Day 15. Naomi*. 16

Saturday 9th December, 2023
Naomi is my friend, she’s 46 now. I remember being in our first year at sixth form college, free of school uniform we could now wear what we wanted to college, express ourselves however we liked, my other friend and I dyed our hair purple and wore hippy clothes, Naomi was always more conservative. I remember thinking it was strange that Naomi had a beautiful figure, boobs the rest of us were jealous of, but used to hide it away. The fashion at the time was jeans, fitted T-shirts and loose overshirts. Noami used to pull her shirt right round her body hiding her gorgeous curvaceous figure, I could never understand it.

What I didn’t know, and probably wouldn’t have appreciated at 16 anyway, was that Naomi was so self conscious of her body because of the boys in school the previous year. On one occasion, travelling to school on the bus a boy Naomi didn’t know from another school spent the entire journey commenting on her breasts, during school swimming lessons the boys would comment about how big her breasts were, and on one occasion she was groped at school. Naomi was hugely embarrassed by all this, she was frightened and deeply uncomfortable. As a result she never told anybody, she kept it to herself and her self esteem got worse and worse.

Naomi tells me she was into her twenties before she stopped being so self conscious, she’s happy with her body now, she’s married with a loving husband and the effects on her life of these incidents have not lasted into adulthood, in fact until I put the shout out asking for stories of experiences of violence against women she never really thought about the impact it had on her.

This isn’t the case for everyone. When we ask why women put up with abusive men we need to look to early childhood experiences that lower our confidence and self esteem and teach us to have low expectations of male behaviour. When we ask why women don’t tell anyone when they are sexually assaulted or raped, we need to look to early childhood experiences that make us feel shame around our bodies. We need to bolster girls’ self esteem and not allow it to be picked away at by disrespectful schoolboys, who, incidentally, we also need to teach to behave respectfully towards girls and women.

*Posted with Naomi’s permission- not her real name.