When you’re a victim, you’re a survivor.
I have a hard time, especially with this. The police call you a victim, they treat you like glass, they ask what they need to while trying to comfort you in a slight way. The people around you see you as a victim, but are you? Or did you survive your situation by any means possible? Did you survive the only way you know how?
It took me 9 years to realise I was a victim to sexual assault; it was 9 years after the first time I was assaulted. I turned to my friend and I asked. ‘Am I a victim? Was it rape?’ The cogs started turning in my brain, reliving what had happened to me at thirteen years old. The horrific event that I kept rationalising in my head, telling myself it wasn’t him. I let it happen, telling myself it was my own fault.
I know now it’s called sexual coercion; I was raped at thirteen years old by a man three years older than me, someone I trusted and thought I loved. I was naïve and he took my voice. He spent time grooming me, pressuring me to do what he wanted, pretending he loved me; it was all a game. He wanted to win a race against his friend, he wanted to be as sexually experienced as he was, and I was the chess piece while he was the gamemaster.
I was oblivious then, I never reported it. I never told anybody either.
Then it happened again, in another relationship when I was nineteen or twenty years old. We were a long-term couple and I thought he was my ONE. We were in bed one evening and he turned to me initiating sex, I initially said yes. Halfway through I said no, he ignored me and I said no again, he ignored me again and I burst into tears pleading, and he still wouldn’t get off me, he wouldn’t stop. I remember saying no. I remember lying next to him afterwards in tears. I said clearly to him ‘That’s classed as rape, you know.’ He got angry at that.
I don’t remember much after that; he rolled away from me and went to sleep. I was staring at the ceiling, in floods of tears, I cried so much that night while he slept. I stayed awake all night, scared, devastated and confused. I never told anybody. I pretended it hadn’t happened. I think I even went to work the next day and I didn’t talk about it for years.
I can’t pretend the whole of that particular relationship was bad, the first year was bliss. That was probably the only part that was good in all honesty. The other years were filled with abuse, manipulation etc. I suppose that’s what narcissists are like, nice for a certain amount of time to rope you in. He took everything from me.
When I was finally free, I confided in friends and told them what he’d done. I’m almost detached from it now; he doesn’t think he did anything wrong and I never reported it so he got away with it. I should have reported it, but its my word against his, and the criminal justice system takes a long time. I was fearful I wouldn’t have been believed. I knew my mental illness would be used against me and I would have been made out to have manipulated the story. Funny thing is he was investigated for rape when he was at school too, which made me feel like it was my fault because the signs were there.
I told my parents eventually, like a passing comment. I don’t really remember that discussion either.
These things are never easy, not to go through or process, not even when you admit what happened to you to your closest friends and family. The hardest thing is admitting it to yourself, that you are in fact a victim and a survivor of what happened to you. However, you are not defined by what happened to you, you are strong, and resilient.
There’s a tweet circulating at the moment where people put the ages they were and/or the places they were sexually assaulted, and another hashtag trending (#whyididntreport) and I think those tweets were the first time I publicly spoke out about my experiences, however vague.
After my last relationship ended, I sought out help from CARA who assist people who have been sexually assaulted etc. I had a very long phone call with somebody who was assigned my case, and I think for the first time, I told somebody I didn’t know about everything that had happened to me.
It was the first time someone external from my life validated me, listened to me and understood me. It was the first time I felt strong after having my body and mind violated, it was the first time in my life I felt like the story belonged to me. I was given my voice back, and I think it was that moment I realised I was going to use it, to help others and spread awareness, because survival through something like that is one of the loneliest things. I spent nine years knowing somebody had violated me and being unable to utter a word about it, nine years suffering alone with nobody to hear me, nine years where I pushed it all into a box in my mind never expecting to ever open in, but now I’m free.
I wanted to spread some awareness by posting this, please teach your sons and daughters that predators can be anyone, you are allowed to leave any situation you do not feel comfortable with, you can say NO, you are allowed to be angry, you are allowed to share your experiences because its not some dirty little secret, it was not your fault. No matter who you are, where you are, what you’re wearing, who it was, IT WAS NOT YOUR FAULT.
Also teach them the meaning of consent, when someone withdraws consent at any time it means NO. When having sex if you’re using a condom etc if they take it off, it is rape because you did not consent. When you’re pressuring someone to do a sexual act they don’t want to do it is not okay (sexual coercion). Just because you’re in a relationship or married it does not give you a right to somebody else’s body, you still need consent. Teach them to respect one another and listen to one another, teach them what is right and do it now, before someone else like me is broken by the actions of somebody else.
I think my reasoning for this post was to share that it happened to me too, just like it happened to some of you. You are valid. You are important. You are not what happened to you. You are strong. You are more than your experiences. You are worthy.
Love and light