"when we're brave enough to tell our stories, we become brave enough to fight back."
I recently tweeted with the #metoo hashtag. Emboldened by the voices and stories of so many other women, I shared that I had been sexually assaulted once and harassed more times than I can remember.
But when I think about it, I have been sexually assaulted more times than I can remember. For some reason, I only felt like I could 'claim' it for the time that it was reported to the police. I didn't feel like I could count the many, many times it has happened but I've just had to let it go.
The time I reported the assault to the police, I was 19 years old. I was working in a nightclub in my home town, and had finished my shift earlier than normal, which meant I couldn't get a lift home with another member of staff. I had made some money in tips, but was young and perpetually skint so decided to walk home. I only lived half an hour away from the club, and in a nice, safe residential area.
As I was walking down one part of the street, there was a man walking towards me. He was well dressed and the streets were lit, and I didn't think anything of it. But as he walked past me he grabbed me and felt my breasts. I was so furious I turned around and started shouting at him. As I took out my phone to call the police he ran away.
I remember being told off for walking home alone. But why shouldn't I? Why should I be afraid to walk back by myself? Women should not have to be afraid.
I remember the incident well, and rather than being traumatised by it I feel proud. Proud that I stuck up for myself and shouted back.
But then I think about all of the times I have been assaulted and not stood my ground. Either I was scared, vulnerable - or even just it had happened so many times I was just numb to it and couldn't be bothered.
As I mentioned I worked in a nightclub. I also worked at a number of pubs and bars to make money while I was studying. I remember a man reaching between my legs under my skirt when I reached over to pick up a tray of drinks. I remember a man grabbing my crotch aggressively as I was walking across the dance floor. I've lost count of the number of men in a bar, on the bus, on a train, walking down the street who find a way to stand too close, rubbing themselves up against you and touching my body, my breasts or bum.
And yet we just let it go. Because sometimes it feels like there are too many battles to fight and it's exhausting and it feels like we're alone.
But we're not alone. #metoo and many other initiatives around the world are making so many women and men (including myself) free brave enough to tell their stories. And when we're brave enough to tell our stories, we become brave enough to fight back.
I also think it's really important to acknowledge the many men out there standing up for women, and I want to shout out to all the guys who have stuck up for me and are leading the way to positive change.