It’s been 1 year and 1 month since I wrote my first article about my rape to date.
I explained Why being raped made me realize, I got to step up my life game and gave a deep look into a journey of painful lessons I learned. I talked about intuition, the differences of friends and acquaintances, self-care and some other things that I learned and still had to get better at.
But there is one big topic that has come up more often especially ever since I wrote this last article and since I hold my TEDx Talk about “The Power of Resiliency – How to turn your pain into your power” in November 2017 – and this is what I want to talk about today:
Mind me, I know nothing about them. And I don’t mean that I am actually not able to have relationships or friendships. I just mean that I was never the person to be in longterm relationships. I have been more single in my life than in a partnership, I was more with myself than with groups people, I travel solo for 12 years,
4 of them being consecutive and most of the time I do spend alone. I have always been the “lone-wolf” in my family and never wanted kids myself (no I still don’t want them, and no this will not change when I get older, thanks for your unsolicited concerns) nor do I want any pets.
Am I lonely? No. I think in all those years I felt rarely lonely.
Do I miss my friends? Sometimes. But to be honest, I often do not even know who my ‘real’ friends are.
But before I get to that point let’s go back to the beginning.
As I stated in my last article I have been raped when I was 24 years old. What most people don’t know (actually – this is the very first time I talk about it in public, so mind me this could be a bit messy) – this was not the first time. But it was the first time I have actually acknowledged and had to admit the first time I was raped in my life.
I was raped multiple times beforehand by my first boyfriend in my first ever relationship. “By your boyfriend?” you ask. “How is this even possible?” Well – to make this clear, here is a universal definition of rape (once and for all times, as I am getting a little bit tired of explaining that, so next time just google it):
“The penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus, with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim”
(you are welcome)
So to answer your question: Yes, by my boyfriend. There was no consent at those times whatsoever. But as you read this far already, here is the full version:
I was 15 years old when I had sex for the first time with this boyfriend. It was with consent (at that time) and I didn’t like it. I am not here to discuss whether this was too early, not responsible or whatever, I am simply telling my story and would like you to respect that before you judge me.
I was quite informed about all kind of things that will happen before, during and after the sex, safety was always my number one concern and I had been to a doctor before even thinking about it.
But what I didn’t understand before was the pressure I was put under once I started saying “Yes”.
Besides this I was fighting a chronic kidney disease since I was born. At the time I was still having loads of chronic urinary infections as a side-effect of the disease and it was very risky for me to have an UTI as these highly affected my anyways non-functional kidneys. So when it occured I got an UTI, the pain was horrific and I had to take antibiotics to make sure my kidneys would not be affected.
For a 15year old I had quite some other sh*t to deal with at the time: School (obviously), work (to support myself as my dad lost his job 2 years prior), another chronic disease that kept me busy, bullying at school, family issues and some other normal teenage stuff.
My first relationship was something I depended on. I thought “At least this guy likes me” and so when I had this UTI and my doctor told me to not have sex during the disease as well as 4 weeks after I was sure he would understand.
But he was 16 and his previous girlfriend would always have sex with him. A lot. She was anyways way cooler than me, and older, and so much more experienced.
He asked me to have sex with him while I had the UTI. I said no. I explained the issue as much as I could, I said I can risk losing a kidney.
He didn’t care. After all – I said yes before that other time, remember?
He also didn’t care about the tremendous pain I was in. Nor about me crying and begging him to not do it. Telling him I would do it as soon I can. Trying to explain the consequences this can have for me.
“It only takes a few minutes just lay down and hold still” – something like these words were the last thing I heard and what I was holding onto while he was taking my underwear of and forcing himself into me while I was hoping it was over any fucking painful second. I did’nt dare to move.
But what could I do? I was his girlfriend. Wasn’t I supposed to do this? Wasn’t I supposed to hold still? Wasn’t I supposed to be there when he wanted sex? No. But at that time, I didn’t know it better.
This happened a few times. To be honest I can’t remember the exact number. In all those years I have suppressed these memories and thoughts about this relationship I have not been able to recover all details. All I know is that I have been getting sick with ongoing UTI’s a lot. I was on antibiotics for such a long time, I fell back in school and got horrible grades.
But I never told my parents (up until today) nor my sister or anyone else close to me.
I was afraid to be blamed and shamed, to be told that was all my fault, to be told (again) that I was a shame for this family, a whore and that I deserve being raped. And why wouldn’t I just leave anyways?
Today I know better.
I know this has not been my fault. I know NO means NO. I know I do NOT have any “duties” as a girlfriend – consent is THE one and only thing that matters. For anything.
