TW: Sexual Violence
HC UC London is proud to be a platform for sharing important stories, but please be aware that this piece contains sensitive content that may be upsetting to some readers.
“I can be changed by what happens to me but I refuse to be reduced by it” – Maya Angelou
I was 15 and in love. My first boyfriend, my first prom. It was my fairy tale moment. Standing at my front door in a bright red gown, waiting for my “prince charming”. I was absolutely ecstatic. Our first dance together to “Can’t Help Falling In Love” and the kiss we shared after. It was magical-I remember it like yesterday.
High on my newfound maturity, I had a bit much to drink that night and soon felt sick. He wrapped me in his arms and took me to his car, held my hair back while I was throwing up, my superhero. But the gratitude I felt towards him soon became horror. Warmth and safety suddenly turned to terror.
Closeness instantly became an inescapable trap as his cold hands slid under my dress, as I gasped for breath. “Shh, it’ll be okay he said” as he got on top of me and pushed. My body was too weak to fight back and the pain was excruciating. My fairy tale moment became my greatest nightmare.
The next few days were difficult, to say the least. I grew up in India, a country where women are made to believe that rape is a woman’s issue and that it always happens for a reason so it must’ve been my fault in some way. I must’ve given him the wrong signal. Maybe I was too drunk? Too flirty? Too nice? Maybe this wasn’t even rape. It wasn’t like any of the stories I’d read on the news or the way I’d seen it on TV. He wasn’t some stranger in a creepy alleyway. He was my first love, my best friend.
My thoughts were all over the place, and by the time I accepted what had happened, he’d already left for boarding school. I had no idea how to get myself out of the state I was in. I felt shattered, alone and utterly helpless. So I wrote. Writing soon became my knight in shining armour. Expressing myself through my writing led me from despair to hope to self-confidence. I’d even go as far as saying that it saved my life.
There are five things I want you to take away from my experience: 1. Educate yourselves and as many people around you about sexual violence so that unlike me, you never have to wonder whether it happened. 2. You are not alone, you are not weak, and your voice deserves to be heard, it’s never too late. 3. This isn’t your fault and rape is NOT a woman’s issue. The only thing that could’ve stopped me from being raped that night was the guy who raped me, if he’d stopped himself. 4. Instead of teaching your daughters, sisters or mothers how to protect themselves, teach your sons, brothers, fathers how to treat and respect women. 5. Find solace in some form. You deserve peace. For me, it was through writing. For you it could be through working out, talking to people, singing, dancing, literally anything that lets out all the frustration, anger, and agony.
Sexual violence support services:
· The London Survivors Gateway: – 0808 801 0860 https://survivorsgateway.london
· The Havens (Sexual Assault Referral Centre): 020 3299 6900, https://www.thehavens.org.uk/
· Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre (RASASC) (South London Rape Crisis): National Helpline – 0808 802 9999
A list of charities for victims of sexual abuse based in the UK that you could support: