How Volunteering Helped Me Recover From Trauma

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TW: Sexual Assault and Rape.

A little over a year ago I was sexually assaulted. This is something I’ve talked about quite a bit before but what I don’t open up about as much is the severe PTSD that followed. For a long time I didn’t want to acknowledge my suffering but in April 2018, I walked in the Southampton University Feminist Society’s Catwalk for Consent to raise money for Yellow Door – the very charity I was waiting to receive counselling from. I’m not saying that this meant that I was absolutely fine after, I am still mentally ill, but walking that catwalk, in that dress, was a huge step towards my recovery. 

This year on the 28th March SU FemSoc are once again holding their Catwalk For Consent to raise money for Yellow Door, a local charity supporting survivors of Sexual Assault and Domestic Abuse. A local charity I am currently attending to receive counselling for my PTSD. The premise of the event is that people anonymously submit stories of their sexual assaults and the clothing they wore when they were assaulted to help end the stigma and victim blaming narrative that suggests that clothing can ever mean consent.

In the event, models will walk the catwalk in outfits matching those described by survivors, showing the diverse variety of outfits people have worn when they have been assaulted. Last year I walked the stage in my own dress, and for the first time since the rape, wearing that dreaded thing made me feel good about myself. I was taking back control over my clothes and more importantly my body and it was so freaking empowering. Being on that stage, knowing that the story behind me was believed by everyone in that room, surrounded by support from friends and strangers alike made me feel validated. It was a huge step towards my journey of realising that what happened to me was not my fault, and it was so amazing. The fashion show allowed me to share my story openly without the fear of being belittled because no one in that room besides my closest friends knew the story belonged to. I still have instances where I feel like it was my fault for being too drunk or too scantily clad, but being in the environment of the catwalk made me question that.

What’s more important is that I know I am not alone in feeling this way, and I know that the other people who submitted their stories felt empowered even if they chose not to walk the walk. For many people this was a first time to share what had happened to them in the public eye without the fear of people knowing their intimate trauma. For me, it took a long time to be open about what happened to me, but in providing a platform for survivors to talk anonymously, we allow them to process their internal feelings. If you unfortunately have been through something this horrendous, I really do encourage submitting your story for the event. It’s a way to help others while simultaneously helping yourself in more ways than you’ll ever know.

If you wish to donate money for the event please do so here. Not just FemSoc, but me and every other survivor who is currently suffering will appreciate any donations big or small.

If you’re walking your own submission and are willing to provide the clothes, you can submit your story up until Wednesday the 27th here.

For more information, join the Facebook event.

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Features Editor 18/19, Second year BA English Lit student with a passion for intersectional feminism, dogs and iced coffee.

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