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The Blog Post That Changed Me

by Esther 7 months ago in activism · updated 6 months ago
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I am not a sexual assault Survivor. I'm Esther

When I originally wrote this in my blog. It wasn't to vilify him. I didn't mention his name. I wrote it because I had to get it out of me. Writing is how I find peace. I needed to share with those who know and love me the experience that changed my life, that changed me.

The Original Post

This is a story I never thought I'd write. In part because I didn't know if I'd ever have the strength. Mainly because I thought I had put it behind me, that I'd dealt with it. I came to see that all I'd successfully done was hide from it. It's a moment in time that happened over ten years ago. Until last year, I didn't realise its impact on every part of my life since the night it happened. I'd spoken about my sexual assaults before, never in detail, just in passing. This is the one that hurt, that nearly broke me. The one was a constant shadow in my life. At the time, I never told a soul. I "dealt" with it on my own. I put up a wall, hid both my feelings and what happened from everyone.

It all started as a regular night out after work in London. We'd all gone for a few drinks, ended up in a bar in Balham, which is where I lived at the time. It was getting late. The last tube had gone for the night, and it was night bus time, which no one enjoyed. We were the last two, and my friend asked if he could stay because he didn't want to get the night bus. I said sure. It was a twenty-minute walk to mine. I felt safer with him walking me home. It worked for both of us. We got back to my house. I said he could sleep on the sofa; I'd find him a blanket. He said, "Can't I just sleep in your bed? it will be more comfortable." I said, "fine, just don't snore." We had known each other for maybe a year. We'd once had a drunken kiss when we first met but decided we were better as friends. I added that because I wanted you to know that I felt safe with him. I've always had really good male friends, and I have shared beds with them. This was no different from any other time, at least not at that point. I know that this is where the judgement will start. It's where I've judged myself since it happened.

I went to the bathroom and put my pyjamas on. For those curious, they were long flannel pyjama bottoms, incredibly boring, and not in the least sexy. I came back to the room, and he was already in bed. We may or may not have spoken for a while. It's all a bit hazy. I remember saying good night. I turned off the light, lay on my front and went to sleep. When I have had a wine or two, I fall into a deep sleep. However, not this night. I was woken up; my body was aroused, and there was something inside me that I hadn't consented to. I was still on my front; I lifted my head off the pillow, and I remember saying, "what are you doing?" I cannot remember what he said if he said anything. He removed his fingers, and I pulled up my underwear and pyjama bottoms and said: "just go back to sleep." I put my head back on the pillow and went back to sleep. It didn't seem real. In the morning, I woke up, and he was still there, that's when I realised it wasn't a dream. I had been sexually assaulted by someone I classed as a friend. I asked him to leave. I don't remember if anything was said or not.

I was in shock. A few hours later, I hadn't moved. I couldn't get my head around what had happened. I couldn't make it make sense. As far as I was concerned, it was my fault. I'd asked for it somehow. I'd led him on. I must have said something that gave him the wrong impression. I had to know. I texted him, and I asked him why he did it. I don't remember it word for word, but it was along the lines of "I thought it was what you wanted." I do remember saying to him, "I was asleep. Why would you think I wanted that to happen." I can't remember his response. I know there was an apology somewhere in there. The rest of that day is covered in this haze. It's as if my mind is keeping it all from me to protect me from the reality of what happened.

By Andrew Neel on Unsplash

I never went to the police. I knew it would be a case of my word vs his. In the world we live in, victims of sexual assault are the villains. They are the ones that have to carry the burden of proof. Their characters are attacked. I already knew what would be said. She'd been drinking. She's not exactly a virgin. She probably changed her mind halfway through. She let him sleep in her bed. What was he meant to think? She went back to sleep straight after. She probably just woke up in the morning and felt bad, and now she wants to cry sexual assault and so on and so forth. I would have been dragged through the mud, and it wouldn't have taken away the shame I felt through my entire being. It was as if my own body betrayed me that night by becoming aroused. It wouldn't have stopped all the negative self-talk, all the blame. It would have just made me a statistic.

I will always remember walking into work on the Monday following and seeing him. Time stopped, my feet felt weighed down with lead, I couldn't move as my stomach dropped, and I forgot how to breathe. It happened in a split second, but it felt like I would never be able to move again, that his would be the last face I looked at. Finally, he broke eye contact, and it was as if I was released from that trap. I put one foot in front of the other, and I carried on with my life. We stopped talking for a few months. But, we were such good friends people started to notice that we weren't talking as much. Rather than tell them what happened and admit my shame, we slowly started talking again, becoming friends. It was easier to see him as a friend than to see him as my assaulter. It was easier to pretend it never happened. It meant I could stop blaming myself. It gave me some sense of control.

