When I was 14, construction works started in my middle school, to build a new gym. In the meantime, me and the other girls had to change in a temporary building adjacent to the construction site. One day, one of the teachers walked in and told us that the construction workers were peeping at us through the windows, and we had to be careful. That was it.
Back then I was already used to street harassment. 2 years earlier, as I was walking home with my mum, a man had stopped me to ask me out. He didn’t seem to mind that I was only 12.
I was told that I should cover up. That it was my fault for wearing grown up clothes, for having a grown up body at a young age.
There is something incredibly heartbreaking about being in a situation where you’re the prey of much older men and none of the adults around are even trying to help. It’s scary. It makes you feel helpless.
This event shaped the way my body is seen in public and private spaces: an objet of lust and fetish, an object that doesn’t belong to me but is for all to grab.
One day, when I was 15, at the library to use the free computers, a man in his 40’s approached me. By that time, I already knew what it was all about. He asked me for drinks. I asked him what he wanted in exchange. He looked surprised, then pondered my question before admitting that I was a very smart young girl. Indeed, for many things in life, you can’t have something before giving something back.
He went outside to have a cigarette. At first, I felt confident talking to him but now, I was freaking out. I had no idea where he was going to take me. He could be my ticket to win the race, but at what cost?
So, I did what I do best: I hid. Underneath a bookshelf. I could see him waiting for me outside the library. The library closed. He was still there and I still couldn’t muster the courage to leave. Plus, on the bright side of things, it has always been a dream of mine to spend some time in an empty library and read all the books available. I stayed there for about an hour before being found by someone working there. Being harassed by men like me use to be a weekly occurrence for me. No matter where I was, I was never safe.
I would spend hours wondering what was wrong with me. I never used makeup and had a habit of dressing up in plain clothes to disappear more easily. So how come I was always seen as a walking sex object when the only thing I wanted was to mind my own business?
It became obvious that being a slut, just like being a virgin, were social concepts that didn’t make any sense except for trapping women from exercising a choice. No matter what mine was, no one would listen.
The events my friends and I were going through back in middle school are still, unfortunately, relevant today. And it’s necessary to tell them.
Years later, this behaviour from men didn’t stop. I naively thought that getting older would cause them to, maybe, respect me more. But between the one who tried to kidnap me in broad daylight in the metro because he found me pretty, the one who stalked me at work and got my contact details from my colleagues, the one who tried to touch me because « black women are more sexual anyway », it didn’t stop.
I used to believe I was the only one these things would happen to. That I was unlucky. Or wearing the wrong clothes. But talking to other people made me realize they’re was nothing wrong with me -or with them. The shame shouldn’t be our burden to carry.
Sexual abuse is brutal and cruel. It happens to ordinary people, to everyone. The victims don’t have to be good or innocent people. Innocence doesn’t protect children from it.
And, unfortunately, the effects last much longer than the actual abuse. But no one really talks about it. We either see the victims kill themselves, or get their revenge, or need the help of a saviour. And what is happening afterwards? Too often, we never see the true consequences. The aftermath. The trauma. How it continues to impact people’s lives for a very long time afterwards.
When sexual assault is showed on screen, it is too often showed with a twisted voyeuristic compliance. In films, rape scenes are always incredibly violent as if, in order to be real, sexual assault has to be. But it only serves to shock the audience as if they can’t relate to what the victims go through unless they see it. And happens to the victims afterwards? We seldom see it.
This aftermath is something I want to depict in Me Too, because it seems like no one cares but the victims. And that’s why I am making this movie, because something so important, so serious should be handled in a better way. I want the audience to face the ugly truth, the terrible things that are happening to these young girls who are just starting to learn more about their sexuality and are already so heavily sexualised.
In life, they are moments after which there is no way things can go back to the way they were before. Me Too depicts one of them. It’s like being on the verge of a cliff, and trying to cling on to anything to stop the fall. But sometimes falling is the only option.
Sexual abuse means for many victims and especially my main characters, having to deal with the loss of the kid they used to be, and accepting the person they need to become in order to survive.
They have to learn to accept what has happened to them, how it has shaped them, and how it has changed everything in their lives.
Women from so many different countries have literally been through the same issues. Together we stand stronger.
That’s why I am making this movie. To give our stories a proper representation.
And we need your help to make our vision a reality. To tell survivors that we support them.
I have launched the crowdfunding campaign for my film in June 2018. Thanks to my loved ones and a media push and the combined efforts of so many people touched by these issues and wanting to make a difference, we raised almost £2000. Unfortunately we still need to hit our target of £8500 to make the film. We are looking at alternative funding but in the meantime, people can donate here: paypal.me/audekonan