In light of this worryingly prominent culture of assault, I felt it was necessary to get the perspectives of those who had been through similar traumas. Consequently, some brave students came forward. My aim with this two-part article is to ensure that no victims are silenced anymore. Each and every voice deserves to be heard. Here, two students explain how these experiences shaped them and why things desperately need to change.
Nearly two years ago I was raped, and honestly, those few hours or minutes completely turned my life around. I felt as though he intruded on every aspect of my life; from little things, to my weight, and even triggering my diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder. I wasn’t able to watch shows like Thirteen Reasons Why like everyone else because it’s triggering, and hearing general terms like “skank” are painful because they’re the ones I had spat at me during the assault. Therefore, to myself and the person reading this (if relevant), I want to say this: It is understandable, it is expected, and it is not your fault that the assault has had such a profound impact on your whole life.
Please, understand that the assault is a serious and violent trauma that is so out of any of our scope to limit the emotional consequences done to us. Please understand that if you are years past the incident like me and you are still frustrated with feeling stuck or not moved on from the assault, then I want to say that not only should it be advisable to get psychological assistance, but also you shouldn’t be too hard on yourself. So many times this has annoyed me but I have got to be fairer to myself – and so do you.
I think one of the struggles I face in being a survivor is that it is so isolating. As an ethnic woman, my support network is very cut off due to the societal impact something I didn’t even consent for will have on my life. Most importantly, I cannot find anyone to relate to or go to for help because we, as victims, are sidelined in the feminist movement against rape and sexual assault.
Yet, 1 in 5 African American women are raped and in India, a rape occurs every 20 minutes. Thus, not only should we be included in this movement, we should be the front line. To myself and to the person reading this, I want you to know that you are never alone, and you deserve respect. You are so much more the words he or she called you, I believe in you and believe what happened to you, but most importantly, you are so much more than his or her victim – you are a survivor.
Last year, whilst buying something in the shop below my block of flats, I had a man grope me. It’s a place I did and now continue to go to all the time, but for a long time, I felt immensely uncomfortable doing so. After the staff convinced me it was something worthy of phoning the police about and I’d spent an hour giving the statement, the next six months were full of update letters on the court proceedings and an internal feeling of fear about going back.
Looking back, it feels silly that I was scared of going into a shop, but at the time I just thought: “This is the last place that I would expect this to happen and if it can happen here, it can happen anywhere.” But that’s the point. It can happen anywhere, to anyone, by anyone, and it isn’t fair.
They shouldn’t get to affect someone’s head like that because they decided to harass someone. They shouldn’t be able to dictate where someone can go. They shouldn’t make someone feel sheer terror at the thought of seeing them or having to be around them.
It’s made me more vigilant and aware of my surroundings, but it’s also made me a lot less tolerant of any kind of unwanted action towards anyone, from anyone. Consent is the most important thing.