All that really did was give him an out. I made what he did OK. I completely abandoned myself and became unworthy by letting him back into my life. I didn't love myself enough to fight for myself to stand up for what was right. What he did was not OK. I didn't ask for it. I didn't lead him on. I was asleep. You cannot consent when you are asleep.

As a culture, we need to stop blaming the victim for the actions of the attacker. What someone wears or says, who they have or haven't slept with before, is irrelevant. The fact of the matter is everyone has a choice. I speak from the female perspective, but it goes for everyone. If it is not an explicit yes, assume it's a no. Don't take what you want because you can.

I have nieces and baby cousins. I want them to be able to wear whatever they want, to walk wherever they want, without having to think will this give someone the wrong impression. All the onus shouldn't be on the females. Men have to start taking responsibility for their own actions and behaviours. They have to start calling other men out on that behaviour. It's the only way it's going to change.

Ever since the day I chose to put one foot in front of the other and pretend it didn't happen, I abandoned myself. I stopped thinking about my emotional needs. I stopped letting anyone in. I kept people at a safe distance. That way, they wouldn't be able to hurt me. If it ever came up, which it has done, I would say I'm fine. I've put it behind me. I have been lying to myself and everyone else for a decade. It was behind me, but not in a healthy way. It was behind me, slowly but surely weighing me down. Dragging me away from everyone that loved me. Deep down, I didn't think I was worthy of being loved; I didn't think I deserved to be loved. But, I could put on a happy smile and enjoy life. The last ten years have not been miserable. I've had some amazing times and adventures, but I have let the shame from that one moment play too significant a part in my life without even realising it. It's time for me to let that go. By telling my story, it can't keep shaming me.

Over the years, I have thought that I would do things differently if it happened now, and I would. That's because I'm different. This year, I have been able to take the time and reflect on my life and my choices. I've been able to go to some dark places and feel the pain for the first time. It has not been an easy journey. I am so far from the girl that was assaulted, the girl in the image I've chosen for this post. At the time, I was in an emotionally vulnerable state, still reeling from heartbreak, not that anybody in London knew. You have to love a good mask, or as my therapist states, my ability to dissociate from my feelings. It's not the superpower I want, but it's what kept me safe for a long time. His actions reinforced the belief that only those people who knew me, who I trusted, would be the ones to hurt me, so it was safer not to let anyone in, then I couldn't be hurt. That unconscious choice has held me back.

The 28-year-old version of me did all she could do in the circumstances to keep herself safe, and she was not to blame for what happened. I am not ashamed of my past or the choices I have made. No one will ever be able to judge me as harshly I have judged myself for the past decade. I will not let his actions or my reactions at the time define me any longer. Yes, I was a victim of sexual assault. What I am now is a survivor of sexual assault. I am also a friend, a daughter, a sister, a niece, a cousin, an aunt, a writer, a snowboarder, a surfer. I am so many things. I am stronger than I ever thought possible, and I am ready to open my heart to those around me. To be more specific, to those who deserve it.

I knew that I could start to heal the pain if I could come out from under the shame by writing this post. In the past year, a lot has happened. I was overwhelmed with the support that I received from friends & family, even strangers who stumbled upon my blog. Something changed inside me.

I knew that I could start to heal the pain if I could come out from under the shame

Life After The Post

I found a strength I didn't know existed. He read my blog. A mutual friend showed it to him. He admitted it. He also said that he'd apologised the next day and thought it was all fine. I have to be honest and accept my part of that. As mentioned above, I went back to being friends with him. Essentially telling him it was OK. Only thing. It wasn't. I saw red when I heard what he'd said. He didn't scratch my car. He entered my body without my consent. Whatever happened after, he should have known that was not OK.

All of a sudden, telling my story was not enough. I had to do more. I had to stand up for myself. I had to go to the police and show myself that I was worthy. It was the hardest thing I have ever had to do. But, It is also the bravest and most rewarding in terms of my own healing. It is now in the hands of the police. They will do whatever they have to. They get to fight for me now. I get to move on with my life. When they contact me, I will go back there. I will enjoy each day and live my life to its fullest potential until then. The light that he dimmed is now back in my control and shining brightly.

For so long, I lived as a victim. On the night I was assaulted I was a victim. Every day after that I was a survivor, I just didn't realise it. After sharing my story, and healing from the pain I have come to understand that I am not a victim, nor a survivor. I am Esther.

39 year old me, who has realised just how strong she is.

activism

About the author

Esther

I have a love of writing that started with writing blog posts, which you can find here, https://honestlyesther.com/

I have just completed the first draft of my debut novel.

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