I’m not sure why I’m writing this.
The only way to break the stigma, is to confront it. So here I am, confronting mine.
When I was about 16 years old, I was raped. It didn’t look like the movies, so for years I didn’t know. Many think of rape as something that happens in a poorly lit alley by a stranger that you’ve never seen before and will never see again. But that’s not the case. More often than not, the stranger is in fact a friend, or a friend’s friend, or a partner. Someone you trust. And when that’s the case, you sometimes don’t even realise that was has, in fact, happened was rape and not sex.
That was the case for me. For years I considered my rapist to be just a sexual partner. He wasn’t. I only realised that years after the fact. He was my partner’s (at the time) best friend. The day after, I felt guilty. I felt I cheated on my partner and that it was my fault. I know now that it wasn’t, but I carried that guilt with me for a long time.
For a while, I’ve struggled with the term ‘survivor’. I knew that it is more acceptable than ‘victim’, but the truth is I was victimised. I didn’t trust. I didn’t feel comfortable in my own skin. I didn’t drink that much again. I was cautious all the time. And while I try every single day to overcome the trauma, it often catches up.
Why am I writing this? I know I’m never going to find justice for this. It’s not what I’m seeking. But I don’t want to hide this anymore like a dirty little secret. It changed me, and whether I like it or not it is now part of who I am.
And, before the trauma catches up again, I want to address the silence. I want to address how much the sexual abuse and objectification of women has become part of the culture. We know that it’s not all men that do this. We know that it’s not only men that do this. But it’s enough men. And we need accountability. So, it’s not enough for men to not rape. The only way to stop this is to get actively involved, check your behaviour and check the behaviour of others. Call it out.
I don’t know why I wrote this.
by Danai Petropoulou Ionescu