“I have waited 8 years”

**Trigger Warning: Rape**

This is the most difficult piece I will ever write, bar none. I am a survivor of rape. I have waited 8 years to write that. Until fairly recently, I have been riddled with shame, burdened with guilt. I spent time (years, in fact) convincing myself that it was entirely my fault, and when this became too much to bear, I started to believe that my rape never even existed in the first place. I told myself over and over that I had embellished and exaggerated this incident in my own head, and that I had actually consented. This is not true. I was raped. I did not consent. I said no. I have been waiting for 8 years to scream this at the top of my fucking lungs. He raped me. He was my boyfriend. I was a virgin. Literally days after, he admitted he’d cheated on me. After I was raped I began a long history of self-harm. Although I do not do this any longer, I still experience intense moments of desperation, despair and fear that I will be abandoned and I feel extremely compelled to self-harm. I’m not entirely sure where or how I summon the strength to stop myself. I also developed an eating disorder that still affects my relationship with food today. In the space of 8 years, I have told two people. My best friend and my current partner. These wonderful people have helped to save my life- not just because they listened and offered unwavering support, but because they believed me, no questions asked. Something else saved me too: feminism. This might sound ostentatious but it is the absolute truth. The feminist community here in Manchester has helped me to simultaneously understand and confront my experience, so much so that I have the strength to write this submission and declare myself a survivor. I know from working with vulnerable women on a local women’s community project, that not all survivors of rape and sexual assault can speak so freely or openly about their experiences, for a myriad of reasons. But I want them to know they are not alone. I think about this everyday of my life. I think about all these women, in every part of the world. Women I’ve met, women I haven’t, women I will never meet. But I am sick of thinking about rape and violence all the time, I am sick of being anxious about being out late at night alone. I am sick of hearing people insult women’s bodies. I’ve had enough of men thinking that my tight jeans or tight dress constitute an invitation to touch me when I’m out with my friends. I’ve had enough of asking my male friends to walk me home because I can’t feel safe ANYWHERE. I don’t want to worry about my mother or my sister or my aunts or perhaps, my someday daughter. The violence has to stop.


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