Complicity and betrayal

I am surrounded by my classmates. We’re packed in densely, late at night, talking and socializing. I am in conversation with a friend, just the two of us off on our own. My professor is swaying boozily about, moving between different groups. I am ignoring him. It has already been a long enough day.

Then, without invitation, without preamble, he leans into me, his face suddenly close to mine. He grabs me around the back of the head, moving in and pulling my face toward his. I’m alarmed; it’s alarming. He has my head like a vice, is trying to force a kiss, and I’m pulling back and away but am also too shocked to respond. My friend just watches, also frozen.

Another female professor sees what is happening and shouts, “XX, leave her alone!” He lets me go, lets go of my head. He doesn’t manage to force his kiss on me. This time. Nothing else is said of it that night.

But it’s not the first or the last time, and it’s not only me this is happening to, and it’s far from a secret. His sexualised treatment of his students, his forced kisses and touches, his not hearing “no” as an answer, are absolutely public. There is absolute complicity on the part of everyone in allowing this to happen, and to keep happening. There is absolute betrayal of me and the other women who are constantly, constantly negotiating this – harassment and assault – in the learning environment.

And when we speak out, the only thing that is possibly harder to do then to live in this environment, we will be blamed.

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