Years ago, in the office of a counsellor I disclosed about being sexually assaulted. Opening up to the woman on the other side of the room involved more than one instance of sexual assault.
My story with the counsellor started with an event that my friends all told me was not rape, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that it was. This was not my first experience with sexual violence, I was assaulted by a man who wanted to teach me to protect myself when I was a five-year-old girl, he was my babysitter. I was attacked again as a nine-year-old this time by the man across the road who was the caretaker of a hotel and allowed my siblings and I to use the pool. That was where he assaulted me, and it was the last time I swam there.
But the assault that I opened up about to my counsellor was one my friends told me was not what I suggested it was; rape. I had been in a relationship with someone who was having an affair and was not being secretive about the other woman. Once it was apparent the relationship was over my friends invited me out and I drank too much that night. In my drunken state I expressed an interest in one of my girlfriend’s mates, he overheard me and began showing enthusiasm in me that evening. I had met this man a few times, he had frequented our outings on many occasions, and he seemed like a really nice guy.
I do not remember the ending of that evening, being too drunk to have a cohesive memory of the night. But the following morning I woke up in my bed with him beside me. We were both naked and when I asked what had happened, he seemed perplexed that I did not recall the sexual interactions we had merely a few hours beforehand. He explained that he had carried me inside from his car having driven me home, he undressed my unconscious body and, in his words, “You had said you wanted to have sex, so we did.” While I was in a drunken, unconscious state.
I was shocked with his blatant explanation of how he had just helped himself to my body and felt utterly ashamed that I had been taken advantage of so completely. But the man lying in the bed beside me was oblivious to my horror. It was not until much later on, after I had dressed, and he had left that I spent some time coming to terms with what had happened. I could not move past his explanation that I had said I wanted to have sex with him, and so he just did. Not a single one of the friends in my group accepted my suggestion that it was rape, they tried telling me I was just having second thoughts and not happy that I had given it up. They told me I was making shit up. They were angry that I would even suggest this man would do such a thing to anyone, he was a nice guy.
It took barely a few days before the group had completely shunned me, I would walk into the lounge room of the home I lived in and the conversation would stop. I received pointed, sideways glances and endured odd silences. The moment I left the room the whispering and giggling would start again. He never returned to the home while I was there, but it was obvious that I was no longer welcomed to continue living in the home, so I left. I ended up leaving town entirely, and after a short stint working on a mango farm where the owner also attempted to sexually assault me, I went further out of town. I ended up ‘on country’ to be closer to my Aboriginal culture, which aided somewhat in healing the wounds I had established as a result of that night. But those wounds have become a scar I am forced to carry.
This was not my last experience with sexual assault, I currently have a case waiting to go to court but this time I was believed. Not merely by those around me but likewise by the Police when I went to report the assault. Last time I was re-victimised by having to justify being drunk and encountering a sexual predator who took what he wanted from me. The last time I experienced victim blaming by the same Police Officers responsible for protecting the general public. In the exact way I endured gaslighting and victim blaming from the people who were meant to be my friends. The last time without any support whatsoever I was left feeling as though my sole choice was to flee and attempt to forget the wounds I suffered.
Last time he got away with it.
This time I was believed, and I pressed charges against my assailant. Because I now have a support network who have aided me in moving past the traumas of being the victim of a sexual predator, this time I have been stronger.
I hope there is never a next time, but that is up to the men of Australia.
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