It took me 9 long years to even understand and acknowledge that what happened there was rape. Up to date the guy who was my first boyfriend still doesn’t know. And for now I will keep it that way.
To get to the point of this article I need to also list the rest of my history of sexual violence. I will keep this as short as possible as the only point doing so, is showing you the different places of interaction that it happened in. Why? Because this is when it comes down to the question: How did it incluence my relationships in all areas of my life?
So besides the rape when I was 15 years old in my first relationship and the rape when I was 24 years old from the therapist who was supposed to fix my spine, the following were the other most influential interactions I encountered:
- I was sexually harassed at my work place when I was 18 years old, including being touched and locked into a office where I was asked to get close with the boss. After about 5 months of trying to solve this problem myself without success, I broke down with a panick attack and got out of the company
- Just a year later I had a stalker who would come to my apartment and would climb up to my window about 2-3 times per week and watch me. Any attempt to chnage this situation was hopeless and the police that I called about 8 times just said “Sorry we can’t help you. Until he physically attacks you and tries to rape or hurt you we won’t be able to do anything.” Classsic. So I moved.
- In my first team-leadership role by the age of 22 I was often harassed by 2 different men who worked for our client. They tried to invite me to their hotel, promising me better pay, a better position or whatever shit (thanks, I might have been young but not a dumbass) – I told them to F off and reported them to their boss. Oh – and they were married.
These were the other most influential incidents besides the occasional cat calls, groping incidents and the guy who wanked off in the middle of the city center of Sydney while walking behind me.
Now you may think “Wow that’s a lot!” and I agree. If you now want to put your “Law of attraction aka Manifestation” beliefs on me please stop just there. This is an underlying way of victim blaming and shaming me and I can’t fucking stand that shit. So why don’t you just stop reading if you think it was anyways all my fault?
Alright now that we are clear about that, let’s get down to business:
In the past years I have done an EXTENSIVE work on myself, for my healing, being part of others’ healing journeys and being a catalyst for conversations. I have organised a women’s empowerment fundraiser event to support Daughters Rising and I have hold a TEDx Talk (as mentioned above).
I am not afraid of my deepest inner darkness anymore – and I am so grateful I have been on this journey and able to reflect and grow so much.
As I mentioned before, one thing that is consistently coming up on this jounrey is one topic: Relationships.
And I don’t mean only with a partner. I mean the ones between me and my family, friendships (or what I believed should have been friends), ex-partners and new people I meet. Witin the past weeks I have more and more felt the urge to write this article, once to express myself, to get it off my mind, to make peace with it.
But also to be able to educate others about what’s potentially going on in a survivor of sexual violence when approaching any relationship. To be clear: this does not mean that these things will be valid for any survivior – these are my experiences, my lessons I learned, my patterns I have found to be recurring. But I can only imagine, that many others would agree with me. Which is why I want to share this so openly and as honest as possible.
So following I will talk about the 7 patterns that come up most for me in any kind of relationship.
1| I DON’T TRUST YOU EVEN IF YOU THINK I DO.
This is a big one. In the past 17 years ever since my first time I was raped I can not remember to have been able to trust someone 100%. I mean the deep, blind trust that you need to be able to give all of yours to someone. The closest I have come to trust someone is probably my Dad whom I trust to 99.99%. I didn’t trust any of my exes more than I needed to, which obviously caused enough issues by itself.
But it also comes down to my friends. And I have never said that before, to anyone. But this is one of the reasons why I can not trust. And for now, I won’t. It’s because I was raped when I was 15 years old and I was left behind alone. Not that anyone knew. But also nobody sensed anything. I guess I was wearing a perfect “invincible mask”. When I was raped the second time and actually feeling the impact of both, the first and second time,
I was left behind from all of my friends, except of two girl friends who stayed with me and whom I will forever be grateful for. But even a very close, longterm friend just dropped me like a hot potatoe, leaving me alone in all my pain. This has impacted me way more than she would ever believe and has now eventually finished the friendship with her even after years of being reunited again.
Trust. A word I have lost its true meaning for. One I have to find again. One that I have to rebuild myself. Step by step. Year by year.
2| RESISTANCE IS AN ONGOING COMPANION
Being in relationships after the first, but especially after the second rape I have found one thing that partners are often not prepared for (especially if they have never been dealing with a survivor of sexual violence before): Resistance.
Resistance shows up in so many different ways: Frustration, Self-Doubt, Anger, Anxiety, Indecisiveness, Distance, Discussions, Second-Guessing yourself and so much more.
For me there are two major ones: Distance. Second-Guessing my decisions in this particular relationships.
