**Major Trigger Warnings**
This is the article I never thought I’d write. Somehow I thought if I followed the “rules” it would never happen to me. You know the rules- Don’t go out at night on your own, don’t get too drunk, be super careful around strange men, mind your drink…the list is endless and infuriating.
In my mind a rapist is the boogie man, a bad man that lurks in the shadows, that hides in alleys waiting to pounce on an unsuspecting woman. Not for a second did I think it would be my partner.
I will spare you the details because I’m sure you want to read the intricate details of my trauma as much as I want to delve into my brain and relive the terrifying nightmare. What I do want to share with you, however, is the aftermath. The what comes next after the assault.
“Don’t shower, go to the guards & find your local rape crisis centre for counselling”
It sounds so simple, its an unwritten mantra that’s ingrained into the brain of women everywhere. It’s an unspoken language of what to do after you’ve been raped. What I didn’t have was the information on what comes next. That middle point where you’re recovering from this attack and you’re trying to make sense of your world.
To be honest, I never thought about it, it never crossed my mind. It was a story I’d never heard and an experience I’d never read about. But there are so so many women who have been raped and sexually assaulted and yet very little trace of their story. Not just the story of the attack though because that makes it about the perpetrator, the story of survival, how they picked themselves up and put themselves together again, how they rebuilt their lives- or if they were able to at all. I can’t speak on behalf of those women, but what I can do is share my own story. To refuse to remain silent and complacent to his violence, the very act was an act of power, control, domination and humiliation and by staying silent I remain under his power and letting his horrific actions silence me.
To Quote my Favourite Queen Bianca Del Rio: Not today Satan, not today.
So here it is, this is me and what I did to help me survive post sexual assault.
Remeber You Are Not A Marked Woman.
No lie the first few days, post assault, I was fully convinced everyone could tell what had happened to me. Somehow I looked different- I had to right? I mean I felt every sting of my trauma, it surely had to register on my face, or people would just *know* that something had happened and of course they were going to ask heaps of questions. They don’t and they won’t unless you tell them. They may ask why you look paranoid AF though- if you don’t want to talk about it- tell them it’s a break up, you’re not feeling well, anything you like. Once people have an explanation, they’ll pretty much leave you alone.
Talking about it.
This one is not nearly as simple as it sounds. Why? Because to tell people what happened to you- you need to be able to use the words. I was incapable of using the words. The words made it real- that this had actually happened to me. The first couple of times I told my story- I found it hard to breathe, I trembled like a leaf and I wanted to cry. I used alternate phrases so I wouldn’t have to say the actual words. The more I said it and the more I told people the easier it became to say. those words. Don’t get me wrong it doesn’t take the feelings away but the more I say the words- Rape and Sexual Assault- the less power they have over me.
Sleep is important but may not come easy.
Since my assault I have found it very difficult to sleep. I keep imagining him out of the corner of my eye. Every bang of a door or creak in the house immediately led my mind to thinking he was in the house. That he was standing over me and he was going to hurt me again. The only way for me to relax about it was to start playing spotify sleep play lists. If you haven’t heard them they’re wonderful depending on what you’re into you have a selection of sleep songs. There’s standard lullaby, ocean sounds,rain sounds, bird calls, whale noises, instrumentals and even white noise. All sounds to drown out the silence, the tiny noises, the monologue in my brain and prevented me from having panic attacks in the night.
Its not your fault!
This might sound like a given- but its pretty easy to fall into the pattern of blaming yourself for what has happened.
Particularly when people ask questions like:
Are you sure he knew what he was doing?
Does he understand what happened?
Why don’t you speak to him about it?
Were you drinking much?
Why didn’t you fight him off?
Why didn’t you scream?
Why didn’t you ring for help?
If it was me I would have…..
