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#TheVulnerabilityChallenge: When you don’t fight loudly enough so it doesn’t count (Day 8)

vulnerability challenge

#TheVulnerabilityChallenge Day 8

Quiet refusal is still a refusal.

[Trigger Warning: Rape]

If you’ve been affected by this, please use your best judgement as to whether it would be wise or unhelpful for you to watch this video or read further. Obviously, I won’t go into detail here, but I know seeing the emotion someone else experiences while speaking their truth is enough to trigger that discomfort inside of us.

I’m feeling particularly vulnerable sharing today’s post. I’m also feeling calmer to have shared these words after a friend’s #VulnerabilityChallenge video this morning brought some old stuff up for me.

My first time was non-consensual. I said ‘No’ when my new boyfriend asked.

That’s all I did.

I didn’t put up a fight. I didn’t protest loudly.

I know that would have stopped it from happening. I was in a house with friends and family. But I was more concerned with hiding what was going on and protecting myself from that shame, than I was about protecting myself physically from him in that moment. I know that can be difficult to understand. You might assume you would act in a certain way if it were to happen to you. You don’t think of all those things that can affect your behaviours and choices. Having a low sense of self-worth and feeling high levels of shame and social anxiety can impact decisions in the most irrational of ways. Perhaps you can understand this:

In my mind, I was convinced that the worst ‘danger’ I could be in would be from drawing attention to myself. I always kept hidden and struggled with my problems on my own. I wasn’t someone who asked for help.

Long story short, a friend guessed what had happened. She confided in me that he had been doing the same to her over a number of years. The police got involved and I shared my story with a police woman. I wasn’t driven to speak up for me, but I wanted my young friend to feel safe.

The police woman seemed to find it difficult to believe that someone would go through this without putting up a fight. No bruises? No shouting? How could this have happened in a house with other people there and no one else know about it?

But that was the point. There were other people in the house, and I didn’t want them to know about it. I felt absolutely ashamed. The last thing I was going to do was draw attention to it. I didn’t feel that she believed me. Instead, I felt judged. Perhaps I was labeled as a ‘bitter ex-girlfriend trying to fuck up some nice guy’s life’, ‘wasting police time’.

No part of me wants to accept the term ‘rape’. I think I see that as something more violent, a bit like the police woman I spoke with I guess. I didn’t class this incident as something particularly traumatic; just upsetting. But I’m a ‘be strong and carry on’ kinda girl and I like to downplay my hurt. Yet, I’m sure the whole experience was traumatic for me. Violent or not, how could it not be traumatic?

My experience with the police woman had me questioning myself for not fighting harder and louder. Because it seemed like that’s what I should have done. Was my truth even valid? Should I have done more? Were my signals unclear? Was I actually the one in the wrong? No. I shouldn’t need evidence of a struggle for my story to be valid. I shouldn’t need to fight more loudly to be heard. It doesn’t matter how quietly the words are spoken. My quiet words still count.

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