I get sick over doubting whether the next step is the right one, what is the next step, and the unknown. I mean physically sick indeed. My chronic stomach disease immediately flames up and turns into a night-mare, if I have any issues in friendships, family or partnerships. And even business related. I second-guess everything and anything I do but I also critizise the other person and it can be such a mess. I have learned to control this part mostly for friends and family that I know for long time – but have still to learn about how to deal with it when I meet new people and make new friends (not even thinking about a new partner yet, haha).
Distancing myself is then my natural reaction. I think I am quite blessed that I can live with myself so easily and can also now say I love myself unconditionally (that has not always been the case). I have now learned to communicate when I need distance and in what way and getting better at it with each step of the way.
But the ones who decide to be my friend or my partner need to know that I will push you away. Be prepared for resistance to show up any day, at any time. Maybe I decided to party with you one day, but I don’t feel safe with you anymore the other day. Maybe I wanted to visit you in my holidays, but now I don’t think I can (or want to) make it anymore. Maybe I am testing you with my behavior on how loyal you are, how much I can trust you or how much our friendship means to you.
Maybe I was all excited about a weekend away and suddenly I am doubting that it was a great idea at all. I can find a hundred reasons why we shouldn’t go. I will tell myself that I don’t like you anyways. And why would you even like me? Be prepared to understand, even if you really can’t. Say we don’t need to go.
Be prepared for baby steps one day, and big leaps the next one. Maybe 3 steps backwards, before one moving ahead. Be prepared for messages after midnight telling you why I have to stand up for myself and that what you said wasn’t ok. Don’t mansplain me for it. Instead, respect me. Even if you don’t like what I said. Agree to disagree. Know that being with me is like walking on thin ice. If you run too fast you may break it, if you go too slow you may never get stuck. There is no blueprint on “How to work it out”. It’s a trial and error. It is a game of patience. Of compassion. Of deep empathy on a level you never had to bring up before.
Don’t even try if you are not serious. There is no other way to make it work.
You are in for the long run – Or you are out. Be prepared.
3| JUST BECAUSE YOU ARE A GREAT PERSON DOESN’T MEAN I WILL ASK YOU FOR HELP
This is one big thing, too. I guess this has been ingrained in my brain for most of my life – although I sometimes had to rely on help, for instance when I collapsed from one of my chronic diseases and had to be brought to hospital. But asking for help has never been easy for me, in fact through some early conditioning I learned to just do it myself. This has gotten me into trouble sometimes. Other times it saved me from being burnt again.
Seeing how friends left me often in my most painful times of my life, I wonder what would have happened, if I would have asked for help. I think I would have never become so resilient.
But I also know that asking for help is crucial in some situations. In the past years I have tried to open up and ask for help more. In small situations as well as in “bigger” ones. Often it worked, sometimes I have been burnt again – but in the end I am glad I have become more open to the fact that asking for help can be a good thing. Often I am still trying to solve problems by myself. I still want to get through my diseases alone, and not bothering anyone with it. I don’t want to hear what “a pain in the ass” this disease must be (yeah, no shit) and how much “this must suck” (really?). I can’t stand a superficial pity show (I really don’t need pity) and also no “Everything will be ok, Sweety” – because guess what: I KNOW!
What I would love instead is someone who simply just says “Sorry to hear you feel bad, is there anyting I can do for you?” and actually means it! So when I say “Thanks, I could really need electrolytes, as I am about to dehydrate badly and this can have bad consequences for me” – then this someone is happy to bring them over before I black out. But maybe that’s just my high expectations, too. I know that there are amazing people out there, who are willing to help.
Maybe I just need to ask once more. But after all – it doesn’t mean that I will.
4| YOUR EGO WILL BREAK ME MORE THAN OTHERS
Everyone has an ego. Yes, me too. But what you don’t know is that I don’t care about ego anymore.
For years now I am trying to detach from my ego. In many ways. Sometimes more successful. Sometimes less. But what you don’t know when dealing with me is, when – for whatever reason – it comes to an ego clash, yours can break me more than it can break others.
Oppression is something I have been going through in many different forms. In many different stages of my life. In many different places. I doubt any of us haven’t been oppressed before. But the oppression in all different kind of relationships has manifested itself in a way that I am still trying to figure out how to manage it better. But it has a lot to do with ego.
While a discussion with your friends and an ego rambling can be harmless for them, you may trigger some of the old memories within me. Mansplaining me? Memories of the sexual harassment back at work are easily triggered. Trying to over-power me with your ego? It’s an easy trigger for all the violent scenes that are stuck in my subconsious memory. Not being able to let go in a discussion or agree to disagree? My chest will start to tighten up and makes it hard to breathe after being in an abusive relationship.
