I discovered your site about a month ago, and since then have gone through a very unexpected range of emotions. It's been quite an experience, and I want to say thank you for where it's got me to now. The first emotion, not so unexpected, was anger, on behalf of all the people who have been treated so badly. I could barely stop talking about it, because I couldn't (and still can't) comprehend how the types of behaviour described here are so commonplace.
A couple of weeks ago, I realised there was more behind my anger. I was feeling guilty as well. Guilty because of how I feel about something that happened when I was 15. My then-boyfriend touched me without my consent, while I was asleep, in places I'd make it clear (while awake, on a number of occasions) that I didn't want to be touched. He never (so far as I know) got as far as anything that I'd consider it to be really "sexual", but that was certainly the context*.
It was nearly 10 years ago, but every now and then I'm reminded in some way that I'm still not okay with it. Reading through posts on this site, I came to the conclusion that I had no real right to be so distressed about it, because so much worse happens to so many people every day.
The combination of the anger and the guilt was quite an unhealthy combination: the anger I felt on behalf of others made me feel that I should have done something more to stop him, that I should have broken up with him straight away, or spoken to him about it, or told my parents, or anything at all, to stop him thinking it's okay to treat women like that. The slightly better understanding this site gave me of his behaviour somehow led to me thinking that it was my job to fix it. Also, I liked attention at that age, and have been wondering since it happened if somehow I'd let him think that it would be okay, or even that I wanted it to happen for the "drama". The fact that I didn't tell anyone about it should have been enough to clear that one up, but it wasn't.
Thankfully, this site also has a Get Support section. After calling one of the helplines, and apologising for calling with something so trivial, I managed to get a slightly more developed understanding of what happened. I couldn't have stopped him. I'd seen the way he considered women, all women, as beneath him, something I think he'd picked up from home. I'd seen him ignore my mother's request while a guest in her home, then jump to attention the minute my father suggested anything. I can see now that there is nothing I could have done to make a difference, not before he did that, or after. If I'd broken up with him, the scenario I think of most often as what I should have done, he would have seen it as a fault in me, not him.
So, this post is an overwhelmingly heartfelt thank you. It's taken a long time for me to realise I was feeling guilty, let alone to realise that I don't need to, and I don't think I could have got to this point without this site. I'm still fighting with feelings of responsibility for what happened, but being able to come here and read the posts helps me to keep working on seeing things more clearly.
I'm scared of sending this, because I still think I need to be found out, as someone whose experience really doesn't belong among the truly terrible things that others have been through. On the other hand, I do need to say thank you for the help I've found here, and I don't think that thank you would be right without an explanation of why it means so much to me.
*I've just read this back, and would like to correct myself. It was sexual. He had his hand down my trousers. I now know the definition of sexual assault, and what he did is certainly covered. I still find it hard to believe that something that serious happened to me, and to call it what it was.
We do NOT give permission for posts published as personal experiences to be reproduced, translated or otherwise published elsewhere. We will not contact people who submit their personal experiences on behalf of journalists, bloggers or other third sector organisations. These testimonies remain the intellectual copyright of their authors and must be treated with the ethical guidelines used by academics for research involving human subjects. Our full guidelines can be read here.Download this post as PDF? Click here