Survival and Discovery

Survival and Discovery

CW: rape and sexual assault

I was 14 when I realised that not everyone we trusted, could be trusted. I was 16 when I realised that not everyone you loved, should be loved.

I’m 22, and at the age of 14 I was sexually assaulted. At the age of 16, I was raped.

Time has passed, life has moved on but the memories, the events, and the scars still linger. Being a victim of sexual assault, in any capacity, can change and shape you. You learn the side of humanity that is especially dark, especially selfish and it can leave you wondering if all humans have more intentions than they let on.

I never did report my abusers. The truth is, as a teenager in the UK, you are not often taken seriously when you claim that you have been forced into sexual acts. Especially when, like in my case, both of my abusers were people I was in a relationship with. There is a stigma that you can’t possibly be sexually harmed in a relationship, almost like society expects that any form of intimacy is okay in a romantic relationship, even when it's forced.

It took me years to learn that no boyfriend, man, or woman, owned me. They did not own my body. It hurts to think that I was so young and vulnerable that I believed that it was my duty to just do what was expected of me, even if I did not want this. It’s even worse that many people, like myself, are still going through this today. Why are we not as a society preventing this?

But this is not a story of my pain, this is not a story about the acts themselves, this is a story of my survival and discovery.

Whilst I instinctively knew that my sexual assault was wrong, it took me up until this year, five years after the continuous rapes, to realise the severity and harm that has come of it. I believe that I was so traumatised that my sense of worth was warped and I almost believed that what my attacker did was the norm.

So, this last year has been an eye-opener for me. I have really thought about the events, my attackers and the effect it has had on me. I’ve spoken about it in bits and pieces before, each time, I am able to understand just a bit more about the puzzle of trauma that has been left.

Something I found myself able to do was to announce that I had been raped, it was surreal to say it out loud. It was liberating to know that I did not have to hide it because it was not my fault and I am and was never the problem. There is no shame in being a victim, the only shame is on the predator.

Since then, I can feel my confidence grow. I am so independent now that no person will ever have that same grasp on me. My relationship with my husband is healthy, I am able to tell him if he is making me uncomfortable, if I need space or if something is upsetting me. I can talk to him about what happened without defending my attacker. I am no longer muted by the person who most wants me to be.

There has been a lot of self-discovery in this, it has allowed me to enjoy dressing how I want without worrying about being controlled. I know that I can appear however I want and feel good in knowing that I am doing it for me. I’m empowered by my sexuality and I am proud to be able to control who even lays a hand on me. For once, I can have intimacy and enjoy it, in safety and with the consent, and that human right is something that is taken for granted.

It took time, and I am still learning but I believe that I am starting to recover. To accept the events and to find a path in life without the said events shackling me. But here I am, married to a man who respects me, owning my body and loving the new life that I have. Life does exist after assault, just always remember, it is not your fault.

Art: @weareprojectbabe

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