This post mentions sexual assault and could be triggering for some readers.
As a young woman, Jas Rawlinson had already survived more than her fair share of trauma – including close to a decade of family violence – when she was sexually assaulted at the hands of a man she trusted. Now, Jas found herself in a position she'd never expected: having to consider what she'd do if she were carrying the baby of the man who'd assaulted her. In this extract from 'The Stories We Carry' - a powerful memoir of her journey beyond family and sexual violence to becoming a globally renowned speaker, anti-human trafficking ambassador, and writer - Jas Rawlinson shares how this moment reshaped her beliefs as a Christian about the decisions women make on behalf of their own bodies, and how she found the strength to move forward from the man who assaulted her.
Watch: Coercive control is a deliberate pattern of abuse. Post continues after video.
From beneath the covers of my bed, I gazed lazily toward the sky blue rafters, watching the way the cobwebs swayed like delicate, frayed tissue paper. Somewhere in the distance, a cow bellowed, and a kookaburra cackled wildly. There was a soft creak of the roof as it expanded from the warmth of the sun, a bark from a neighbour’s dog; signs of life that told me it was well and truly time to get up.
Underneath my blankets, I lay motionless, weighted down by the invisible concrete blocks that pinned me to the mattress. Two across each arm; another one on my stomach. I could feel the death of my soul as it leeched into the mattress, leaving an imprint of pain and shame it its place. The weight of all that I was carrying, all that was weighing me down, felt enormous. I wondered if Blake* had any idea how I was feeling; if he was still walking around with a smile on his face, the same way he had on the morning after he’d assaulted me.
Get up, screamed my head. Forget about him.
I wanted to. I really did. But I was so confused by what had happened that I couldn’t stop going over and over and over it. I was a pedantic mother with a fine-toothed comb, clawing through every inch of her child’s hair as she searched for the last remaining knot; the one that she couldn’t quite fix. I analysed it all: the nice breakfast that he’d taken me out for in the hours after his assault – as if his actions the night before had been merely a bad nightmare. The way he gaslit me – as he had so many times before – acting as though nothing had ever happened. And then, somewhere in the background, I heard another voice: that of a friend I’d confided in. The half-apologetic, half-judgemental way she’d stared at me. "It’s not assault, Jas. You’ve been on dates with him... so you can’t blame him."