New Year: Don’t Look Back in Anger

New Year: Don’t Look Back in Anger

As the year draws to a close I’ve found myself musing over the past 12 months and torturing myself on what didn’t quite go to plan. “This will be my year” is a phrase which has penetrated my vocabulary and exposed itself simultaneously each time January comes back around. The notion that the clock strikes midnight on December the 31st and shunts a “new you” into formation is an idea in which I have indulged in through the seek of pleasure and to rid past disappointments. January the 1st has become a metaphor in so many of our lives; A scapegoat to the trials and tribulations of the past 365 days in which we barely kept our heads above the water. “This year will be different”. We thrust all our hopes and dreams which have built up over past ages into a new realm, beaming with the possibility that things won’t go to shit over the next 13 moon cycles. But what if this approach is only setting us up for failure? You see, the issue which has evolved within me of the decrepit catchphrase “New Year, New me” is that behind it’s glossy and buoyant exterior is the underlying notion that there was ever something wrong with the old me, the matured me, the battered and bruised through approximately 9,371 days on this planet me.

When things are going good, then it’s fucking great. That awe-inspiring feeling of your avenue into eternal happiness finally laying it’s marble tiles in alignment with your dreams. I’ve been on this path way and skipped up my sunflower-lined avenue many of times in my 1338 weeks on this earth. I’ve planted trees across the Atlantic and smelt the roses as far away as Tahiti. I’ve scattered my petals across publishing houses and studio sets, and swam in the most crystal of seas. I’ve rooted myself amongst some of the finest flower beds on this Universe, entangling myself with a unique array of species I now call my best friends. But whilst burying myself in a rabbit hole of disappointment this year, I almost forgot the tunnels in which I have ran. 2016 was a specifically good year for me. One in which I continue to reminisce on whilst stealing any potential future happiness through comparison, with thoughts that nothing will ever live up to those first-time experiences and fire-igniting discoveries within myself. Anything since then has just been catch up. A chase in which to reach the end of the rainbow that I potted approximately 36 months ago. I’ve read that some of the lowest points for young adults often affect the most ambitious. Those who set their bar so high that they are destined to fall before they can fly.

We live in a culture where we are obsessed with setting goals and achieving things; With living our lives as if they are a shopping list, ticking off buying a house and getting married like you’re picking up bread and milk from the supermarket. But our lives are not lists and our journeys do not begin with a trolley and some eggs. Our avenues are not always tiled in marble but paved with cracks and missing stones. A year of setbacks or failing to manifest everything on your calendar within the given space of 525,600 minutes should not be cast down as defeat. Of course having ambition and a vision for what you are going to work towards is a healthy and important aspect of life. It ignites the fire in our bellies and wraps us in purpose, but we must not endorse it as our only purpose.

A handful of some of the highlights of my year ❤️

What I have come to realise this year is that we are so much more than the house, the car, the job, the relationship, the baby, the holiday. We have wasted not one of our 31,536,000 seconds this year. This was our year because we are still here. I was prepared to look back on this year as a write off, a crestfallen chapter to my happy ever after. I placed all my value on my goals and achieving professional and material status. I haven’t done this so I can’t be that. Next year I will be this so I can be that. I was willing so fruitfully to toss aside 365 mornings of waking up alive and healthy as a failure, because I have not reached the industry level that I so nobly set upon myself 365 evenings ago. But whilst my shopping list may not have been complete, I have sank my roots much deeper than they were 52 weeks ago and added an immeasurable and invaluable ring of experience to the pattern of my life. I have spread my pollen further, scattered my petals wider and planted my seeds in a bottomless pot of endless opportunity for growth and hope.

This year saw me pick up a bike for the first time in thirteen years and cycle across France on an invaluable memory making journey with my Dad, whilst raising funds for a wonderful charity. For my 25th Birthday, I raised a glass of bubbles in Beverly Hills with two of my best friends and danced front row at Coachella to some of the World’s most talented artists, surrounded by people I love. I have watched my relationships with my family grow to a deeper level through strength and resilience as we drew closer whilst loving, and losing, the head of our small dynasty. As cliche as it may sound, I have laughed harder and smiled wider with my friends than ever before- seriously, you all fucking rock. I have (occasionally) beat my inner procrastination monkey to finally set up this blog (That IS something I can tick off the shopping list!) and although I have slipped off some stepping stones along the way, I have never given up on chasing my dream; I have never given up on the old me. This January I won’t be saying hello to the new me, but commit to watering the 25 rings of my life with love and gratitude; Preparing to sprout new buds of abundance and seasoning my avenue with lessons learnt, filling in the cracks one marble tile at a time.

Raise a glass of bubbles to your personal achievements of the last 12 months, however big or small, and remember it’s okay to pat yourself on the back and remind yourself of how far you’ve come in- even if that is just waking up this morning.

Cheers to you!

Happy New Year!

X

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“Not another mean comment”: What makes you press send?

“Not another mean comment”: What makes you press send?

The phrase “trolling” is one in which we’ve all become accustomed to since the rise of the 14th district we so lovingly call social media. It’s meaning has seasoned like the funk off some old cheese, tangled in a web of twitter spats and matured through countless blockings on Instagram. It is described by both Wikipedia and the Urban dictionary as an act which see’s people (dickheads) start quarrels and cause upset on the internet by posting “inflammatory and digressive, extraneous or off-topic messages” with the intent to start an argument and provoke a totes-emosh response. Or in simple terms, it’s people being dickheads. But what about when people aren’t saying mean stuff to start arguments or provoke a response? What about when people are just saying mean stuff to well, be mean?

