*This blog post contains sensitive topics and talks of my own personal experience. Each situation is different and is dealt with differently by each individual.*
I’m sure everyone has seen the news about Harvey Weinstein and the women bravely coming forward en masse to speak about their experiences. Well, I was scrolling through Twitter when I came across the hashtag #MeToo, a tag of men and women sharing their stories of sexual harassment and assault. This powerful tag exposed the magnitude of the problem and it was touching to see how many brave people spoke about their experiences. So, here I am talking about mine.
The moment of realisation
You never think it will happen to you. It is always something that will happen to someone else and never you. That was the mindset I had before it actually happened, and when it did, it took me a long time to even recognise that it happened and even longer to accept. It is inevitable that at University you will go out with friends and get drunk and on this particular night, things escalated. I won’t go into specifics as I don’t want to upset anybody that may have gone through something similar. As I said before, it took me a long time to recognise and accept that what happened that night was sexual assault. In my experience, it was because it was someone who was living in my accommodation and someone who I saw on a daily basis. This made acceptance 1000x harder. Despite knowing my friends for less than a month, the support they gave me was incredible and I will always be thankful for them for helping me get through the hardest time in my life.
The point of realisation for me was one moment. One second where my brain suddenly placed the pieces together and I realised what had happened. On the surface, I seemed fine and I was good at pretending. Being alone, eating and sleeping seemed impossible to me. I needed a constant distraction so my mind couldn’t think about it, but somehow it seeped out and made me feel nauseous and guilty.
After reporting the assault I was transferred to the Welfare team and a counselling session was sorted out for me. The first session came around and I was nervous. The idea of speaking about what happened for the first time and with a complete stranger seemed wrong to me. But I knew that speaking about it would eventually help. And it did. Yes, the sessions were full of tears but they made me realise that I should be the last, last, last person to feel guilty. Looking back, it seems obvious to me now that, of course, I shouldn’t feel guilty. I should be able to get absolutely slaughtered in the comfort of my own accommodation without being sexually assaulted. Counselling sessions helped me a hell of a lot. I learnt that creating distractions for myself in the form of eating with others and socialising was good in the short term and will help me in the long term. Over the past year, it has become easier and easier to think about it. At first, the thought of being alone with my own mind was scary but now I think about the past year and see how far I’ve come. And I’m proud of myself. I will not let this define me or change me but I am going to carry on and be myself.
The counselling sessions didn’t help that I was faced with him on a daily basis. I chose not to get the police involved and I hope people respect that decision. I don’t regret it. He was emailed to avoid me and not talk to anyone I knew about what had happened or address it in any way and for me, that was enough. Over the course of the year, if I did see him, my stomach would drop, but every time it would drop a little less. A year later, I am unaffected by him and I can go about my day without having a dip. Anyway, I don’t want to give him any more blog space so let’s move on.
A year on
I know that I may not have written everything in this blog post but I feel as though I have addressed everything I wanted to. I just want to say that it will be okay and it does get better. In my experience, talking about it to a counsellor helped but having an amazing support system around me helped just as much. A year on and I am proud of who I have become. This will not define me or change me but it has made me stronger. That may sound weird but I realised how strong I am as a person and I understand how strong anyone has to be to go through something like this.
I do really hope that this post helped someone, anyone, even just a little bit. To know that you ‘re not alone and you can get through it. It is hard and there will be times where you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, but it is there and you will be happy. I promise.