The night that it happened on orientation camp, I was insecure, drunk, naïve. I thought all medical students were worthy of respect and trust. In a single night, he took away my innocence, sense of power, confidence, self-love and trust in others. In return, he gave me a lifetime of unwanted memories, intense fear, anxiety and depression.
At the time, I vocally and physically resisted but didn’t aggressively fight him – I was intimidated by the idea of ‘causing a scene’ in front of my cohort on week 2 of first year. I relented.
For many months, I experienced traumatic flashbacks. I was in shock; it took a long time to understand what had happened to me was sexual assault, rape. I couldn’t bring myself to tell my mum. This burden shared is not halved, it grows.
The symptoms of PTSD continue to plague my days at university. I experience panic attacks at the sight of him, the smell of his cologne, begin to shake merely at the sound of his voice. In a small and unified cohort of medical students, there is no escape. Sometimes people notice. I am well acquainted with the bathroom stalls, where I can hyperventilate privately. There have been times of deep depression where I succumbed to self harm or had suicidal thoughts.
By October of that year, I began to open up to my close friends. The overwhelming love and support I received was life changing. If any of my friends are reading this, thank you to the ends of the earth for all you do for me, I love you.
I started my search for professional help shortly later through university health services but was tossed around as “you’d do better to see [insert counselor name here].” I saw 9 different counselors, services and GPs over many months, and have finally found someone who is willing to provide ongoing help. To anyone struggling with this, I highly specialised services (1800RESPECT, VIC CASA, NSW & QLD Sexual Assault Services, WA Sexual Assault Resource Centre). In the past few months, my symptoms have started to wane. I have even started dating again!
Please do not pity me. Alarmingly, 1 in 5 women and 1 in 20 men will be sexual assaulted in their lifetime. While I do not wish what happened to me on anyone, this experience has fueled a fire in me to change these statistics through education and advocacy. If you are a perpetrator, acknowledge it and reflect on the impact you may have had on someone’s life. Sexual assault is so easily prevented.
Because I was raped: I am more compassionate to people experiencing mental illness; I am a more impassioned feminist; I am strong, I am resilient, I am powerful. I am proud of myself.
(Urthboy’s Like a Version cover of ‘Roll Up Your Sleeves’ by Meg Mac https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kgFr5Pgajks)