A couple of weeks back I wrote a piece on here about my Life as a Glamour model and accepting your career is over at 25. I dived into the deepest pits of my stomach and laid myself bare for the World- or to the thousand odd people who read this blog- to see. And come thru Miss Worldwide because this led to me being contacted by a Welsh online News site who wanted to run a feature on me about my blog post and what I was up to now. Never one to seize an opportunity to talk about myself (jks my friends, I’m trying to re-brand myself here, a girl needs press) I was more than happy to oblige. Fast-forward to last week and a reporter and photographer showed up on my door. We chatted away casually whilst I overshared my life and once again laid myself bare for the World- or some of Wales – to see. I spoke openly about being a young woman struggling to find my way in life; I delved into being a proud feminist and how we should encourage women to do what they like with their bodies and I boldly discussed how upsetting online abuse and judgement from strangers can be. In fact,the exact words I poured over in the video coverage were:

“The worst bit (about my career), is you do get, you know, a lot of people judging you which people will say well you kind of expect it but it’s one of them things that when people are commenting on you as a person when they’re just strangers, it’s hard to kind of just, ignore it and you kind of take it to heart”

My feelings sprawled across this article as if I were opening up to my closest friends and I eagerly awaited my story to be shared as to find comfort in the hope that I am not the only one out there trying to find my way. But as the post went live this “worst bit” in which I had shared my fears and tried so often to ignore came flooding back in written form.

Shared online without a care in the World was judgement after judgement, comment after comment of unnecessary opinions and hurtful words. I don’t believe you should “expect” people to say mean shit to you online just because your in the public eye of some sort. The job role doesn’t come listed with a mandatory kick in the teeth for every three positive comments you might get. I am not superhuman, and as I told you time and time again in the article in which you’re barrage stemmed from, this hurts. Now, I don’t live in la-la land. Everyone has an opinion and everyone passes judgement. I get that. But what I don’t get is how having an opinion in your mind or bitching amongst your friends (we all do it, again I am not superhuman) has transformed to beholding a sense of entitlement that you can share this opinion so fucking openly online, direct with the one you’re bitching about, with apparently no conscience. Did your mum never teach you that if you haven’t got anything nice to say, then don’t say it at all? Or at least have the decency to say it behind my back? The internet has created a safe space for bullies to share their inner saboteur to the World with no consequence or compassion. If people said this kind of stuff to your face in a public place they would be called out and vilified for being a crappy person. But because these comments are made online you’re expected to take them as part and parcel of the job, or of life for that matter. It’s all part of the game. But neeeeewsflash, playing with somebodies emotions is not a game that entices most humans with a moral compass.

After having an online presence for 6+years, being on the receiving end of mean comments is nothing new to me. Whenever I discuss trolling with people, friends, journalists; I laugh it off and take it on the chin. Everyone tells me I deal with it so well. But the reality is that I don’t have much choice. If I didn’t, I’d be a shell of a person. Being judged and having your flaws pointed out to you by other women whilst the World rides the wave of Girl Power and Self-Love is a beautiful blanket of bitter-sweetness. Comments from men about my looks can relatively be tossed aside with the excuse that they’re just being jerks because they can’t get in your pants, or because they just fucking hate women 🙃. But the remarks from other females seem to cut deeper within, carving out the memories I’ve pushed to the back of my brain of girls in school scrawling my name alongside the word slut on the bathroom walls. These fellow women are all facing similar battles in life as me and yet take the time out of their day to stamp out these words on their keyboards with no other possible outcome than to make me feel shit, or to what, make them feel….better?

They’re just jealous” is a saying in which many have tried to comfort me with over the years. But I don’t believe this is ever really the case. I have scoured the internet for some “professional” explanation of trolling, some sort of psychological justification in which to prove their actions anchor from deep within. But I can’t really seem to find any. Joe Boyd, a writer for Huffington Post describes it as a “virtual road-rage“. You feel safe to say whatever you want within the comfort of the four doors which armour you, but would you really go that extra-step of getting out of the car and saying something to them in person? Some of the other reasons he gave where that it is comforting, it is free entertainment, it is power, it is boredom, and ultimately- it is natural. For unfortunately, some people just can’t help themselves from being dicks.

A comment I received on one of my blogs recently.

A few weeks ago as I was trying to relax in the the bath with a glass of red and £4.95 Lush Bath Bomb (I had planned this bath for days honey) I was interrupted by my phone and the sweet sound of a notification. I opened up my emails and was confronted by the comment above staring back at me. As I sat there alone in my flat, I honed in on this attack of my body, my personality, my feelings that I had so honestly shared with the World. I read them over and over again until, I just cried. These words had invaded my personal space and I had no option but to engage with them. I tried to salvage what was left of my relaxing bath plan- thanks a fucking lot those bath bombs aren’t cheap- and attempted to pull myself together, sending the email to my junk mail and disapproving the comment on WordPress. But as I settled back in with a much needed sip (gulp) of merlot, my phone pinged again with another infringement on my inbox and those words greeted me once more as the poster so desperately attempted to make his feelings known. This time I sent the comment straight to the trash, only for my phone to be infiltrated once more, forty-five minutes later with a third attempt at leaving the same comment about my (once) very fat tits. But now I just laughed. Your life seems great, hun. Best of luck.

