Every woman has a story, and mine involves a man in a very short pair of running shorts who revealed his penis as he nudged his way past me.
Every woman has a story, and mine involves a stranger in a crowd in Barcelona who shoved his hand down the back of my jeans and tried to insert his finger into my vagina.
Every woman has a story, and mine involves a male work colleague, not a manager but someone who I managed, putting his arm around my shoulder and calling me “darling”.
Every woman has a story, and mine involves a former Managing Director who, on a Christmas do, once asked me: “if I said I wanted to ‘take you from behind’ would you think I was referring to anal or vaginal sex?”.
In my last, but not my most recent, story I was a twenty-three year old on a graduate training scheme who didn’t know what to say. So, I said nothing.
It has only been recently, since #metoo started trending, that I have thought to share my stories.
The #metoo hashtag went viral, with millions of tweets from women feeling empowered, in the wake of the Weinstein revelations, to share their stories of rape, sexual assault, abuse and harassment. Women tweeting #metoo can feel that they are not alone. Their experiences have been shared. A problem shared is a problem halved. Sharing these stories has, in many cases, taken great courage.
What has taken more courage, and in my view, deserves applaud, are those who have dared to share their intimate stories under the hashtags #ItWasMe #IHave and #HowIWillChange.
“It was easier to tell myself it wasn’t my place to stop a friend and I wasn’t a bad guy because I wasn’t the one doing it but… #ItWasMe”
“I let things go on for a few seconds past her saying ‘please no’. I am so sorry. #ItWasMe”
“#Ihave crossed the line. I have taken advantage of trust. I have laughed it off. I will never do it again”.
“#HowIWillChange: I will confront anyone who makes sexist statements about women even as silly jokes”.
For every #metoo there must be an #Ihave.
We need to hear more of these #Ihave stories. But we won’t hear more of these stories until we can guarantee the story-teller an amnesty so that he or she can confess and tell the story without fear of repercussion of resentment.
There are a few stories of named abusers who have lost their jobs and their status. While this is not wrong, it won’t encourage the #Ihave voices.
To be truly successful and to be viral to the same magnitude as #metoo, #Ihave needs a safe space. In the same way that violent knife owners are able to deposit their gang knives at London police stations without fear of prosecution or repercussion during a knife amnesty, we need to provide #Ihave with an amnesty so that we can hear their voices too.
Every woman has a story, every woman has a #metoo. For every #metoo there is an #Ihave. We need to allow #Ihave to say they are sorry. We shouldn’t silence the #Ihave story.