TRIGGER WARNING | This article talks candidly about Rape.
Four men raped me when I was fifteen.
I had all of my innocence ripped from me that night. I remember feeling disgusting and utterly worthless. I was too mortified to ever breathe a word of it. When I was sixteen a friend told me she was raped at knifepoint, I was still too scared to say it had happened to me. When another friend was rapped at twenty one and dumped at a service station in the middle of nowhere again, I stayed quiet. Too bound by my own fear of judgment, I let those women I love suffer alone.
The first person I told used it against me. One night raping me himself, justifying it with "I was just too horny to stop myself, but I love you". I stayed with him for three more years. Believing that maybe this was all I was worthy of. Somehow this was the life I deserved to live.
The second person I told said that I must have been stupid to get in this situation. It took me many more years to speak of it again. Caught up in a feeling of worthlessness, stupidity, and humiliation.
How at fifteen did I not know any better? How did I let this happen? Maybe it was my fault?
The third person I told was a woman, and she cried as I told her my deepest secret. As I revealed to her my pain and suffering, I realised for the first time that rape was not my fault. What had happened to me was awful, I finally felt that I was worthy of love. What those men did to me was not because I deserved it. They felt the need to control another person.
That is not my fault.
While these men probably never thought of that night again I will live with this memory forever. A scare bedded deep within my soul. It shaped the woman I became, forever more different to the girl I could have been. A stronger women. A resilient woman. A woman who sees your true nature behind those false smiles. A women that will forever more feel her heart accelerate and her body tense up when alone with a man; just incase she needs to defend her self. No longer able to relax around strangers. Some fear will never leave you.
One out of every five women in Australia over the age of 15 has been sexually assaulted. One in five. Yet there is barely any media coverage of it. Rape isn't a topic that people feel comfortable discussing. If murders where this prominent there would be action. Yet most women who are sexually assaulted are too scared to say anything as they know they will be judged, ridiculed or worse accused of lying. This message of shame needs to change. Until these conversations start to become normalised and victims can speak in peace nothing will change.
To the victims of sexual assault, this is my challenge to you. Have the courage to talk about the crimes that have happened to you. Call it out for what it is. Rape. Start speaking more honestly about what has happened and continues to happen. Perhaps people will wake up to how common this is and seek change. Until we put a face to the victims they simply become numbers.
To the bystanders, when a woman is brave enough to be honest with you about sexual abuse, do not question her actions. Do not accuse her of being stupid for getting her self into that position. Instead, offer condolences, ask if there is anything she needs and most importantly listen with an open heart. You are just as much a part of the change as the victims.
Be courageous so another woman can be too. Change starts with one person.
Art by Lila Marvell