I recently found this platform and cannot express the gratitude I feel to have finally found a place I can express my own experiences and thoughts as a woman. Feminism is something I have completely submerged myself in and have dedicated my life to, thus far. Reading Laura’s book has been one of the best descions I have ever made and the knowledge I now have is playing a major part in my own journey as a woman. This book has made me realise my own sexual assault story; I now feel it necessary to share with others, I know will understand and believe me.

My mother gave birth to me at just 18 years old. My parents were both very young when I arrived and sadly, had a very abusive relationship. I do not recall most of the abusive instances at that time, as I was an infant. Nonetheless, their relationship was unhealthy and therefore, my mother sought peace by moving us in with my great aunt. At the time, I was maybe five years old and was living with my mother, great aunt and her two (much older) children.

My aunts younger child was around 16 years old. I was very close with this person and admired my second-cousin greatly. I followed them around, striving to spend as much time with them as possible. In retrospect, I could see how this might actually be annoying to a teenager, however, this one never seemed to mind.

One day I was playing in their room when they asked me if I would, “like to play boyfriend and girlfriend?”. Me, a young child, perceived this proposition to be not dissimilar to playing ‘house,’ or reanacting a platonic couple seen on TV. However, my abuser went on to describe something midly sexual. I didn’t understand what any of this meant but tentatively and naively agreed, nonetheless. This member of my family, whom I just wanted to be like, had coerced me into grinding into them and snogging them. Even pushing their hand downward and grabbing and pressing against my genitals roughly, through my trousers. I could feel everything they were doing to me and I didn’t understand this was inappropriate. I just wanted them to like me and wanted them to enjoy spending time with me, so I fulfilled their wishes. I remember feeling uncomfortable but not understanding the situation and not realising I had the power to stop it, again I was 5. I wasn’t aware of anything remotely to do with sexual misconduct, abuse or assault. I just knew my own little world and that was it. I cannot remember how long this went on for, maybe 20 to 45 minutes. I’m not sure.

Afterward, I felt totally sick and uncomfortable. When we left their room, I remember my mother assuming we were playing together and making a comment about how messy my hair was. I was frightened; I almost, somehow, knew not to tell my mother what we were doing. I looked over to my abuser, who raised a finger to their lips and mouthed the word “don’t!”. I made up some excuse about us fighting and my hair getting messed in the process. Nothing more was said. I remember later getting cornered by the person and told if I said anything we would both get into trouble. Both. That I would be punished and so would they. That I needed to keep my mouth shut or I would face punishment. I kept quiet. For fear of being told off for something that I didn’t understand was wrong. For fear of losing my then, loved-one, as a friend.

Years have past since then and I am no longer in contact with that person, through sheer circumstance. However, I have never told anybody about this. Not my mother, my friends, anyone! I have remained quiet. Not because I feared anything, anymore but I somehow didn’t feel as if there was anything wrong with what happened to me. I didn’t even see it. This book helped me realise that was the dangerous stage of denial.

Now, I’ve accepted what happened to me, I’m struggling through the stages of, worrying about my family not believing me. Breaking up the family, as again this person is a distant family member. Or worse, getting shunned out my family by the members who will probably believe their story over mine. This hurts to think and feel but truth be told, I know it would be the reality of my coming forward. Therefore, I will not do so. I have struggled with this for many years and I do not see the benefit of sharing this information with anybody I’m personally in contact with, right this moment. Maybe I will in the future, maybe not. The truth is, I almost feel as if my soul still doesn’t understand the true severity of my violation and this is why I feel able to keep it to myself. Of course this is not the case for many others, I always encourage other victims to come forward for the help and support they may need. Maybe I have too much pride to share this and feel I can cope on my own. I’m not sure but for now it’s not a risk I’m willing to take, so private it shall stay. For me, talking about this on here is all the catharsis I need, right now.

I’m aware that my being taken-advantage-of isn’t just because of my gender but also my age and the circumstance in which, my abuser had the opportunity to take advantage. Regardless, I still felt this was the appropriate platform for my voice to be heard. As many other women, I have a plethora of other stories – probably more closely related to gender discrimination – but this was the most pressing and the one I felt I needed to talk about the most.

I still feel ashamed, embarrassed and a big list of other emotions, all a direct consequence of the event. I have lots of mental health issues as a result, ie, PTSD, OCD, Anxiety, Depression, etc. However, I’m learning to deal with what comes. I’m safe now and I’m trying to find solice in that. There are a multitude of other things I’m now facing mentally, like the battle of starting a relationship, questioning my identity and sexuality, etc.

Nonetheless, I’m so grateful to have finally accepted this part of past and to have hopefully, been brought the tiniest bit of closure.

Thank you for listening. Thank you to Laura and her book and the endless women who inspire me and motivate me to be a better person, woman and feminist. Thank you.