I died, in the early morning of December 29th 2018. Evidently not in the literal sense of the word, but that is the day I unknowingly began to say goodbye to the person that I knew I was and the person that I thought I was going to become. It has been two years since everything changed and I do not exaggerate when I say everything. From my outside reality to everything going on within me, nothing was spared. All that I believed in up until that moment, the people I chose to keep around me, my daily activities e.t.c. all of it changed. I wasn’t spared either, every dream, goal or vision I had for my future seemed impossible to reach and my confidence went from 1000 to -10 in a second. When I look back, I can see that I was simultaneously going through a variety of things, more than my mind and body could handle. I was traumatised and in turn the trauma forcefully changed every single thing about me without my active participation. Do you know how confusing it is to come to and not recognise a single thing about your own life?
I was not prepared for the ripple effect that one action would have throughout my entire life and the truth is nothing could have prepared me for what was ahead. Even though I managed to fight him off before he could get any further, the damage had been done. Two years later, I have still not fully recovered from the trauma of being sexually assaulted.
A month after my assault, when the reality of what happened began dawning on me, I could feel myself dissociating from my reality. To those around me, I seemed okay but the truth is my internal world was crumbling and there was nothing I could do to stop it. I was slowly becoming a mere shell of myself and it scared me but I had no idea how to express my feelings to anyone. I was facing a number of changes, which following Dr. Kolk, might have been my body’s way of protecting me. Every end of the month, around the same date as the incident I was unable to get out of bed, and when I did, it felt as though I was pulling a truck. I was always a heavy sleeper, but I somehow developed insomnia. I’d struggle to sleep despite being tired and when I eventually did it would only last a few hours. The scariest of all was what my then counsellor described as panic attacks; You go about your day as normal but somehow at any given point your body senses imminent danger and goes into defence mode. I will never forget the sudden moment while in town that my breathing became rapid, my hands felt icy cold, tears were filling my eyes and I wanted to run away but I had no idea what from. My attempt at continuing to live my life while simultaneously dealing with all these changes exhausted me, and I eventually gave up and surrendered to the trauma.
These are just but some of the things a victim of sexual violence may go through. The act strips away the victim’s autonomy and makes them feel unsafe in their own bodies. Have you ever felt the need to run away from yourself, wishing you could step out of the body you have and slip into another, a more secure one? The realisation of how impractical this need is forces you to consciously or unconsciously, turn to anything that makes you feel alive even if for a few moments. You will do almost anything to try get some of your power back.
Personally, this experience had me questioning everything I had ever been taught, especially about sex and sexuality. I began identifying how society tip toes around this subject and when an incident occurs we are quick to blame the victim. On the other hand, although people may acknowledge that what happened was wrong, they choose to remain silent out of fear or losing out on business or friendships. This manifests itself in different forms, from relatives who remain silent as their age mates prey on their daughters or nieces, sons and nephews to those women who despite knowing better opt to victim blame or stay silent because it benefits them.
It doesn’t at all make sense that the society we live in actively chooses to protect sexual abusers and rapists and that majority of them hold the highest positions of power. It is unfortunate that we have loosely worded laws that are easily twisted to favour the perpetrators. When we defend these ills of society, what does this mean for the victims? Isn’t it time to question how most of the advice we are given on this topic lays the foundation for victim blaming and shaming?
“ Cover yourself”, ” You shouldn’t be dressing like that around men”, ” You shouldn’t be drinking alcohol” ” Your skirt must be below your knees”
Despite following the advice, it still happened to me and some of those who knew still found a way to blame me for what happened. I don’t completely hold them at fault because I too found myself making excuses for my perpetrator’s act. I am grateful for a friendship that was quick to pull me out of this bubble and make me see my perpetrator’s act for what it really was. It was interesting to see another means by which victim blaming manifests itself. The minute the police became involved, the conversations quickly switched from ‘You shouldn’t have…’ to ‘He was drunk and didn’t know what he was doing’.
Talking about my experience has in some way helped me heal as, I have been able to accept that it happened and actively release it. But talking about it is not enough especially when you are forced to see your perpetrator living as though nothing ever happened. There are moments I find myself relapsing into the habits I developed during that time, and its only after allowing myself to go through those emotions and reflecting that I understand that I have not fully recovered. Ever since then the last few days of the year have been extremely hard, because my body reminds me of the trauma I faced in whatever way it sees fit at the time.
This is my story, my reality and I am fortunate enough to be aware of what happened to me. What scares me is the number of people who are victims but do not know it because of the silence surrounding this topic. I believe it’s time to take some form of action as we can no longer afford to be silent on an issue that is actively eating away at society. Idhini KE is the first youth-led initiative attempting to confidently bring these conversations to the table.
Idhini KE is an all inclusive platform actively seeking to change the beliefs surrounding sexual violence by educating their audience on sexual consent. You can find them on instagram, twitter and facebook @idhini_ke if you’d like to share your story, learn from and engage with them.
You’re not a victim for sharing your story. You are a survivor setting the world on fire with your truth. And you never know who needs your light, your warmth and raging courage.Alex Elle.