Some women get back on their feet after rape and/or sexual assault and grow from their experience. Unfortunately, for many others, it isn't that easy. As much as you want to call yourself a survivor, you still feel like a victim every time something triggers you.
That has happened far too often to me in the last year. Despite counselling spanning quarter of my adult life, it seems to get harder instead of easier. When I read about the horrific rape and abuse of Jyoti Singh Pandey in India last November, it triggered me worse than anything ever has. Circumstances I could directly relate to - 5 men, an iron bar. At Christmas I was on my own apart from my two dogs. I sat on my bed with a packet of sleeping tablets and all I wanted to do was escape the pain. The only thing that stopped me was the realisation that no-one would find my dogs for days, and I couldn't do that to them. They saved me.
Yesterday I posted to an online group I belong to that I believe we are failing our women and girls by not giving them the resources and knowledge to risk assess the situations they may go into. The sentiment is the same as my last blog post. I truly believe that we are giving our girls a false sense of entitlement without giving them the knowledge to know when and how to use that entitlement, and thereby we are endangering them. This is not victim blaming, and yet that is exactly how one commenter saw it. I was told I was "part of the problem".
I fully understand that this person may not be aware of my history, although my website and blog have been posted to the group on a number of occasions. Her comment was a trigger for me, and I have expended a lot of tears and anger and self doubt in the last few hours. If I am victim blaming, then does that mean I am blaming myself for what happened to me? I have spent so many years trying to get over that feeling, I don't need it thrown at me by someone who doesn't even know me.
The hardest thing with the internet is not being face to face with the people who drop these type of comments. My goal, since last December, has been to try to make sure that no woman or girl ever has to endure the PTSD, emotional turmoil and related mental and physical health issues, lack of self esteem and feeling of aloneness I live with every day because of something that happened that shouldn't have.
I was not in a situation of war. I was not a child abused by a family member or friend. I was not an elderly woman attacked in my own home. I was not attacked by religious perverts.I was not trafficked or prostituted for sex.
Could I have avoided the situation I found myself in? Ultimately, with the ability to analyse the stupidity of the situation, yes I could have.
Did my attackers have the right to rape me? Of course not! Rape is not okay, ever, under any circumstances.
So will I encourage other women and girls to be aware of their circumstances and to take appropriate steps to avoid putting themselves at risk? You bloody bet I will.
If someone wants to call that "slut shaming" or "victim blaming", that's your call. Just be very, very sure you know the background of the person you are saying it to, and their motivation for feeling the way they do.