The last few months have been the most difficult that I have ever experienced.
I would honestly struggle to find the words to explain what I've experienced and how everything that I've been through has made me feel, and affected me, which is unusual for me, because even though I'm not a big talker, I can always find the words to express myself when I write ... Not this time though.
This time, while I could theoretically use a thousand words to describe the emotions of my recent experiences, it would still not really tell anyone what has happened, how I've reacted, or what I've felt. Emotions are raw. So much rawer than words can ever be. Not everything in life can be described, despite the fact that everything you experience in life can be described by the emotions you were feeling at that time.
Rape is such a simple word, but loaded with meaning. To those who have experienced this violent act,it can be a struggle to say this little word, especially when trying to describe what has happened. Personally, it was not a word that I could say, write, look at or even think in those first few weeks. To have another reminder, to have to use the word when talking about myself, was too painful, far too painful.
I have been called strong, I have been called courageous, I have been called brave, I have been called amazing, I have been called "warrior woman", I have been called a voice for other women, just because I decided to report what happened to me. While it was not an easy decision, while it was the most difficult thing I have done in my life, the truth is that I am not brave. I am not strong. I am not courageous. I am scared. I am weak. I am nothing but my worst moments, I am only really as strong as I am on my weakest days. I have times when I feel like I am strong, I am capable, I can take whatever is thrown at me ... But until I can say that the good moments outweigh the bad, then I am not strong. I am not okay.
While the reaction that I have had to reporting my rape to the police has been positive - by the few people in my life that know, anyway - I cannot help that feel so unbearably sad that it's notable and unusual that I have reported it. All the statistics say that rape is one of the most under reported crimes in the world. Estimates vary, but anywhere from 50 - 90% (or more) of rapes and sexual assaults are never reported. One book I read recently said that in Australia, it's estimated that only ONE percent of rapes are reported. One percent! One in every one hundred people who are raped report it. One percent. How did it get to this? Why do victims feel as though they cannot or should not report it? What stops those other 99 people from reporting the horrific act committed against them?
As a victim, I can think of several reasons off the top of my head without even trying – fear – fear of judgement, fear of the offender, fear of consequences following the reporting, fear that grips you so hard it feels like you can’t breathe. Fear of humiliation. Feelings of shame, embarrassment, anger, sadness, anxiety. Being unable to handle going through what happened, step by step, minute detail by minute detail.
Every victim has a different story. Every victim has a different experience. Every victim has a different reaction. Every victim has a different ending to their story. Something in our justice system needs desperately to change so that reporting a rape is not seen as brave, or unusual. It needs to be seen as the norm. As something that's expected. Something in our justice system needs to change so that every victim gets justice through the criminal system. Victims need more support, easier access to better services and help to get their lives back in order. Every victim deserves a happy ending to their story. Every victim deserves to find the happiness that they lost when they were raped.