Content Warning: Discussion of Rape
It was not until I read an article by The Blurt Foundation that I recognised it was valid, or at least not entirely unusual, to use sex as a form of self-harm, and not since then that I recognised that that was primarily how I was coping with my assault.
After spending the best part of two years living in denial, afraid of speaking out, moving to university acted as a fresh start, helping me to accept that I had in fact been raped, and that it is okay to talk about it.
Granted, talking was difficult at first. I was met with some frustrating comments such as “why didn’t you just push him away” or “why didn’t you scream for help” and so on. It was only with the sanctuary of the right time and the right people that I could begin to address these comments myself, remembering how after begging my attacker to stop, I froze and disassociated, wishing that I could, in that moment, cease to exist.
With the freedom of the student lifestyle, I too found the freedom to self-destruct, carelessly sleeping around and drinking excessively, as I associated a mental-numbness from sex that felt similar to physical self-harm.
University life is not without its risks either. You may feel pressured to have sex from a number of people, be it born from judgement or violence. All that is important, though, is to remember your right to say no and your right to fight back, no matter what people might say in retort.
Ultimately, my biggest regret is not reporting my assault or telling my family. It still breaks my heart to think about how there is such a fundamental aspect of my life that my family does not know about, and I am still lost for the courage enough to speak about it. Over the last three years my identity has shaped itself around the rape, though I view myself less as a victim than I do a survivor. I have battled with ongoing mental health issues, and have been incredibly close to taking my own life, yet now I refuse to let this defeat me. It must be noted that this is, in no sense of the term, easy. It has taken me almost three years to reach this point and now I can finally say truthfully, that I want to live.
It has only been within the last month that I found the courage to formally address the rape to my counsellor, and have for the first time had a healthy attitude towards sex. I now feel ready to speak about my rape openly, with the hope that if anyone else has experienced something similarly crushing, they might feel comfortable to speak out too.
There is a numeration of services equipped to talk about your assault confidentially, if you are not ready to speak publicly. Distinctly, the university student counselling service has proved fundamental to my recovery and appointments can be accessed via online self-referral. Secondly, there is the Edinburgh Rape Crisis Centre, who on their website say that they “will listen, believe and support young people aged 12 -18 and women of any age, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability, gender identity, religious and cultural background”. Edinburgh Rape Crisis Centre can be contacted on 0131 556 9437 or via email at: email@example.com
Alternatively, male survivors can be aided by Survivors UK, with information available here: https://www.survivorsuk.org/ways-we-can-help/
I hope that by sharing my story, anyone who has suffered anything similarly so awful will find the courage to speak out – it can be a frightful prospect, but fundamental to recovery.
Image: Marie L. via Flickr