All it takes is a simple scroll. A scroll in which would preserve your dignity and keep my emotions intact. But so many people choose not to scroll. Why? The internet has become a thief of reality for those who are lost and those who are lonely. Their boredom lines their hateful words which acts as a coat of arms to their inner collaborator of unhappiness. They spout about freedom of speech as if these three words give them a get-out-of-jail-free card for having the human right to comment on how your weight loss has made your tits saggy. Well guess what Karen* (insert standard ‘Can I see the manager’ name to fill this role) the Freedom of speech isn’t there so you can spend your lunch break spouting shit online to make people feel bad. I don’t know what else I can add, but it really isn’t rocket science folks. Mean comments hurt people’s feelings and there is a human being behind your screen who will carry those comments with them a lot longer than the thirty-seconds it took you to write it.

I’m going to leave you with this inspiring comment which unfortunately *cough* was not made about me but one of my friends, because trolling does not discriminate, we are all fair game to these people. I’m all of a sudden peckish for some pudding, you in?

It’s been a while. I’m sorry.

Hey there. It’s been a while. I’m sorry. Or am I? I started off this blog page with the intentions of living freely; posting whenever, whatever, because I no longer have to conform to deadlines and “do-good” views (or basically having no views at all) that you’re chained to when writing under a brand. I’ll post one blog a week, I told myself. “But it doesn’t matter if I don’t hit those targets”. So Why am I left wracked with guilt that I’ve been a bit shit and not updated this for 10 days?

I never wanted this to be a chore, something that I do for the sake of it and not because I actually have something to say. And it’s not. This guilt I’m feeling doesn’t stem from my blog. The blog is just a metaphor for the guilt towards my lack of lustre for well, anything lately. Anything productive that is.

The reality is, I’ve been busy. Busy drinking with my friends. Busy on a walking holiday with my family. Busy spending money I really shouldn’t be spending. Busy staring at my phone for 7 (yes, seven 😳) hours a day – thanks Apple Update for the screentime setting, really making me feel better about my life. I’ve been Browsing and Shopping and Posting and Liking and Reading and Sharing and doing anything really, anything but progressive movements towards building my future. This is the guilt. This is the procrastination. This is the blaming having to wait on everyone and anyone else to get back to me, instead of sitting at my desk and writing. Writing emails to potential clients. Writing blogs for potential features. Writing pitches for potential jobs. Writing measurements for potential fashion designs. I know what I need to do, but the last couple weeks I just haven’t been able to grasp it. The road up ahead seems such a long one that I’ve burned myself out by doing nothing at all. The irony of feeling fucking shattered by your lack of work, lack of hope and lack of faith in things finally happening, is exhausting.

Oh, but I have wrote something. I have wrote lists. And plans. Fuck yes, lots of them. I’ve wrote lists of plans and plans of lists. I know what I want, I’m just dumbfounded at how I get there. I’ve read about this “planning procrastination”. Writing lists and pinning endless Pinterest posts to make you think you’re being productive, when you’re in fact avoiding all your tasks with pointless projects which never get you any closer to where you want to be. Apparently this procrastination stems from stress and anxiety. Something I think a lot of young people attempting to uncover their golden gated path in life whilst dealing with social relationships and discovering new truths struggle with. I have so much angst about where I want to be in my life and where I am right now, that tackling the middle ground of actually getting there feels like the impossible task. I came across an article on LAPP the Brand a couple weeks ago where Victoria Secret model and LAPP Founder Leomie Anderson shared her fear of FOMOMGFear of missing out on my goals. And boy I felt that. We spend so much of our time comparing our lives to others. Their paths, their journeys and their destinations. We panic about where we want to be. Where we are not. We work ourselves up about how we are ever going to get there, that we forget to give ourselves a pat on the back for where we are now. Right where we’re supposed to be.

Sometimes I don’t want to write a blog post. Sometimes I don’t want to reply to that email. Sometimes I don’t want to hang out with my friends. Sometimes I don’t want to go to the gym. Sometimes I just want to be alone. Sometimes I want to watch a film with a glass of wine. Sometimes I want to go out and get drunk with my friends instead of put together that pitch for a client. Sometimes I want to eat a pizza instead of a salad. Sometimes I want to go for a walk and sometimes I want to lie in bed all day. And sometimes I want to do absolutely nothing. And that’s ok. Because Self-love doesn’t just consist of meditating and yoga and going to the gym and eating kale when you really want a burger. Self-love is about taking care of your mind. Self-love is being able to sit in your bed all day because you don’t feel like moving and not beat yourself up about it. Self-love is about knowing that you’re doing great, even when you don’t feel like it. Self-love is looking after number one. Whether that’s with an Indian takeaway, a spin class or a walk amongst the fresh air. You don’t owe anything to anyone but yourself. ❤️

Friendship: A love letter to my friends.

Friendship: A love letter to my friends.

I glance across the table as you take a sip of your drink, red wine of course, we’re adults now. We catch up as we swap stories of our adventures and glee, of beer fear and the hangover anxiety that claimed you last week, as it does after every heavy night. Laughter engulfs your face from your mouth to your eyes like a thief of sadness, and his merry men take over mine too. I bask in this happiness, the reliable waterfall of sun rays between us as we reminisce on old times and dream about the future ahead. This is joy. This is friendship.

