We need to talk about sexual assault
Last year, I tweeted that I’d started writing a play about sexual assault. I asked for volunteers to come forward and speak to me about their experience(s). Then, I realised that I was putting too much pressure on them. I hadn’t openly discussed my experiences in the slightest, so how could I expect perfect strangers to open up to me about such a sensitive subject? I want to rectify that in this post. I’m sharing what I feel I’m ready to, not just because I want a reply, but because I feel like we need to talk about our experiences more. I have a feeling that the majority of the people I know, especially the women I know, have experienced sexual assault in some form. Why do we never talk about it? I so desperately want to, not because it’s pleasant, but because I feel like I’ll explode if I don’t. I want to get these things off my chest without feeling like my heart is about to explode and I have a feeling that plenty of others feel the same way. I want to at least try to start a process where we’re more open and accepting of each other and our experiences.
This time, instead of asking strangers to open up about a subject that is so sensitive without any insight into my own story, I’m putting myself out there first. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t easy for me and there are things I’m not ready to share just yet, but it’s a start.
I want to put forward as many truths as possible, not just mine, so I plan to write. But, I need your help first. I’ve set up a questionnaire and I plan to use your answers as a guide of sorts. What I will write is yet to be decided. It might be a collection of essays, a play, a collection of short stories, a novel, but it most certainly will challenge the way the media represents both sexual assault scenarios and survivors. It’ll be an attempt to counteract the stereotyping, the myths, stigma and shame surrounding rape and sexual assault.
Click here for the questionnaire if you want to get involved and share your experience. It’s completely anonymous (unless you don’t want to be) and no question is compulsory — skip or answer as many as you want.
Note: the rest of this post may be a trigger, so please only carry on reading if you feel ready.
I’ll go first:
In senior school, boys thought it was okay to comment vulgarly about my body, even grab my arse or my boobs and smile smugly. Their friends cheered as if it was some kind of great accomplishment. Everybody would laugh, me included. It was attention and any kind of attention was good, wasn’t it? It meant they ‘liked’ me, right? They’d think I was frigid if I didn’t laugh along with them.
At 13, a 15 year old boy I liked thought it was okay to pressure me into giving him a blow-job, because he so desperately wanted one. He wouldn’t take no for an answer. He didn’t use any physical force, so I didn’t understand why I felt so dirty, used and ashamed afterwards and he never understood why I ignored his phonecalls from then on (his angry voicemails proved that). Even now, it’s a little hard to admit I did that at such a young age. Even though I know rationally that I didn’t want to, but felt so pressured that I didn’t think I had a choice. It should be him feeling ashamed. I doubt he even remembers, but I’ll never forget it.
At 14, I was walking home from school alone and a boy walking behind me started catcalling me. He caught up with me, sprayed a shaken can of Dr. Pepper in my face and grabbed my boob while I was distracted. I managed to grab the can and throw it at him. From there, it ended up in a full-blown fist-fight. I had a bloody, swollen lip and didn’t go to school for a week. I was terrified. I told people about the fight but not about him grabbing me.
At 16, my boyfriend made me feel guilty about wanting to stop having sex because I had to get home: ‘You can’t leave me like this; you can’t do this to me’. It was my first time. Although this isn’t a sexual assault story, it’s this kind of pressure that makes people feel like they have no other choice. It reinforces the feeling that you can’t stop having sex once it has started and that’s how I felt. I apologised, promised it’d never happen again and I walked home alone.
At 17, I was waiting at a bus stop when I saw a boy I had known at school. His friend started lifting my scarf up, asking what was under it and attempting to grab me. After I knocked his hand away at least 5 times, I told him to get off me and he became aggressive. He grabbed me by the scarf. His face was so close to mine that our noses were squashed together and his lips lingered on mine. I will never forget the smell of his alcohol-scented breath. The boy I knew from school made the excuse that his friend was ‘off his face’ and simply said good bye as he dragged his friend away. I was left terrified and alone at the bus stop. I was shaking violently and trying not to cry. I just got on the bus when it arrived and went home. I don’t think I ever told anyone about it.
At 18, my boyfriend would consistently wake me up with his hand down my pants. He was my boyfriend, though, so it was okay, right?
At 20, I was in a bar when a man I didn’t know thought it was okay to ‘grab me by the pussy’ from behind. It made me feel sick and completely out of control of my own body. The bouncers refused to do a thing about it when I told them, so I confronted him myself. He and his friends just laughed at me, smugly, just like the boys at school, but it was somehow more sinister and serious now. I didn’t want them to like me. I wanted them as far away from me as possible. I’ve been grabbed every time I’ve been in that same bar (by different people), so I refuse to go there now.
The list goes on — I’d be here forever if I listed everything I’ve ever experienced. Plus, these are the only instances that I feel semi-comfortable sharing in a public domain with no anonymity. This is my first public attempt to open up and start a conversation. I’d be more than happy to discuss these via direct message, so please get in touch through Twitter if you’d rather share with me that way or just want to chat in general. My Twitter handle is @roxalox88.
I guess what I’m trying to say is I know what it’s like and that’s why I’ve made the questionnaire completely anonymous, because we’re all at different stages of healing and I would never want to pressure anyone into doing something they’re not 100% comfortable with.
If you’re willing and comfortable, the questionnaire is here. Remember, you can answer as many or as few questions as you want — the form will submit with empty answer boxes. You can provide as much detail or be as vague as you want. There is no judgement here and there is definitely no pressure.