(Based on a true life story of rape and sexual assault; used with permission.)
Agatha sat on the floor with her wrapper over her head, trying to erase the memory. ‘I should have known… my fault… I’m finished.’ she thought. Uncle Charles had raped her twice in one night. And Mum wasn’t due back for the next two days.
She slept off and was woken up by a terrible dream hours later. Still in a daze, she went downstairs to get something to eat.
“Please go ahead.” a voice said.
Agatha was frightened. She looked round and then realized the television was on.
There was a nicely dressed, middle aged woman on screen but Agatha could not be bothered with a show right now. She just wanted to be alone.
“Rape was not the beginning.” the woman said.
That caught Agatha’s attention.
“It started when I was eight years old. My uncles and neighbours made me watch porn with them and then compelled me to repeat whatever they were watching. They did everything short of penetration and it was a very constant affair. I struggled with confusion, feelings of guilt and shame, and terrifying nightmares; I felt there was no one to talk to. No one would understand.”
Agatha sat down. Here was someone who had walked her shoes. Someone who understood the nightmares, the depression, the suicidal thoughts, the feelings of guilt and hopelessness that accompany rape. Someone had lived through this. She needed to know more.
The woman on the show continued talking. “I was raised by a single mum who had to do the job of both dad and mum. My dad physically and emotionally abused her so she left him. We lived with grandma who was too strict, so I had no relationship with her.
All those incidents dealt with my mind so badly that I became sexually active before ten. Masturbation became normal. When I got to SS2, I was raped by my cousin. I was just 15 years old. Everything went down the drain from there because I had no help and I didn’t know what to do. I was so focused on covering up the sexual assaults… but I know better now. I eventually got psychotherapy and professional counselling and things improved.
I’m married now, but when I remember my childhood, it still hurts sometimes. My mum totally had no idea. I advise parents to watch out for all forms of child molestation because they are also as dangerous as rape; and sexual abuse tends to progress. I wonder how different my life would have been if I just had the courage to speak up back then. Thankfully, with the knowledge and experience I’ve gained, I’ve been able to counsel so many people who have been sexually assaulted.”
“I’m deeply sorry for what happened to you ma’am.” the host said. “And I want to appreciate you for sharing your experience.”
“You’re welcome. As long as my story helps someone out there, it’s worth it.”
“So, what advice would you give someone who has just been raped?” he asked.
“First of all, you must realize that you have been wronged. A rapist is a thief. He stole your privacy and your consent. People are not ashamed when a thief steals from them. No! They cry out and shout instead so people can come and help them. So don’t be ashamed and don’t be silent. IT WAS NOT YOUR FAULT!
Then, go to the hospital. Don’t shower, change or clean up or else you’ll be destroying crucial evidence that can be used against the sexual offender. Going immediately also helps you get proper treatment, reduces the risk of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, as well as pregnancy. But this is if you show up between a few hours to three days of a rape.
The truth is that navigating rape and sexual assault is a very hard path and you need help. Find someone trusted to talk to. If you think the people at home won’t believe you, then tell someone else. Let that someone also accompany you to the police to report the incident. You might need that report if you ever decide to press charges.
After you are done with these, then take your time to process the event. It’s going to be a different route for everyone but it’s a tough journey. I know because I’ve lived it and I’m still living through it. You need emotional, physical and psychological support. There’ll be flash backs. There’ll be days you just cry and have no energy, but you will pull through if you keep fighting.”
“That’s very profound.” the host said. “Let’s move on to tips for someone whose loved one has been raped or sexually assaulted.”
“Okay. First of all, allow them talk. At their own pace. On their own terms. As much or as little as they want. Don’t try to force them to talk. You don’t always have to say something. Sometimes just being there is enough comfort. If they are crying, let them cry. It’s a sign of progress because it means they are actually processing it.
Never make them feel ashamed or insinuate that it was their fault. And don’t ask insensitive questions like ‘Did you enjoy part of it?’ That’s just wrong!
Most importantly, encourage them to get help from counsellors and psychotherapists. You can’t effectively replace that professional touch.
Always remember that it’s a very long fight. Don’t say things like ‘I thought you’ll be over this by now.’ We work through things at different rates.
“This has been very insightful. Any final words before we go?”
“To everyone who has been raped or sexually assaulted, you are not a rape victim, you are a survivor. Fight to get your life back! It’s never too late to get help. Whether it was five years ago or fifty years ago, it doesn’t matter. Get help!”
Agatha wiped her tears. “I am a survivor. I’m going to fight this.” she said as she picked her phone to call her mum.
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