Trigger & content warning // sexual violence & rape.
I wasn’t planning on writing about my personal experience of sexual assault - specifically my recovery process - for a while because it felt a little bit intimidating.
However, a fellow volunteer at GINA had an idea to collaborate on a series of blog posts around some of the themes discussed in the BBC docuseries, I May Destroy You (IMDY). So, in this sister post, I will be covering similar themes of finding closure and my experience of the justice system. I’m being as open and raw as possible about my journey in the hope that the honesty about the ugliness of recovery might help someone else feel less alone in exploring their feelings.
I remember the feeling of being a rag doll. Of watching the slit of light coming in from the window waiting for it all to end. He left in a hurry and I was left feeling small and dirty. It was like watching my life through someone else’s eyes, feeling completely detached whilst at the same time like something had been taken from me. I thought I would never recover and would never be the same again. There was an initial numbness. There was an overwhelming feeling of “What the f*** has just happened?” as I texted my best friend upstairs, “Can I call you?” and waited for her to come downstairs to check on me.
When she got to the door, I was crying so much that she had to hold me up so I didn’t collapse on the floor. She, and another friend of mine, held me for two hours trying to explain to me that it wasn’t my fault. I remember the fear because I felt so small and fragile, feeling like I couldn’t even walk to the shops down the road. I had nightmares when my friends finally lulled me to sleep. I remember waking up early on Saturday morning in such a state of shock that I cancelled my FaceTime with a friend from home because I was so embarrassed; I didn’t think she would want to talk to me ever again. We did, of course. She never blamed me once and has been there for me ever since. I went for a walk thinking it would clear my head and then I would know what to do. It’s funny how wrong I was there. I’ve been muddling through life ever since.
The days after that were a blur. I think I was in shock and didn’t realise the gravity of what had happened. But the panic attacks were there as I tried desperately to carry on as if nothing had happened. I told myself I wouldn’t change and that I would be fine. But something had happened, and I really wasn’t fine. A couple days later, with the encouragement from some friends, I managed to call an adult from home who I trusted. With his encouragement and the help of my counsellor, who I had already been seeing, I built myself up to call my parents. This was terrifying. I had no idea how they would react. They didn't even know I was having casual sex. Why would they? Like most people I don’t tend to share that part of my life with my parents. I ended up crying down the phone to my mum, trying to get the words, “Mom I think I’ve been raped” out of my mouth and the first thing she said was, “Do you want to come home?”.
I went home for a week to escape reality because at this point making dinner for myself was difficult and getting the energy to put clothes on each day was a huge achievement. I spent this week going on long walks and having long conversations with my parents. My mom cooked my food and I slept for hours. I realise how lucky I am that I could share this with my parents and have their full support throughout the process. I started missing university and my friends and went back thinking I would now be fine. I’m not the sort of person who has ever been very good at self-care and being patient with myself. So, I thought taking a week off at home from university was already more than enough.
I told my counsellor I felt so much better and that I think I was over it. He wisely told me “I think processing the trauma might come in waves”. He was right.
And the months that have followed have been difficult to say the least.
This article was intended as part of a series of blog posts in collaboration with our GINA volunteers on the themes of the BBC docuseries ‘I May Destroy You’ around survivorship and sexual assault, and whether these themes can be seen in our realities.