CW: Mentions of sexual assault
Several years ago, I was sexually assaulted.
I understood what it was all about after I became a victim — that a sexual crime is an act that violates human dignity.
I also learned that it occurs regardless of any relationship with an assailant.
An attacker can be someone you don’t know or an acquaintance like in my case.
Moreover, a sexual assault can happen within a couple or a family that should’ve had love in the relationship.
Whether they love you or have a crush on you, those who have distorted sexual cognition do it without your consent. It’s sincerely brutal and cruel.
I couldn't understand what happened to me at first. I just lost my memory of the night and was confused about why I was home. And then I told my best friend everything that happened.
I was able to realize the seriousness of the matter when she said, "Isn't that considered rape?"
It may be hard to recognize a sexual assault that happened when you’re unconscious or when you don't want to accept the fact that someone you trust did it to you.
Instead, I believe that’s impossible to do.
I don't know where to start about my days since then.
Fear came first, hate next, and then self-disgust. Afterwards, I started having a distrust towards people. Fear and trust issues are persistent. The most painful out of all was self-disgust.
I'm going to write about them briefly in this article. Later, I'd like to share more through upcoming articles as a series.
Just to make things clear, this is how I felt. I don’t mean that other survivors have experienced the same, or that they’ve suffered in the same order or depth.
As every assault is different, all survivors' emotions are different.
I was scared of anything that reminded me of the situation of the day of the incident, and things that could hurt my body —Night, Japanese sake, wine, bars, subway, the nearest station, the town I lived, kitchen knife, scissors, and fire —
That’s why alcohol made me nauseous for a while, and I unconsciously avoided cooking with a kitchen knife. Even now, I don't want to come close to the town I used to live or the subway I used to use at that time.
Something scary, but no way to avoid: sleeping.
Because that happened when I was unconscious, I was scared to fall asleep ever since. Nights were hell.
Things that I’m still fearful of: tall men surrounding me, leather shoe steps coming from my back, high-tone voices of men, crowded commutes, and the escalator going up.
I still can't get on a crowded train and have a fear that any aged men are walking right behind me in any event. I began to have a backpack or a big tote bag for most of my life. Although I use them to protect my back, I’ve noticed that after a while.
There’s a fear worse than anything: seeing my precious partner as a stranger sometimes.
I told him about the case on the first day I met him. He actively learns and gains knowledge about sexual assault, like voluntarily taking a position of sexual violence prevention at his workplace. Even then, I recognize him as a stranger sometimes. That moment keeps reminding me of my fear of men in general. I think the wounds the attackers left on me are unforgivable.
I just hated the attackers.
"How can it be possible that they live their everyday life without any worries?"
"I wish I could say this guy is a criminal to everyone in the world. Otherwise, someone will be the next victim."
"They seemed like they thought nothing. But are they aware of the fact they violated my human rights?"
I gradually understood. But, in my case, this hate existed to counter my fear. I had no use for it. So I let it go when the assailants were gone from my life.
Probably this was the most painful. On those days, I suffered from "second rapes" (also known as secondary victimization) that I'd love to mention in detail in my upcoming articles.
It was like I got stabbed all over my body with heartless but ignorantly guiltless words from other people, not the attackers.
"You were an easy target (for rapists) because you were considered such a woman, right?"
"Do you want to sue them? Really? Do you want to go that far? Why? lol"
“I’m glad that it was NOT a rape and is NOT so serious.”
“A woman saying she can drink a lot turns out to be a foreshadowing of it, lol! It’s embarrassing that you still have drinking troubles when you’re not a college student anymore.”
I remembered each of those words.
Several years have passed since then. But I still can recall one by one which situation and what they looked like when they said to me.
Those words influenced me, and I blamed myself.
“Why did I go out for a drink with them? Rather, I couldn’t get along with them.”
“Was it my fault that I took the drink they already poured for me after I came back from the restroom?”
“I’m wondering if the one at fault is me in the first place because I always had gone out for a drink until that night, and everyone thought I was a heavy drinker?”
“I’m not a "pure" girl anymore. I’m not worthy. I don’t deserve to be loved.”
No one said them to me. However, I used to self-sabotage myself like this.
Distrust of people
The attackers’ public faces were well-educated-elite-businessmen. However, their private ones were assailants of sexual violence.
No one knows if they accidentally had the private faces for just one “monkey business.” But the duality planted a seed of distrust in people for me.
I was paranoid that every man had a violating and disrespectful private face so that he could be an attacker: I was feeling so.
The four emotions were persistent and repeatedly struck me.
Thanks to my family, friends, and partner, I’m healing except for the fear as it’s now.
However, little triggers, such as hearing that someone has had the same kind of assault or seeing news about it make me drawn with a great wave of fear.
As the content of each case is different, every victim's emotions and the process of getting over are also unique. So, I can’t say you can learn something from my experience unconditionally. But I would like to share mine only as an example through the series of #MeEverSince.
Translated by Naomi Koizumi
Edited by Emiru Okada
Graphics by Ren Ono