April is sexual assault awareness month and with that in mind I opened up on Instagram to share more about my experiences and invited others to share their stories through me.
I went live on Instagram to answer questions in a hope to help others heal. However, the dog jumped up turning my phone off and it didn’t save. So I’m going to share and respond to the stickers questions and DMs here in this post. I was going to save them to highlights but I figured a blog post would give me more room to answer the questions.
I shared some of my personal story in a blog a while back. In this post I talk about the abusive relationship that followed the rape I lived through at the age 14.
Please keep in mind as you read my answers that I can only give my opinions and advice based in my personaly experiences. Everyone goes through thing differently and how you deal is up to you.
The first thing I want to address is the men who felt it appropriate to chime in with their outdated, victim blaming opinions.
“That’s what you get for dressing like you do” is the comment that sticks in my head.
I will call out anyone who blames a rape on the clothes a woman wore. When I was raped at age 14 I was wearing jeans. There are tribal communities where women wear nothing but a length of fabric tied round their waist, communities where women are not raped. Nudist and naturist communities are (virtually) rape free. It’s almost as if nudity doesn’t mean you’re asking for it? Rape happens because rapist refuse to accept responsibility for their actions.
Women have the same urges as men, we are a horny bunch, won’t lie, but we have had our sexuality squashed and made taboo. We have been told for centuries that we are not to give in to urges. As a result men have been allowed to get away with horrible acts of sexual violence and women (for the most part) are more refined with their sexual desires. The thing is, you can still have desires and a sex drive AND not force others to serve you and your “needs”.
Women should be able to get drunk, wear what they want and walk alone without the fear of being dragged down a dark alley. Rape survivors are never to blame!
The first question I was asked was “how have you been dealing with it?”, which actually ties in with “how do cope with flashbacks?”
Trust me, you do not want to deal with it how I dealt with it. For years I ‘dealt’ by drink healivy, get stoned and sleeping around.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t regret that part of my life, nor am I ashamed of it but it’s not something I look back on with fondness.
I’ll be honest, it’s not a healthy way to cope with trauma but it is common. You’re not alone and if this is how you dealt, or how you are dealing, then please know therapy is a better way. Whether that’s talking to a professional or creating a diary of your thoughts, find something that works for you. I find blogging about things cathartic and has helped me deal more with flashbacks and intrusive thoughts than any therapist, but that just my experiences and there’s no telling what will work for you. Try as many outlets as you can.
“Are you in a good place or still getting there?”
I’m still getting there. I don’t think you can ever truely be the same when you live through something like this. There will always be something that triggers memories but over time you’ll find them easier to deal with. It is a traumatic experience and don’t be surprised if survivors suffer from PTSD and develop other mental health probelms.
“Did you feel like you were to blame?”
Oh yes. As young girls women are taught “he’s mean because he likes you”. We’re taught to not dress provocatively. To carry rape whistles and alarms, never walk alone, always stay where it’s well lit, never drink heavily. We’re encouraged to attend self defence classes and taught that being friends with men will only lead to trouble. What we are actually being told is that if we get raped we brought it on ourselves.
Here’s the thing, when I was raped at 14 I was wearing jeans and a T shirt. I was with my friend, we were in a well lit area and I was not drinking. At what point did I cause my rape?
When my abusive ex forced me to have sex with him repeatedly, in our home, tell me how I what could I have done to prevent it?
The only thing that can prevent rape is teaching everyone about consent and that nobody is entitled to sex. It is a privilege to be given by someone to you. It is up to us to teach our children that no means no; only by teaching them about consent can we hope to tackle the problem.
The most important thing you need to know is that while it may feel like you are to blame, Lord knows society has made women feel they are to blame for a man’s behaviour towards her, it is never the fault of the victim and the blame lies solely on the rapist.
“Is it normal to feel shame and want revenge?”
I guess so. I can’t answer this one fully because I personally never wanted to seek revenge. I’ve always believed that an eye for an eye will cause the world to go blind and that a lot of the time karma and the justice system will do what is needed.
As for feeling shame, I did, for a while and that wasn’t helped by family members talking about the shame they were having to deal with. Imagine overhearing that at the age of 14, that you had brought shame on the family by being raped. Something completely out of your control. Your feeling of shame is normal and valid and you will get passed it eventually. I can’t say when, this is different for everyone, but you will get passed it in time.
