- Saki Yamaoku
The Unfair “Norms” - Living life as a woman
TW: Mentions of sexual assault
On March 15th, I came across an Instagram post on Blossom the Project.
It was about Sarah Everard, who went missing on her way home, and a police officer was accused of kidnapping and murdering her. I had just found out about this 2 days ago on Lucy Mountain’s Instagram post. The reason I’m writing this article and sharing the horror I experienced is because I learned that women in the UK are sharing their terrifying experiences in the wake of this incident.
One night, when I was having dinner with my friend at my work place, I remember feeling very uncomfortable about the frequent eye contact the man was giving me, sitting diagonally across from our table. When I looked over at his hands, I instantly knew that he was filming us with his phone; with the way the camera was placed at an unnatural angle, my heart started racing and I noticed how I wasn’t able to concentrate on what my friend was saying. Although I knew that he was filming us, I didn’t have any evidence, so I told my colleagues: it turned out that I was correct when they checked his phone over his shoulders. They had told him to leave the place. I heard later on that he had multiple videos in his camera roll and was told to delete them. One of my colleagues asked me if I wanted the man to apologize, but I was just too scared to even look at his face. It seemed like my friend who I was having dinner with had no idea what was happening. We were able to move to a bigger table, and I still remember crying while drinking coffee I got from the store manager, staring at my trembling hands and facing my emotions.
Another time was on my way back from college, riding the train as usual. The train was empty as it was during the day on a weekday, and I was wearing a skirt that came above my knees. One man sat right across from me; I felt his set of eyes on me through his process of choosing a seat and sitting down, but I just crossed my legs and pretended like I didn’t care. When I pretended to look out the window in order to check his face, he was still staring at me. I was relieved when he stood up to leave as the train stopped at an empty station. However, he suddenly crouched a little and touched my legs, and then ran off as the door closed. I was very frustrated by the fact that I was treated like this --- I’m definitely not a tool to satisfy his needs, and there’s nothing right about touching a woman’s legs without her permission. When I told my mom about this, she looked surprised but laughed and said, “I guess things like that happen,” not taking it seriously.
I was waiting for the train at around 10pm after having dinner with my friend. As I was chatting with my friend, I saw a man who was standing with his white phone facing us. When I said to my friend, “I think he’s filming us,” we decided to walk on the platform of the station to check if he was actually filming us. His phone kept on following us, and we got scared, so we got on the different train car from the one he was on. I was relieved when I didn’t see the man anymore; I said bye to her as she got off at the station, one before mine. When I passed through the ticket gate and looked up, I saw the man filming me with his white phone. I immediately noticed and avoided him, but the road to my house didn’t have much traffic nor street lights, so I didn’t think I could return home safely. I rushed to the convenience store across from the station, and I could feel my heart beating fast and my hands shaking. When I called my friend, explaining the situation I was in, she told me to wait and came to the convenience store in 10 minutes. My friend and I took the long way home, but what we noticed as we crossed the railroad was the man walking while looking at his phone. It seemed like he was aware of us, and the man stopped in front of the vending machine to buy a drink. My friend said, “Let’s go over to see if we could check his phone,” and walked over to where he was. She asked him, “Excuse me, could we take a look at your phone?” and surprisingly, he said “Sure, go ahead,” and took his phone out without any hesitation. What I noticed immediately is that his phone was blue, and that there were pictures of the blackboard and his students in his camera roll. My friend said to him, “Thank you, you were a bit suspicious, but it’s a good thing that we didn’t find anything. Please be careful though,” and continued to walk me back home the long way.
Would anyone actually show their phone if a stranger came up to them and asked, “Can I take a look at your phone?” It was as if the man always had a spare phone on hand to be prepared, assuming he would get asked. Ever since, I feel my heart beat faster whenever I hear footsteps or see shadows when I have to walk alone at night, and I even have to stop the music and walk faster because of that.
As I’m writing this, I think of the times I wasn’t able to point out the mistakes to the guys and the times I couldn’t speak up when I was the victim. Also, I’ve started to feel self-conscious when I wear short skirts, tank tops, and other clothes with open chest just because I’m a woman. However, is it my fault that I couldn’t speak up on the spot? Am I the only one who couldn’t ask for help when I was groped, filmed, and stalked?
When I talked about my experience, other people said things like, “Why didn’t you call the police immediately?” “You wearing revealing clothes is like telling others to touch you” and “You should’ve just ran away.”
I can’t tell anyone about my heartbeat that gets faster when I’m walking alone at night, and days when I self-consciously choose what to wear because there’s a great chance that I might be blamed as a victim, and more importantly because I’m a girl. Victims and those who are vulnerable are those who have to fight discrimination, prejudice, and unfair statements of “normality,” and I truly believe that their voices wouldn’t be heard unless more people are able to be in the shoes of the victims and women.
However, the attitude and actions to understand how other people are feeling may eventually make changes in the society, countries, and even the world.
blossomtheproject: "Why Women Across the World Are Speaking Out Against Violence" <https://www.instagram.com/p/CMbN8kVDVRt/?igshid=cfuhkmzgdek6>
Lucy Mountain: “Text me when you get home xx” <https://www.instagram.com/p/CMR7GmRlO4L/?igshid=sautzpsz0m7n>
I wanted the society that justifies the unusual to understand the uneasy feelings I had for a long time, and the feelings that no one could understand. Based on my actual experiences, I tried writing my story for the first time.
Translated by Yulia Ikumi
Edited by Emiru Okada
Graphic by Maya Kubota