Note there is no question of him or his actions but there is concern that he may have “Accidentally” raped me because he didn’t know what was going on. To be clear- the communication of No and Stop it were repeated until I was incapable of it. I’m sure people mean well, I’m sure they are trying their very best to comprehend the situation and what has happened. But do me a favour- THINK before you fucking SPEAK. Luckily this did not happen to you and even if it did you cannot tell how you would react. There is no blueprint of what to do and how to do it. My brain when into survival mode, I thought I was going to die that night and the actions I took were to keep myself alive until morning. Sure you might have done it differently but that’s a bit irrelevant and not helpful in the slightest- particularly if I am telling you about this horrendous thing that happened. I did nothing to provoke it, it’s not my fault, please stop asking questions that suggest that I had something to do with this!
Physical Exertion is Healing.
I was attacked on a Friday earlier this year and on the Monday I returned to the gym. I was still panicked and shaky and unsure of myself. I had been broken down to a point where I felt less than nothing and completely useless.
I had intended on lifting weights but I got a call from the Rape Crisis Centre to say they could see me the following day. It all got a bit real again and I went outside, got sick and came back in. I’m particularly lucky because I have a brilliant support network in the gym and even though I hadn’t told a lot of people about what had happened to me I could rely on my workout partners to bring some normality back to my life. Ollie- our lovely instructer and master of pain, wrote a Hiit workout up on the board. It was as many rounds as possible of pulling, pushing, running, slamming, bike, rowing – all of the hardcore stuff that would usually lead me to question just what I did to make Ollie hate me so much.
Not that day- that day I went from wibbly wobbly wonder to wonder woman in one round. Dragging a weighted sled down the track I cursed and swore a blue streak, calling that man (not ollie) all of the names I knew. When I was slamming med balls I slapped them as hard as I physically could off the ground and picked them up as fast. My temper and my internal monologue of “Fuck you- I’m not a victim” kept me going. I felt alive again. It was the fastest reminder that I ever got that I’m not powerless, I’m not a victim, I’m a badass warrior bitch and I’m not gonna let anyone fuck with me! These thoughts are powerful to have and even more important to hold because the waves of feeling useless and abused are frequent. Whether he knew it or not Ollie and his board of pain helped save me and reshape how I felt about myself.
Your brain is a funny thing.
I expected that I was going to cry, that I would never stop crying. I cry at everything, ads, films, puppies- you name it I’ll bawl. I didn’t cry after my assault. I kept waiting for it to happen. I imagined I’d be getting a coffee and suddenly it would hit me and I would crumple on the floor and never again get up. The Q in Costa would just have to move around me and wet floor signs put near my face as my tears flooded the floor. It never came. I brought this to the counsellor in the Rape Crisis Centre and she assured me that whatever reaction I had was a normal reaction for me. I explained how I would “usually” react to things and she reminded me that I hadn’t experienced anything like this before so my brain wasn’t programmed for a “usual” reaction. Which was reassuring to hear. She did mention that this emotional break may come at some point but that there is nothing I could do to stop it- just feel the feelings and go with it.
Another thing I never expected was that I would continue to smell him long after the attack was over. I would be in my house relaxing and suddenly my nose would be filled with the smell of him- stale sweat, cigarettes and booze. It made my stomach churn and I wanted to be sick everywhere. Any time the smell filled my head I’d feel like I needed to vomit immediately and even if I couldn’t be sick I’d be left with that sick feeling. A very dear friend of mine, who had experienced sexual trauma of her own recommended vicks under my nose or an alternative smell to distract me from the smell that my brain had created.
All my Fucks have flown the nest.
There’s nothing quite like major trauma to put shit in perspective. Petty nonsense becomes irrelevant and the people and situations that do not add to your growth and positivity are easily thrown in the bin. I have real shit to be concerned about. I went through something pretty horrendous and I survived- I have nothing to fear!
And now? Well now I’m taking every day as it comes. I’m still in counselling and receiving the emotional support from those around me. Even though I haven’t spoken to everyone directly about it- their presence in my life and by being themselves they have helped the healing process in ways they’ll never know. Every day is new and different and every day I’m learning new ways to be and to recover. I may not be doing it the “right” way or behaving in a way that makes people comfortable but too bad- I have no fucks left to give, I’m too busy being a bad ass warrior bitch x