I have spent so much of my time joking about having no friends, feeding into this gag of being alone and offering myself up as the jester. Yet somewhere amongst all the satire I have regretfully bypassed the ones who are right there. The ones who have always been there. I have, perhaps selfishly (most definitely selfishly) watched my friends grow whilst expecting our friendship to stay the same. As priorities change, then people change too. This is something I did not understand, or perhaps more something I did not want to understand. Why don’t you want to come get drunk with me last minute, on a school night, when you have an exam tomorrow? I convinced myself that my friends were dispersing, abandoning me to enthral themselves in lives of boyfriends, and jobs, and new friends, and new cities. In lives where I was not invited. But it seems the invites were always there, I just forgot to RSVP.

They say if a friendship lasts 7 years, then you will be friends forever. I have several of these friendships. I have friendships that span nearly twenty years, built on the basis of fear as a six year old in an unfamiliar town and grown as my own personal comfort blanket of warmth and familiarity. I have friendships that started on the cusp of my freedom, formed at a burly block of student flats and made between jäger bombs and the-day-after-the-night-before chats where we would all accumulate in one bed to eat pizza. I have friendships that grew from a friend-of-a friend to a deep intimacy and companionship of understanding where no secret, or story is withheld. I have friendships that evoked in an old town pub, between 80’s hits, Cointreau and a love for getting pissed. I have friendships that have formed from bra-shedding, nipple flashing and a complacency for each other’s nudeness. I have friendships which are less than 7 years old, but feel like they have been there my whole life. I have friendships founded at work, and tested in a Karaoke bar in New York. I have friendships I can call upon in my hour of need, be it for a drag show companion, a moan down the phone or a prosecco gulping Saturday afternoon, to moan a little bit more. I have friendships with those who are older, wiser, whose life experience both provokes and galvanises me. I have friendships where months and years pass by without seeing each-other, yet we always seem to pick up where we left off. I have friendships who have seen me cry over a boy and overlooked as I ignored their advice, Friendships who were still their to hug me a week later when I cried again over the exact same thing. I have friendships which have made me laugh until I couldn’t breathe and cry through tears of happiness and disbelief that these are my people, and these are mine. I have friendships.

I don’t know if this appreciation for those around you grows as you get older, but as I roll in after another night out, another quick drink, another walk with the dog, another VK, another city break or another shared tray of chips, the completeness in which runs through me feels like an ever expanding infinity pool, with no end in sight. A text, a WhatsApp, a ‘liked’ picture or a voice note. Every expression of affection soars through me like a bird of prey and sometimes, usually after three tequila shots, I feel like I could fly. The high you get from receiving love from someone you care so deeply for is a drug I wish I could be addicted too forever. The feeling of love from like minded people, from your chosen ones, from your extended family, is a love which I will to never disappear. As your lives change, I hope I will change with them, adapting and bending to keep these special people entwined within this new family tree I’ve grown. I may not have enough friends to fill a church, but I have enough friends who fill my soul. And so, I would just like to say to you and to everyone here, “Gracias para vivar en la casa, en la escuelas, en… en la azul… “markada”. Tienes con “bibir” en las Fortuashla?”. You are my best friends, and I treasure you. ❤️

Life as a Glamour Model: Accepting your career is over.

Life as a Glamour Model: Accepting your career is over.

Accepting your career is over is something you never want to have to face, not this early on in life anyway. All the long lusted ideals of what your life will be like, the high hopes that you’ve hung your dreams upon and the promised land in which you never got to travel disappear from your eyesight. It’s over. I am no longer a model.

It’s a tough pill to swallow. Especially when you are still so in love with your craft. Of course, everyone knows that there is a time limit to this career path, no one stays young forever they say. But the problem is, I still am. Whilst a lot of things in my life felt uncertain, my career was not one of them. I knew exactly what job I wanted, and I was as determined as anyone could be for success. I fell in love with modelling, fuck I fell hard. I loved every single moment of it. From the 5am Megabus’ to London and the castings in office cupboards, to the dodgy locations (yes FRONT mag) and even dodgier styling. The good always outweighed the bad when it came to this profession, always. I knew I was never the prettiest, the tallest, the skinniest, but I was adamant that I could make up for this through my boldness and fortitude in my love affair for this role. I faced off time and time again with rejection, yet each battle played a collective part in my story, building up a beautifully tragic puzzle of euphoric dreams and delusion.

Image by Harris Nukem

Being booked for a photoshoot was my Apollo 11. I was being paid to live out my childhood fantasy. I could never quite believe my luck. Each job was a journey, navigating at different stops. The first station would be hair and make-up, boy I loved this one. I would carefully soak in the craftsmanship, absorbing as much detail as I could on how to create the perfect smokey-eye. Each time without fail my eyes would water, their glazing blue-ness too sensitive for all the poking and prodding. I would sit there apologising, all red-eyed and irritated, clenching my fists praying that the tears wouldn’t fall and ruin the masterpiece which had adorned my face. The next stop was wardrobe, which usually consisted of various items of clothing spread out on the floor. “I hope I get that one” I’d think, waiting patiently for my look to be pieced together. I very rarely got “that one”, but I didn’t mind. I observed the stylist’s moves, their precision and eye for detail. Pinning and tucking, clipping and steaming. They minded every tag and seam with such an air of responsibility. The last stop put me in front of the camera. The holy grail. This is what it all came down too, this is what it was all for. Stepping on set always set off a wave of imbalance within me, a convulsion of hysteria and a dreaded feeling of don’t fuck it up. It was always in the back of my mind that this one shoot, this one job, could get me noticed and lead to my big break. That was both utterly terrifying and wholly spine-tingling. The photographer embeds their knowledge within you; chin up, back curved, towards the light, mouth a tad open. Their ability to execute an image in their mind to a living, breathing artwork in front of them is a demonstration of pure excellence. Anyone can pick up a camera, but only these select few are artists. Stepping off-set I would feel excited and drained. What if the pictures aren’t good enough. But as always, the good outweighed the bad, and I would leave the shoot feeling as if my dopamine levels had burst out of my brain. I want to feel this happy at work forever. I wish I hadn’t taken those days for granted.

