Today I wrote a guest blog for The F Word. As part of my social anxiety I find it really difficult to judge whether anything I have to say is useful or relevant. I find it even harder to put my ideas out there for public consumption and therefore judgement. So, I'm really proud of myself right now. For starting this blog in the first place and for being brave enough to fight down the anxiety long enough to submit something to another, widely read blog.
I did it not because what happened to me was awful (though it was) but because I know I'm not alone. It's pretty well established by now that someone who reports sexual violence or other forms of abuse and isn't believed has their risk of facing similar in the future increased.
At the time I first told I was believed, but after that any further disclosures I made were dismissed as me being 'over sensitive.' The end result was the same as if I hadn't been believed in the first place. Then there is the fact that it wasn't just me experiencing that negative effect.
I've stated a few times now that as a result of speaking out about sexual violence other people often see me as someone they can talk to about their own experiences. I'm not going to lie, at times that's hard to deal with. I'm not always able to hear such things without becoming emotional, upset and angry in a way which isn't helpful for the person talking to me or myself. Yet over all, I kind of love that this is the case. That something I've said or done helps other people feel able to open up.
More than once I've found myself in the situation of being the first person somebody discloses their abuse, assault or rape to. When that happens, the person talking to me often wants advice on how to get help, how to report it or whether it's even a good idea to talk to people about it. I want to be able to help them and I like to think that I've been able to.
What hurts, so much, is when what should be a positive experience, breaking that awful silence becomes something else. When instead of being met with emotional and practical support instead that person's story is met with derision, when that person is assumed to be lying. Not because of anything they've done but because other people don't feel comfortable with the fact that it's possible for me to know so many people who've had these experiences.
I don't know why it's so hard for people to recognise that a person who talks openly about sexual violence is likely to attract conversation about sexual violence, and as an off shoot of that will meet other people who've experienced sexual violence. My hope is that my guest blog will help at least one person realise that this happens. That it's possible for more than one person in the same social group to have suffered sexual violence or abuse, and that it's possible for one person to experience sexual violence more than once in their life. It it does that, and they are then able to use that knowledge to provide support for people then today I've done a good thing.