See – it’s not about being right or wrong or having to agree with me at all cost. No. It’s about respect.
Deep, equal respect, without restrictions. Everyone deserves it.
But for me it is more than essential. If there is just a tiny lack of respect, I will go, I will back off and make sure I leave or use my voice to make clear that this has to stop, to make sure there is no way in for any trigger. Because triggers mean I have to re-live something that has once left me broken before.
5| I AM MORE THAN MY BODY
Looking for a fling? Please scroll on.
Look. I get it. Sex is fun. At least it is supposed to be. I had fun times, having sex when I was single. At the time I wasn’t aware of my first assault. Ever since that second one – everything changed. Mind me, I tried having fun again afterwards. But it sucked! And here is why:
I AM MORE THAN MY BODY.
Now you may think “Yeah, So am I, but I can still have fun!”. Oh and that’s awesome! Please, go ahead. But for me – my body is my temple. I have not only once after that second incident tried to have a “friendship with benefits”. And after trying, I just had to admit that it doesn’t work. I am more than my body. In fact: My body is only a small part of the awesome package I got to offer. So why reducing me to something so meaningless. If it wasn’t for “me” my body wouldn’t move the way it does, nor look the way it does, nor behave the way it does. My body is just the personification of my soul.
Sometimes it puzzles me that this needs to be explained. But it is such an important point. So there you go.
6| DON’T TELL ME HOW I SHOULD FEEL & HEAL
“The rape has been many years ago so we don’t need to talk about it anymore”
“But can you not use the ‘R’ word cause it makes me really uncomfortable”
“But your rape was not as bad as the one in India where she was attacked by the gang in the bus so you were lucky” (these are all real statements I heard before)
Really? So you think I am actually lucky I was only raped by a person I knew and not beaten to death afterwards?
Oh and the word “Rape” makes you uncomfortable when you hear it? You don’t want me to say it? Or write about it?
Guess how fucking uncomfortable I felt when my first boyfriend RAPED me. When the therapist decided to rip down my underwear and RAPE me with his disgusting fingers!
Yeah. FUCKING uncomfortable. Yes, I am lucky to be alive. But it doesn’t make it any better. This is not something that can be compared at any level. Nor can you decide how I should feel about it or how it would affect me.
And you think because it’s many years ago I should be ok with it now? Obviously it’s over now so why would I have any issues right?
W R O N G.
You are a fucking lucky bastard (no offense) if you never had to go through sexual violence. Not even harassment. 8 out of 10 women have. And about 4 out of 10 men did, too.
Have you ever thought about that 80% of women you know have experienced sexual violence before?
And you think “Well it’s over now, so it’s ok” will do – this is why everything about this is just so wrong.
I have been holding onto my emotions, feelings and experiences for way too long. One reason has been the shame and blame I had to go through, even from (fake) friends at the time. Starting to talk and write about it was the best thing that I could have done. Sharing my journey, the emotions I had to go through, the struggles that came with it not only helped me to heal – but it helped others to open up about it and starting their healing journey.
There is no “one size fits all” healing. We can exchange our experiences, our journeys, what we tried, what worked and what didn’t. But please don’t tell me what I SHOULD do. Don’t tell me I am broken (because I am not) and living in the past – only because I OWN my story. Please stop pretending you know it all (especially if you have been lucky enough to not been affected by sexual violence). Please stop pretending like I am not a “full” woman anymore because “someone has robbed a piece of my feminity” (I can’t even shake my head enough about some BS people come up with) or tell me you read in a blog post about (insert whatever healing method here) and this will heal me FOREVER. Just stop.
The only person who truly knows whats best for my healing journey – is me.
I was also told hundreds of times how I should feel about my rape, that I have been attracting this into my life and it’s anyways my fault, that it’s long enough ago and I shouldn’t “live in the past” by telling my story, that I was lucky to be raped that way (oh well, thanks MF) and so on. The best analogy I found once when I was again in a situation where I encountered massive bullshit like this was:
Imagine you are living in a peaceful country. You know somewhere in the world is war, and they have big bombs going off every minute. You don’t really know about the impact of these bombs – until you meet someone with a handgranate, who pulls the trigger and throws it at you just when it’s about to explode. The rape was my handgranate. It exploded right in my face. Full on. And any other bomb didn’t matter anymore in this moment.
So before you open your mouth the next time, letting out some unsolicited opinion or advice about whether or not someone should speak up, how they should do it and how they should feel, remember this:
You wouldn’t want your daughter, your sister, your mother or any other woman you are close to have a handgranate thrown in her face. You’d want her to be safe, too.