Image by Matt Comer

Your life begins to build up around this path you’ve chosen. Your best friends become girls that you model with. Your travelling buddies become the make-up artists and stylists. Your agent becomes your second mother. Your drinking companions become the photographers. You meet up outside of work just because you want too. These people know all your secrets and your stories, your desires and your ambitions. You’ve shared life-changing experiences and travelled the World alongside them. You’ve created this whole family dynamic around you, and then one day, it’s just sort of, gone.

No one really warns you when your World is about to come crashing down. It doesn’t all happen at once. Much like a cliff repeatedly battered by the ocean, it silently erodes away piece by piece until one day you look up and nothing is there. This final stage of rejection is not one that I can accept so freely. I never fell out of love with modelling, but it fell out of love with me. The glamour industry evaporated and the other sector’s turned their back. You don’t fit the bill anymore, your job does not exist. I wish I had done more. I wish I had put myself out there more instead of spending so long feeling shy and uncertain of who I was. I wish I had spoken up and shared with my colleagues how much I really loved this job, this role as their fellow companion. The one thing left behind from my modelling days are my social media followers. But unfortunately this means I have to face trolling and negative comments about my looks, whilst no longer reaping any of the benefits that come with the job. I imagine it to be much like the career of a sportsman, through injury or old age (if you can call it that!) their time abruptly stops and they’re thrown back into the deep-end to try and forge a new path. Except when you’re a model, your passage has become blocked. Companies and brands don’t want to work with ex-glamour girls, and you’re once again running against the wind, trying to catch a break.

I’ve built up a plethora of knowledge through my experiences in this industry. I can, and have executed entire projects for brands from on-set shoot management, sourcing and casting, to client liaison, styling and production (you can check out some of my work here btw). But gaging respect from others as an ex-model is still something I struggle to find. The support network does not exist whilst the judgement unfortunately does. Life sometimes feels like an uphill battle and facing that your career is over as a 25 year-old, whilst feeling like you have so much left to give, is a hard wound to heal. I wrote this blog whilst tearing up, this really was my world. To many this may seem a bit silly, but starting from the bottom when you were so close to the top is a scary thing to face. I hope that I can be the exception and break away from the mould that us ex-models are forced into and forge a career behind the camera. But until then, I’ll continue to blog about my experiences through a new series I’ll be featuring called ‘THE MODEL DIARIES.’ Keep an eye out!

Me…. Too? : Why is it so difficult to believe claims of sexual assault?

Me…. Too? : Why is it so difficult to believe claims of sexual assault?

Dr Christine Ford was forced to take up centre stage last week at the hearing of Superior Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. The eyes of the World honing in as they passed judgement on if she was indeed telling the truth, or not. The claim in question was that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted Ford when they were at a high school party in 1982, drunkenly forcing himself on her and trying to remove her clothes: “I believed he was going to rape me,” she said. This week, despite calls for an FBI investigation, an extravagant and emotional testimony and several other sexual assault claims, Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed to the Supreme Court.

The last two years has seen a movement where multiple women, and men, have bravely stepped forward and shared their #metoo stories, all to be accosted with doubts and scrutiny from the public and senior figures.

They were asking for it”, “They didn’t say no”, “They should have reported it sooner”, “They’re lying”.

Ignorant individuals have pushed these stereotypes onto victims, refusing to believe- or choosing not to acknowledge- that their favourite celebrity, friend or politician could be capable of carrying out these heinous acts. Research for the home office suggests that only 4% of cases of sexual violence reported in the UK are found or suspected to be false. Whilst studies carried out in the US show rates of between 2% and 6%. These figures are no different to the rates attached to other crimes, yet the authenticity of sexual assault reports are often immediately met with counter accusations that they’re not true.

Sexual assault happens. And it happens a lot. There’s an average of 293,066 victims aged 12 and older of rape and sexual assault each year in the US. In simple terms, that is 1 sexual assault every 107 seconds. Many seem to not want to accept that, whilst others seem to simply not care. You make a choice the day you decide to turn a blind eye to the suffering of thousands of women and men, or worse, when you actively mock and encourage the taunting of those who have bravely spoken out. Instead of attacking the accuser, we need public figures to acknowledge and accept that this is happening. It is happening right now, and it was happening 36 years ago. The reaction and responses I have read online, in the papers and to my own social media posts have led me to raise the question: Why is it so hard to believe that sexual assault victims are telling the truth?

I ask this question, because I have been on the receiving end of this hostility. 14 months ago I was a victim of sexual assault. This is my story.

