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Mandy Rhodes: Unwelcome sexual encounters have happened to too many women. I know. I’m one

(AFP/Getty Images)
(AFP/Getty Images)

AFTER the compelling testimony by Dr Christine Blasey Ford about what happened to her when she was just 15, journalist Ruth Wishart tweeted she suspected that most women will remember unwelcome sexual encounters.

They might, she noted, have remained silent since but will, years later, remember the “who” very clearly if not always the precise “when”.

“Absolutely,” I replied.

The who, is easy, his name has played on my mind since I listened to Ford talk about the hand over her mouth, and the helplessness, humiliation and fear that has never left her.

I too was 14, maybe 15. It was a house party, maybe a flat. I had drunk a glass of wine, maybe more. My best friend had disappeared with the boy that all these years later she is still with, and I stupidly went into the garden with someone I didn’t know.

He put one hand over my mouth and another down my trousers. He pushed me against a wall and pressed himself against me grinding into me with his groin. He thought he was going to have sex. I thought I was going to be raped.

I managed to get away. I can’t remember how. Like Dr Blasey Ford, my memory of an event that happened 40 years ago is not crystal clear, what I do know is that it happened, and I have lived with the fear ever since.

That one incident, that near miss, the thing I got away from, it shaped me. It shaped how I responded to feeling trapped, out of control, not in charge. It shaped my relationships with men.

But I’ve always wondered, did it shape him? My nemesis was just a boy and should a grown man be blamed for the harm he unknowingly inflicted during his own adolescent struggles with how to behave? I don’t know the answer, but I do know this. That boy, the boy that was my near miss, was not changed by what became my own personal earthquake.

Twenty years later, I coincidently came across his name again. I was working on a documentary about private investigators and they were working on a rape case. Their client was the boy, now a man, and he wanted them to dig the dirt on his accuser to discredit her account in court.

How could I not think, “that could have been me”? Without exaggeration, women go through life feeling lucky not to have been raped. We are tired, we are angry, and we just want it to change. We want men to change.

Brett Kavanaugh, Donald Trump’s pick for the Supreme Court, may or not be innocent of causing Dr Blasey Ford’s ordeal. Who knows?

But like so many other “jocks”, he has managed to live a golden life. He may or not be genuine in his shock about Ford’s account of long gone events. She may or may not be confused about the identity of those involved. Who can tell?

But, whatever the truth in this case, it is the wilful ignorance that hurts the most, the idea that men who may have wreaked such long-lasting damage are not even aware of what they have done.

Donald Trump says it is a dangerous time for young men because they can be destroyed by an accusation but if we don’t stop boys “being boys” men will not stop treating women like toys.