Yesterday, allegations of sexual harassment were made against one of the presidential candidates in the Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) elections. Two years ago, nearly to the day, I was raped. Though what happened to me was extremely different from what was alleged yesterday, I found it to be one of the toughest days I have experienced since it happened.
Yesterday made a lot of things clear too. I am sharing them with you because I am not strong enough to report what happened to me but I feel I can share valuable information that can help someone like me who had to go through yesterday, especially when allegations are made within your own community.
Though I abhor the word, yesterday was extremely triggering for me – and I could not get away from the topic. It was on everybody’s lips, it littered my social media and it was discussed extensively in group chats. I turned to anger when I wanted to hide my need to cry. I was distant and couldn’t work to the best of my ability, and then someone assumed that I could never understand the situation. That is when I drowned. I felt so stifled in my inability to say “I’m a victim too”. Yet, I took the criticism and pretended that I didn’t truly understand what this woman went through.
Though I abhor the word, yesterday was extremely triggering for me – and I could not get away from the topic
It is extremely easy for anyone to assume that the most normal person in their life has never experienced sexual assault or harassment – I acknowledge that. But today I want you to be mindful and remember that one in four have experienced sexual assault, and regardless of how different the allegations are to an individual’s experience of harassment or assault, when something like yesterday happens on your own doorstep, it can stir up memories and feelings that are very difficult.
For me I felt a great sense of shame and utter sadness yesterday. I felt sad because I – a bisexual female – was raped by another woman who I knew quite well and there is no justice system in this world that is equipped or ready to deal with that kind of situation. I wish it was as black and white as that statement seems, but it was and remains a complicated situation.
I felt shame because I couldn’t be as strong as that woman and report what happened to me like she did. Rape or sexual assault or sexual harassment isn’t a binary thing. It can happen to any gender by any gender. Reporting it is extremely difficult. If you have asked why she did not report it before now, before the candidate got this far in the elections, then I would say put yourself in her shoes, think about what women are subjected to during rape trails, and also remember that rape is rarely uncomplicated for a victim.
Rape or sexual assault or sexual harassment isn’t a binary thing. It can happen to any gender by any gender. Reporting it is extremely difficult
Despite the #MeToo movement or the worldwide condemnation of well-known persons accused of sexual harassment or assault, we have a long way to go before victims like me can feel comfortable in telling their story and reporting what happened. My situation does not fit in the current, though most common, box of sexual assault. It is not in examples on consent flyers or what automatically comes to people’s minds when I say I am a victim of sexual assault.
Above all, be kind. Be kind and unassuming when someone is uncomfortable in a conversation about sexual assault or harassment. I admire the bravery of those women and can only wish that one day I too can do the same. But for now I would just like to remind everyone that reads this that it can and has happened to anyone, and that the situation may not also be clear and simple to define. I am lucky that I have a friend who I could confide in – one that knows how hard yesterday was for me. But I beg you: if you found yesterday difficult in any way, please seek support, you are never alone. #MeToo.
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