Welcome to Us Project

Clara

Clara

Clara

I was 15. I was already a bit of a mess at 15. They didn't know I had type 2 bipolar, which I was diagnosed with a couple of years ago. So I was very unstable. I was suicidal already as well. I had already tried to end my life at that point.

At the time I had a best friend who lived in an apartment in town. I used to go there. I started making some new friends and we drank together in the weekends. One weekend I went to go and hang out with my best friend. There was a party going on at my other friend's house. I kind of wanted to be at the party a little bit, but I went to my best friends apartment anyway. 

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He lived with a flatmate who was a nice guy. So I thought anyway. He was in his 20s and he worked at the liquor store which was convenient because we liked to drink sometimes and he would just give us alcohol. This I guess contributed to our opinion of thinking this guy was cool. On this particular night my best friend said he had flowers for a girl downstairs. He was taking them down to her and he said he’d be right back. But he didn't come back. 

 

So it was just me and this other guy in the apartment. I had this feeling that something bad was going to happen. It was just this feeling in the pit of my stomach. I called my friends at the party and asked if anyone could pick me up. They said, "We've all been drinking. We can't drive." 

 

I said, “Please, I really really need to leave here. I have a bad feeling and I want to be somewhere else." I suppose there wasn't anything they could really do. I guess they didn't really realise the situation that I was in. 

I ended up drinking with this guy. He was giving me alcohol. I thought maybe he was just doing it to be cool at first. It became apparent that he had other intentions after he kissed me. I asked him to stop and he did. I thought that was the end of it. 

He gave me more alcohol. I know that they say you were just drunk, it’s your fault and all that. But I was 15 years old and I just wanted to drink like most 15 year olds do. 

I don't even really know how it happened, it's like it is sort of almost like a blank. I just remember lying there and it was happening. I didn't say no or fight at that point because I kind of just sort of shut off in a way. I disconnected from what was happening. 

I wasn't even sure for a long time what had happened was really rape. Because I wasn't sure if it was my fault. That I hadn't been more forceful with my unhappiness with the situation. 

I remember feeling quite sick after. I had bruises on my body. I mean sex at that point was a very new concept to me anyway. It wasn't my first time but it wasn't far off. So I certainly didn't understand boundaries. And this guy was a lot older than me. I sort of lost my voice. 

I was there all night, and I went home in the morning. I didn't tell anyone. Later in the afternoon I went round to the other friend's house. I was sort of in this shock state. My friends found me crying in the bathroom when it finally kicked in what had happened. I told her. 

I don't know if I ever really considered that there was much I could do about it. It had happened now and I didn't want to talk about it. He didn't use protection. So I had to go to the doctor and ask for the morning after pill. I went in with a friend and they asked me if it had been consensual. I said yes because I didn't want to talk about it. I didn't want my mom to find out. That was the biggest thing. Not because I didn't think she would support me. I knew it would devastate her. Even now she is alluding to the idea of what happened but she doesn't really know for sure. I've never spoken to her about it. 

For a long time after that I felt like I was drowning. I was very convinced after that that I couldn't survive it. That I could never face what had happened. And even now going past the building where it happened I feel sick. I don't drive down that street. I avoid it. I guess it was a very traumatising thing to happen to a 15 year old. 

Unfortunately it wasn't the only time that something like this happened. But at the time it was consuming. I blamed my best friend in many ways even though he had no idea what had happened. He trusted this person he lived with. I blamed him for leaving and not coming back when he said he would. Eventually I ended up telling him what happened. He was still living there. He was so mad. He moved out. I wanted this guy to pay for what he did. I never really knew how to make him pay. I wanted to kill him. Honestly. 

I knew that if it happened again I wouldn't get through. So for a long time when it did happen again I didn't consider it the same thing. Even though his time I remember saying no. I remember the rest of the evening becoming a dark blur. I don't really remember the incident itself but I was woken up naked and told to throw my clothes on and to leave. My boyfriend this time had received a message from me in the middle of the night that just said, ‘Help’. I don’t even remember sending it. I couldn’t even fathom what had happened. I couldn’t talk about it, I couldn’t even think about it. Even now it’s hard to bring up.

