Trigger warning: This post contains content surrounding topics of SA.
This is not exactly embarrassing, even if for the longest time, I thought it was. It’s not funny either. But it is definitely something you or someone you know could easily relate to… And that’s the opposite of funny, that’s really sad.
It was 2016, and we were celebrating my friend’s 15th birthday at a late-night beach party.
I was having fun with my so-called ‘friends’ from high school, singing, dancing, and drinking.
That was until a group of men, who were mates with the birthday girl, joined the party. That’s when everything went down to become a night I would never forget.
I remember feeling overwhelmed by the party so I went to the other side of the beach to lie on the sand and look at the stars. It’s one of my favourite ways to relax and connect with myself, and I really needed that.
The next thing I know, this random guy from the party, whom I had never seen before, was lying next to me. He said he noticed I was overwhelmed and wanted to know if I was okay. “That’s nice”, I thought.
I don’t know if it was the alcohol or the peace I felt while lying under the stars and hearing the waves crashing on the shore, probably both; but I started to become very sleepy. I just wanted to close my eyes and relax, and that’s what I did.
I was half-asleep, very drowsy; but when I opened my eyes, I noticed my left hand wasn’t where I initially had it before I closed them. He was giving himself a hand job with my limp hand.
Once I realized this, I immediately removed it from there. But he kept forcing it back and doing the up-and-down movement for me. I felt so helpless, I was paralyzed, I wanted to stop it and I couldn’t.
But that was not the worst part. I suddenly heard very loud laughs and ‘encouraging’ comments coming from behind. When I looked over, the whole group of guys were standing there, laughing and praising their friend. I have never felt more ashamed in my whole life.
Can you believe, as I’m writing this, there is still a part of me that thinks it was my fault? That I “looked for it?” That it was me who did it? Maybe because that’s exactly what everyone told me afterwards. Even the so-called girlfriends.
Out of everyone in that party, only one of them believed me when I told her he was forcing my hand, that even when I kept moving it away, he kept putting it back. But no one else did.
They all began to shame me, for “doing what I did” in public, while they were praising him for his victory.
I felt so embarrassed and guilty about what happened that night, I kept it to myself for years. I was scared they were not going to believe me, because that night, they had gaslit me into not believing myself either.
It wasn’t until years later, in my 20s, that I truly saw it for what it was.
That was sexual assault.
And I never even realized it until that moment. Sadly, many of us have been sexually assaulted throughout our lives, and while some realize it at the moment, others realize it years later, and others never do.
Charities and organisations that work to help victims of SA (Source: Metropolitan Police):
Specialist centres across London where victims of rape and serious sexual assault can get support and advice. Even if you’re not ready to talk to the police, the Havens can provide you with medical help and advice about your options in confidence. The Havens.
A national charity dedicated to helping anyone affected by crime – not just victims and witnesses, but friends, family and anyone else caught up in the aftermath.
A national charity offering confidential help, advice and a range of Rape Crisis Centres around the UK.
A national charity providing advice and support to members of the LGBT community.
A national charity supporting men who have been raped or sexually assaulted.
A specialist sexual violence and abuse charity led by the needs of its clients.
The Survivors Trust
Provides specialist support for women, men and children who have survived rape, sexual violence or childhood sexual abuse.
A national charity with a free helpline for reporting crime anonymously.
Refuge supports women, children and men with a range of services, including refuges, independent advocacy, community outreach and culturally specific services.
Women’s Aid is a national charity working to end domestic abuse against women and children.
Edited by Imogen Bowlt and Elena Baeza Ruso