Testament of Harm: A Yoko Ono Project

I came across this in the Hufington Post and thought it was brilliant. Yoko Ono is asking women all over the world to share their stories of harm that has befallen them because they are women. She will be incorporating these stories and pictures of each person's eyes in her installation, Arising at Reykjavik Art Museum from 7th October 2016 - 5th February 2017. I wrote out my submission and realised that I haven't really written about this part of my life before. So, I thought I might take the opportunity to share it here too:

While I was at university, I had my drink spiked twice. At the time, rape culture in the higher education system didn't have the protections and awareness built around it that exists today. It was quite typical for young women on my campus to head out with their friends and suffer the same fate, later questioning what they were doing or wearing to invite such behaviour. Was it my fault for leaving my drink with my friends when I went to the bathroom? Or maybe I should have covered up more so I was less of a target? It's not a big deal, boys will be boys. But this isn't boys just horsing around, or trying to level the playing field, is it? It's someone incapacitating you for the purpose of having sex with your silent body, unable to fight back or defend yourself. It is someone reaching into your life and taking your consent away from you. 

I was not raped, but many women were, are, and will continue to be. I was not raped but my body reacted badly to whatever they slipped into my drink and I collapsed on my head. My skull hit the dance floor so hard the entire club screeched to a halt. I started fitting, I was taken to hospital. I asked them to call the police, I asked for a blood test and a urine test. They said no. I couldn't hold my head up or work my arms and legs properly. I asked them what was happening to me. They implied that I had been taking recreational drugs and sent me home to "sleep it off . I feel the physical and neurological effects of this incident every day. It has robbed me of my career, my mobility, and my independence. 

Aside from being drugged twice, I was regularly harassed and followed by groups of men in cars; in broad daylight and, often, just on the way to class. Because it was acceptable then to crawl beside a young woman in your vehicle, follow her, and tell her, explicitly, what you want to do to her body. And it has consequences. I do not want any man to notice me or look at me again. I do not want to be the centre of attention or life of the party ever again. I will not exhibit or draw attention to any part of my body in public ever again. My femininity has been locked away. It is embedded somewhere deep inside my chest and I don't know how to access it without feeling like I am inviting the male gaze or consciously putting myself in harm's way. 

When I reflect on these experiences, I still catch myself viewing them through the pernicious lens of female blame and culpability. Analysing what I was wearing, how I was behaving, why I attracted this unwanted attention, and how I could alter myself so this would stop happening to me. As is the case for millions of women, within this damaging narrative, the responsibility and the guilt is always mine. 

Years later, I was at a bar with my hand over my drink and a stranger asked me why I did this. I mentioned what had happened and said, it's nothing personal, it's just something I do now. And he said, "Well, you can't blame them really, can you? You've got a face that says, Fuck me".

Yoko Ono project
Nadia, UK

If you would like to contribute to Arising, send your testament of harm and photograph of your eyes by mail to: Listasafn Reykjavíkur, Tryggvagata 17, 101 Reykjavík or by email to: arising@reykjavik.is.  

My Life As An Imposter

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