tESS’ sTORY: tRYING TO ACCEPT MYSELF

tESS’ sTORY: tRYING TO ACCEPT MYSELF

Paralyzed with fear, I lay on a mattress in an unfamiliar bedroom, yet my mind could not stop whirring. I was completely overwhelmed physically and emotionally by my situation.

Moments earlier, I had pushed back and tried to pull my arms free from beneath this man I did not know, I had screamed and yelped louder than I ever imagined was possible. However, my 5 foot 10 frame was not strong enough to fight off a 6 foot 3 grown man and the music at the house party was far louder than I could ever have hoped of screaming.

Once I felt I had failed at my one task – to escape – my body seemingly reconciled itself to my predicament, much to my mind’s dismay. I allowed my body to tense, my jaw to lock and my eyes to close; I made it as difficult as possible for this monster to violate my body. But my mind was not on board with this situation; it urged my hands to push once more against his chest and wanted my knees to jerk upwards so as to take him by surprise. At this moment, my mind failed me. It could not make my body do anything. Instead, fear engulfed me.

This is my story. I have never told it before.

Thankfully for me, a new friend had decided that my absence was bizarre and came searching for me. She found me in my unclothed, paralyzed state and pulled me to ‘safety’ in a muddled manner. No questions asked we just left the party.

The next day I reflected on that night and saw it as a personal failure. My quick mind and self-awareness are two traits I had long admired about myself, yet in this instance I believed that both failed me. I had let myself down. Additionally, I had not been raped and thus, saw my experience as less important and painful than women who had. In all honesty, I did not believe I had been sexually assaulted, I believed I had gotten myself into this situation and I was deeply ashamed.

I was in my first few weeks of university, I so badly wanted to fit in and be accepted.

This shame consumed me over the next four years. It was slow to take hold, as I never spoke about that night with anyone. I fixated on what I had not done, instead of recognising what this man had done. My failure to escape was a reflection of my weakness, so I sought to ensure that I would never be that weak again. My academics became deeply personal, as I aimed to strengthen my mind and prove to myself that I was a capable individual. My extra-curricular involvements kept me busy, allowing me to forget about my weaknesses and revel in the fact that people needed me and wanted my opinion. My academic and professional life soared over the next few years, as I kept striving to achieve new goals. I truly fell in love with my involvements and as time progressed, I was driven forward by a simple desire to improve rather than to prove myself.

While I kept myself busy academically and professionally, my personal life and emotional well being suffered, as I failed to accept my experience with sexual assault. I was a loud supporter of every woman that spoke up and out regarding her experiences with sexual assault and harassment. I marvelled at their bravery and adamantly said that it was important we create a space where women could speak out. I consistently said that it is never a woman’s fault. Yet, I could not see that I too should speak up. In my mind, my experience was less than every other woman because it was my fault, the very opposite of what I publicly stated. I had been drinking, I was wearing short shorts and I was ready for a fun night. Somehow, my mind kept equating this to ‘I was asking for it’ even though I vehemently disagreed with this observation. My utter confusion over how I felt simply deepened my sense of shame, as I felt my so-called quick mind was failing me once more. This cycle of shame ensured I did not speak of this night with anyone and instead I blamed alcohol.

My shame made it difficult for me to connect closely with anyone, as I always felt I was being dishonest. While I began to forget this night when striving towards professional and academic goals, it became all-consuming as I sought out relationships, both romantic and platonic. I considered my inability to have a romantic relationship a sign of weakness and swore off romance until I could accept myself.

In retrospect, self-acceptance for me is reliant on sharing my story and discussing my sense of shame and self-loathing that one single night established. For too long, I have allowed my mind, which I value so deeply, to control my voice and one man to unknowingly shape my relationships.

I continue to marvel at the women that speak out, I hold you in higher regard than you will ever know. Yet, I wanted to share how hard I have found it. I have battled with my mind to create perspective on the situation, the man involved and myself. I have not accepted what happened yet but I like to believe I am actively taking steps forward. Someone recently turned to me to say, a problem shared is a problem halved. And while this is my problem I must overcome, it is only possible with support. No one knew to support me because I never asked for help and that is the most important step I have to overcome.

I have battled fear, shame and self-loathing for four years now and wanted to share this story for three reasons. Firstly, you are not alone; someone is always ready to listen. Secondly, never compare your situation to anyone else; no one should ever belittle how you feel. Finally, always remember everyone is fighting something you don’t know. Be kind with your time and your heart.

Finally, I feel able to say #metoo

Author

WYR

WYR

When You're Ready.org is a community for survivors of sexual violence to share their stories.

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