by Blake in #personalstories
TW: sexual violence, abuse
I always find the biggest injustice of psychosexual or emotional trauma is how long it lasts.
Recently, I had an experience and I learnt that actually, it’s quite like depression. It never really goes away. What was a five minutes here and there of abuse can actually stay forever, can come back in a way unexpected. Mine was unexpected, but it shouldn’t have been. A long time ago, I told my story. For reasons too long to explain, years later it was sent back to me. At my request. Absolutely fine, I thought.
I thought wrong. I read excerpts from my story, what had happened to me – the things that made me legitimately identify as a ‘survivor’, and I wasn’t ready for it. How can I not be ready for it? It was my own story. I had neglected to put my mental warnings on it because I’d completely forgotten the content. It had been so long that I had almost no idea what had happened to me.
I’m in a very different place to where I was when I told that story, when I told exactly what had happened to me. Back then, it was always at the back of my mind constantly preparing my fight or flight response. That experience would be the reason why I’d be doubting my self-worth, or justifying many terrible decisions I’d made. Now, all of that is in the past. Long since ‘dealt with’. I mean dealt with in as in, I can have CBT and focus on current issues without going into it. With my mental health treatment, I’ve decided not to carefully unknit myself and delve into those issues unless it’s strictly necessary because now, I have a job and a family. I can’t afford to fall apart.
So, here I am. Casually sitting at work. I open the email. The email I’ve asked for. I start with the small bits. The articles, not the transcript of the full conversation. Immediately I fear. The pseudonym I thought I picked out of thin air at the time is actually quite identifiable now. I’d better not share this.
I read the content again. I’m not ready to put my name to this. I’m not ready to expand on my story. A lot of what I do is fairly public, I love to be in the media if I can and so I behave as if anything I do could one day be a scandal – I’m careful. I don’t put things out there unless I’m ready for everyone to know them because the world is a big place and the internet is not anonymous. So. I read this story. It is a part of me that I no longer consider part of my identity. It certainly formed who I am, but it’s not relevant to me now. It’s like someone getting your most cringey high school pictures and putting them on every computer screen in your workplace, but instead of a cringey picture it’s actually a detailed recollection of your life history and the sexual violence you’ve experienced.
See the bit that was triggersome wasn’t really the details of what had happened. Well, I say that. I haven’t read the transcript yet. The bit that affected me most at the moment was the fact they’d got the gender wrong of my abuser. I don’t think I ever told them the gender, as I was ashamed. Even in a safe space such as this, I wasn’t ready to tell them that the abuser was the same gender as me. I think I let them assume. I never corrected them.
Now, in the privacy of my own home I can identify as bisexual and be fine about it. I wouldn’t say I’m in the closet, but I’m not exactly out and proud either. I am living a quietly conservative life and I’m in a heteronormative relationship, I don’t get many questions. I have one for myself though.
My story starts pretty young, at around seven. Did I ever really get the chance for my sexuality to develop ‘naturally’, or is that another part of my identity I can attribute to this opportunistic abuser? I don’t even know what I mean by naturally but I will always feel that something was stolen from me. Something I will never get back. It’s important to note that the link between abuse and sexuality is a tentative, unproven one. I don’t think it exists, but the kind of questions your brain asks aren’t always logical. In fact, the link doesn’t add up. Some academic research finds a link, other research comprehensively and utterly disproves a link. In this case, I’m inclined to believe in researcher bias - you find exactly what it is you’re looking for.
Before today, I hadn’t really spoken about my story. Other than stupidly blurting it out to someone as an attempt to explain something that I never got a chance to feel, I hadn’t thought about it in months. Now I feel like I’m back there –two steps away from it, like with one wrong move I could fall back into that experience. It’s like I can close my eyes and be back there, feeling everything, hearing conversations echoed into my reality. It’s like a really shitty version of time travel. Today I’m realising that this kind of thing could happen to me for the rest of my life. It doesn’t matter how deep I bury that memory, it can come back whether I like it or not. I take solace in the fact despite the fact triggers are everywhere, the occurrences are becoming few and far between. One day, it won’t matter anymore.
If you have been affected by similar themes raised in this blog post, here are a list of resources that you may find useful:
Rape and Sexual Violence Project (Birmingham) : http://www.rsvporg.co.uk/
Edgbaston Wellbeing Hub : http://www.wellbeing-hub.co.uk/
Birmingham LGBT Counselling and Psychotherapy: http://blgbt.org/counselling-and-psychotherapy/