Shining light on dark reality of sexual assault

A survivor spoke to the Highlands Leader about her experiences of sexual assault. PHOTO: Pngwing

A CENTRAL Highlands resident spoke out in an effort to raise awareness for victims of sexual assault in April, International Sexual Assault Awareness month.
The individual, who for privacy reasons asked to be known as Stevie, said while awareness was important, it was not enough.
“We’re aware this is happening,” she said.
“We know people get sexually assaulted all the time.
“Being a survivor myself, awareness is important, but people know now.
“It’s more about giving victims a space where they feel comfortable expressing what’s happened to them… where they won’t be tested and probed and prodded and… judged.
“You feel like you can’t talk about it.”
Stevie said shutting down those who seek to escape and report sexually abusive situations harmed them.
‘When you go through things like that you really find out who you can trust,” she said.
“I disclosed to a friend – a few friends actually – what I’d been going through.
“They said they [didn’t] want to take sides and I take issue with that statement [because] when somebody says [that] to a victim it discredits everything.
“If you’re not going to take sides, you’re already taking the abuser’s side.”
Stevie said she had been discouraged from report her assaults by those who told her it would ruin the perpetrator’s lives.
“You ruined my life, why can’t I ruin yours?” she said.
“I know that sounds vindictive and spiteful and horrible but at the end of the day the people that raped me stole from me something I can never get back.
“I was so young. I hadn’t even had a crush.
“These people that go around stealing like that from someone, taking that, saying ‘your body is mine to use, and you don’t get a say in it’.”
Stevie said the difficulty faced in reporting assault coupled with portrayals in the media helped to create a culture which favoured perpetrators.
“When I confronted my [attacker] about the abuse they smiled… they laughed,” she said.
“I just thought that day you know you will never feel remorse for what you did and yet here you are living a perfectly happy life.”
Stevie said the effects on her as a result of the assaults were long reaching.
“You just kind of get to a point where you realise what’s happening and you’re like ‘hang on, why? Why me?’,” she said.
“I didn’t tell [anybody] for nearly eight years because I didn’t have the words for what had happened to me until it happened again.
“You feel so hopeless, and you feel like you can never get clean, and you feel like you’re not worthy to be loved by anybody.
“I felt so physically and internally disgusting.”
Stevie said that ongoing dialogue was important to help sufferers and survivors of sexual assault.
“It’s about listening to your friends when they come to you and say, ‘this is what’s happened to me, this is what’s happening to me,” she said.
“Also recognising those signs; if your friend is talking to you about something actually listen to them, understand what is going on, so you can take the steps to help them get through that situation and help them remove themselves from that situation.”
Stevie said speaking up, while incredibly difficult, and having a supportive forum for victims to do so, was incredibly important.
“I just want to say to anyone who is going through an abusive situation or [if] they’ve been sexually assault: say something,” she said.
“Recognise the signs as early as you can and if its already to a point where it’s been happening for a longer time, please don’t be afraid to leave.
“Anything can happen in this world, I understand that, but you will never know what life on the other side of that will be unless you try.”
If you or your loved one have experienced sexual assault, call the Queensland Sexual Assault Help Line on 1800 010 120.