The following contains details of sexual assault which may be distressing. For 24-hour support, please call 1800 RESPECT.
I’m what you might call a rape victim. Twelve years ago, I was assaulted in an attack so brutal it left me with some of the most serious injuries ever seen on a live rape victim in Australia.
It’s a constant fight not to curl up in a ball and cry and hide from the world, to not have survivors guilt when you see yet another innocent woman die at the hands of a psychopath. It’s a battle to look at the scars I have due to a colostomy bag and emergency surgery (I often find myself wondering what life would be like if they weren’t there, or worrying that someone may see them and ask me what happened).
But in spite of it all, I don’t call myself a rape victim; I call myself a rape survivor.
It’s a daily fight to break the victim mentality. To ignore the scars on my mind and body. To get up, smile, be a wife, mother, sister, daughter, friend and colleague. To make sure that I make every day count and be the best person I can be. The stranger that did this to me doesn’t deserve the satisfaction of keeping me down. I am stronger than him.
And while I have lots of battles to fight because of my attack, none are more important right now than the fight to make men aware just how much they destroy someone’s life when they rape.
I was like so many woman in the prime of their lives. Enjoying my early 20s, university deadlines, dancing, friends and good times were all I had in focus. I was approached by a stranger while at an ATM on a night out, frogmarched into an alley way, brutally assaulted and left for dead.
This animal then had the audacity to steal my belongings and leave me to die. He then tried to burn his fingerprints off, change his appearance with tattoos and hide.
I was lucky. And by lucky, I mean I’m alive. I somehow managed to crawl out of the alleyway and get help before passing out and being rushed to hospital. The ambulance officer that treated me came to visit me the next day, astounded that I had lived.
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After a few long weeks my attacker was caught. Little did I know this was only the beginning of a lifelong battle constantly trying to rebuild myself, seeing psychologists, trying to heal, trying to feel safe, trying to be brave during surgeries and court cases, trying to reach some sort of normality in my life.
When a man decides to rape a woman he takes so much more than her dignity; he leaves an imprint on that woman’s life that will be with her for a lifetime. He traumatises not only his victim but the victim’s friends and family. For that woman is somebody’s girlfriend, wife, daughter, sister, cousin, niece, friend, colleague. Those closest to the survivor will struggle to look at that person without wondering if they are OK, if they should’ve been more protective of them. The survivor will fight daily to reassure those dearest to them that they are OK even if their fear and memories refuse to leave them in the night.
Why does anyone feel they have the right to inflict this on someone else’s life?
My attacker received a minimum of 13 years jail and a maximum of 17. How I wish my sentence was as lenient as this.
Instead I am trying to mentally prepare for the day he is released, how to live so that I am not constantly checking over my shoulder in case I need to run, how I can find the courage to keep being a survivor.
Enough is enough. No more victims, no more survivors. No more.
If you have experienced sexual assault and are in need of support, please call 1800 RESPECT. That’s 1800 737 732. Help is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The author’s name has been removed to protect her identity.