I had been on a night out for a friends birthday. We’d been drinking, we’d been dancing, we’d had a fun night. It was gone 5am when we decided to leave the club, get some food, and head home. We headed down a street nicknamed Chippy lane and darted into the closest open kebab shop. In turns our food was ready and a couple of the girls wandered off to find a taxi. My food was last to come out. “I’ll meet you there”. I knew this street like the back of my hand. It was light outside, and the last of the girls had only headed off 30 seconds before me. As I stepped outside and started walking down the street, two men appeared either side of me. They’d been hanging around the kebab shop, they might have even been inside. I couldn’t remember. They weren’t anyone I had had to pay attention to, until now. They were talking over me, making comments which were gestured at myself. I instantly felt awkward enough to have to hold my food over my chest, hugging myself to try and stop them from taking anymore unwanted notice of me. I was wearing a jumpsuit. Not like it matters, but I know some people will be wondering. Then they started talking directly at me and I laughed along, desperately trying to diffuse any situation. Both of them were on either side of me, invading my personal space from all angles. My food was burning my chest through the wrapping. I couldn’t walk fast enough in my heels. When will this fucking street end. I knew the taxi rank was just on the other side of this street. Then, as we approached the corner, one of them grabbed my arm and aggressively tried to pull it away from my chest. They were in front of me now. As I tried to push them away, one of them grabbed my breast. Half in and half out of my clothing. It was a hard squeeze. It hurt. I called out in pain, in shock, in trying to get them to just fuck off. I pushed them off me and continued scuffling with them. By now I was crying, and trying to walk around them. They called me a slut, a whore, they laughed at my expense. We’d turned onto the next street and I heard someone shout my name, “JESS!” The two guys stepped away and it was like the sea had parted in front of me. I could see my friend hanging out the taxi door, gesturing for me to come in. I shuffled as fast as I could over to the car and jumped in, slamming the door behind me. By now I was hysterical. They followed and were both at the taxi window, knocking on the glass and trying to get in. They were laughing. “DRIVE!” My friend was shouting, and the car sped off. Thank fuck, I was safe.

I tried to tell my friends what had happened through broken cries and catching my breath. In that moment I was a child again, vulnerable and scared. “That wasn’t ok. That wasn’t ok” I kept saying. I was so confused. I knew I was one of the lucky ones. That this was a minor assault. That it wasn’t a big deal. I didn’t know how to feel. I had an overwhelming feeling that this encounter was something I had never experienced before. Aggressive, intimidating, being mocked and laughed at. This wasn’t just “banter” or someone playing around. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know how I was allowed to feel. Do I call the police? For a boob grab? I couldn’t even remember all the details. But I just kept telling myself that this did not feel right, it wasn’t something I could just ignore. When I got home I reported the incident to 101, the non-emergency helpline.

When I woke, everything was a bit of a blur. I still didn’t know how to feel, how to act. It had happened now, that was that. I didn’t really want to tell my mum, so I dragged it out all day until the evening to call her. When I eventually told her, it was in a passive comment. “It’s nothing, it’s fine.” And I was fine. The incident was fucked up, but thankfully, I was okay. However, what left a lasting feeling of anger inside is how I was treated after the assault.

Soon after I had told my mum, a family member who was in the Police themselves called me, asking what my local force were doing about it. I hadn’t heard anything all day, and I had no reference or number to call. I was prepared to forget about the whole thing and brush it off, but they convinced me to follow it up and told me to make sure I was taken seriously. After calling 101 and asking for an update I was told an officer would be in touch. I woke up to a voicemail left at 2am and after a couple back and fourth’s of missing each other, I finally managed to speak to an officer. I relayed the story and all the information onto them again, the time, the street, anything I could remember. They told me not to wash my jumpsuit as they might be able to lift fingerprints off of it. We arranged a time for an officer to come round my house the next day to take my statement. I offered to go into the station but I was told it wasn’t necessary. They’ll come to me.

The next day came and as 10 am hit, I was waiting for a buzz to let them into the building. I waited, and waited, but nothing. I know how stretched our police force are and appreciate the huge work load they have to do. This wasn’t a priority case, I knew that, so I waited to follow up with a call until it was around 3pm. As I spoke to the officer on the other end, they informed me that it had been noted down that someone had tried to get in contact with me and take my statement but I wasn’t available. That’s impossible, I told her, I’ve been in the house and stuck to my phone all day. She looked over the records again, and as she was relaying the information onto me she noticed that the officer marked down as attempting to contact me wasn’t on shift that day, so it really was impossible. For some reason unbeknownst to the both of us, someone had either lied on my record, or there had been a mishap. She would get the Sergeant to give me a call. I waited and waited, but heard nothing. Then, my phone rang, it was my friend who had been with me on the night of the incident. “Have you heard anything from the Police babe?” I continued to relay the happenings of my day onto her, and explained how I was waiting to hear back.

They’ve just phoned me, asking for more details about the night” she said. What? Why have they phoned my friend, before talking to me? “They asked me what street it was on, as you’ve said one street and they think it’s another.”; “They said you could’ve just been drunk and couldn’t remember”; “They said that as your story matched my story, it seemed believable”; “They said that you’ve been trying to call them all day, so it seems like you could be telling the truth, that most people don’t bother calling and following it up”; “They said that it’s the lowest level of crime, so they probably won’t waste the money on getting the DNA taken off your clothes”; They told me to tell you that they will probably just call you tomorrow now”.