“Does sex act as a trigger for you?”
Of course it does. How could it not? Giving yourself to someone and trusting them not to take advantage is a massive step to take and it’s a step you should never force. This is actually why I advocate self love. When you need to remember how good sex can feel, how good that release that comes with an orgasm feels but you’re not in the right frame of mind to have sex, masturbation is your answer. Explore your own likes and dislikes safely without relying on someone else. I know it sounds weird, I know it might scare some but from personal experience it’s helpful.
The other thing I’d say is ensure your partner is a good soul. They should not pressure you and they should support you when you need supporting, especially when it comes to being triggered.
“Do you think of men any differently?”
Absolutely. The analogy I use is this, if you were bitten by a dog would you then be wary of all dogs? Of course you would. You’d approach with caution and pay closer attention to their body language. So of course your opinion of men will be changed by your experience. Men can be a trigger, not just sex, and again it’s a normal response and totally valid. If anyone tells you you’re being silly, you need to tell them to fuck off.
“How old were you?”
I was 14 the first time. When I should have been able to trust my friend and who she was meeting with.
I was 18-19 when it was a repeated act of abuse. Back then I didn’t realise what he was doing. It never occurred to me that his behaviour was abusive until years after we broke up.
“Has it affected your confidence?”
It really affected my confidence at first. in fact for years it cause me to doubt my self worth and led me to believe my only worth was to be someone’s toy. I’m passed that now, thankfully and although I still doubt my self worth and struggle to believe that anyone would ever want someone like me, my confidence is growing again thank to a wonderful group of like minded individuals I met on line. The internet is a powerful thing when used rightly.
“How can you be in to BDSM?”
Easily. There is a huge difference between rape and BDSM. I have an upcoming blog post that goes in to this in greater detail but for now I will say this; rape is about seizing power but BDSM is about willingly relinquishing your power. Trust and consent are the pillars holding up any true BDSM relationship and without them it is just abuse. Like I said, I have a blog post coming up that covers this subject in depth.
“Is this why you’re a big supporter of sex positivity?”
100%. Without an open and honest discussion about sex and all things relevant to the topic (consent, porn, toys etc.) rape culture will prevail and some will continue to assume they are entitled to sec while others will continue to believe they are worthless.
We also need to remind those who have been sexually assaulted that they can enjoy sex again one day and that starts by sharing our stories of sexual assault and being sex positive.
It’s also why I try to be open about my body image struggles.
I don’t want other girls to grow up thinking like I did when I was younger. We’re told sex is wrong and made to feel like we’re to blame if we’re assaulted and we’re held to a higher standard of beauty than men. All of it is so messed up and it took me years to get to this point. I would hate for my little girl to think she has to dress a certain way to prevent being raped or that she’s not worth anything if she gains weight.
“I think I orgasmed while I was being raped, does that mean I wanted it?”
Did you consent to sex? No. You did not ‘enjoy’ it and therefore consent because you orgasmed. Your body responded in a natural way to what it was experiencing, but your heart and your head were NOT ok with what was happening and that is the most important thing. You did not consent, you did not want it, that orgasm meant nothing.
“Do you think it’s possible to rape men?”
Of course it’s possible to rape a man. Ask any man you know if they’ve ever got an erection when they didn’t want one and I can guarantee you that all of them will say yes. Now, as a man can get an erection without actually wanting one, what makes you think they can’t be raped by a woman? Not forgetting there’s anal rape that is often joked about when men are sent to prison. These ‘jokes’ make me sick and actually just go to show how toxic masculinity isn’t just an issue for women but for men too.
“Did you know your attacker?”
I did not know the man who raped me when I was 14. I cannot imagine what it’s like to be the survivor of sexual assault at the hands of a family member. There’s some solace to be had in never having to see them again. I hope that anyone who has been assaulted by a family member can find some peace but please know that I am always here if anyone needs to talk.
As for the abusive ex, while I technically knew him while I was with him, I don’t know him now and luckily I never had to see him again.
“Did/do people treat you differently when they know?”
