Friday, 29 May 2015

Don't Dismiss Your Pain: On Sexual Assault & Rape

Don't Dismiss Your Pain

I've wanted to write this post for quite a while now, but I've been scared to write about it. It's not something I like talking about, nor something I like reliving. But I feel it's important to say, and I've not seen anyone else say it, so I'm going for it.

I was sexually assaulted when I was 11-years-old. I was followed home from school by a boy several years older than me. He touched me, and threatened to rape me.

What happened that day affected me for years. I was robbed of my innocence, and was terrified, now in the knowledge that I could be hurt and violated in such an unimaginable way.

I had no social life; I was too scared to leave the house on my own - the only times I did was when I went to school, went shopping when my mum asked me to, or to visit my Nan who lived five minutes away. Otherwise, I only went out if I was with my parents. Because of this, I've always had trouble talking to new people and making friends. It's something I have to force myself to do.

As a teenager, I had no interest in boys in any real way; I was petrified of the idea of letting a boy get close, of being in the position where I could potentially get hurt. All I knew was fear. and later - after realising I had wasted all those years because of what he did to me - anger.

There have been several articles about rape and sexual assualt that have been coming up in my Twitter feed in recent months. They would sicken and disgust me, but I would feel such admiration for these women who were speaking out and moving forward from their ordeal. At the same time, I'd think about my own experience and would have one thought; "What I went through wasn't that bad."

I'd feel guilty for the fear and anger I had felt because others have been through worse. I'd dismiss what happened as not that big of a deal in comparrison, dismiss my feelings. What did I have to feel so angry about, what was I so scared about, when I had got off so lightly?

I'd been feeling this more and more as the weeks went by and the more articles I read. It occurred to me that others might be feeling the same, and it stopped my thoughts in their tracks. What was I thinking?!

Yes, there have been others who have been through so much worse, but that doesn't make what I went through any less traumatic. And the same goes for anyone else who has been through something so harrowing. We have every right to react and feel the way we do.

I recently had a conversation about this on Twitter with New Adult author Tammara Webber, who has been very open about her experience of rape. Despite having gone through something worse than I did, she completely understood where I was coming from. "That is EXACTLY how I felt about what I went through - that it wasn't bad enough, comparably." She went on to tell me about a friend of her's whose experience she felt was worse than her own. It seems most of us, no matter what we've experienced, could feel that someone else has suffered more.

"It doesn't lessen what you suffered," Webber told me, "or your ability to sympathize with anyone along the whole rotten spectrum."

No-one should be subjected to rape or sexual assualt. No-one. And no-one who has suffered at the hands of another should feel that their experience isn't worth their reaction. We're allowed to feel scared, angry, sickened, disgusted, and violated. We have every right to feel the way we do.

As Webber says, "Don't dismiss your pain."

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