Eleni Talks Sexual Assault
*Warning - some mind find this content triggering*
Eleni has been a huge part of Femme from the very beginning, and she never fails to surprise us. When she came to us with this story, we felt honoured and also felt a sense of responsibility. Speaking up about rape is not easy. Please read with sensitivity and show Eleni some love for her bravery!
This post was difficult for me to write for a number of reasons. Not because I haven’t openly spoken about this before - I have. And not because I’ve tried to repress it or ignore the truth of it - I haven’t. I think the thing that scares me the most about putting this on a public platform means that my family could potentially see this - and I have never told them. This has forced me to think about whether I should tell them now and reinforced that I definitely should have told them 9 years ago.
For some reason the news story of Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony against Brett Kavanaugh has hit harder with me than any other recent media story regarding rape or sexual assault. The unification of women and the solidarity of men posting support for Christine and each other made me really emotional but also brought up a feeling of something else. I can’t quite put my finger on what it was, but it felt almost like a sense of duty. I know countless girls who have had uncomfortable, negative or terrifying sexual experiences but hardly any that have really reached out or spoken up. Because it’s nothing new and it happens to a lot people, or they’re embarrassed, or the guy was sort-of a friend and it was only because he was drunk, maybe she led him on by accident, her parents might call the police or something and she didn’t want to make a fuss etc… I empathise with all of these reasons but it’s wrong that girls and women and men should feel like this. Maybe if a few of us start to speak up, it will become the norm to talk about it rather than the keep it hidden.
Read about Christine's story here https://www.washingtonpost.com/investigations/california-professor-writer-of-confidential-brett-kavanaugh-letter-speaks-out-about-her-allegation-of-sexual-assault/2018/09/16/46982194-b846-11e8-94eb-3bd52dfe917b_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.d54738b4a437
When I was 14 I lost my virginity at a friend’s house. We were obviously far too young to be drinking but we’d drunk far, far too much. By the time my friend’s older step-brother arrived home with some mates my memory is already lost to complete blackout but I underwent a detailed retelling of what happened next. One of the 16 year old boys took advantage of me and led me upstairs, had sex with me and only stopped when I fell off the bed and passed out. My parents eventually had to be called to pick me up because I was completely unconscious and my friends had started to panic.
The fact that I was drunk doesn’t stop it being rape. The fact I can’t remember it didn’t stop it ruining my life for a long time or prevent me feeling disgusted with myself or burst into tears in the middle of class at school. When I approached the boy about it later he tried to brush me off and avoid the conversation. To credit myself, I persevered and made a scene until he was embarrassed enough to talk with me. But he was blasé and unashamed, even when I started to sob in front of him, there was confusion rather than remorse. If I hadn’t been too ashamed and embarrassed to tell my parents, maybe he wouldn’t have done it again to one of my close friends and one more girl that I’m aware of. But I didn’t tell them or make a fuss because, horrifically, it didn’t seem that out of the ordinary to me. Stuff like that happened in my circles and as far as a lot of my peers were concerned it wasn’t really a big deal. Or worse, it was my fault for getting myself in that state anyway.
I didn't tell them or make a fuss because horrifically, it didn't seem that out of the ordinary to me.
It was a big deal and it was not my fault. I should not have felt disgusted or ashamed but I should have told an adult. Because the teenagers around me just couldn’t offer the emotional support or rational advice I needed at that time and I suffered because of it. There were some days I felt completely sick and faint. Mostly I was horrifically embarrassed and terrified of anyone finding out that didn’t already know. My brother was friends with people in the sixth form of my school and I’d break into cold sweat thinking about someone slipping it out to him. Sometimes I’d feel like I had flashbacks but I was never sure if they were real or a figment of my imagination. The worst was feeling like I could physically feel something inside my mouth – this wasn’t an experience I’d ever had before so I assume that somehow made it through the blackout. I became pretty withdrawn for a few months and luckily I had one incredible friend who saw me through that winter. She hadn’t been there that night and I’m sure things might have been different if she had – I soon drifted from the girls who were there and we stopped being friends. I felt a lot of shame from them and even though I wasn’t angry that they didn’t stop what happened, I couldn’t quite shake off the feeling that they’d let me down. I moved towards a new group of friends who supported me as best as they could and nearly all of whom I’m still extremely close with now. And I know how lucky I am to have them.
It doesn’t have to be a parent or even a family member. You could open up to a teacher, family friend, medical professional or even responsible adults that you might not have met like the Samaritans or the girls at Femme. Whoever it is, I completely and wholeheartedly urge you to think about speaking up if you ever have or ever do find yourself in an uncomfortable or scary situation. If it happened to you yesterday or 10 years ago, it’s still worth talking about. If you were spoken to inappropriately or you were raped, it’s worth talking about. If they were a stranger or a friend, it’s worth talking about. I wish someone had told me that when I needed to hear it.
I’d like to add that despite the difficulties I anticipated in writing this and the fear I felt about putting my story out there so openly, I’ve also felt a massive sense of relief. There is such a cathartic release in letting something free, especially when you never really realised you were holding it in.