First off, I want to put out a trigger warning. I want to get pretty personal here, and want to let those know who struggle with this issue to read with caution.
I have thought a lot about writing this and I think it is time. I have written so many articles similar to this over the past couple of years but have never put my name to them. Partly out of shame, and partly because I had yet to tell my family. Now this is out there and you are reading it, you can assume I finally found the courage to talk to my mum about it.
But this isn’t going to be all about me, my story is just part of it.
Recently, it has been hard to ignore the daily stories of celebrities, politicians and men in power being exposed as sexual abusers on all ends of that spectrum. From the newspapers in coffee shops to your own twitter feed, it is hard to avoid the issue. But what is this like for someone that has been a victim of sexual abuse?
back in 2012, the week before I started uni, I was raped. I am not going to go into any real detail about it, all you really need to know is that it happened in my home town and by someone I knew. I will never forget it and it is something that I will live with for the rest of my life. Like so many people, I didn’t report it. It actually took me almost 4 years to admit what happened to me, even to myself. After it happened, I walked myself home and went to bed. The next morning I got up and tried to get on with my life and block it out as best as I could. Part of me always thought it was my own fault and I somehow deserved it. This isn’t uncommon. Many girls & women who go through this start to blame themselves for what happened. And that is what society does too. Where you drunk? What were you wearing? Why were you alone? etc etc.
But it is never the victims fault. NEVER.
The process of getting over something like that and trying to heal is so difficult without the added pressure from the media. I feel like more recently everywhere I look it is front page news or causing debates on Facebook and twitter. Being constantly reminded of what happened to me and what is happening to thousands of girls and women across the world is heart wrenching. The way it is talked about is just so casual and flippant that you wouldn’t even think that the most horrific abuse is what has happened to someone.
The more stories that come out in the news, the more people are blaming victims and, more often than not, calling them liars. Countless times I have come across comment threads of people saying that women are just telling these stories to get famous. I can confidently say that is never the reason someone tells their story. Telling my story was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life, and only got to that point of years of hiding it. I kept everything bottled up until the point where after over a week of not being able to leave my flat I had a breakdown. I couldn’t take the pain of being the only one that knew anymore. I spent years blaming myself, denying it all and trying to forget it ever happened. I can tell you now that is not a healthy way to deal with trauma.
The only thing to call these women is brave. The courage it takes to even admit it to yourself is beyond imaginable. Only recently have women been able to come forward because other women have found the courage too. Though, it still baffles me that all these women are being called liars and fame hungry. The society we live in is still so sexist and is so determined to victim blame that it doesn’t stop to listen and believe the victims. You only have to skim the news to see how the perpetrators are treated when it comes to sexual abuse. They don’t get convicted, or if they do it is for a few months. They often don’t lose their jobs, they don’t get shunned by people. In some cases, they become the President of America.
In a world where information is so easy to access it is easy to come across these stories, and for a victim it is easy to fall back into the memories and the pain. There really is no way to hide from it anymore. The news is no longer half an hour at 6pm every day, it is a constant 24/7 show. It is on the tv, the radio, on the news stands and in your pocket. There is no way to switch it all off so instead we need to change the conversation.
A lot needs to change in the world and we need to start with how we treat the survivors of sexual abuse. We need to be able to listen to their stories, believe them and get them the support they need. We need to fight the media on how they re-tell these stories. Society needs to stop trivialising rape and sexual abuse. Women are human beings and deserve the right to their own bodies. We are not objects here for the gratification of men. Sexism is rife across the world and we still have a long way to go to get rid of it.
I think it is important to continue sharing our stories and support everyone dealing with this. The more we talk about, the more the world will start to wake up and realise this is a daily occurrence and start to do something to fix it. We have to find the strength to stand up and fight back. Although this was so difficult for me to do, I am a lot better now than I was even just a year ago. After the inner battles I fought, I got help and now I feel I’m in a place to fight for those women without a voice.
I am always here if you are reading this and need to talk.