Hello & a massive welcome to the GINA blog!
First off, I want to say thank you so much for giving me a chance and coming here to read this. I’m not going to pretend that I have all the answers or that I know your story, where you are from or exactly what you are going (or have gone) through, because the truth is I don’t, and everyone’s experience is different. But I am so proud of you already. If you’re on here, you’re likely to be a survivor of some form of assault, and survival in itself is something to be proud of. When I started looking for blogs or some form of help or advice after my own experiences, it was a massive step. So, I’m proud of you!
As means of a quick introduction, I am a student studying Politics and Spanish. When I am not studying, I love playing sports and spending time with friends, and in normal times I love to travel too.
I grew up with three brothers and was lucky that as a young girl I never felt like I was any less because I was a girl, or that I couldn’t achieve anything my brothers couldn’t. But slowly, as I grew up, I started to notice that things were different because I was a girl. For example, I played sports competitively and we would go on runs as part of our training. The girls would come back and most of the time at least one of us would have been cat called but the boys’ team would never have these issues. Cat calling was so normalised that it seemed to me almost a “rite of passage” as a girl. It was at university when the differences between men and women were really highlighted to me.
In the past, most of my problems had straightforward answers. I was really lucky for that. Most of all, I could talk to my friends, especially my older female friends who would offer me advice. Some bits of advice were definitely more useful than others but all the same, they could relate. But then this year, I had experiences of sexual assault that made me feel very alone and isolated. Despite my friends always being there, there was no one to tell me that everything was going to be okay. I felt like I had been robbed of something and had never felt so weak and small. Right then, everything was definitely not okay. This is what I want to tell you. Everything will be okay. It might not seem like it right now, but it will be in time, I promise.
The other thing that I struggled with was that no one spoke about the day-to-day aftermath of being sexually assaulted, and I think that contributed to my isolation. In desperation, I even went as far as YouTube-ing Lady Gaga’s speech where she spoke about her own experiences of sexual assault in the music industry to try and find someone that would tell me that everything will be okay, that it's normal and okay to have panic attacks. It’s okay to not feel safe in your own bedroom. It’s okay to be scared to walk into a room full of men. But no one spoke about that. In my experience, celebrities tend to talk ten years later when it isn't as raw (which is of course understandable). And the friends I knew who experienced something similar to me and I felt comfortable talking to, had a very different way of dealing with it - which by the way is 100% fine. So, in this blog, I’ll try my best to be as open with you as possible and talk about the day-to-day effects of being sexually assaulted in the hope of making others feel less lonely.
I also want to talk about the wider issues of sexism in society and in the everyday lives of young women. It has been normalised for too long; that girls in school uniforms get cat called, our skirts need to be longer, working out in a sports bra is provocative, walking home at night is dangerous and having too much casual sex makes you a “slut” but it’s okay for men to have casual sex. The list goes on... Finally, I want to celebrate women and, if I can, find and talk to inspiring women to see how they cope with everyday sexism in the 21st century.
Lastly, I want to remind you of how far you've come. You survived. You’re still here today which might seem like the bare minimum but in itself is an achievement. The thing is, when our body experiences assault it goes into a fight, flight or freeze response because your brain actually thinks it’s about to die, so it goes into survival mode. Despite all of that, you’re still here, whilst also coping with the more everyday sexism of our society. On top of that, and without knowing your story, I am sure life has continued for you after these experiences, despite having to deal with all the difficult thoughts, feelings and emotions that pop up randomly throughout the day. In other words, and it might sound cheesy or like a pep talk, you are so much stronger than you even realise. And that is something to celebrate.
That’s all for today but I just want to say again that you are not alone even if it feels like that and things will be okay.
Lots of love and hugs,
Your GINA sister xxx