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They certainly weren't the only incidences where I had been assaulted or taken advantage of. It's a weird thing in this society. It’s far too common and a lot of people, a lot of men don't see it because it doesn't happen to them all the time. Women get harassed on the street. Even as a child. Even as a young teenager. When I first started in my school, I was 13 going through the corridors and people would grab your ass. Your like a 13 year old kid and you are already fending off assault. 

You always think that you're going to react differently to it, but even last year while I was working I was assaulted while I was working. A guy put his hand up my shirt into my bra. And he also grabbed my vagina quite forcefully and forced his mouth onto mine. It was disgusting. But instead of punching him or something like I should have, because believe me this guy really deserved it, I froze, I panicked.  It wasn't until I removed myself from the situation did I realise how devastating it felt. It was the same thing all over again.

That sent me on a PTSD spiral for a couple of months where I was not handling things and I could not bear to be touched again. I struggle with intimacy a lot because of things that have happened to me. I avoid thinking and avoid things that remind me of what happened. I don't know if it's because I haven't really dealt with that. I don't know if I want to bring it up very much because I don't really know how to react. I used to react quite strangely if I was triggered in a way I would act out sexually almost. In a controlling kind of way. I guess to regain control in that kind of situation. But that always ended up causing me more problems than it solved. 

I had a drinking problem for a long time and that was definitely related to what happened. The first incident felt like this impact train that sort of started everything moving. Everything that has followed that has felt so... I don't wanna say less, but less significant to the direction that my life moved in. 

That first time through those formative teenage years was a huge impact on me. I was so lost. I started cutting myself quite severely and I certainly had plans to kill myself. I just didn't get round to that which is a good thing. I'm glad to be here now. 

 

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I have been sober for two years, I stopped drinking. It had become an outlet for me to deal with my life. But to be honest it didn't really help me deal at all. It did the opposite in many ways. I was an alcoholic. Actually when it first began was close after I was raped when I was 15. I started skipping school more. Getting up early just to drink. To forget what it was like. But I needed to stop and I quit at the same time I was diagnosed with type 2 bipolar.

 

I guess I have a lot of support from people. I have a lot of friends who've had similar experiences which is messed up. How many people I know who have also experienced sexual assault in one form or another. In fact every single girl I know has experienced some level of sexual harassment. So whether it just be someone grabbing your ass or yelling something at them on the street. Or just saying derogatory comments. It's not right. 

 

We actually we have like a very sort of secret Facebook group where we can share and support each other. It’s a safe space for us to occasionally talk about things. It’s not something that anyone really talks about because it's not something anyone really wants to talk about. Or think about. But I think that we should. I think that victims should be heard and respected and not blamed for things that others have done to them. 

Victims shouldn't be told that it's their fault. Dressing a certain way or drinking or acting in a certain way shouldn't come in to it. No should be no. Consent should be asked for. Personal space should be respected. If someone is drunk enough to not be in control of what they are doing, they are too drunk to consent to anything. They should be taken home and cared for. Made sure that they are safe. They shouldn't be taken advantage of.

Half the reason why I never wanted to talk about it is because when a victim comes forward and talks about something like that they get blamed for what happened. They get abuse. They get told that it's their fault and I already felt like it was my fault. It's taken a long time for me to realise that what he did was not okay. I was 15 years old and he should not have touched me. He should not have followed through with that. 

I have a young daughter now and I feel like I will always be honest with her about it. It makes me worry about the kind of world that is out there. I'm quite a staunch feminist in many ways. She's a bit young for that concept. But I have made it a point to always make sure that she knows that people need to respect the word no and that your body is your body and you don't have to share with anyone unless you want to. I'm just trying to teach her to have her own voice. 

I hope so much that she never has to go through anything like that. It makes you worry a lot more as a parent, because you don't want them to grow up or realise how awful the world really is. I guess they're going to figure it out anyway. It’s scary to know you can't control the actions of someone else. 

 

 

 

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