I was lost for words. As soon as I put the phone down I burst into tears. I was angry. I was embarrassed. The passiveness of his words, the throw away comments. I had been counter-accused of lying and told my assault wasn’t serious enough for a full investigation- all via my friend, without even having my statement taken. The officer hadn’t even provided my friend with a name. I called my family member up crying, who immediately insisted on calling the Police force in question themselves to demand answers. The sergeant was in a meeting when they called, and stated he would call back in half an hour. He never did. The next day I spoke with a PCSO (Police community support officer) and arranged to go into the police station to finally give my statement. I remember feeling intimidated. Humiliated. I had to now go and tell my story knowing that it’s authenticity was already in question, that I had already been prejudged. I turned up ten minutes early and the Sergeant came out to meet me. “It was me who spoke to your friend” he stated. Awkward silence. “I understand there’s been some accusations, I never said any of that and I did not accuse you of lying.” I let out a small laugh in a combust of disbelief that both my friend, and myself, have now been accused of dishonesty. Are we the bad guys in all of this? I knew my friend was telling the truth, and every signal he was giving off was of insincerity in a shit attempt to cover his own ass, now that he had been caught. “But the department might not put the funding behind it to try find any DNA, it’s up to them” he added. Ahh, so she was telling the truth about that though, hey. *eyeroll*

The Sergeant had to go, he’ll have to get an officer from another station to come and take my statement as none of his were free. “That’s fine, I can wait.” He picks up the phone and makes a call. I’m told that there’s no cars available, so can I drive myself. “No problem, I can go to them.” He passed the phone onto me and I was asked if I could return to the other station later on that evening instead. “No problem, I’ll see you later.” I was exhausted. Everything and everyone was pushing me in the direction of giving up, and I’m certain that if it wasn’t for my confidence and trust in the Police from growing up around them, then I probably would have. I couldn’t help but think how the situation would’ve been different if the victim in question wasn’t privileged enough to know someone who could phone up and highlight their failures.

We were four days in from the original attack, and I was not going to quit now. I was determined to have my statement taken. To have my story heard. I returned that night to a different station, one that is not open to the public, and knocked on the back door, standing in the torrential rain hoping someone would answer my call. A lady opened the door, I understand she was the Sergeant on duty and she told me if she couldn’t find anyone to take my statement, then she would take it herself. Five minutes later she returned with a young female officer who would finally after 132 hours and 3 different Police stations, listen to my story. I relayed the events of the attack to her, and she listed intensely, noting down as much information as possible. “Those bastards” she quipped. I opened up to the officer about how I was initially embarrassed to ring the report through, that I felt like it wasn’t a big deal, that I thought because I had been drinking and couldn’t remember much that I didn’t have a chance. But I also told her what I did remember. How I remembered it hurting, how scared and intimidated I felt, the what if’s of what could have happened if my friends hadn’t been there, how it had stolen my sense of security, and how I was determined to report it incase a similar incident happened, something worse, so they would have previous reports to back any future claims up. Thankfully I was reassured that I did the right thing.

My clothing was accepted for DNA testing and sent off for examination, but unfortunately there were no matches found. I was told via text message a couple days later that my case was closed. And that was that.

Much like Kavanaugh, if you asked my attackers if they did this, if they were guilty, they would most likely say no. And they would not be lying, in their eyes. Because I doubt that they will even remember. To them, this will be something so small, so insignificant. Nothing bad happened. They weren’t made to feel a certain way. They weren’t punished. No one has ever told them that they were in the wrong. Their brain probably did not process it. But it is engraved in mine forever.

This is not intended to be an exposé of the Police. This is just my story. I understand that mistakes happen, especially in high pressure environments, and I like to think that I was just unfortunate enough this time around to be on the receiving end of them. Although, I hope that my highlighting of how I was dealt with may make someone reconsider the way they react next time they’re faced with a similar situation. I am also willing, in this current climate, to stand up and speak out on how passively I was treated as a victim of sexual assault. And perhaps more worryingly, how willing I was to pass it up myself. I questioned how I was allowed to feel, and sought to seek society’s permission to my emotions and reaction.

The public are too quick to label victims as liars. They use the victims own timeline to attack them; the longer it takes for them to come to terms with their assault and report it, the less likely they are to be believed. They draw on the ‘money grabbing’ or ‘attention seeking’ label, subsequently rendering a get-out-of jail-free card to the rich and famous to use against their victims. But what many fail to grasp is that most individuals do not want the attention, that attention was put upon them when they were attacked. Supporters hang their every word off of the fact that the accused still walk amongst us, smugly declaring that this pleads their innocence, but not giving scope to recent statistics that show out of every 1,000 rapes, 994 of perpetrators will walk free. This does not mean sexual assault does not happen.

When our attempts as victims to speak up are met with such hostility, please don’t ask us why we did not report it straight away. When the pre-judgement and accusations of lying feel like another attack, please don’t ask us why we haven’t spoke out sooner. When our fight-or flight mode kicks in and we decide to save ourselves instead of every detail of the assault, please don’t ask us why we can’t remember everything. When you’re deciding if you care enough to believe, Please don’t ask us If we’re sure.

My relationship with Social Media: Make up, or Break up?

My relationship with Social Media: Make up, or Break up?

I know a girl whose one goal was to visit Rome, Then she finally got to Rome, And all she did was post pictures for people at home, Cause all that mattered was impressin‘ everybody she’s known”

The power of Social media as a tool for business growth is unquestionable. But somewhere on this path I confused myself with a business and got lost along the way. See, I don’t make any money from my social media, but I happen to have a lot of followers. I’m not an influencer, but I’m expected to post “interesting” content. Of course, I’ve put that expectation on myself; putting currency into follower count is probably where it started to go wrong. I would force myself to post daily updates to stay “current”- I’m not entirely sure what I mean by this, but I just remember reading articles that said you should post at least once a day- so I did, I’d post anything. Uploading throwback after throwback of my travels, selfies of me with a full face of makeup on, and generally making my life look pretty damn great. And it is great, but not for the reasons my pages would lead you to believe.

