“For years I didn’t think of myself as someone who had been assaulted”

Trigger warning: sexual assault

 

It was a Friday night back home, I had just turned 15, just started going out with the guy who is still my partner today. At that time our idea of a fun Friday night involved cheap spirits mixed in coke bottles, I had a good group of friends and that night was no different from others. We were drinking and messing about in the park, it was dark and cold so we decided to move on to a friend’s house. I was probably the most drunk I had ever been. My boyfriend had had to go home but I was with friends and felt safe and happy. It was a long walk to my friend’s house and in various stages of drunkenness my group of friends and I made it – one male friend of mine had been almost carrying me towards the end – he kept reassuring me that he would look after me. I do remember trying to move his hand off my breasts as he was supporting me upright. He was drunk too and I don’t remember him making a fuss. When we got in I must have passed out. I vaguely remember my guy friend covering me with a duvet, but other than that the next thing I remember is waking up in a haze with my best friend shouting at the guy who had been “looking after me”. Turns out she had come in to check on me and found him under the duvet with me and my skirt had been undone and pulled down.  That morning I was terrified. He later assured another guy friend that he had just “stuck a finger in, nothing else – don’t worry”. I didn’t talk to anyone about it. The friends who knew didn’t think it was a big deal – “it’s not like he raped you” was the argument.  I was too scared to tell my partner. He still doesn’t know. The only people that know are those who didn’t see it as a big deal and my best friend. We never spoke about it though.

The idea that I was so out of control of my own body terrifies me still. The idea that a “friend” would think that that was appropriate behaviour also terrifies me. The fact that his friends didn’t see it as a big deal terrifies me. The fact that this is just my story, and that there are countless other women and girls who experience sexual assault and rape terrifies me even more.

At the time that I have written this there has been lots of discussion concerning the definition of “rape” and “sexual assault”. For years I didn’t think of myself as someone who had been assaulted. The self hatred, lack of self confidence and self harm I didn’t see as having any relation to my experiences of emotional blackmail in an earlier relationship and then this experience of complete loss of control and violation. Now, I’m not so sure they weren’t linked. Now when I hear people belittle the experiences of rape survivors a spark of anger makes my chest tighten. Sexual assault and rape are real experiences, experienced by real people. I only wish that when people talked about them as abstract phenomenon they reminded themselves that actually 1 in 3 women experience sexual violence and that every time they trivialise these women’s experiences they are, at the very least, triggering that sharp pang of anger and emotion in deep inside all those women. Thankfully for me and so many other amazing feminists in the movement today this anger and emotion is directed towards one thing – liberation and the fight to end violence towards women.


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