World, we have a problem and I am sick to death of it. Sexual assault of women and girls is rife in our community and it’s got to stop.
Almost every woman I speak to has been sexually assaulted and/or physically abused by a boy or man. The incidents may have happened when they were a child or an adult but the stories are appallingly and insidiously common. Strangers at parties, boyfriends and husbands, older men when they were kids, on and on and on the stories go. They are everywhere and they are never-ending.
If you’re reading my words and thinking, “Lucretia is exaggerating, it’s not that common,” I want to invite you to do the following.
If you are a man reading this, put down your device and go talk to the women in your life – the women you care about. Ask them about their experiences of assault in the workplace, at home, on nights out. I dare you to ask and I dare you to listen and accept what you hear about their experiences. If a woman has escaped sexual assault and abuse, she is a lucky exception.
Then I suggest you take walk through the comments sections on posts by women like Clementine Ford who speak out about abusive male behaviour, feminism and women demanding better treatment. As you scroll, I want you do look out for the misogynistic commentary that some men still think is acceptable – comments like, “I’m going to rape you if you don’t shut your hole” or “No man will ever have sex with you because you’re an ugly pig.” This type of commentary is remarkably common and even more interestingly, when women shine a spotlight on these ugly comments that men send to their DMs, people (men and women) defend the abusive pricks who sent them in the first place. Women are still expected to play nicely and smile politely even in the face of abuse – we mustn’t cause waves or be disruptive.
Well, I am sick of this shi!
I’m sick of hearing of young women who are assaulted yet, when they tell adults, police and others, they are disbelieved and met with words like, “He comes across as a really genuine guy” or “Maybe he didn’t know that you weren’t into it.”
I’m sick of reading about how, even if a woman bravely and tenaciously, goes to court to tell her story, juries are still more likely to believe the man’s story even when evidence shows that women are unlikely to lie about this stuff. If you want to learn more about this, I highly recommend you read the words of Bri Lee in her book, Eggshell Skull.
I’m also completely devastated when I hear women and girls describe their assaults and in the next breath they doubt themselves and ask, “Was that wrong? Am I over-reacting? Was it my fault?”
If you are a girl or a woman and you feel like you have been sexually assaulted, then it’s highly, highly likely you have been. It wasn’t your fault.
If you said no and then he coerced you, didn’t listen, forced himself on you, you have been assaulted.
If he touched you sexually without your consent, then you have been assaulted.
If he pushed himself on you and you froze (which sadly, many women do in these situations because we are terrified), then you were assaulted.
If you have had any of these or related experiences, I want to say this directly to you:
“Sweetheart, none of that was your fault. When things happen and they feel wrong, they are wrong – trust yourself. It’s not your job to teach men and boys how to treat you respectfully – they know the difference between right and wrong.
“You are a courageous and beautiful person who deserves so much more than this. I believe you can find your way out – sometimes it’s just about finding the right person to help you.
“Don’t give up. I believe you.”
As for those of you who continue to say, “It’s not that common”, “She shouldn’t have worn that dress/gone to that place/been with that guy” or “He just misunderstood and thought she consented”, my response is “Do better”.
It all started in the early hours of New Year’s Day when a very tall and very wide bloke (you could say he was built like a brick shi!house) decided he give out free hugs in the nightclub. He said he’d had to bulk up so he could “keep up with the boys back home”. Then he proceeded, in his rather inebriated state, to lean all his bulk into me while he hugged me. My spine curved into a C-shape backwards and I felt a tugging sensation in my lower back. My stilettoes were more than three inches high and didn’t give me a solid base. Later, as I stood in the inevitable line waiting for a cab, my back felt a little sore.
Over the next few weeks, I had a bit of physiotherapy and then continued on with my life as normal. I was in a full-on, senior role in a high-pressure work environment and had a frenetic social life that matched a single woman in her 30s who loved to meet people, dance and have a good time.
