TW: Sexual assault
Do you think your sexual assault had an impact on your relationships?
Definitely! I knew I wanted to be intimate with someone again, but I saw no possible way of actually doing that. Navigating the dating scene is difficult enough, so navigating that whilst also coping with my trauma was a tough cookie to say the least. I don’t trust people as easily now, and that applies to anyone – not just someone I’m romantically or sexually interested in. If I am speaking to a guy in that way, I have a kind of test of sorts. I say to whoever it is that I’m speaking to, that I was thinking of ‘getting drunk tonight’ – something along those lines. Their response then helps me decide if I can trust them. So if they take that as a hint that I wanted to meet up with them…bye bye. If they mention the fact that I won’t be able to consent if I am drunk…hello, you’re going straight in my basket! But obviously, that doesn’t solve much. Anyone can tell me that they’d only like to get cheeky with me if I’m sober; that doesn’t automatically mean they’re never going to take advantage or use my body to their benefit.
Do you tell your partners about what happened to you?
The first couple of partners I had, I didn’t. I was worried they’d somehow view me differently, like damaged or something? And to be honest, if I did tell them, what difference would that really make? If they kept asking me during sex if I was ok, that would just be a constant reminder of what happened. A complete turn off. The partner I’m with now though…I didn’t tell him what happened, I just briefly mentioned that I’d recently had therapy for sexual assault trauma. That felt like such a huge step forward. Who knew I’d have the balls to do that? It’s definitely a weight off my shoulder – it’s something I don’t have to hide from him, so I guess I’d recommend telling your partner if anyone is in a similar situation to me. Communication can make a wild difference to your trust, your relationship, and the quality of sex of course!
What helped you recover?
Therapy. Talking to someone. I never felt comfortable talking to it with my friends, because I wasn’t sure if they wanted to hear every little detail. I didn’t want to put that pressure on them, but I knew I couldn’t keep all these memories to myself. All I needed was to tell just one person every little detail. In my case, the best person for that was a therapist. It was a safe space for me where I knew I didn’t need to hold back. Once I got it off my chest, I suddenly felt so much less alone. I think time as well was key to my recovery. I’ll never be fully recovered I don’t think – before it happened, I’d laugh about sexual comments being thrown at me in public, but now I have to take a lot of deep breaths and be extra kind to myself for the rest of the day.
Are you still in contact with the people who assaulted you?
By the time I felt the effect of it, no. My trauma was so delayed and I still don’t really understand why that is. When it really started to play on my mind, before I got therapy, I was in contact with one of them. He was the person who had most recently assaulted me. I think I projected my combined anger from everyone who ever used me, onto the only available person I could – him. That wasn’t fair, although I couldn’t see that at the time. I literally couldn’t be in the same room as him at one point; being near him just felt wrong.
According to Rape Crisis, 20% of women have experienced sexual assault since the age of 16. Do you think this is accurate?
Honestly, I’d say 80% is more accurate. So many of my friends go clubbing literally expecting an ass grab or something. It’s just something we’ve learnt to accept, which is so sad and needs to change. I didn’t report any of the times it happened to me. That option never even occurred to me until much later on after each incident. For me, talking to the police would have caused more trauma and made it even more scary for me. I think that’s the case for most people.
What about men and people of other genders?
I don’t know of anyone personally that’s not female that’s been sexually assaulted or raped, but I know it happens of course. We certainly have a long way to go before equality is reached between all genders. I hate that women can wrongly get away with hurling sexual comments at a guy, until that same situation is reversed…I’d love to know how vastly different the police’s responses are to a female vs male victim of sexual abuse.
How can we stop this happening so frequently?
Education, education, education!! We all need to be taught about this from a young age. I firmly believe that if the people that did this to me were taught what’s okay and what’s not, they wouldn’t have done what they did. So many kids will post a nude of someone else, without realising that’s illegal. The whole sex ed spec in schools is rubbish though, not just the assault aspect (if that aspect is even included). I read Ruby Rare’s Sex Ed book recently, actually. She discusses assault and so many other important parts of a healthy sex life. Can we just make that compulsory reading, instead of the outdated shit they’re still teaching the kids?