A survey carried out by The Telegraph found that 1 in 3 female students in the UK have been a victim of sexual assault or misconduct. For those who have had to battle with this, it can often be hard to face everyday reality, especially with stories emerging on a daily basis of those who have been through a similar ordeal. Having such news scattered through social media and the internet, can cause victims to be triggered and reminded of their own difficult experiences.
In my first year of University I was sexually assaulted. For months, I chose to keep this to myself, in fear that no one would believe me or that they would say that it was my ‘fault.’ When I finally chose to speak to someone about it, they assured me that I wasn’t to blame and urged me to speak to a counsellor about my situation, which I was slightly adherent to do.
The thing I struggled with most was being raised in a culture and society in which people thought it was okay to make ‘jokes’ about rape and mental illness. Everywhere I turned, there was some form of reminder, from being asked about it every week by my counsellor to seeing posters about raising awareness in the SU.
Although by this point, I had spoken to my friends and family, it was difficult for them to understand how the smallest things could trigger me. It’s now been over 3 years since I became another victim of sexual assault and although I never talk about it, the thought of the past never leaves my head.
Deep down, I knew that I couldn’t allow this to devour my everyday thoughts and emotions and something had to be done about it. There was no way I could stop news channels from reporting on similar cases or go through my Facebook feed without someone posting a status about their experiences. It was hard but I knew that if I wanted to carry on living my life to the fullest, I had to cleanse myself of social media and the internet.
Those hours I would usually spend sifting through my Twitter feed, were now spent having coffee with my friends, catching up on TV shows and more importantly on the lectures that I missed. It made a surprisingly huge change to my outlook on life and instead of seeing myself as a victim, I started to see myself as a survivor.
It’s not to say that what happened doesn’t still affect me. As a result of my experiences, I’ve recently been diagnosed with clinical depression and PTSD by my GP. Despite this, the change in my attitude allowed me to make the most of my situation and spread awareness about sexual assault by joining charities and organisations that aimed to combat the issue.
I spend more time with the people I love, I devote my time to things that I enjoy and for the first time in a long time, I feel happy. Even though I occasionally find my mind wandering, I know that I can’t let what happened to me define my life.
Everyone’s experience is different and I know that for a lot of people, this method may not work, but for me, it’s made a huge impact. It’s great to see so many people being brave and vocal about their experiences.
It’s also important to remember that if you have been through something similar, you’re not alone and there’s a whole network of people around you who are willing to help. If you do however, struggle to speak to someone close to you, the Student Support and Wellbeing Centre do offer free and confidential support and talking to someone about your experience can lift a huge weight off your shoulders.