Then, somewhere between ANZAC Day and Easter, I bent over in the shower and felt a sudden, sharp and very painful feeling in my lower back. I could barely stand back up again and can remember feeling fearful and panicky. Aside from my much-loved cat, Super Puss, I lived alone. I called in sick and somehow managed to lever myself into the car to drive to see my physiotherapist, Anne. I remember the look on her face when she came into the waiting area to greet me – she knew something was very, very wrong. I was in so much pain.
It turned out I had a desiccated disc in my lower back. As someone with hyper-flexible hips who danced Latin but didn’t have much core strength, my back didn’t have enough support. I was also highly stressed. That guy and his hug had triggered a weakness and begun a trajectory that led me to Anne’s office.
Ironically, I’d never really understood when people said they had back pain. I mean, I was compassionate to a point but a small part of me always thought maybe it wasn’t really that bad. Ha! Turns out I was definitely wrong – thanks Universe for that lesson.
I had to give up all the things I wanted and valued – my yoga, my dancing, socialising, my stilettoes (going to work in sandshoes everyday felt humiliating by my standards). I went to work, came home, went to physio, came home and that was about it. Most movement was painful most of the time. Getting out of bed was a challenge that required strategic thought and concentrated coordination. Anne was incredibly supportive during this time – every step of the way, she encouraged me, propped me up and was firm when needed. She was a godsend.
However, I wasn’t always gracious and accepting of my situation. It’s incredibly hard when your body decides to do something you don’t want it to do. There were times when I felt so resentful and frustrated. I can remember being halfway through a rehabilitation Pilates class for people with back issues and thinking, “I don’t belong here with these back problem losers!”. I felt so full of anger that I started to cry. I got up (slowly) and left. My exit was a concern to Anne and later, when I told her what was going on in my head at the time, she didn’t say a lot but she didn’t recoil from me either. It wasn’t my finest moment but I guess she’d seen people caught in the lows of the healing process before. It sucked.
But while I was in all this pain, stuck mostly at home, feeling, resentful, lonely and wondering if I would ever get back to where I wanted to be, something interesting happened.
For years I’d been talking about writing a book. I’d written ideas and anecdotes on random, scrappy pieces of paper, post-it notes and in notebooks. They were shoved them into a box in my office and left there. Then were also notes in journals and on my computer. I was going to write a book…someday. People told me I should definitely write a book. But it never quite happened.
Suddenly being forced to stop, be still and stuck at home with nothing else to do, I found myself wanting to pull all those notes together. At the very least, I could compile everything into a single Word document.
Over the following weeks and months, Super Puss and I spent a lot of quality time together as I sifted through all those random thoughts and typed them into the computer. But hey, it’s not as if I had somewhere else to go. Being stuck meant I had nothing else to do – so I moved on something long overdue.
Eventually it was all in one document and eventually too, my body started to heal and I was on the road to recovery. Dancing still wasn’t really on the cards but my sexy stilettoes were back on my feet.
A year or so after that awful day in the shower, I was fortunate enough to obtain a lucrative voluntary redundancy. I could be self-funded for a year and in my mind were two things – I could finally tutor at the university part-time and write my book. I did teach at the university and completed the first draft of my first book, The Men I’ve Almost Dated, just after my birthday in October that year.
Why am I sharing this story now? Honestly, I’ve been feeling very resentful and irritated. I am here in Brisvegas when I had planned to relocate to Italy by now. By 30th June I would have obtained my 12-month student visa to study Italian and would be moving into my apartment in Florence. But due to Covid-19, I am not doing these things and instead, I feel stuck. Freaking incredibly and frustratingly stuck.
I’m in the process of accepting that I won’t be moving there for at least 12 months. Of course, I am grateful to be in this country, safe and with all the bounty we have here. And I know a lot of people are in far more desperate situations than I am. I recognise that I am lucky, so very lucky. But I am fighting an internal rebellion with my Soul – she longs to be in Italy and is always called back there. Unfortunately, 2020 has a plan and an energy of its own that, let’s face it, is turning everything we all planned and hoped for, on its head.
