For those of you who are not Canadian, you may not have heard the media report that prominent Canadian radio host Jian Ghomeshi has been fired from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, (CBC), having been accused by 9 women of harassment, physical abuse and sexual assault. Although this recent news is shocking and ugly, it has led to something positive by shedding light on a very common yet mostly unspoken issue: sexual assault and assault of women in general. It inspired Toronto Star writer Antonia Zerbisias and Montreal Gazette reporter Sue Montgomery to create the hashtag on Twitter, #BeenRapedNeverReported, a platform for women to share their stories of abuse without shame to the world and astonishingly, it has been tweeted over 8 million times.
I too wanted to join in the discussion by sharing my story in support of all survivors of sexual assault.
WARNING: This content deals with an account of sexual assault and may be triggering to some people.
It was my first month of highschool. I was 14 and wanted desperately to be cool. I lied to my Mom and went to a party with a couple girlfriends. I knew the boys who were throwing the party. And I knew they weren’t good news – they were known to be into drugs – but I wanted to fit in so I went anyway. I was naïve. I had one drink, a mixed drink made by one of the boys. When one of my friends was getting picked up, I asked for a ride home but her mother didn’t want to drive out of her way – so I stayed.
The next thing I remember is waking up in a dark room with no windows, unable to move, half on a bed, my pants being pulled down by one boy who stood between my legs.
I couldn’t move.
My friend came to the door, saw what was happening and shooed him away.
But then she left me there alone, probably too inebriated to realize what was going on.
Then again: black.
Throughout the night, I woke up only for minutes at a time – paralyzed, undressed, poked and prodded, violated by the hands and body parts of 4 different boys – and then blacked out again.
This cycle continued throughout the entire night and all I could ever do was mumble a nearly soundless “no”.
The next morning I woke up unable to focus my eyes, seeing more than double. I could barely stand up. Everyone acted as if nothing more than a really fun night had passed. I pretended everything was okay as well – I didn’t know what else to do – and waited for my ride home.
These boys were my peers, in my classes, in the halls. They were proud of their behaviour and told everyone who would listen that I had consented to their evening of “fun”. They bragged about it and scratched explicit comments on desks at school detailing what they had done. People snickered at me and I was suddenly the slut at school: tormented by girls, “easy” for guys.
Why didn’t I say anything?
I was embarrassed. I was ashamed. I felt it was my fault for going, for lying to my Mom, for not knowing better, for taking that drink. I was imagining it. It was a bad dream. I was crazy and hallucinating. I was a bad person. I let it happen.
That was many years ago and I am no longer ashamed or embarrassed or deeply tormented, but the healing process was long and enduring and there are still lasting consequences.
With such an invasion your mind dissociates from your body, and from that point on you search for ways to feel intact again. This separation may be a good coping mechanism that serves in the moment and perhaps keeps you from feeling far too much at the time but the poison leaks into the future and all future relationships.
When someone invades someone else they leave a trail of dirt, images behind your eyes, memories in your skin and fingerprints on your future relationships.
Later on, when someone comes along who truly loves you and touches you with respect, they undeservedly have to bear the consequences of that past invasion, side effects that are often hard to explain or understand and can be destructive to a partnership.
However, this love can help you heal, but let me tell you, it takes a lot of love to kill those memories and even still, after all these years, after therapy, songs, time, and tons and tons of love and respect, now, even though I am comfortable talking about this, I can’t lie: every once in a while, even when touch is full of love and beauty, intimacy triggers fear.
In the end, I believe that it is really love and respect that heal these wounds, and that over time the positive experiences outweigh the negative.
If I were to leave you with any suggestions for working through such a trauma, or traumas in general, I’d suggest you go and create anything at all, without any inner critic, without caring about it being “good”. For me personally, it was the combination of love from others and creativity as a means of releasing, understanding and connecting with others that aided in my healing process. Creativity is one of the most healing outlets as it can give you the power to transform the unspeakable into something beautiful and full of power, something external which does not really need words, to be used for you alone for whatever means you see fit or to share with others to communicate and foster understanding.
I hope that my speaking out is empowering for other survivors of sexual assault and for our society as a whole.
Lots of love
P.S. I am more than interested in your comments and personal stories. If I can lend a hand, just let me know.
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