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My relationship with social media grew at the same time as it’s popularity. { Just as an FYI, I use Twitter and Instagram the most, and Facebook privately. } My following grew organically thanks to S/O’s from Lads mags *RIP TittyTuesday* and I was enjoying reaching so many people on different platforms, through my new found *fame* (insert extremely big finger brackets here, I use the word fame in as loose of a term as possible). Due to my job and my environment at the time, my feed was pretty much full of scantily clad females, plus a few standard celeb accounts thrown in. You would think seeing beautiful women retweeted on my timeline constantly would have set me on my way to an early social media meltdown, but ironically, this “era” was the most comfortable I’ve ever felt online. Of course, there’s a wonderful irony in this- with the argument that glamour models are bad role models for women; but seeing the bodies of my fellow peers and strangers so freely shared on my timeline with such blasé and no editing or filters, well, it was empowering. And so fucking n o r m a l. I guess you could say these were my influencers. And I sure as hell was not worrying about how even my eyebrows looked or if my lips were plump in my selfies- and trust me, I know there is some dodgy photo’s out there to back these claims up! These platforms were a fun space where we all came together on a Wednesday afternoon to tweet #Humpday pictures, swap lighthearted comments and just have fun. I remember getting messages from up and coming brands – “Hey! We’d love to send you a tshirt in exchange for a post?”‘ FREE SHIT. This was mental. At one point I was paid £50 to upload a post holding a tub of protein powder. FIFTY QUID FOR A POST. This was the best job ever, or so I thought. Of course, now I know I was hugely undervaluing my “posting charge”, do you know how much these fuckers are being paid these days? TO POST AN INSTAGRAM PIC? It’s mind boggling. Anyway, Twitter and Instagram were an exciting place; they were fresh and they were new and I was growing with them.

I know a girl that saves pictures from places she’s flown, To post later and make it look like she still on the go, Look at the way we live”

So what went wrong? I fell down the rabbit hole. The search for validation from strangers online, constantly checking my “likes” hoping my next post will be the most popular yet. And if it didn’t do well? Fuck. That sinking feeling. The confidence I felt five minutes ago when I posted it had turned into despair. Do I look shit? Do I look fat? My boobs are saggy. Should I delete it? Maybe I’ll wait ten minutes. No I’ll just delete it, it must be shit if I’ve not hit 1000 likes. I’ll just try again and upload it later .Yes, this really was my thought process. On every post. Every day. Then came the dawn of the influencers and you might as well have pitted me next to Naomi Fucking Campbell because from now on I wasn’t as good as anyone. “Why don’t I live in a house like that?”, “Why am I not in Bali?”, “Why don’t I have abs like that? A bum like that, teeth like that”, “Why don’t I enjoy eating bowls of kale?”. The list goes on. I even started posting about my “weight loss journey”, when I was a Size 10- max.

Comparison became the thief of my happiness online.

Not only am I having to Keep up with the Jones’s- I’m trying to keep up with the whole World. Which of course, you can’t. Fuck, these girls can’t even keep up with themselves. I put so much value into the opinions of strangers, that I stopped taking notice of how social media was making me feel. I felt like I couldn’t share the everyday parts of my life, the parts that made me, me- because they weren’t exciting enough, or glamorous enough, or worthy enough. This might all sound a little excessive, but I truly don’t think I’m alone in thinking like this.

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My “progress” pictures from my weight loss journey. This is what influencers do, right?

Oh God, It goes on. Having a bad day? Then I’d post, and the mere validation via the form of likes from people I’ve never met, would give me an instant feeling of gratification. This is a fact by the way. The instant “hit” from seeing a like roll in releases the same amount of dopamine as sex or a line of cocaine. So rock’ n roll.

I cannot go ten minutes without checking my accounts. I automatically reach for my phone when I’m working, and have to force myself to put it back down. Endless scrolling fills my days with mindless tweets and Instagram models that I will never look like, who live lives I will never lead. I post selfie after selfie, engaging in this constant cycle of comparison and validation, liking and posting, like I’m wired up to some automatic millennial mode. Some may even call it narcissism. Is it? I don’t think it is. I think it’s probably the opposite. A strange need to be liked by others. But I can’t stop. And do I even want to? We need to call out our social media usage for what it is, an addiction.

This light-hearted confession of my “addiction” to others is what made me take a long hard look at my relationship with social media. Instagram and Twitter have no real effect on my life, I know that, but I put so much value upon them anyway. Why do I care about what others think? Why can’t I just be happy being me? But actually, I am happy being me. My comfortable-ness with who I am right now has allowed me to be so brazen and open about my feelings for the first time in a while. So perhaps the question is, Why can’t I just be happy being me, online? I’m not sure if I’m pitching this as a rhetorical question, or an open-ended one. The answer could be obvious, but I can’t seem to grasp it.

I think in time, or that I hope, that this idolisation of others online will come crashing down, and social media will become a collection of friendly, fun and lighthearted platforms again. We’re all aware of the exaggeration of reality across the gram’, yet we feed into it nonetheless, desperate to be a part of this new-age movement of status and belonging that faces our generation. But how about we go against the current; We are so much more than our follower count, our likes and our selfies. Let’s make that our millennial revolution.