Content warning: This post deals with issues surrounding sexual assault and may be triggering for some readers.
Samantha Wills is known by her most loyal supporters as the creative genius behind her self-titled jewellery line brimming with a boho-luxe vibe and delicate pieces.
But this week, the focus is much less on the jewellery she creates, and far more about the messages she seeks to spread.
Writing on her blog for the Samantha Wills Foundation, a foundation that centres on a desire to empower women in business, Wills decided, for the very first time, to detail her experience with sexual assault on the streets of New York to kickstart conversations around women, assault and the bedrocks of sexism.
And it’s a harrowing but necessary read.
Wills writes that on the back of Taylor Swift’s sexual assault civil suit, where she sued DJ David Mueller for just $1 to make a broader point about assault, she felt it both important and necessary to share her own experience.
“A few months ago, I was walking up 6th Ave in New York City, on my way to do my daily spin class at Soul Cycle,” she wrote.
“I was walking to my 5.30pm class and was wearing black high-waisted LuluLemon workout tights, and a tank top that I had tied in a knot at the front.
“The sidewalk was busy, I have been based in NYC for the past seven years, and as such, you start to lose the concept of what determines personal space, it comes with the territory.”
Wills went on to say as she kept walking through a packed thoroughfare, a man in the distance caught her eye and attention.
“As I walked, Nicki Minaj was rapping in my ear and I looking forward to my upcoming class. I suddenly was jolted to the very real present moment, when I looked up as I could see a man walking diagonal towards me. He was about three steps away, and as I glanced up, he was looking me straight in the eyes. He ran into my left shoulder with his right, and with his left hand grabbed me directly between my legs.
“Not bumped into and accidentally touched me, but purposefully ran into me, and with a cupped hand and grabbed my crotch. In a mixture of the impact of his shoulder on mine, and the shock of his hand on my vagina, I ran into a person’s path of my right side, and as they exasperatedly moved around me, rolling their eyes as if I had done it just not paying attention; I froze.”
Almost immediately, the designer said she took a “sharp inhale of breath and didn’t breathe out”.
“I spun around and saw the back of the man’s head who had just groped me – he continued on his path, at the same speed he had approached, and without so much as looking back, or running away, almost as an insult of total disregard that anything at all had happened.
“Everything was just spinning, there were people everywhere. I felt disgusting. I felt violated. I felt dirty. I felt humiliated…. I was embarrassed.”
It is, she says, the kind of experience you expect the world to stop turning for.
“It was like the world went super silent, but didn’t stop moving. As with the New York footpath stampede, I turned back to my original direction and was swept along with them.
“I stand with and wholeheartedly commend all the women who are speaking up and standing strong.”
After all, she notes, the “force is female”. We are the ones with the power to speak about this things, and with conversations comes change.
She hopes hers is part of the latter.
If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, you can call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) or Lifeline on 13 11 14.
How Girls started a conversation about casual sexual assault.