My life is one of dull routine but on Sunday 15th March, because of a fracas, my regular evening viewing was taken from me pending an internal review. I decided to venture out to the Contact theatre in Manchester.
This, for me, was an odd thing to do. I no longer do the theatre, indeed I rarely go out but after reading electric review after electric review, I felt compelled to attend and so it came to pass.
As the lights went down on Nirbhaya, an ethereal figure dominated the stage, then slowly, unified in defiant salutes, the rest of the cast descended from the audience to begin what I can only describe as a performance of visceral delicate beauty on a subject matter of uncomfortable relevance. It was quite simple incredible and it changed my viewpoint forever.
That a crime of such a horrific nature should take place is shocking but Nirbhaya made me realise that the crime doesn’t occur as a malignant island in a sea of consensual and loving sexual relationships. That the brutality of a gang rape can be deemed, in the eyes of many who I previously perceived to be normal, just an act that got out of hand is mystifying? How can this even be considered a viewpoint?
I have always thought that sexual crimes are a peculiar problem. A robbery, although traumatic, can be forgotten over time and the ostolen object replaced. A sexual crime leaves an indelible stain on all parties, one that can never be erased or whitewashed and goes on to effect the future sexual decisions of the victims for the rest of their lifes.
As a romantic, I perceived from personal experience, that ones first sexual encounter would usually be in the grips of young love. Both fumbling around finding out the rules, making mistakes but having fun but what if I am actually wildly wrong? That this experience is in fact actually very far from the norm?
What if a large part of the population first experience sex when the dirty hand of someone they should be able to trust is thrust into their underwear at an age when such an act makes no sense at all? What if they are invited somewhere and persuaded by someone older or more powerful to do something that makes them uncomfortable but concede control in a fatalistic realisation that this is what is expected? That this is just how it is done? That if they make you feel special, buy you presents, make you feel like you owe them, it is considered normal to be passed around the vendors friends in return?
If these stains are all around me, why was I blind to the work that needs to be done? It should be screaming, we should be listening, we should be working to fix society into a place where all such acts are abhored. The victims not just listened to but believed. The perpetrators prosecuted and a culture shifted so that there are no longer any more blurred lines. That only consensual sex is tolerated in all its wonderful 50 shades and that awkward consent given to someone who wields power over you, who can affect you life outcomes, can be considered to have never actually have been given at all.
We are now in times were these old stains that were never erased are beginning to surface. That victims are finding their voice and people are begininning to be prosecuted is a good start but it goes beyond celebrities. We all know if we have done right or wrong, we know if we have lived our lives the right way? In turn we all know if we are stained or have stained the lifes of others but just how many stains are out there?
Perhaps they are endemic? What if this is the shocking truth? What if everyone has a stain? Maybe it is only a small one, the kind that only the bearer could point out. The kind where you have to know where to look. Maybe it is larger but the owner has mastered the art of deflection so well that you never see the stain, only the sleight of hand. With some the stain is obvious but the stain is so old, so weathered, so much just a part of them that is difficult to see what caused the stain in the first place. Some of course are as so stained that you could be forgiven for thinking the shirt on their back is black. They have begun to stain others and so the cycle continues. Was it ever thus?
I want to believe that when the victims came forward in the past that the politicians and the police possessed my naive romanticism, that they simply refused to believe such a world could exist. I want to believe it but I don’t even believe it myself. It is more likely that they too were stained, that they recognised the behaviour but it merely deviated in degree and a lower moral barrier of acceptable age from what they had personally encountered. So it was mopped up, disregarded and forgotten but of course this can never be the truth. The stains remained, growing older and harder to launder and every now again once a perpetrator perished, a little reflection was allowed. How did we miss the signs? How could this ever have happened? How can we stop this from ever happening again?
And so here I am, surrounded by stains feeling helpless and worthless. What’s done is done and can only be compensated with acknowledgement and justice. These stains are too indelible to be washed out.
Our only hope is that from now, all us good people say enough. We cannot be the minority, the sexual destiny of all who pass behind us must be theirs and theirs alone to determine and should anyone deviate from this adherence that it is at that point in time that we correct their journey. How can we even begin to consider ourselves a society if we cannot even protect the sexual integrity of our children?
We must be fearless.