This is a piece to commemorate Consent Week 2020. Please seek help if you are struggling with any of the issues raised in this article.
CONTENT: SEXUAL ASSAULT
This article is anonymous because whilst I am ready to open up about my experiences, I am not ready for my peers to know this story about me. I am not sure I’ll ever be ready. Please respect this; I appreciate you listening.
There is no single formula for coming out the other side of sexual assault. It is different for everyone.
I read somewhere that taking ownership of what happened to you is the first step in the journey you go on to reclaim your power. The thing is though, my journey feels very backwards. I’m not sure I ever lost power since I only realised the reality of my assault 5 years after it happened. Then again, it has subconsciously affected me so much that I must have lost power, right? Without even realising it. Whether I ever lost my power or not, I am still going to take ownership of my story. This chapter isn’t nice. This chapter is confusing. I suppose I’d like to forget this chapter in some ways. In other ways, this chapter is relevant to my story, and I’m ready to tell my story, if only to help others who have been in a similar scenario to me.
When I was 15, I was sexually assaulted.
I went to a Halloween party. I dressed up as GI Jane. I drank cider. I talked to a few guys.
Maybe I wasn’t wearing enough? Maybe I had too much skin on show? Or maybe my eyeliner was too suggestive, or the fact that I had shaved my legs meant I was up for it? I don’t know.
Maybe I drank too much? Maybe because I was only drinking cider meant I was innocent and a good target? Or maybe it meant I was down for a good time? I don’t know.
Maybe I was too flirty? Maybe I implied I was up for some fun? Maybe when I danced with these guys, I was too sexual? I don’t know.
I got close to one guy. He was handsome. Big brown eyes. The type that you get lost in. He was my age, went to a school I knew, we had mutual friends. He was nice. So, we kissed and we giggled. And we had a nice time. We went on a walk. Things happened, some I was okay with, some I wasn’t. I never said yes. I never said no. But I never said yes. I’d had too much to drink. I was in control – or at least I thought I was. But I couldn’t bring myself to say no. He was a cool and popular guy; most of my friends were jealous when they find out we kissed. What would have happened if they all found out I had said no? I wanted to fit in. My friends were doing this kind of thing. I should too, right? So, I didn’t say anything. I just lay there. I didn’t let myself relax. I just waited until he gave up. Eventually he did. So he did other things. More things I didn’t say yes too. And then he stopped. We went back to the party. And I drank more … to forget … to avoid embarrassment … to pretend I was okay with it. That night I went home with my friends, and that was that.
I’ve thought about it weekly for 5 years.
What had happened?
What did I do wrong?
Was it my clothes?
My hair and make up?
What I drank?
I couldn’t find an answer. And I still can’t. Because there isn’t an answer. Because I didn’t do anything wrong. It was an awful thing that happened, but it wasn’t my fault. I know that now.
5 years later I mentioned it in passing to my mum. I think I thought I had already told her, because I tell her everything or because I’d convinced myself it was nothing. But I hadn’t said anything. So, we had a long chat, I cried, and we looked to the future. When I reflect on it, I think it explains a lot. I haven’t slept with anyone. I haven’t done much with anyone. I don’t get drunk often. I don’t tend to kiss someone on a night out. I cringe when I think about cuddling up with a guy to watch a movie. I am insecure about everything. I’ve never had a boyfriend. Maybe I am scared to open up. Let someone in? What will people think of me? Will I seem slutty? Or am I a prude now? I don’t know.
Sometimes I still see him on a night out. I smile. I guess I don’t reckon he’s the bad guy.
He was 15/16 too. He was drunk. I didn’t say no. He probably doesn’t still think about it 5 years later. He probably doesn’t even remember it happened. He probably didn’t even have bad intentions. So, I stick my head up. I wave. And I carry on with my friends. What he did wasn’t aggressive. He didn’t intimidate me. But it wasn’t okay. It shouldn’t have happened.
These last two months I have opened up about it. About my experience and my story. And all I’ve been met with is… support. Are you okay? Do you need to speak to someone? That must have been horrible. I’m sorry you’ve had to deal with this for so long. I’m sorry you’ve been facing this alone. You are brave. We are here for you.
And to all of you I say, thank you. You help me every day. To believe I am strong and to accept my past so it doesn’t affect my future.
And do you not what? I am okay. I’m better than okay. I’m getting my power back. I’m getting more comfortable in my own skin. I am who I am, and I’m proud of that.