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Anna Schultz-Girl Sitting On Bed Facing Wall
Anna Schultz / Her Campus
Wellness > Sex + Relationships

The Abuse Followed by the Word ‘No’

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at DCU chapter.

A year ago I was standing in the middle of a busy Times Square waiting for my Uber to bring me back to my hotel, when I noticed a man a few feet away staring at my friends and I. 


When he approached and tried to start up a conversation with me, very abruptly, all I could think about is the advice that had been drilled into my brain from listening to the podcast “Stay Sexy and Don’t Get Murdered,” on my travels.


“Feck being polite,” I said to myself.


My gut instincts rarely ever kick in, but when they do I always listen. “Please leave me alone,” I said, ironically very politely. 


He launched into looking me up and down and calling me everything from “trash,” to “loser,” before walking away with whatever was left of his dignity.


Was it my best move? Nah, I probably could have handled the situation a little better in hindsight. But the stubbornness of not wanting to entertain a man despite being uncomfortable and admittedly a bit afraid took over.


More than 80% of women worldwide experience some sort of street harassment according to stop street harassment.org. The amount of women that have been in my position that have not fared as well as I did, by that statistic, is countless. 


Whether it’s cat-calling, whistling, being followed down the street or feeling uncomfortable walking past a group of men as they watch, the feeling of objectification is a common thread amongst most women.


Closer to home, Women’s Aid reported in 2013 that 42% of women in Ireland have reported some form of sexual abuse or violence over their lifetime. 


Unfortunately, these isolated incidences cause long term harm on victims. It can cause the damage of self-esteem, fear of dating and trust issues within relationships or the opposite sex.


Melissa, a 19-year-old bartender from Wicklow said that her experience with rejection abuse triggered her eating disorder and affected how she felt about herself after she asked a man to stop touching her inappropriately at a session.


“He goes “giz a kiss,” and I said “no you’re my friend,” and he pushed me away and was like “wouldn’t know where you’ve been anyway,” and I was like “what’s that supposed to mean,” and he was like “sure you’re the fattest out of all your friends,” she said.


The tirade of abuse continued in front of everyone who was there, she said. 


Melissa said that she barely ate for weeks after the incident and her mother worried for her health as her weight continued to drop.


She also admitted that despite the destruction this incident had on her self image, the person who humiliated her probably doesn’t even remember the interaction.


It took meeting her current boyfriend to realise she wasn’t the problem and begin repairing her self-esteem.


It turns out this sort of behaviour has a label: Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria (RSD).


According to Psychology Today, RSD can be caused from past traumas including experiencing a devastating rejection at a young age, being made to feel overly guilty or ashamed for normal behaviour, or having had a dysfunctional attachment to a parent. Trauma, abuse, and neglect can also overly sensitise someone to the possibility of rejection.

Unwanted gestures or attention from strangers is not the only way this sort of behaviour can materialise. It can also start from the breakdown of a relationship. 


Sarah*, a 21-year-old student from Dublin said that the demise of her relationship led to months of relentless texting, calling, guilt tripping and stalking.


At first, they ended on good terms, but Sarah said that he kept asking to see her and since she broke up with him, she felt too guilty to say no.


“The thought that I rejected him, that I was not happy with him even though he hadn’t done anything hugely wrong was not sitting with him. He accused me of cheating, that’s why he thought I broke up with him, he thought I fancied someone else, he just couldn’t accept it then it got really weird,” she said.


Soon her ex-boyfriend was showing up outside of her house, waiting for her outside of work or checking her location on Snapchat and showing up wherever she was. When she would decline his invitations to see her it would result in name calling: “bitch, slut, cheater, liar you name it”. 


He also added Sarah to a private story on Instagram where he posted emotional lyrics, sad quotes or photos that she had taken of them whilst they were together in order to guilt trip her. 


Eventually, Sarah had to block him on everything. The whole ordeal made her feel apprehensive to start a new relationship that went deeper than just sex and she has felt paranoid and anxious when trying to develop her new relationships into something more.


After months she is finally allowing herself to be vulnerable and has entered a new, healthier relationship.


It’s clear that whilst the abuse is never the victim’s fault, it seems as though they always suffer the worst repercussions. 


Whilst it is important to feel safe in these situations and seek help, whether that means telling a friend or reporting abusive behaviour or harassment to the Gardaí, it is also important to realise that you are never the problem. Women should not feel the need to entertain a man because they feel scared.

?Journalism student in DCU? Chairperson of Her Campus DCU