Melanie Sheppard.

Life's Curve Balls

Life's Curve Balls

As published on 24/8/16 on SBS The Feed

I am often astounded by the curve balls that life throws. Just in that moment when we think that life is calm and as it should be, BOOM. Our foundation is ripped from beneath us, shattering our life as we once knew it to be. As we slowly put the pieces back together we have two choices. Will we remain fragile? Will our strength never be the same again after that first break? Or will we rebuild, stronger, wiser and more determined than ever?

 The curve ball that was thrown at me came in the form of a violation against my daughter that would change the trajectory of my life.

Five weeks ago, a group of boys from Brighton Grammar School photographed my daughter without her knowledge while she waited to meet me after school. Her photograph was uploaded to an Instagram site that had been created by these boys to humiliate and sexually objectify young girls and my daughter was one of their prey. The innocence of my daughter’s image was harshly contrasted by the vulgar, sexually charged text that was written underneath it.

As a woman, I have experienced first hand the damage of sexual objectification, harassment and violation, but when it happened to my daughter something was unleashed from deep within me. Initially it was sheer terror, I had no idea of who was behind the site, what their purpose was or whom she had been exposed to. And then I discovered a strength and courage that I didn’t know I possessed as I decided to take my story public in order to expose an endemic facing our girls today.

In the weeks that followed my daughters’ violation, other similar cases were brought to the media’s attention. Other schoolboys rating, shaming, humiliating young girls for reasons we are still trying to unpack and understand. And then last week the story broke of an International website displaying hundreds of explicit photos of Australian schoolgirls. The sexual objectification of girls has reached epidemic proportions and still, I am afraid that we have not even scraped the top of the iceberg.

What has alarmed me as much as the violation itself is the attitudes of some of the parents connected to this incident. I am still trying to fully understand the logic behind their attacks on me, but it seems that their general view is that I have created a “media circus” that has unfairly targeted these boys and their school. What they fail to grasp is that the media have responded to a public outcry from a broader society that have had enough. “Boys will be boys” is no longer a valid argument. It is time that we as a society stand together and acknowledge that change is needed and is long overdue. The sexual objectification of women is part of every day life for many and the result is the dehumanization of half of our society. A woman is not judged on her intellect, her personality, her heart or soul, instead her body parts and their appeal is what sets her apart.

The rise in Domestic Violence in Australia over the past decade is alarming and the most common cause of death or injury for women under the age of 45. This is not to suggest that the boys behind these school sites will go on to become abusers, in fact after seeing their remorse I feel quiet the opposite. However, we need to determine where the culture of misogyny stems from and what we can do to educate our youth at the time in their life when they can still be shaped and guided. The onus lies in the hands of all of us, both men and women.

Men need to act as role models to the younger generation. It is not OK to joke about a woman’s breasts or to take part in ‘jocular’ locker room conversation about a girl’s physical appearance. It leads to a mindset that suggests it is OK and innocent fun when in fact it can be the start of something much more sinister. And women have a responsibility to stand up and fight for our equality. Don’t make excuses for your sons and more importantly, stand up for your rights and that of your daughters.

In order for change to happen, we need a revolution where women take back their power. It will take courage, strength and determination, but for me, my daughters are worth it. All women are worth it.

 

All proceeds from this story have been donated to End Rape on Campus.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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