Estelle Tang: I know you are not the guys catcalling women in the streets. I’m not trying to make you feel bad for being a man. But I want to tell you about what it’s like to be a woman
I’d like to take this opportunity to encourage - as Tang has - all women to start being more forthcoming about different forms of gender-based abuse they’ve suffered to raise awareness about just how poorly women are treated all over the world.
I recently told my partner about sexual abuse I experienced when I first came to Britain in 2009, in York, in an Indian restaurant, right around closing time. A young man was helpful and friendly as I waited for my £2 samosa. When he brought it to me in the bag, I handed him £2 and instead of handing me the bag, he grabbed my breast.
I don’t remember what happened next other than me leaving as quickly as possible. This incident was so minor (in threat and act) compared to the numerous other encounters of gender-based abuse I have suffered, it almost didn’t register to me. I had never told anyone about this incident, but it encouraged me to tell my partner about more instances of abuse I have and continue to suffer … like just last week whilst waiting for my bus, around 4 pm, on a very busy roadway in Manchester.
And now I want to say this… Over 2011 to 2012, when my partner returned to the US because of visa complications in the UK, I suffered so much gender-based abuse that I developed an anxiety disorder. I became so afraid of suffering more abuse and violence if I left my flat that for about 2 months, I only left my flat to attend weekly counselling at my University.
I asked for a 6 month interruption of studies from my PhD, providing them with detail about my developing an anxiety disorder as a result of gender-based abuse and isolation, combined with the deaths of both of my grandparents and my partner’s absence. I was granted a 1 month interruption (30 days), and I have no doubt my University being audited by UKBA at the time and my status as a student migrant played a role in the denial of my interruption. I took 9 months off my PhD to recover. I will be applying for an extension of studies to complete my PhD because my interruption was denied.
Ellen Paige’s recent appearance on Ellen has helped me see that staying silent is the worse course of action (and on that note, I’d also like to ‘come out’ as a proud bisexual woman - something I feel shame for not disclosing on countless University surveys) if we want change for the better. It’s not as if I want my colleagues to know gory details of abuse I’ve suffered, but I want them to know that gender-based abuse happens, a lot, to a lot of women, and it’s not acceptable. Something that is emerging from treatment of female migrants at the Yarl’s Woord migration detention centre in the UK.
None of what happened to me was my fault, and none of it was acceptable or appropriate. I’m too tired to stay silent any more.