'5 inappropriate questions not to ask about my sexual assault.'

This post deals with sexual assault and might be triggering for some readers.

Over the course of my life so far, I’ve had many experiences of sexual assault, beginning as a child. 

As an adult now, I’d like to share with you the questions that I’ve frequently been asked about sexual assault - real questions, from real people. 

Let’s get into the nitty gritty. 

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"Why should you report this, after all these years?"

Isn’t the answer obvious? Because I have been seriously harmed by violent crime that irreversibly altered my life. It fundamentally changed me, and who I was before has been destroyed in repeated exercises of betrayal and violence.

"Why can’t you let it go? It happened so long ago." 

Maybe it seems that way to someone looking in from the outside, but for me it might as well have been moments ago. 

The memories come unbidden and linger in my mind and body - they can render me listless for hours, or so panicked I’m certain I am about to die from some unknown, perceived threat at any second. 

I haven’t been able to work, or study or move along the usual life path - instead, I’ve been barely alive. I can’t let it go, because it won’t let go of me. 

"But… didn’t you enjoy it? Weren’t you wet, and didn’t you orgasm?"

Perhaps this is the most insidious question, designed to completely dismiss any claim of violation. 

Here’s the thing: you don’t get to know the answers to this. 

It’s not appropriate, and you’d never ask a child this - and so many of us were children when the assaults began. That part of our stories belongs to us and is deeply personal and intimate. 

Even if the answer is yes, that doesn’t detract from the fact that an act of violation occurred - the human body is designed to respond to sexual stimuli.


"Why didn’t you tell me sooner?"

There’s no easy answer to this question. 

At the simplest level, I couldn’t, many of us can’t. 

We literally don’t have the words to articulate what we’ve been through, or to understand it. 

For some of us, the trauma is so great that our mind performs an incredible feat and locks away the memories for a period of time, until we’re capable of processing them. 

"But it wasn’t that bad, was it? I mean, you weren’t jumped by a stranger with a knife."

No, I personally wasn’t jumped by a stranger with a knife. 

Like the 1.7 million other survivors who experienced sexual assault since they were 15, I have known exactly who each of the perpetrators are - that doesn’t mean stranger-danger assaults don’t happen, and it would be insensitive to invalidate their experiences.

It’s also important to remember here how serious sexual assault is - not everyone is a survivor who made it through the experience alive and is here to tell their story. 

Survivors, if you’re reading this I want you to know that not everyone has an automatic right to bear witness to your story and to know the nitty-gritty details.

Your story and the details of what happened belong to you, and it’s your choice to decide who has earned the right to hear your story with the grace, respect and honour it deserves.

Ashleigh Rae is an Advocate for Survivors of sexual violence, Disability Rights, and Anti-Poverty. She lives in Melbourne, Victoria and loves coffee. She is a Social Work student, and dedicates much of her time and energy to educating the public and is building a community on TikTok

If this post brought up any issues for you, you can contact the PartnerSPEAK website and peer support forum here. Contact the PartnerSPEAK Peerline: 1300 590 589 (Please check website for hours). All peer support is offered by fully trained individuals with the lived experience of having an intimate partner or close family member involved in child sexual abuse material.

If you think you may be experiencing depression or another mental health problem, please contact your general practitioner. If you're based in Australia, 24-hour support is available through Lifeline on 13 11 14 or beyondblue on 1300 22 4636.

Feature Image: Getty.