Of course they did and many still do when they find out. Many feel they have to tip toe around the subject of sex or skip rape scenes in TV shows, but I’m ok with it. I’ve lived through it, I’ve grown from it and I’m not broken. I can cope with more than people give me credit for. Yes, sex is a trigger and yes rape scenes on TV and film can bring up memories but that’s life. I will not wrap myself in cotton wool for anyone or anything.
“How did you react?”
Full disclosure… I withdrew. I cried myself to sleep and hated being touched by anyone. As time went on I began to socialise and interact with people again but I started smoking weed and drinking a lot. I didn’t rebel in a loud way, I was still the ‘good girl’ the grown ups knew but I still wanted to be numb and drinking, smoking weed and going on to sleep about allowed me to be numb. There were a few really dark moments when I believed it wasn’t worth going on and that I’d be better of not existing anymore. I was suicidal for a while. This behaviour actually played a big part in the people got in to relationships with. I would ‘fall’ for anyone because I was so grateful for anyone taking any kind of liking to me. I surrounded myself with people and situations that were no good for me.
“Did he do time?”
No, neither one has served any time. All I was ever told about the first was that he was deported. The barrister who prosecuted my case told me that the case was weak because my ‘friend’ took his side and so they settles on deportation as he was an illegal immigrant. She also told me he was unapologetic and showed no remorse for his actions. As for the abusive ex, years went by before I realised what our relationship was and by that time I didn’t feel like it was worth pressing charges. The thing with cases like that are there’s neve any proof, it’s always he said she said and they’re often thrown out because nothing is resolved. If I had gone to the police immediately something may have come of it but because it took me years to realise it would have, sadly, been pointless. The justice system has come a long way in recent years with historic rape cases surfaces but those are high profile and examples must be made. For your average person, rape is a hard thing to get a conviction on, especially when it happened years ago and given my past experience with not getting a conviction against my attacker, I wasn’t willing to try again.
“Did you face him in court?”
Thankfully not. My statement was recorded on video to play in court so I didn’t have to face the man who raped me when I was 14 in court and nothing was ever brought against my ex because I couldn’t be arsed with it. Who would believe a girl telling the same story twice anyway? As we know, when someone is raped more than once, people accuse them of not learning the first time.
“Do you know many men who have been raped?”
I know a few men who have been sexually assaulted by women and other men, however most of them haven’t told me the full story so how far that sexual assault went, I can’t say. The sad fact is that sexually assault is all too common by both sexes towards both sexes.
“How does it affect your relationship with Roman?”
It’s tough. Trying to ensure that he never is the reason a girl feels unsafe is a full time job. Constantly thinking of how to ensure he understands consent without crushing his feelings isn’t easy, after all, he’s only 3 and when a 3 year old wants a hug he will just hug you. He’s also yet to understand he can’t just kiss his sister whenever he feels like it, especially when she wants to be left alone. Sometimes it’s scary to think of how he could grow up if we were do do or say the wrong thing. I constantly worry he could grow up to be the man women are uncomfortable around.
“Did it affect your pregnancy?”
I didn’t think it would, but it really did. I’m not convinced any of the staff who cared for me during either pregnancy were aware of how to handle someone who was still dealing with rape trauma. I actually believe it needs to be part of their training. There was also so many feelings surrounding actually being pregnant itself but that’s a whole different blog post for another time.
“Do you think sex workers are treated the same as other women?”
Not at all! I truly believe sex workers actually get the worst treatment when it comes to sexual assault. The are told they deserve it more often than other women, they are forced in to situations beyond their control and they are often told their consent doesn’t matter. Not only that but when they are sexually assaulted they are, more often than not, not believed. After all it’s their job. They’re paid to roll over and take it. Bollocks, these women deserve to be safe, just like every other women in the world deserves to be treated with respect.
It’s not an easy subject to talk about and it’s an even harder thing to live through. Sometimes I think to myself that it would have been better if I hadn’t lived afterwards, that the lucky ones aren’t actually the ones who keep their lives. It’s terrible thing to think and I hate myself for thinking it when I do but living with fear is no way to live.
Sadly, rape culture is still very much alive and kicking, but its days are numbered and hopefully I’ll still be alive when women are safe.