MY BODY IS MINE

CW: THIS PIECE DISCUSSES SEXUAL HARASSMENT, SEXUAL ABUSE, RAPE AND SUICIDE

"No one has the right, power, ownership or control over your body except your own powerful self and I will be damned if anyone ever tries to argue otherwise."

Photography by  Imogen Ivy Grace Murray  for her project   Humans of the Nude

Photography by Imogen Ivy Grace Murray for her project Humans of the Nude

 

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My body has and always will be mine.

 

I had to teach myself this

and I had to learn this from believing for such a long time it wasn’t. I believed it was taken from me.

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Photos were taken of me.

I didn’t know they were being taken.

I didn’t give consent for them to be taken.

I was naked.

I was 14 years old.

The first threat came a week after they were taken, at this point I was still clueless they existed. I have photos of you naked, I’ve sent them to all my friends. I argued there were no photos of me of this sort, how could there be? I hadn’t taken any? That’s impossible I thought. But it was just followed by insistence and mocking that they were and they weren’t in my control.

 

The first taunt came when I got off the station to walk home after school, kids would hang out outside the stations to smoke cigarettes and socialise. “Ganga” was yelled out to me as I walked past, a slang term that was used back then. It was explained to me when I asked what it meant that it was used to imply that someone was a “try hard slut”.

 

Within a few weeks, the threats and taunts became a daily occurrence - texts and Facebook messages too. Slut. Ganga. Whore. Even the personalised Ew, it’s Alice Glascott. These were shouted at me regularly from the local school kids in my grade after school on the train or when I’d be leaving the station to get home. Whoever was hilarious enough to shout at me first earned the reward of being praised with an outbreak of laughter. It was unfortunate that the station at my suburb was the most popular designated hang out for these groups, so a lot of days I’d get off at the suburb before. It was a longer walk home but it meant I got to go home without being made into a joke.

 

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Social media and school were different ball parks. You couldn’t take a different route to avoid what was happening there. Facebook had just become the cool thing to have, and I would get regular public comments that stated the usual slurs I was used to by now - fuck off slut, nice tits, nice flaps, stupid whore - some private messages would even go into detail about why I was such a dumb slut. Boys I didn’t know would send me messages demanding their own ‘nudes’ and when I said no it was common for most of them to laugh and say it was okay because they already had the ones of me that were going around. The ones that I didn’t know were taken. The ones that were taken by two teenage boys the same age as me. 14 years old. It was also common to hear stories about how I’d apparently had sex with guys I hadn’t even met. Trying to explain I hadn’t was frustrating for the same reason - these boys knew they could lie about having me - Who’s going to believe you when we’ve all already seen your vagina?

 

School for me was an all-girls catholic school in Sydney and, like most high schools, was fuelled by an ever-going social rumour mill. I’m sure you can imagine a Year 8 girl sending nudes to numerous boys was a topic people loved to hate. I learnt quickly people didn’t want the truth and with a school of 200-300 girls in each grade, there were only so many people you could explain such an anxiety-inducing topic too.

 

There are only so many times you could take the long route home, there were only so many private messages you could ignore and so many public comments you could delete. There were only so many overheard comments you could ignore walking through school yards and only so many slurs you could pretend to ignore. The bullying grew and grew and I told myself I deserved it. I felt disgusted in myself and I believed I couldn’t tell anyone because anyone I told would hate me as much as the people who told me I was a slut.

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The more that time passed and the longer it continued, the more anxiety and paranoia became a part of the problem. I would take days off school because the thought of going caused panic attacks. I couldn’t bring myself to go because I was mentally triggered and exhausted from the exclusion, the verbal abuse, the slut shaming, the exploitation, the blackmailing with the bait being my own naked body, all of it. My parents didn’t understand why these intense panic attacks were happening. They had no idea how to deal with it as they had developed so rapidly in only a few weeks. They had no idea what was going on and I refused to speak to any adults out of shame. In my mind I thought if my peers acted this way, this hatefully then god knows what my authority figures would do.

 

It got to the point where I was missing large chunks of school, I was under weight and I was anxiety ridden. My home room teacher took me aside one day and demanded to know what was going on. When I sat in silence with my head down avoiding eye contact, she sent me to the school councillor who sat with me for hours trying to figure out what was going on. I didn’t say anything until she had to let me go for lunch break. Leaving her office and being out in the school yard again I realised how much I wanted help I realised how much I had disassociated with the part of myself screaming inside for someone to help me through this. I went back and told her. I told her everything. I begged her not to tell anyone. I just need one adult to know. She called the police.

