Wednesday, 9 August 2017

One woman who experienced sexual abuse reveals how she didn't think it was 'that big of a deal'

There are a number of things in life that you read in the news or see on TV and often laugh about while thinking 'that wouldn't happen to me’. Which is what I thought and still do think when I read certain articles in the media.

However, what happens when something that happens to you is similar to one of those horrifying stories and it hits you like a smack in the face! 

We’re going to produce a series of articles that are going to be a little bit deeper than what we at normally talk about but it is about raising awareness on issues that happen every day all over the world, and some maybe a little closer to home. We will talk about sexual abuse, domestic violence, illness, loss, depression and anxiety and speak about organisations that can help and useful things to do or look for. 

Sexual abuse and violence is a large problem in the UK and across the world. There are a number of shocking statistics which reiterated this for me when I read them.

But what haunted me most was after I hung up the phone after interviewing a now 18-year-old woman who told me the story of how a friend sexually abused her when she was just 16-years-old - for legal and personal reasons the woman has wished to be kept anonymous so we shall refer to her as Sarah*. 

Sarah* told me: “At 16 I was sexually abused by a friend. It wasn’t anything barbaric, or at least in my opinion.”

Sarah* met him through her ex-boyfriend who was friends with what would be her abuser. The three went to school together, she knew him well, and after the relationship ended she remained friends with this boy.

One evening, like they always did, a group including Sarah* were chilling at this boys house. Her group of friends left and she stayed with the guy to watch a film in his bed. They had done this many times before and there was never a problem, until now.

Sarah said: “He turned to me and said ‘I know you like me?’ I did fancy him a little, but he was just a friend and I would have never gone there because he was friends with my ex-boyfriend. He suggested that we kiss to see if there were any feelings there. He kept going on about this kiss so I kissed him but felt nothing. I pulled away and made it clear that I wasn’t interested but he didn’t stop. I begged him to stop but he wouldn’t. He put his hand in my knickers and I continued to tell him to stop. He eventually stopped and started to wank himself off until he came.

“At the time I really didn’t think it was that bad. People have been through much worse. I just brushed it off.”

The friendship didn’t end there. Sarah* met him again after but once again he tried to pressure her into sexual activity but this time things took a turn for the worse.

Sarah* said: “He got violent and pushed me around. I must have got knocked out, although I’m not quite sure how that ended up happening, I awoke and was just in my underwear. He wouldn’t tell me what happened.

“I cut him off after that and never spoke to him again but I didn’t tell anyone. I was so naive.

“A few years later a girl called me that I knew and told me that this boy had done the same thing to her. All I could think was that if I had just told someone this might not have happened to her. I was racked with guilt.

“I wish I had told somebody. So please, if this has happened to you speak up and tell someone that you trust. Even if you report it anonymously, do it - you may just save another girl.” 

If you still don’t think rape or any form of sexual abuse is ‘that bad’ then give these figures a read. If you are experiencing anything like this then please seek help from one of the organisations we have mentioned at the bottom of this article.
- Approximately 85,000 women and 12,000 men are raped in England and Wales alone every year; that's roughly 11 rapes (of adults alone) every hour. Which is a shockingly high statistic. 
- Since the age of 16,1 in 5 women aged 16 - 59 has experienced some form of sexual violence since the age of 16 which to put into perspective for me is almost unbearable. At work, I know at least 50 women and within my friendship group alone I have 10 really close friends this statistic explains how 1/5 of all of the women I know have been subject to some form of abuse, and that is a thought that both saddens and angers me.
- Only around 15% of those who experience sexual violence choose to report to the crime - fear, pressure, embarrassment and self-doubt can all be contributed to why women and men don't report sexual abuse.
- Approximately 90% of those who are raped know the perpetrator prior to the offence. 
- A third of people believe women who flirt are partially responsible for being raped - and this I find the most shocking statistic of all! Flirting and rape should not be even in the same sentence. A man/ woman should openly be able to dress, speak, act how she wishes without fear that their flirting may get portrayed as 'making abuse ok'. With a small conviction rate for victims of this kind of abuse it is understandable why many fear taking perpetrators to court, however, there are places you can turn to for advice, counselling and many of them are free and confidential.

You can visit/call/email any of these organisations if you need help!
- A doctor or practice nurse at your GP surgery 
- A voluntary organisation, such as Women’s Aid, Victim Support, The Survivors Trust or Survivors UK (for male victims of sexual assault)
- The free, 24-hour National Domestic Violence Helpline on 0808 2000 247
- The Rape Crisis National free phone helpline on 0808 802 9999 (12-2.30pm and 7-9.30pm every day of the year) 
- NHS 111
- The police dial 999 straight after it's happened, or dial 101 if it's not a direct emergency (eg. it happened a while ago)

If there is anything in these articles you would like us to address don't forget to tweet, Facebook or email us at all the usual places!

Written by VavaViolets Managing Editor Jessica Murray. 

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