Sunday 28 June 2020

gut punch

“Stalker” is a provocative and terrifying word for women.

Aja Barber has publicly stated that I’m stalking her. Go see her Instagram video.

 Stalker is big trigger word for me.

I’m going to describe my own personal experience of stalking.

In 1987 I paid $500 to join a dating service. A year earlier I’d emigrated from New Zealand with my 5 year old son to live in Australia and was lonely. I was a 27 year old single mother in a new country working from home. I had no friends to socialise with which is why I’d gone to a reputable dating agency. The third date the agency arranged for me was with a man who took me to dinner. He picked me up from my home and we went out in his car for a meal and around 11pm I asked him to take me home. Instead he drove me to a squat house and raped me with his 2 friends who were waiting.
In the latter part of the assault, which involved having a knife put to my throat, I managed to jump out a window and ran down the street finding safety at the third house where I’d pounded on the door screaming for help while one of the rapists pursued me and tried to drag me back.

The next day was a nightmare of hospital examinations, rape crisis counsellors and making statements to the Police. It wasn’t hard to find the assailant as the dating agency had everything from coloured photos, to height, weight and home address.

The men who had assaulted me were Pacific Islanders, from Tonga. The Police couldn’t find them because their close knit Sydney community hid them. Within a day of coming home from hospital I started getting harassing phone calls. Over about 6 months I’d get 2-20 most days. Most of the time they would just hang up. Sometimes they would threaten to kill me or my son. I had to answer the phone because I did contract outwork sewing and that was how I organised getting and dropping off my work. In 1987 there were no mobile phones so there was no caller ID or ability to block numbers. The house I rented was broken into and burgled 3 times.

Eventually I was able to afford to move out of that house and changed my phone number. I legally changed my name as a way of hiding from the stalkers. Over thirty years later, despite changing my name, I still don’t register myself on public electoral lists because I’m afraid of being stalked.
That’s my experience of being stalked.

So when Aja Barber sits on her comfy lounge in London, England and calls me a terrifying stalker it leaves me aghast. Somehow or other she thinks only Black women know about violence and stalking. Only Black women know genuine suffering because my privilege as a “white” woman somehow makes me so not-human that I can’t relate to the humanity of other women. I’m an unfeeling white monster.

I find the “stalking” accusation deeply offensive, not just to myself, but for all women who’ve lived through the reality. To suggest my actions – a challenge issued on twitter (well sheesh, who knew twitter was a forum for kindly salutes!) has any parallel to the real anguish and literal physical danger that women are placed in daily from real life stalkers, is to demean and degrade the real gravity of what that word describes.

I have not stalked Aja. Shes not in the slightest danger from me unless she feels people who express differing opinions as a punch in the face. A year ago I tried to engage her and 2 other women to query their assertion that describing a modern garment as a kimono was a cultural appropriation. All the things I questioned referred to comments they had made on open public forums. I had a naïve assumption that if you make claims like that in public then you should be available to defend the proposition.

Ms Barbers suggestion that by joining her platform as a paying contributor I was somehow insulting her is absurd. As an advocate for numerous social justice issues she supposedly welcomes patronage. I submitted a comment to a discussion thread she had started that was in no way personal, it was 100% entirely addressing only the topic. Her unnecessary reaction was to make it very personal.

Regrettably I think I’m too much of an inquisitive and curious person for Aja to tolerate. Her mode of educating is by edict and anyone with the temerity to question will be ruthlessly thrown out the room.

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