I was musing on my frustration and feelings of stuckness this morning and then recalled that time when I hurt my back. That injury led me to take my writing and my book seriously. If that bloke hadn’t pushed all his weight onto me, I may never have written my book at all. One thing leads to another and another but it doesn’t always lead to what you plan for or necessarily want at the time.
I know I’m not the only one who feels stuck right now. We’ve all got things that we want and can’t have at the moment. Sometimes I feel like a bird locked up in a cage – all I want to do is fly.
But when I recall how my first book came together, I’m reminded that the Universe will often force us to pause when we don’t choose to do it for ourselves. In these times, the Universe is saying, “Wait. Now is the time to focus on all the things you’ve delayed because you were too ‘busy’ before. Wait. There are more things that need to shift first before that other thing can occur. Wait. Be patient. Focus. Just wait.”
I’ve got books to finish and a business to keep building. I will get to Italy, just not when I planned to. This breaks my heart. But I realise there is always a reason for the unplanned and unwanted delays we experience.
We just have to be patient and wait for the Universe to reveal the answers when she’s ready.
You can get your copy of The Men I’ve Almost Dated at all good online bookstores or via Lucretia’s Book Store.
I know lots of inspirational people – writers, creators, thinkers and those who have an entrepreneurial spirit that burns brightly. The problem is, many of them hide that part of themselves from everyone else but me. Actually, let me clarify that point. Many of them would also like to hide that side from me too but this is impossible because one of my gifts is the ability to see straight into their heart and what their soul desires.
But why do they want to hide this in the first place?
Many of them are waiting for permission because showing yourself and going for what you really want is a risk. But if you have permission then you will have support; you won’t be alone. Without permission, you go against the expectations of family, friends and others who think they know best or believe you should be making different choices. You may be worried about their anger, judgement or disapproval. So you wait for permission and put your own desires on the backburner if they can’t be molded into a shape that others will find acceptable.
This is not going to bring you fulfillment or joy. However, it will lead to a life where you settle, conform and survive.
I understand the drive for acceptance and the need to fit in. I get it, I really do. My teens and 20s were focused on an epic, internal battle involving a desire for conformity versus a desire to be free.
Freedom eventually won and the price was, in some quarters, a loss of acceptance, angrily expressed opinions, and judgement. As I found my feet, I also directed some of these against myself – no one could be harder on me, than me.
The fight to break free of these unseen shackles is very real. The expectations of ourselves and others can be insidious and lurk unidentified until an issue brings them to light. There is always another layer to be removed as we grow and expand.
However, I chose to stop waiting for permission years ago. I realised I could wait for the permission and approval of someone else for the rest of my life and never, ever get it. This would mean my life would be half-lived and honestly, what is the point of that? My 90-year-old self would not thank me for that choice at all!
So, here are some words of advice from someone who waited for a long time before choosing the path I know is right for me.
Stop waiting and do what you feel called to do.
Because waiting for permission is like trying to ride a scooter with an arm and leg tied together. You’ll always feel off-balance, it will be difficult to change direction without falling off, and the feeling of wind in your hair as you zoom joyfully through life will be unattainable.
If you are ready to stop hiding and share your story with the world, check out my new course – Storytellers Anonymous – it might be just what you need to help you shine.
If you’ve been single and searching for love for a while, I’m pretty sure someone ‘wise’ will have advised you verbally or in an article somewhere that, ‘When you learn how to love yourself, he will come.’
Now I want you to picture me doing some major eye-rolling until I make myself dizzy.
You see, while I know that most of the time this advice is well-intentioned (except when it’s patronisingly delivered by someone who also happens to be in a partnership – yes, occasionally people do this), the truth is this statement about loving yourself and then he’ll come, simply isn’t true.
There are loads and loads of women out there who do not love themselves and yet have managed to create partnerships with wonderful people who love them. Have you noticed that?
