Warning: This post may be triggering for victims of sexual asault, gender-based violence or emotional trauma.
Up until yesterday, I've been silent when it comes to issues of gender-based violence. I've never posted anything about it, and I've never really spoken about it outside of therapy and to one or two really close people. Last years' #AmInext Movement was triggering beyond compare for me. I was paralyzed. Thankfully I was working on a really big project that required all my attention, it was around the same time as many of the protests and it gave me some sense of focus and direction. Without it, I don't know how I would have survived.
I always tell people "I wish I had the time to write" or "I want to write my own stories" and while this is true, I know that I haven't started because I'm not ready. If you knew me before 2015, you knew a broken person. I recently said to someone who's known me since first-year university,
"I was so lost. You know. Always searching for something. I had to do a lot of work to grow as a person"
and I'm so immensely proud of how much I've grown. Nobody will ever understand the demons that I've faced and the pain that I've taught myself to overcome. I've dealt with issues that were so deep into my sub-conscious that it required days, weeks, and months of non-stop crying just to work through. I often speak about my "dark years" - two years of intense rock-bottom depression - and while they were kak, they gave me room to wallow, think, feel, explore and deal with SO MUCH TRAUMA.
But, even though I've grown and even though I've come this far, there's one area of my life's story that I am yet to tackle. My life-long unhealthy relationship with men. I'm still not ready, but I know that my silence isn't helping anybody - not me and definitely not the global community of sisters who need our collective voices in order to bring about change. I may not be ready to do the deep-diving emotional work needed to get passed my experiences but I am ready to start scraping the surface.
Last week was a pretty tough week for me, mentally. It forced me into a long-ass "Dear Diary" session which surfaced an experience that I had forgotten about. An experience where I was made to do something I didn't want to do. An experience where I was naive and taken advantage of. It was the first time in almost ten years that I had thought back to that night. All the memories literally flashed through my mind like some type of movie-montage that was playing at a speed too fast for me to comprehend. The more I wrote the more I realized that I was harbouring so much pain and anger. By the end of that writing session, I had let go. I had forgiven myself. I had even forgiven him - and his group of friends that assisted in orchestrating the whole thing.
This post isn't about that night at all though. It's about me saying that I'm ready, that I'm here and, that I'm sorry.
I'm sorry that I was so mad at young women for standing up and that my anger prevented me from partaking. I know this may seem weird but I was so angry at young girls for being informed, for being brave and for being taught that their bodies are their own. I was so angry that it took me into my mid-20s to realize and accept that I was abused and used. I was angry that I didn't know I could say no! I was angry that I lived such a large part of my life feeling that my existence was about nothing more than making men happy. That it was my duty to please them, even when I didn't want to. I was only angry at the movement because I felt like nobody was there for me when I needed it. I was angry because I was alone for most of my life and I was jealous of the support and acceptance that modern society afforded victims of GBV - when I was groomed to keep quiet; when I was groomed to believe that everything was my own fault.
I may not be ready to completely deal with everything I've been through with men, and I know that growing and healing is a life long journey, but I want to say thank you. Thank you to the women who have been vocal on these issues and who have held space for women like me. Women who were not ready but who, through your strength, are coming out of the woods ready to join the fight.
Footnote: I do feel that it's important to highlight that I am fully aware of my position of privilege - in all the ways that it presents itself in my life - and I know that there are women who have experienced worse and more violent instances of GBV. I am not trying to take this away from anyone, I am merely just sharing my own personal life journey, in the hopes that it will guide and offer solace to others. I do not own the rights to any of these photos - they were all sourced from Instagram with the original tag and handle still in tact.