WARNING: This piece of writing contains sexual harassment, abuse and assault.
*disclaimer: None of what I am saying to encourage you to go out and get harassed or assaulted. What I am saying is if you have ever been in any kind of situation you can relate to these, there can be good to come out of it.
At the age of 14 I started my first year of high school.
At the age of 14 I started getting sexually harassed in school.
At the age of 15 I was still in my first year of high school and in my first relationship.
At the age of 15 I was in my first relationship and was being abused.
At the age of 17 I was in a different high school and a different relationship.
At the age of 17 I was in a different relationship but it was also abusive.
At the age of 18 I left my home country for the first time and came to the UK for university.
At the age of 18 I was sexually assaulted on campus walking back to my accommodations.
At the age of 18 I was sexually assaulted in town while out with friends.
At the age of 18 I was sexually assaulted for the first time by someone I thought was a friend.
I’m not here to tell you about the details of each of these relationships, assaults, situations.
I’m here to tell you how they made me better.
When it started I was so confused and scared. I wish I could say what happened, what made the bullying change from verbal to physical to sexual. But I still don’t know and I probably never will. That is okay. It is okay because even if I did know, even if I could explain it. None of it would mean that I could change what happened. I cannot go back and undo any of this.
What I can do is take all of the lessons each instance taught me and apply it.
The lesson I learned at 14 was standing up for myself. Each time something happened to me at school or on the school bus I reported it. At one of the worst times on the bus I defended myself and pushed him off me. The more it kept happening the more comfortable I grew in speaking up because I saw no one else was going to for me.
The lesson I learned at 15 was you really cannot trust everyone. People can betray trust and when they do it hurts; it scars. I had shared with him what was going on with me at my school and he used it against me. He pushed for things I didn’t want, he would hit me, pin me to a wall, he even took out his knife at times. I learned some people can just hurt others and still live with themselves.
The lesson I learned at 17 was women can be abusive too. It is not spoken about enough; it is not recognized enough. Women can be manipulative; women can be abusive. We as people need to learn this.
The lessons I learned at 18 seem to be never ending.
When I reported my on-campus assault I was actually listened to and helped. I learned I wasn’t always going to have to go through it alone. The guy was found and dealt with. I was given action options. I got to choose how certain elements of the aftermath were handled.
I learned what gaining control of what happened to me felt like.
When I told mates about what happened in town, it turns out they knew the guy I was talking about. They went to him and helped me handle it. They spoke to him about what happened, they chose to stop hanging out with him. They told me they weren’t surprised it had happened.
I learned what true mates do to help a friend.
When I was assaulted by a friend I lived in denial for a while about it. I talked to my closest mates and told them what happened, I had convinced myself it was my fault. They told me what it really was.
I learned how to cut off someone I once cared about.
There are days that are easier than others. I don’t know a day that has gone by that I didn’t think about this stuff but I’ve been able to handle it most of the time.
All of these things together have helped to mold me into who I am now. I do not always struggle to say ‘no’ when I am uncomfortable. I have patience to sit down with someone and just be an ear for them when they need to talk about anything. I can accept bad news calmly because I know whatever it is, it could always be worse. I know that I’m not going to have complete control over every situation I am in so I take it a step at a time.
Being abused and assaulted made me feel small, weak.
Being abused and assaulted taught me how to be stronger.