This blog post contains details of sexual assault that some readers may find upsetting. If you do not wish to read this, please skip the section subtitled “The assault”.
I was 13 years old when I was sexually assaulted. I was at my friend’s house for a sleepover, and her boyfriend came over with his friends. They molested me, despite my obvious resistance. For me, the next 24 hours were strange. I’d stayed awake the whole night and in the morning my friend made me promise not to tell anyone what had happened; she didn’t want the boys to get in trouble.
How it affected me
As I walked home, I felt like I wasn’t in my body. I was numb, confused. It was almost as if it was some kind of horrible dream, not something that had actually happened to me. It was only that evening when I wrote down what had happened in my diary that reality set in. This delayed terror came crashing down on me. I felt completely helpless, weak, and frightened.
For the next few months, my mind and body couldn’t process what happened. My period stopped completely, and I couldn’t sleep. I stopped eating properly. My parents and friends didn’t know what to do, but I wouldn’t tell them anything. I still felt like I had to protect my friend and these boys, I didn’t want them to get in trouble – I convinced myself that it wasn’t a big deal, that maybe it was my fault for letting them go as far as they did, even when there was no way I could have fought off all 3 boys by myself.
By the time that nine months had passed, I decided that enough was enough. I told my mum what had happened. She was hugely upset, and wanted to go to the police, but by that time I was sure there would be nothing that could convict those boys, because so much time had passed. She agreed, but made me promise not to see my friend anymore, because it wouldn’t help me get over my experience.
Having the distance between someone who was so directly linked to my assault was just what I needed – with the removal of the person constantly telling me to forget my experience, I was able to reflect on it, and grow from it without feeling this sense of guilt at betraying her.
Opening up to my mum was absolutely vital in my recovery, because for the first time I began to trust people again, and rebuild my connection with the rest of my family and friends.
I took another major step a few months later, through drama. My local drama group was writing monologues, and I decided I would write about my experience of sexual assault. When I performed it, it was like I was finally accepting my feelings; my character was allowed to be hurt, betrayed, angry, and so I was too. I didn’t have to hide my emotions or pain, and for the first time I felt truly free.
Since that day, I started opening up to more people about what had happened – my dad, my grandma, some of my closest friends. I suddenly had this network of support around me, which I hadn’t had before, and I didn’t feel alone, I felt loved, and most importantly, I felt strong.
It’s so easy, so natural to feel weak, to feel vulnerable and even responsible after being violated in such a way, but regaining your strength, your worth, is the most important, and also the most incredible thing. Now, with years between me and my sexual assault, I am living happily, with great friends, a loving and supportive family, and most importantly, living confidently, freely and happily.
Sometimes, I still have setbacks – feelings of doubt and weakness, but I truly believe that this is OK. I am human; I am not capable of forgetting what happened to me. It doesn’t define me, but sometimes it is still there, but learning how to accept that and remain happy is the most important thing.
My message to other victims/survivors of sexual violence
My message to other victims/survivors would be this: No matter how lonely you feel, how sad you are, how bad it gets, there is always someone to support you. Whether it’s friends, or family, or a counsellor, you are not alone.
Never, ever blame yourself, or take responsibility for someone else’s actions.
And most importantly, with time, it will get better. Making the transition from victim to survivor is not easy, but it will happen. Whatever it is that you’ve lost – you happiness, your strength – just because it’s not accessible right now, that does not mean it won’t be in the future.
No matter what you think, or what ever else happens, you are important, you are loved, and you are strong. Believe this, and you will move forward.
It does get better.