“I’m a Survivor”

*Trigger warning for rape, suicide attempts, violence**

In 2008, I was raped. As matter-of-fact as that sounds, the ability to state those 5 words, and to know the truth in them, is something that has taken me a long long time to come to terms with, and I’m still working through the repercussions. Walking home from a date I’d had, I bumped into a friend outside a club who introduced me to her brother who had just come back from the army. He was a really nice guy, I’d heard everything about him – she hero worshipped him. He went and got me a bottle of water from the takeaway, and he walked me home. He said he lived in the same street as me, but I thought nothing of him coming into my flat to call a taxi. I went to bed, feeling sick and drowsy, and I woke up to him in my bed, having sex with me. I don’t know if he put something in the water he gave me, I don’t know anything, or any facts around that. I know that he acted like it was consensual and I couldn’t do anything, I couldn’t move, I couldn’t talk. He knew I was a lesbian, he made reference to it whilst assaulting me, and he said things, every day words, that if people use them now, make me feel physically sick. I woke up, he had left his number and said to come and join him in the park for a big festival I was planning on going to. I lay in bed for the next four days until it was time to leave for Glastonbury, and I didn’t tell anyone anything that had happened for 6 months.

The first person I told was a huge mistake – she blamed me for it, and listed through all the reasons why it was my fault. By this point I was on a self destructive path, I lost my excellent well paid job, I drank too much, I dropped out of my studies, my life imploded upon itself. My self esteem was in tatters – it still is – and I ended up in an incredibly abusive relationship where I capitulated to everything because I had no self worth. I ended up housebound for 6 months, I couldn’t even walk down my own street because I was scared of seeing him. I lost my friends, I disconnected from the world, it was like I went into some form of hibernation. One day, I cycled past him and I had to go home, for another month of refusing to even go to the local shop. I didn’t know how much I’d done with my life or how far I had gone until I hit rock bottom. I lost my flat and I was homeless for 9 months, sleeping on sofas and living out of a few bags. I tried to kill myself but I couldn’t even get that right.

The violation of being raped doesn’t stop with a memory of a night, with flashbacks or reminders. It continues on, with every time your self control is taken away and every time you feel powerless. My ex blamed herself because she was there that night, and she still hasn’t come to terms with letting him walk me home. I was playing a gig a couple of years later when he tried to come into the venue, she wouldn’t let him, he pushed her to the ground and she snapped and literally beat the shit out of him. She was arrested and spent the night in the cells, and I spent that night vividly reliving everything that had happened to me. My dad, who by that point I had confided in, said I shouldn’t be angry about that, that he would have done the same thing. What they both missed is that I was trapped inside, knowing he was outside, that I had gone to find out what the hell was happening and had to see him, that I had no say once again. Everyone knew what was going on – I felt forced to tell my friend who ran the night why it was happening, and his response was terrible.

I went away a few days after that to get my head together. I met some amazing people who without knowing it started me on the path of putting my life back together. While I was there I made a list of the things I had to achieve to feel that I was back on track. This week, I completed the last thing on my list and that’s why I’m writing this now. I do not recognise the life I have now in comparison to then. I am blessed to be surrounded by intelligent, articulate, amazing amazing friends. I have done things I never thought were ever possible again, but I am still damaged by it. I don’t let people in, I don’t share my emotions, my own vulnerability terrifies me; even writing this feels like a struggle but I know how important it is that I do so. I am scared that whenever I let my guard down, it will get used against me to hurt me, but I have to learn to survive this, and with the smallest of acts this week, with the last tick of a box, I won’t be a victim anymore. If you have been raped, and you feel like the world is never going to be the same again, you’re right, it’s not, but you have no idea the twists and turns your life can take, the people you can meet. It might even turn out better. All is not lost, even though you may have lost everything. In time, with support – some of my strongest support has come from people who have no idea that that’s what they’re doing – and with each step of each day, you can get somewhere lighter, and you can survive this. I promise. It’s not linear, you will move back and forth and fall again and lose your way. The strongest people around you have been victims once, and its testament to the strength we all have inside of us to move our pain forward. You have people who care, because I care.

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