 (Lucy from Lulastic talks brilliantly about this). Hurt them as much as you humanly can. If that person values their life, they should not be ruining other people’s. There won’t be a single word of restraint that comes out of my mouth when telling my kids how to deal with sexual assault. And maybe, if we all taught our kids that this is unacceptable AND BACKED THIS UP WITH OUR BEHAVIOUR, in a few generations the perpetrators might get the message, and my great-great-grandkids and their friends won’t be able to sit swapping sexual assault stories, because maybe – just maybe- it will be finished.
Those visiting Bali should know that this is the first time anything like this has happened to me while living in Bali long term. I get less street harassment here than I did while living in London. I’ve had one guy film me while walking down the street but apart from that men have generally been alright. So those of you wondering “Is Bali safe?”, I would say yes, you don’t have anything more to worry about than in other countries.