I think this is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but it is the right thing to do. This is necessary to me, despite what other people may think, and I hope that there are some people who will take comfort in reading this. Once I realised that I wasn’t alone, I felt better. I don’t have other victims to talk to but I’m going to extend an invitation to everyone, feel free to talk to me or reach out in confidence. That’s all I really want, to get past this by helping others because not everyone can see they have the strength in them to say it out loud. So here it goes; I am a rape survivor.
I have been shown unwavering, and somewhat unexpected support, in my decision to make this blog post. There is still a long way to go in regards to dealing with it but it starts here. I have made a lot of mistakes in the past four years because of a secret I’ve held with guilt and shame. I have made a lot of poor decisions, drank too much on various occasions and still do, and I have had a lot of silent sad days. I realised one day that I was hiding from myself, and that I didn’t have to be okay for everyone else. I didn’t have to hold back from the highs and lows anymore just to make people comfortable. It should be talked about, it’s rape. It’s a violation of your body and it needs to be talked about because it’s so overwhelmingly common, more so than people can imagine.
The last four years had been filled with denial, confusion and avoidance until I hit rock bottom and forced myself to realise I needed to deal with it and recognize it for what it is. It is rape. There is no rationalizing any sexual abuse, assault or anything of the sort; I felt a lot of anger when I stopped rationalising it. I was angry at myself for accepting the most disgusting crime that could happen to me and angry at society for allowing a stigmatism to be built around the idea of discussing rape openly. It is rape. I know it is a hard word for people to hear and use, but it shouldn’t be hidden. It shouldn’t be hidden because the discomfort experienced when people hear the word is nothing compared to actually going through it. I am not dying, I am not diseased, but what I am is a survivor and I need to be able to express myself just like everyone else. I don’t believe in tolerance; I am not going out of my way anymore to make sure people don’t feel uncomfortable with hearing this. It’s easier to accept the way oppression is normalised in our society, but it’s not right to have to feel like you should internalise the pain and indirectly maintain the traumas affecting us. Society says don’t get raped rather than don’t rape and that mentality needs to change. I listened to a video by Kat Blaque, and believe she’s right when she says we live in a society that celebrates the result of overcoming a trauma but looks down on people who haven’t been able to as successful. She says that in a way all these things has to happen in order to shape the person she is today but no one should ever be that strong or get use to it. No one should have to endure and internalize the trauma. As she says in her video, oppression is not the answer.
I was good at internalising the pain for a long time, even fooling myself for a while. I went from losing my friends and eating alone in school bathrooms to making better friends and meeting a great guy. This positive transition helped me ignore what I was feeling, I was happy with the wall I had built between me and the pain, but cracks formed in times of pressure and over time that wall tumbled down and the pain was still there waiting for me to acknowledge it. Being the master repressor that I am didn’t help me in the end, but getting to the lowest point in my life was necessary in order for me to face it. I wasn’t ready to deal with it at the young age that I was.
This year I told my parents and everyone important in my life. It helped me realise that I'm not in the wrong, or alone, or someone that needs to be pitied. I need to be heard and I need people not to confront the topic, even if they’re uncomfortable with it. Rape survivors need to feel that they can talk about it, but people avoid what they can't comprehend and avoid things that make them stop and consider their actions. It’s more than okay to feel what you're feeling and admitting you've been torn apart by another is not weakness. It’s important not to judge yourself on what others have done to you. I didn't want to admit weakness but what I didn't understand four years ago was that this isn't weakness, but strength. I am strong and so is every rape survivor, but we shouldn’t have to be. Everyone I have told so far were glad I told them, because those who are closest to you will understand that you need to be heard and supported, and their strength gives you strength. The first step is to talk about it; no one should blame you. You're still standing at the end of the day and they should respect and admire you for that.
I am still angry; every now and then I fall apart and this still affects big parts of my life, but it's not going to dictate how I live. It may cripple me some days, but some days are not all days and that's what matters in the end; it means you're getting there. Healing doesn’t mean the damage isn’t there, it just means that it can’t control your life anymore.
What I want people to take from this is that it's okay to talk and that we need to create a world where it's safe to talk about rape, not a world where a rape occurs every two minutes. Talking about things that are perceived as weak is a big issue we have in our society. I can't just sit and shrug while saying to myself that this is just the way things are anymore; this is the way things shouldn't be. We live in a society that judges those who embrace their sexuality, where the victim is to blame for what they wear, or, for not having their full wits about them, for drinking, for not covering their drink, for not watching out for predators and for not staying safe in numbers. The victims are not the ones that need to change. The way I dress is not an invitation or a free pass to my body. I don't think that my inability to say no is a yes. One problem today is that the severity of sexual assault, rape and crimes of a similar nature are rated on this imaginary scale of how bad they are. No one can tell you that some complete stranger touching your butt without invitation is not sexual assault. Rape and sexual assault cannot be measured and don't you let anyone try to. No one has the right to tell you how bad that experience was compared to others. In my twenty years I have encountered three serious accounts of sexual assault. Once was rape and the other two happened two years later, one by a friend and the other by a stranger. I reported the stranger, because I wasn't about to brush it off anymore and let it seem like it was okay, and cut all ties with this friend, I wasn't about to change my morals and discount my own self worth by making excuses for her anymore. Sexual assault is still sexual assault no matter the gender of the perpetrator or how good of a friend they were. They’re nothing if they would violate you.
People may think that I've had a long time to deal with it but the fact is I'm going to live with it for the rest of my life. It’s not that I don’t feel the pain; it’s just that I’m not afraid of hurting anymore. There are going to be moments where I'm genuinely happy, and then there will be the memories of those dark moments that I let slip through the cracks. I wanted to be alone in the past, but it's my friends that keep me afloat. I'm happiest in their company, even if we are just driving around, singing and pretending to be without a care. You just have to find those people that help you find yourself again, even if they don't know that's what they do for you. For me, I think you all know who you are and I don’t know where I’d be without all of you.
Just remember you’re not on your own and it wasn’t your fault. Inhale the future and exhale the past; whatever you do don’t stop breathing, because you’re stronger than you think. “I am not what happened to me, I am what I chose to become” – Carl Jung
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SupUmg566js – What is Rape Culture: Kat Blaque
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gITJqqsmMFc – The Victim’s Complex: Kat Blaque
http://www.drcc.ie/get-help-and-information/centres-around-ireland/ - Rape Crisis Centres