As a child, I would regularly get cat calls and have obscene gestures directed towards me from men many years older than me, often twice my age or more. I was told by my family and by teachers both in primary and secondary school, that they probably just really liked me. I was also told from about the age of 12, that I should wear baggier clothing, as I was overdeveloped for my age and this was probably confusing them.
I spent my mid teenage years wearing baggier clothing, and got fewer sexual comments, but men would often tell me to ‘smile more’ and that’don’t worry, it probably won’t ever happen.’ I didn’t really understand what was going on at the time, until I cam across the phrase resting bitch face. Turns out I suffer from this.
It was during this time that I was repeatedly sexually assaulted by my first boyfriend. Only, I didn’t realise that this was what it was at the time, as he was my boyfriend and I assumed that it was normal. My friends didn’t believe me when I told them, and so I stopped talking about it. After escaping that relationship, I quickly found myself in another abusive relationship. He had had a difficult time of it, and so whenever he physically attacked me, I would explain it away. People never bothered to ask about the bruises, as they felt sorry for him too. It took three years for me to finally understand my worth and walk away from him. After that, I spent three years single, finally able to explore my freedom and come to respect and love myself.
Unfortunately, I have experienced sexual assault more recently, being attacked by someone I considered a friend. When I tried to talk about this with friends, they were supportive and helped me through it. But they were not surprised, and one had been assaulted by the same man. It never occurred to us to report him. As who would believe us?
The hardest part about that assault, was when I tried to tell my partner at the time, he grew upset. Not with what had happened to me, but because I had ‘put myself in that situation’.
I struggle with the rage that I feel about the injustice of being blamed for an attack done to me. But it told me I was right not to report it. Because even if people believed me, they’d only blame me.