I also know lots of women out there who do love themselves; they’ve done a lot of work around self-love for years and years, and yet they’re still single.
Now, am I sounding the death knell for your search for the right man?
Am I saying that learning to love yourself is a thankless and pointless task?
What I am saying is this advice about first you need to love yourself before you get to have a partner who loves you back can be, well, kind of a mean thing to say to someone. It also sets up this idea that your goal or ‘prize’ in learning to love yourself is that you get the love of someone else.
And that’s really beside the point of the whole journey of self-exploration.
Trust me, I’m speaking about this from a position of some expertise and experience. I’ve been mostly single for the past 10 years and I have done HUGE amounts of work around self-love. As someone with heightened self-awareness and intuitive ability, the Universe has pushed me to go deep with this stuff time and time again. And it’s still an ongoing process.
Is it easier to create a stronger, healthier and more viable long-term love partnership with someone if you have strong self-love and everything that goes with that understanding of self? Yes, I really believe that to be true.
However, the right man still needs to be there in front of you, at the same stage as you, for that to even become an option. And maybe he’s not ready yet. Maybe you’ve still got things you have to do. Maybe it’s not time. Maybe you’ve done the work but he’s still around the corner paying some other karmic dues or embedding some other life lesson he needs to learn before he can progress.
These factors are real possibilities. You both need to be in ‘the same step’ in order for you to come together. Maybe he’s just not there yet.
So please stop buying into this theme that suggests it’s your fault that you’re still single because you haven’t done the work yet. After all, that’s what this kind of self-help is doing. Too often it suggests that you just need to work harder.
Well, I think that’s a rort because I know you’re working hard on yourself beautiful woman. You’re getting up every day and you’re doing your best. You’re looking at your ‘stuff’ and you’re beginning the journey of self-accountability and facing your life lessons because you know you have to in order for your soul to progress. And you do want to progress. I know that. But for someone to dangle this carrot of ‘self-love’ as being the answer for you to attract the ‘one’ is illusory and somewhat misleading.
We all need to learn how to love ourselves first; that much I believe to be true.
We all also desire the love of another, a partner to travel life’s journey with. I believe that to be true as well.
But I don’t necessarily believe that you must do the former in order to successfully attract the latter. Although it may be a helpful contributing factor, it is not the comprehensive answer.
So keep doing your best you fabulous, complex woman. Keep striving and learning. Know that whether you are with someone or alone, you still need to walk your path and nourish your self-love daily. But please don’t buy into the self-help rort that it’s your fault that you’re single because there’s nothing wrong with you.
It’s just not the right time yet.
Lucretia Ackfield is a writer and transformational teacher who has learnt the lessons of love and romance the hard way. You can read her voyeuristic, hilarious and sometimes mortifying stories of the single life in her memoir The Men I’ve Almost Dated. Or, if you’d like to work on developing your self-awareness and intuition, you can join her Facebook group Rock Your Inner Channel.
Last weekend, my friend Susan* discovered she had lost some of her friends. Somehow, over the past 12 months, as she became absorbed more and more in her purpose and life in general, her friends began to pull away. Then over the weekend, Susan experienced a ‘friend break-up’.
‘It would be great if you could write a blog about how to deal with that!’ she said. So here it is.
Susan has done a lot over the past year or so. She’s had a baby, established a not-for-profit and organised fundraising events that delivered valuable and much-needed outcomes for those in need. Put simply, she’s been following her heart and purpose to make the world a better place.
Unfortunately, some friends have decided not to support Susan’s journey. For whatever reason, they never ask what she’s up to, they don’t support her fundraising events and they don’t care about the path she has chosen. They don’t get it and now deliberately isolate her at social events. The situation felt like schoolyard bullying and, as she felt hurt by their behaviour, Susan decided to ask them what was going on.
Their reaction wasn’t positive and included statements like ‘All you ever talk about is you’, ‘You’re never free when we want to see you’ and ‘You didn’t come to my party.’
