By Abby Crawford
I have hot angry tears burning to be freed from my eyes as I watch women bravely come together to be heard. I feel so guilty I haven’t joined them when they have such an important message to carry.
As some sort of flimsy defence, I have found I am deprived of my own strength as I am already battling to find my balance, my why and how to heal my own pain, my own stories that contrib- ute to this collective voice.
For me, it started at 17 when a “model agent” sent his hand straight up my skirt to assess my legs for bikini shoots. Hmph. But it didn’t stop there.
There was the partner that thought violence solved everything. The policeman who arrested him and wanted to show me all men weren’t like that – until his pregnant wife showed up. The recruitment agent who pinned me against the office wall to celebrate my appointment to a senior role, and a plethora of other men who completely abused their position of trust.
But there are also incredible men. I have a wonderful, supportive, strong father. I have a son of whom I am enormously proud. I am friends with, work beside, am inspired by, and continue to meet men who are honest, intelligent, kind, witty, and downright good souls.
But it doesn’t take away what’s happened. And so, long ago I set my mind to what needed to be achieved and how I would do this. “A man is not a plan”, I would proudly say. But now, I feel confused by my priorities, and betrayed by the emptiness achieving them has brought. And even as I reassure myself that I have won, that I have made it, echoing through the loneliness there is a voice that is getting louder.
It is the voice that screamed out for help many years ago. Thankfully, my “masculine” and prag- matic side, showed up. It told her to “man up” and sort out this mess that we find ourselves in. It taught her to wipe away the tears, pack away the pain, face the other way and start building all over again. My masculine side saved me, and showed me how to firstly build a bridge, then a wall, before finally building a fortress.
My priorities were the practicalities. Moving, finding work, finding a home, affording house- hold bills and childcare. They progressed as the skills of never revealing personal details were honed, how never mentioning you were a single mum secured the job. The more senior the role, the less you had a life outside of it – or one that you could discuss. The masculine side strengthened me to show up every day, to every meeting, to every function, and hold my own. To hold my own, on my own.
And I’ve been doing that for 17 years or more. Pushing the voice down that questioned, that wanted to cry, that wanted so much more. But there were storms to survive, and threats to keep at bay. Now the voice gets louder, she is demanding to be heard. She is screaming. She is screaming for the injustices; she is screaming for the sacrifices that had to be made. She is angry, and she is hurting, and she is hoarse from calling out, unheard, for all these years.
She cries in pain at the monstrous things some men have done. She wails at the trust that has been broken, she screams at the shattering of her heart and yet she aches to be held, to be understood, to be freed. She cries for her lost children, she cries for her soulmate, she cries for the crushing of her dreams. Sometimes she softens, hopeful ... and then she realises she must stretch her arms to be handcuffed, for she cannot be trusted not to reach too far, not to hope too much, not to gamble what she can’t afford to lose. For it took so very long to learn to stand on your own. And so, she is silenced, for fear of more pain. In a world where she saw violence, betrayal and disappointment, how can I tell her it’s safe to come out.
But maybe, if we all can support these voices to be heard, we can heal them. No, it’s certainly not all men who have done the damage. But there are enough men who have, that it’s left a lot of woman living their lives in ways that aren’t fair. Let’s be united in healing, in raising strong men, in thanking good men and in helping other men learn better. Let’s make homes safe, workplaces respectful and communities supportive. Let’s help women trust again, to believe that they too can find the happiness and protection so many women already celebrate.
Please, let’s be one voice creating a solid path forward.
With love, and with hope, Abby x •