Around fifteen years ago, I was on a night out with my friends. My drink was spiked, and I was sexually assaulted.
I remember some parts of the evening but have lost large periods of time that I don’t know if I’ll ever remember entirely. The assault was reported to the police, and my mum went to the doctor to get me the morning after pill.
Other than that I don’t ever really remember talking about what happened, or how I felt about it. From my point of view I think I just tried to ignore it, push it to the back of my mind, ignore the bruising on my legs until it faded away and pretend I couldn’t hear the constant back and forth in my head that couldn’t decide between ‘I deserved it’ and ‘why did it happen to me?’.
All these years later and that same loop is still repeating itself.
I can’t remember if it was weeks or months after it had happened, but I started seeing little flashes of that night. It was terrifying. I’d see something that had happened that night, or hear words that were said, and my whole body would be frozen with fear. I was overcome with fear, shame, anxiety.. everything and nothing all at once. It was like my brain was making me relive the thoughts and the feelings and the snapshots of memory over and over.
I didn’t tell anyone that it was happening.
It has affected so much of my life now that I really look back on it. I had (have) major trust issues, I never fully opened up to anyone because there was always something in the back of my head telling me if I did then they’d leave me or tell me it was my fault, or they would see how worthless I was and then hurt me too. I deeply distrusted people that tried to show an interest in me. I didn’t think there was a genuine reason someone could find me attractive or funny or interesting, so the thoughts that would circle around in my head would be that they just wanted to use me. Sometimes this made me sad, and sometimes it made me angry. People assumed because I had a lot of male friends that there was something behind it (please don’t gossip, it can be so damaging), and that coupled with my trauma made me lash out.
I genuinely remember one time that a guy working at a club, who I’d probably briefly chatted to a few times at this point, tried to ask me out for dinner and I flipped out at him. Yes I was pretty intoxicated, but my anger was fuelled by this crazy belief that people saw me as someone they could use and abuse, it had already happened so why not again. I was dirt, I was easy.. I didn’t matter. I yelled at him, I told him he didn’t really like me he just thought I was easy. Probably the very next day I felt guilty for acting that way, he was a nice enough guy. I had no right to be so angry and aggressive. So what if all he wanted a casual hook up, plenty of people do and they aren’t bad people. I spent years telling anyone I thought might be hitting on me that I wasn’t going to sleep with them so they may as well not bother.
I’ve always tried to stand up for what I believe in but sometimes my wires get crossed. Someone might say something with a dark sense of humour or just lack or understanding and my reactions would be completely different on a day to day basis.
I’m sarcastic, I have a dark sense of humour, but one day someone could say something that I’d laugh at and other times I’d be deeply offended or hurt or scared and I’d shut them down, or get emotional and walk away. I have overreacted to a joke, or a comment from a friend or a stranger, feeling like it was an attack or majorly crossed my boundaries when another time I would see it for what it was, harmless.
It’s been happening this whole time, and up until now I’d kept it to myself, never telling anyone. Not a friend, not a family member, not even a partner. It wasn’t every day, but it was fairly regular. Sometimes I could go a couple weeks without thinking about it and sometimes I’d go weeks on end where it was always present, once the images or the smells or the feeling hit me my brain could think of nothing else. I’d have panic attacks, nightmares, sleepless nights.
A couple of weeks ago, on a random Wednesday evening, I stayed awake all night with these images and thoughts and feelings just completing taking over. By the time my partner was getting up and getting ready for work I was distraught. They tried talking to me, asking me if I was ok, if I was going to get ready for work and I just froze. I couldn’t answer, and I started to cry.
They checked back in a couple of hours later and I finally, for the first time, told someone exactly what had happened that night. I told him everything I remembered, and how much it had been affecting me all these years.