#BREAKFREE Week One: Shame

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  • As part of our nine week campaign to #BREAKFREE from the crap that’s holding us back, we’re dedicating the next seven days to the discussion of violence against women - and the way we talk about those who have experienced it…

    Shame. The hot, thick, heavy feeling that makes you want to cover up, close your eyes and apologise for who you are, what you’ve done, or what you didn’t say.

    Shame says ‘It’s my fault’, ‘I brought this on myself’, ‘I asked for this’. It says, ‘I’ve let myself down’. Or, ‘I could have done more’.

    Shame is what makes you tug your skirt round your knees when you catch the man on the bus staring at your legs. It makes you say sorry to your boyfriend for pissing him off, after he’s the one that lost his temper. After he’s the one who raised his hand.

    Shame is the feeling when you leave a male friend’s room at a party and everyone jeers – at you, that is – then pats him on the back. It’s what stops you from telling the barman your drink was spiked. It’s not like he’d believe you after the five tequila shots, right?

    Shame is when you said yes to fingering but no to anything more – then you feel him go ahead anyway, and your mouth suddenly forgets how, or when, to scream.

    It’s when you’re told ‘it’s a pity there isn’t more evidence’. It’s when you’re asked, ‘but had you had a drink?’

    Shame is what stops 85 per cent of UK women who’ve experienced sexual violence from going to the police.

    ‘It suits society that many survivors of abuse blame themselves,’ research psychologist Dr Nina Burrowes tells marie claire. ‘We want to hold people responsible for their abuse – we want to believe that they had the power to stop it – because we want to believe that we have the power to stop it. Blaming victims for what they did or did not do before, during or after the abuse is our way of saying ‘that could never happen to me’. But any kind of sexual violation is a experience where choice, agency, and power are taken away from you. You don’t getto have any power in that situation – that’s the point.

    That’s why we want to #BREAKFREE from shame – and blame. Over the next seven days, (and with the help of our #BREAKFREE ambassador, Pavan Amara), we’ll be posting features, reports and investigations into a feeling that holds us back, affects our self-worth, and tells us it’s our fault that society isn’t equal.

    If you’d like to contribute, tweet us at @marieclaireuk, or email corinne.redfern@timeinc.com. Together, we can #BREAKFREE.

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