Words by Anon.
As a self-proclaimed control freak with an uncanny ability to convince myself that I have a gained
complete control over my emotions, experiencing something as traumatic as assault has really shaken my world, my identity. When it happened, all I could think to do to practically work through the complete brain fog I was experiencing was to research how other survivors feel. Instead of feeling for myself, I needed to learn from others what I was supposed to do in this situation. I needed rules and order to sort out the unbelievably confusing mess that is the aftermath of assault. And it really is awful.
As a woman I had, of course, always felt great sympathy towards victims of assault; non-consent is
displayed widely in our TV shows and media headlines and my peer group often engage in discussions surrounding gender inequality. But it was only when it happened to me that I truly understood the life-shattering implications that this kind of experience has on a person. For years my identity has been constructed around being a strong, feisty feminist who travels the world without anything going too wrong. Prior to the assault, I never would have thought I would struggle with victim blaming myself but it really is all too easy when I have based my life around living slightly on the edge as a female solo traveller. And because I’m partly blaming myself, I cannot blame him fully and I just cannot dreg up any feelings of anger towards him. In the place of anger there is just this deep, aching sadness which isolates me from my friends and from my perception of myself as a powerful woman.
Using the word ‘survivor’ has felt uncomfortable to me in the aftermath of being assaulted. I don’t feel like I’ve survived anything. I feel completely shattered as a person, as a woman, as a living breathing human being. This painful anguish, loneliness and shame runs deep through each of my cells, stripping back the layers of identity I have built in my transition into adulthood. Any feeling of strength has been violently ripped from my grasp, like how some see a soul leaving the body after death. I am now an empty shell, a carcass left for the vultures. This world seems so pointless now, so terrifying in its ability to take and take until there is nothing left to keep fighting for. So I am not a survivor, I have not survived this. Instead I am a victim of a society that teaches a man that he can ruin a woman’s body when she is fast asleep and there will be no consequences. That a woman saying no doesn’t matter when he has needs to be satisfied. That having no previous complaints from women means he absolutely cannot be accused to be a rapist now. I am not a survivor, who I was before has not survived. And who I am now doesn’t even feel alive.
My therapist tells me ‘time heals all wounds’. Cliché but true. On a more positive note, the flashbacks are slowly dissipating and I can feel myself enjoying fun times more without that niggling feeling in the back of my head that something is very wrong. But I do wish time would speed up with its healing process. Returning to university after this happened to me has made me aware of how different I feel now. Life in Brighton doesn’t feel so exciting and carefree anymore, and I know focusing on my studies will be challenging at times when I feel like I’ve got bigger fish to fry. I just need to keep telling myself I will not let this random man affect my happiness, my identity and my control over my life (even if this perceived control is perhaps slightly deluded). I will get better, and I will feel strong again.
That’s just how us women are – we bounce back time and time again. We are powerful and deserve to be happy and safe, whether travelling or at home. We deserve a system that educates on consent and prioritizes prevention over protection of perpetrators. We deserve support systems that don’t have 6 month waiting lists, and a correction to the victim blaming narrative that governs conversations surrounding assault. We deserve better.
If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article, below is a list of contacts who can offer support for sexual assualt and rape: