What gets me most is that he’ll never go through an ounce of the sickening aftermath that I have lived.
The first person I told about the assault was my 7th grade English teacher, over facebook messenger, almost 5 months after it took place. I hadn’t spoken to her for years. I cannot tell you why in the midst of all of the Me Too facebook posts, it was her who I ended up reaching out to.
I tell my mum everything. Well, not everything, but a lot.
It took me over a year to tell her this. When I did, it was in the changing room of a Zara. I don’t know if she was more upset that it had taken me so long to tell her, or that when I did, I did it in a place where she couldn’t properly tell me how upset she was that it took me so long to tell her.
I don’t know why it took me so long. I knew she would never place any blame on me. But in all of those Me Too messages, I didn’t see any from my own family, from my own culture (whatever that means), from my own religion. It was like it was really just me. It still feels like it’s just me. I also didn’t want to hurt her, it would break her heart that I had been attacked this way. She almost laughed in disbelief when I explained this; of course, she wasn’t the one who needed the looking after.
Everything I did after it happened was so utterly confusing because it didn’t sound like me. Growing up, I heard so much about men attacking women and what that meant, what it looked like, the forms it took. I heard a lot less about the after. Maybe that’s why I was so shocked by my reaction. My lack of reaction. I knew my attacker, as many do. In the weeks that followed, I made it seem like nothing had changed. Even though I was not sleeping and scrubbed my skin raw in the shower, I didn’t acknowledge what had happened to me out loud for a lot longer than I am proud to admit.
When I finally did, it was a silent whisper as I stood naked with the shower water running. My tears came quiet and it felt like they would never end. I wasn’t crying out of sadness or fear, but out of anger and shame and disgust at me. In the years that have followed, I cannot list all the things I beat myself up for. I knew I wasn’t to blame for what took place, but I wasn’t able to forgive myself for what I didn’t do afterwards. I stayed friendly, stayed quiet.
I recently saw my attacker again for the first time since. I remember feeling immediately faint and physically sick not too long after. I came home and couldn’t escape the feeling of wanting to run into the shower and scrub until I had shed all of this skin, all of who I was, so I could start again. It took seeing him again to realise that I had to begin to forgive myself for not reacting the way I wanted to and then forgive myself for taking so long to forgive myself. I unfollowed him on Instagram a few weeks later.
When I doubt what happened to me, when I downplay it, when I call myself dramatic, or an over-reactor, when I tell myself my skin crawls because I allow it to, I remind myself just how bizarre the after has been.
I am a loud crier. I don’t keep things to myself. My mother knows more about my life than I do.
I would never let anyone I care about put themselves through what I put myself through. I would never let them talk to themselves that way.
I don’t talk to myself that way anymore. Well, most of the time.
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