A big wintery hello to you all! I hope you all had a fantastically spooky but safe Halloween and have recovered from any November 1st hangovers.
Just a bit or warning, this edition of Sexplorations will contain content that may trigger some readers.
The content warnings are listed below and if any apply to you, please look after yourself and consider not reading. There are resources at the beginning of this entry too, please use them if you feel the need.
I'll be back in December for a fun-filled, pleasure focused column entry so, until then, please do take care.
Sexual Assault (inc personal recounts)
Rape Crisis England and Wales
0808 500 2222 or online live chat
The Survivors Trust
0808 801 0818 hotline
07860 022956 text
I think I first heard the phrase sexual assault when I was quite young.
I have vague memories of hearing it in a Sex Ed class in Year 7, and it not being explained to me.
It wasn't until I was in Year 9 when the topic was brought up in school again where I realised that, by age 14, I had already been both sexually harassed and assaulted.
I remembered having my bum grabbed by a boy at a local youth club before I was even a teenager, and I also remembered a group of older boys putting their arms around my shoulders on the bus and asking me to 'give them a kiss' while I was still in my school uniform.
I felt a flurry of anxiety every time I thought about it for several years until I buried the events deep down inside my brain and tried to just carry on with my GCSEs, A- Levels and eventually my degree.
Over these years, I’ve heard an uncountable number of stories around harassment and assault.
These recounts came from my friends and peers, with most of them brushing off the events as being pretty normal.
I remember one friend laughing after telling me how they'd been groped and saying 'Let's just say I won't be drinking [branded spirit] again anytime soon'. But I also remember laughing with her.
And it's so awful to look back on and think that I didn't say anything about how serious the thing that happened to her was but I honestly did not understand the seriousness of it until it happened to me.
The event that has caused me the most mental anguish happened in the summer of 2021.
I was in a club, way too drunk, when I made eye contact with a man a few feet away from me.
Next thing I knew, I was pushed up against the wall with this stranger pulling up my dress, feeling my chest and gnawing on my neck, putting his body weight onto the left side of my body.
Although I only remember threads of the actual event because of how drunk I was, I do remember thinking ‘How did this happen so fast’ and ‘Why is this man on me’ but not being able to move from the wall.
I remember feeling stuck, like I was frozen. I didn’t want to upset him because if he just came over and decided to do that to me without even talking to me, what else could he do?
I woke up the next morning with hickeys on my neck and jaw. I remember looking at them in the mirror and wanting to scrub them off. I felt so unclean.
What happened in summer 2021 had nothing to do with what I wore, what I did or what I drank.
And nothing I could have done would have prevented or stopped it.
After incidents like this it’s easy to look back on what changes could have been made, just like when you finally think of the perfect thing to say weeks after that awkward conversation happened.
But not only is time travel something we don’t have the ability to do, it also won’t stop evil people from existing.
If my recollection has hit home with you, I want you to remember this. Whatever happened, had absolutely nothing to do with the way you are and everything to do with them. It is them who deserves to feel shame.
That night out has had such an intense impact on me and has followed me through every relationship I have had since.
I did try to make jokes like I had heard from other survivors before when I told people about my experience; ‘Well, that’s my favourite club off the list then’, but I knew the humour wasn’t hiding how effected I was.
I first told a professional about my experience last summer and I have been slowly coping and getting to a point where I can process what happened.
I will obviously never forget the incident, but I can gain back my confidence, autonomy and integrity that I lost.
My friends and peers have been invaluable during these two years and I encourage anyone reading this to please, please reach out if you are struggling with the aftermath of sexual assault or harassment.
You are not alone and you have people in your life who care about you and your wellbeing. If you feel able to, reporting the assault or harassment to the police or a body of authority is also a good idea.
I say ‘if’ because many victims do not feel comfortable talking to authority or police because of possible repercussions that may come from coming forward, i.e, informing your school or place of work.
Thank you for reading this edition of Sexplorations, this was a hard one to write but I hope if anything, it has made you more aware of this topic or even made you feel less alone. I’ll leave this edition with these phrases that I find useful when I struggle: It was never your fault, my body is mine and mine alone. No is a full sentence.