Gaining, Part One

present participle of gain (Verb)

  1. Obtain or secure (something desired, favorable, or profitable): “gain confidence”.

  2. Reach or arrive at (a desired destination): “we gained the ridge”.

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Not Your Typical V-Day Post (Probably)

Blog posts on Valentine’s Day seem to generally be one of two things: Single people bemoaning being alone on a day when romance is shoved down their throats, or people in committed relationships who choose not the celebrate because it’s such a commercial venture (but secretly, they’d love to!). This post does not fall into either of those categories (though, I do find myself wishing I was celebrating this year!). No, this post is something else all together. It’s about the first (and only) time I have ever had a guy send me flowers on Valentine’s Day…

It was 2006. I was 15, turning 16. And I’d just started going out with a guy who was more than 2 years older than me. These details are important, because they’ve shaped how I react to Valentine’s Day. I got a note to come down to the school office, and low & behold, there was this beautiful professional arrangement of red long stem roses and baby’s breath that had been delivered to the school, for me. I can’t remember exactly what the note said, but I do remember it being signed “Your Secret Admirer”.

My immediate reaction to the roses should have been a clue – I felt more embarrassed at this ostentatious arrangement than delighted. These weren’t the flowers a year 10 girl normally receives  especially from someone she’d only been going out with for four days. In fact, I think he must have planned them in advance, because a week earlier he’d still been in a relationship with my best friend (though we were already emotionally involved on the side…)

My point is, I think he wanted me to feel embarrassed. It was the first of many times I would be confused and uncomfortable with something he did. It was the first of many times that I remember not feeling 100% sure of what was going on. You’d think it would be the loooong MSN chat sessions, but no: this was out in the open, designed as ploy to both humiliate me and draw me in. And it did! I felt special and mysterious and wanted, and the same time as I felt weird and uncomfortable…and for the first time like I had somehow done something wrong (when I obviously hadn’t.

So Valentine’s Day for me is strange. A mix of being left out for most of high school (no SRC flowers for me, sigh) and uncomfortable and wanting to participate so badly…Because the only flowers I’ve ever received from a man on Valentine’s Day were from my rapist.

It’s not our fault (but we’re always told it is)

WARNING: This post deals with the topic of sexual assault. If you think you will be triggered, please do not continue reading.

Those of you who know me, know I am a ‘victim’ of sexual abuse. It happened over a 9 month period, from  November 2005 to August 2006. He was the boyfriend of my best friend (then mine), I was the incredibly naive and insecure little girl. It began with seemingly harmless flirting, and ended with him raping me 8 days before my 16th birthday, then him’ breaking up’ with me and the subsequent demolition of my mental health. I was admitted into a locked adolescent psychiatric unit for 3 weeks and I’m *still* receiving therapy around it now. He chose me. He programmed me. He made me think everything was my fault.

And that’s the prevailing attitude in our society, whether overtly discussed (or not). Somehow, we have got it into our heads that victims of sexual abuse, bullying, and often murder are somehow to blame. In the past few weeks, I’ve heard my own mother talk about Jill Meagher, and how she shouldn’t have walked home alone at that time of night – like somehow, she is to blame for being killed. I know that my attacker, that Jill’s attacker would have found someone else if we hadn’t been available. In Jill’s case, maybe he would have chosen an unknown target, and still not been brought to justice (much like mine).

So here is the thing I want to say – IT IS NEVER THE VICTIM’S FAULT! 

I don’t care what they were wearing, where they were, who they were with, what they drank or even what they previously consented to. I don’t care what the colour of their skin is, if they’ve previously said something mean to you (or you think they did), I don’t care if they have a medical issue that makes them ‘different’. A victim is a victim. Don’t try to tell me that we’re safer walking home in groups, because more often the rapist or murderer is someone you know well. Don’t try to tell me that to ‘avoid being raped’ women should dress less revealing, because my attacker attacked my while I was in trackies, uggies and a jumper. Don’t try to tell me that they were “asking for it” for being out so late at night. Don’t try to tell me that ignoring the bully (or, conversely, standing up to them) is going to stop them. Don’t ever try to imply that the victim is ever at any fault or holds any responsibility for the horror that has occurred. It always  is the perpetrator’s responsibility, it is always the perpetrator’s fault.

To other survivors, I want to say this: As hard as it is, you have got to stop blaming yourself for what happened to you. Holding onto that thought means your attacker still has control over you. The good news is, you can break free. So take that chance and live your life according to your wants, your needs, your desires.