Some of her friends’ complaints stretched back to August last year. But when Susan asked, ‘Why didn’t you say something back then?’ they had no response.
Now, while Susan has been engrossed in various activities and could probably do with more ‘balance ‘in her life generally, she definitely hasn’t been making it all about her. She’s been juggling a baby, work and trying to make the world a better place in the only way she knows how. Susan has been busy but also made an effort to stay in touch with her friends. However, her commitments meant she wasn’t as available as she used to be. Meanwhile, her friends aren’t interested in what she’s doing and want her to be the way she was before.
But Susan isn’t that person anymore and she can’t go back.
‘What do I do?’ she asked with tears in her eyes. ‘I’m doing my best but they’re not interested. They don’t want to know.’
Breaking up with friends is hard but we can’t stay in one place just to make other people comfortable. In life there will be moments when you realise you must leave some people behind. Life is like that. Some people will always be in our lives, others will stay only for a certain period of time before going their own way. Then there are others who will leave and return when the time is right. That’s just how our soul contracts with each other work. We support and learn from each other, then move on when the contract is done (read Sacred Contracts by Caroline Myss if you’d like to know more about this).
Our relationships, platonic, familial and romantic, do require work and commitment. However, sometimes you are simply moving in a different direction and must let go. And that’s okay.
My advice to Susan was to seek out those friends who support her journey; the ones who ‘get’ what she’s trying to do.
‘Seek out the ones who help you feel lightness in your soul and encourage you to live the life your dream of,’ I said. ‘What would that feel like?’ Susan’s smile was all the answer I needed and I felt her spirit lift at the thought.
Some people are only in our lives for a season. Others will remain connected over long periods to teach us lessons or support only certain parts of our lives. And then others will return when we believe the connection is broken, because that too is what’s needed. The challenge is to protect our hearts and know it’s okay to let go when the contract is done.
*Names changed and story published with Susan’s approval.
If you’d like to me to respond to one of your questions, please comment on my blog or email me at email@example.com
Being the cool girl has never worked for me. I’ve tried to play it cool, not crowd the guy I’m interested in, not acted needy, not asked for anything from him (like, even a date) but it’s never gone well. Instead I’ve frequently ended up frustrated, frequently screwed over (figuratively, if not metaphorically, speaking) and then in true Lucy-style I’ve exploded.
It’s not a part of my personality I’m particularly proud of, this capacity to lose my head and throw a bit of a tantrum. But I am startling good at it. The crazy thing is the explosion and tantrum are a direct result of trying to be the cool girl. So I bring it upon myself. Then of course, the man in question often freaks out, withdraws, throws a tantrum back and well, you get the drift.
It’s a no-win situation for me.
Someone reminded me recently of my tendency to become more than a little high-handed in my tantrum-phase. They are completely right. It’s easy to take the high ground when you feel wronged. Particularly when the object of your affection is proving evasive, indecisive or bloody-minded. But every time this has happened I know it’s only got to that point because I was trying to play it cool at the start. When I talk to others about this, it seems to be a bit of an epidemic. Women feel like they should play it cool so they don’t seem ‘needy’ while men think that if a woman isn’t playing it cool then there’s something wrong with her. Yep, that little gem came from an ex of mine who, when his mate said the girl he wanted to date told him she was available any night of the following week, my ex said, ‘Mate, I’d be careful there. There’s probably something wrong with her.’ He meant it!! Meanwhile I said, flabbergasted at his stupidity, ‘Maybe she just really likes him!’
Is it any wonder the male/female dating dynamic is a freaking mess?! (And yes, that was a red flag conversation I should’ve paid more attention to with my ex).
