real life

10 years ago, I was sexually assaulted by a co-worker. She was a woman.

The author of this story is known to Mamamia but has chosen to remain anonymous for privacy reasons. The feature image used is a stock photo.

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

I am one in five. However, a week after the women's marches, I wonder how my story fits in the narrative. Why? Because my abuser was a woman. 

Like many, many victims my story has largely remained a secret. Perhaps like many other victims I have been afraid of being labelled, told I was asking for it. 

Her name was Jess* and I knew that she liked me. I was 21, and she was 10 years older than me. I was flattered, and I was young and naïve. 

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I was then and am now a girls' girl. 

I love female friendships, I’m always on the lookout to make more. Jess was in a relationship and I was dating my now husband. I had never experienced a sexual interest in another woman and I made it clear that any feelings were unrequited. 

She asked if we could just be friends and I thought well, why not? 

She asked me around to her house after work. It was mid-afternoon; I was sober; I was wearing a decidedly un-sexy work polo. Still, if she had have been a man, I would have declined the offer. I had declined similar offers from men before.

We have been socialised to think that being alone with a man that you don’t trust constitutes a risk. I didn’t think to apply those warnings to spending time alone with another woman. She invited me to pick out a DVD and then came up behind me and assaulted me. 

I wasn’t sure what to do. She said it was a joke. She laughed. I texted my best friend and then sat on the couch and watched the movie. She held my hand. I let her. I was numb. 

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The aftermath was as confusing and nightmarish as the assault.

When I stopped replying to her relentless text messages and started avoiding her at work, she turned into a monster. 

When writing me poetry and waiting by my car didn’t win my attention back, she spread salacious rumours and turned my friends against me. Anything that she could say or do to get any kind of reaction from me she did. 

Until I felt, and probably acted, completely crazy. 

My manager could see what she was doing but was wary of discrimination. How would it look firing an LGBTQ woman for having a crush on a co-worker?

I didn’t tell management about the assault. I haven’t even told my husband. In the end I resigned. 

I couldn’t explain my unemployment to my family and I couldn’t explain the intense panic attacks that gripped me for a year after either. My heart still races when I catch the scent of her perfume. 

It has been almost 10 years and only now do I find myself processing it. 

Moving on from the question that has haunted me – what was I doing there? How had I taken myself into a situation in which I had given up my power? By accepting the invitation had I led her to believe she had some right to my body? 

There are no words to describe the feeling of having something done to you, instead of with you. No words for the intense shame. 

I hope that 2021 continues bringing voice to the victims. To reminding us that we’re not alone; our burden is shared. It is not our fault. 

*Names have been changed.

If this post brings up any issues for you, or if you just feel like you need to speak to someone, please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service. It doesn’t matter where you live, they will take your call and, if need be, refer you to a service closer to home. 

You can also call safe steps 24/7 Family Violence Response Line on 1800 015 188 or visit www.safesteps.org.au for further information.

Feature Image Getty.