 

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She explained to me that what had happened to me was sexual exploitation and what these boys had done was child pornography. My Mum was called in before the police arrived, the school councillor told her everything that had happened while I sat in the corner. My mum was in tears. I thought they were from disappointment, from regret and anger towards me, but she expressed how she hated, not me, but the fact I was going through all of this by myself. By the time the police finished getting their statements from me, it was dark outside so they offered to walk me back to my mum’s car and reassured me everything was going be okay. I was so full of doubt. You see, my school had a huge amount of boarders who lived on school grounds. Even though it was night time, there were some girls from my grade wondering around the school halls. They saw me being walked out by police officers. We made eye contact and seeing how shocked and stunned they looked, I could tell this was going to make its way around the rumour mill by morning.

I knew what was going to come the next day at school but I still wasn’t ready for it. Numerous people approached me asking me to tell them what had happened, asking why I was with the police, if it was to do with the photos or if I was getting arrested. One girl even asked if I had dobbed in the boys who had taken the photos and my motives why. In the afternoon I was swarmed with messages asking why I would of called the police on the boys why would I get the police involved”.

 

I was accused of looking for revenge and was told to kill myself by one of the mates of the boys involved.

 

Although the police dealt with the situation appropriately and did what they could to delete evidence of the photos, the bullying and spreading of the pictures continued for months to come.

 

The only time I saw these photos was when I was getting off a train. A group of local boys spotted me walking up the platform and decided to all get the images up on their phones and hold them up to the window so I could see when they yelled at me to get my attention.

 

I thought my body was taken from me.

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As punishment for being a slut, it was to be proved and taunted to me that my body belonged to anyone who owned the pictures, to anyone who had seen me naked. They were to let me know they had control over me because of it.

 

I wish I could say that was the only time I experienced a form of sexual assault but like the majority of young girls there was unfortunately more. I had to have my body taken away from me to learn it was mine.

 

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I forgive everyone who was involved.

 

I forgive myself.

 

I am not telling this story for revenge or sympathy.

 

 

I am telling this story because I have seen a boy who abused my friend celebrated by people including members of my own family because of his school sporting achievements.

 

Because when another friend of mine was raped at Schoolies, our peers belittled her accusation because she was drunk.

 

Because last year, my sister came to me worried sick because her boyfriends ‘mates’ had started a rumour that she had sent naked photos of herself to another boy and when he found out it wasn’t true was told to calm down because it was just a joke.

 

Because this week as I’ve come back to the place I grew up to visit my family, I’ve heard school kids use such similar language walking past the same stations.

 

Because I can’t deny the thriving and happening culture that sexualises young girls and punishes them for it.

 

Although I forgive everyone and everything involved in what happened to me, I do not forgive the ideologies that taught thousands of kids that there was ever any kind justification in the way I was treated. I don’t forgive them because I see that it’s still happening today. I do not forgive the ideologies that have taught us and are still teaching us justification in dehumanising these kids from sexualisation. I do not forgive the ideologies that entitle sexual abusers to believe they have a right over someone else’s body. I do not forgive the ideologies that sexualise girls from such a young age and I do not forgive the ideologies that put girls the same age I was, the women the age I am now and the women older than me in danger because of that.

 

I am furious and I am heartbroken that I was only one out of millions to experience sexual abuse as a child.

 

My body has and always will be mine.

 

Your body is and always will be yours.

 

No one has the right, power, ownership or control over your body except your own powerful self and I will be damned if anyone ever tries to argue otherwise.

 

My body is not yours because you grab me, my body is not yours because you’ve seen me unclothed, my body is not yours because you have been inside me, my body is not yours to take because you can never take my body away from me. It has and always will be mine, just as yours is and always will be yours and anyone who tries to take that right away from another human being doesn’t know what they have coming because women are sick and tired. We are sick and tired of these stories and we are sick and tired of being told our bodies are not ours and growing up a female. There’s a lot you have to brush off, there’s a lot you have to forgive, but there is no way we are going to forgive the ideologies that try to take our bodies away from us.

 

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Today I am with Imogen Ivy Grace Murray, the brains and heart but officially the creative director behind her selflove project ‘Humans of the Nude’. Although we both went to school around the same area in Sydney, it wasn’t until the past few months that we’ve connected through appreciating each other’s works. Im is promoting everything young girls and women need to embrace, the acceptance of self love for one’s self and body. Something so unique about Im’s out ook on those around her is that she’s never seen nudity as something sexual, rather she sees it as something personal that can be shared.

 

Imogen is the third person I’ve told this story too in my adult life and being a part of her ‘Humans of the Nude’ project, I felt couldn’t fully embrace why I was doing it without telling this story. I am in no way trying to look for sympathy, anger, revenge or anything along those lines by sharing this. I am only hoping that maybe by opening up about this experience the defined me so greatly I can somehow be there for others who have felt uncomfortable in something that belongs so uniquely to them.

 

Thank you to Imogen, the Sisterhood Of Soul and all the fearless wom*n out there promoting the acceptance of our femininity.

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If anything in this piece brought up issues you'd like to discuss further, you can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Reach Out Australia


Alice Glascott is a 21 year old artist who's passionate about feminism and self love. You can see more of her work here