As I work my way through the last edits of my book, evidence of my tantrum-throwing behaviour is particularly apparent in Part 2: Dysfunctional Dating and Other Disasters. In one situation, I’d been playing the ‘cool girl’ with a man I’ve called Salsa Cat. He was in my dance class and he’d been flirting with me and coming on to me for months and months. It was obvious, it was frequent and it was persistent. Then we hit a turning point when he told me that he didn’t want me invading his personal space…when he had been actively and intentionally invading mine for months. Gah!! What followed was a Lucy-tantrum that I believe could have been avoided if I’d just not tried to be the ‘cool girl’ in the first place.
“I threw myself on the bed that night and shed tears of frustration and disappointment. I was terribly hurt. Then anger started to bubble up inside me. A couple of days later I did something I had never done as a single woman before – I told a man he’d upset me. Instead of just taking it, blaming myself and feeling like crap, I stood up for myself and said it wasn’t good enough.
Actually, let’s face it, I completely lost my temper and acted like a crazy person. Salsa Cat bore the brunt of years of singledom involving game-playing, non-committal and dishonest men.
I kept as far away from him as possible during the next class– that’s quite a feat when you’re dancing salsa. At the end of the our first dance together I very particularly and noticeably disengaged my fingers from his and moved on to the next dance partner, and then the next and so on around the circle of about 20 men. A few minutes later we were opposite each other again. My anger was palpable and visible in every line of my body.
‘What’s wrong?’ he asked.
‘I’d just hate to invade your personal space,’ I said sarcastically. Then we changed partners.
He wasn’t so cheerful by the time we danced together again. ‘I don’t know what your problem is. But I’m not doing anything,’ he ground out. I somehow restrained myself from punching him in the nose and flounced off to the next partner. I danced my way around the circle, forcing a smile for everyone else and continued to fume.
He was apologising as soon as I was within earshot. ‘I’m sorry,’ he said. ‘I know my behaviour must have seemed a bit hot and cold.’
‘Yes,’ I said, ‘It has been.’ Then I moved on to the next partner.
The class finished a few minutes later but he didn’t seek me out to explain further. Instead he retreated to his group of friends and watched me nervously, casting sideways glances in my direction as I walked out the door.
He didn’t show up for end-of-term classes the following week. I guess he felt like an idiot and didn’t want to face a psycho dance partner again. Or maybe his absence had nothing at all to do with me.
It was a month before I saw him again and this time he did seek me out after class. He sat down beside me while I talked to two of our classmates, Dave and Ken. But Dave and Ken didn’t get the hint that they should move on and I couldn’t just end the conversation abruptly without being impolite. So I was stuck.
I guess Salsa Cat got sick of waiting because he got up and left after a minute or two. I’d started seeing someone else by that point so I didn’t run after him. We would dance together over the following years but he never gave me any further explanation. To this day, I’m still not sure what he was thinking.
There was never a resolution with Salsa Cat. Ever. My tantrum-throwing was not conducive to creating a situation where any kind of honest conversation could happen.
I think there is a middle-ground between cool girl and ‘honesty with a bludgeon and resulting head trauma’. Unfortunately, it’s clear I haven’t mastered that yet. Instead I seem to swing from one extreme to the other with the occasional explosion. The extremes don’t lead to a healthy relationship with the opposite sex so the middle ground is kind of important.
Anyway, whenever I talk with single friends about this, my advice is always the same. Be as honest as possible (in an open non-bludgeon-type way), as early as possible, and let the cards fall where they will. Maybe the object of your affection will not respond positively or in the way you like. But it’s not needy to want to know where you stand and if you play the ‘cool girl’ you’re just reducing yourself in your own eyes because you’re not saying what you want and you’re not being who you really are. You may also be leaving yourself open to be taken advantage of if the man/woman in question isn’t genuine.
Of course, I’m still mastering this advice myself. It’s an ongoing process. But playing the ‘cool girl’ has never worked out for me. Instead it has possibly shut doors that could’ve been left open, and that is really quite sad. I also I think I’d rather be not a ‘cool girl’ because acting like a passive-aggressive nightmare in a dance class is not a good look. Just saying.