And the last thing you’d say would be: “You are lucky you were raped this way!”
– so why saying it to me (or any other survivor)?
7| RAISING THE BAR EACH AND EVERY DAY
This is probably the most recent one – although added some years ago.
I know, I get it: You are busy. Suuuuper busy even. You have a 9-5 job (like seriously working only 8 hours a day), you try to go to the gym (sometimes – well at least it’s in your calendar), you need to socialise with all your home-based friends (all these drinks make you so tired!) and besides that you still need to fix something at home (for 2 years already). Or maybe you are traveling regularly. And you even work besides that, as if traveling wasn’t already a fulltime job. And then as if that wasn’t hard enough you trying to stay in touch with all your worldwide friends over social media and messenger.
– And on top of that I ask you to improve yourself through personal development? How dare I?
Well the answer is: I am doing it myself, too. I am living by my own high standards and dare to apply these also for my friends. Not fair you think? Well, you know where the “Unfriend” button is.
Here is the thing: I am not saying tomorrow you shall be the Dalai Lama or the next Mother Teresa. All I say is to work on yourself, every day a bit, grow your mindset and wake up to a better version of yourself every single day.
In the past years I had to say good-bye to many acquintances that could have been friends, friends that never should have been friends, and longterm friends that weren’t anymore on the same level of friendship.
I literally had to let go way more people in my life than I was able to keep.
One big reason is, that I have raised my bar a little higher, each and every day. This also meant that the standard to be my friend became higher, for old and new friends. As I improved myself more and more I expected the same from my friends. But most of them couldn’t keep up.
All of those excuses above don’t count for me. Let’s be honest, we all know so many people get way more shit done (myself included), have way more worries or sorrows in their lives and also – why should we even start to compare each others situation anyways. If personal development is not on your map, you are missing out!
Personal development is way more than any woo-woo you can think of just now.
It’s about TAKING RESPONSIBILITY of your own life. HAVING THE POWER to decide who you will become. To not let other people MAKE DECISIONS FOR YOU.
It’s about fulfillment, happiness, your true self, your passions, how you will give back and why you live your life the way you do. I am working super hard to not only build my own business but two social enterprises in my life to help others that I feel connected to. I deal with 4 chronic diseases, with my own struggles (I guess this article shows you a bit of it) and have to fight my own demons.
But each and every day I CHOSE to be better than the day before, I DECIDE to learn, to grow and to be HAPPY.
I TAKE CONTROL.
I HAVE POWER.
I AM RESPONSIBLE.
I LOVE MY LIFE.
I KNOW MY WHY.
And the people I want to surround myself with, should know that, too.
Jim Rohn said: “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” – If you are not consciously working on yourself, you are just not made to raise the bar every day a little bit more – and that simply means we are just not made for each other.
There is a lot more that comes with it when I think about the relationships I have/don’t have, the encounters I have, the people I meet and the decisions I make.
These 7 things are just the most important things that have influenced me, my partnerships, relationships with family, friends and business partners the past 17 years – consciously or not.
I have written this article for 2 main reasons:
- I needed to get this off my mind and write it off my heart in order to stop thinking so much about it
- I thought by publishing it I can give others the chance to think about it themselves, resonate with it (or not) and be educated on the way they deal with survivors of sexual violence
One thing that all of these 7 things have in common (and you should anyways implement in your daily life when trying to become a compassionate human being) is:
Stop judging someone by their obvious behavior.
What I mean is: You never know what thy their story is. Why they run these patterns. What is going on in their minds, their hearts in this moment.
Maybe you do know their story. But probably that was not the full version.
I don’t know a single human being (besides myself) who knows my full story. None. Many people know key events, some know bits and pieces, even my parents and sister don’t know all of it. Judging someone by their behavior means you are taking away the chance of helping them to change it. If you are willing to be patient (and you do care about this person) then the best thing you can do is: don’t judge.
Give space. But be there when needed. Ask cautious questions. And listen. Not to reply. But to understand. Don’t feel sorry for them. Don’t pity them. Be compassionate. Deeply, not just in a superficial way. Wait. Don’t speed up a process that will never end before the life time does. Be honest. And loyal. Be yourself.
Let them be themselves.
I know this was a long one. And if you made it this far I want to acknowledge you for being so brave for going on this journey with me, to be able to read without judging me, to be open to have your perspectives challenged and learn something new today.
I want you to know I see you.
I thank you for giving me space in your open heart to be able to be the voice for myself and so many others who may not be able to say a thing about these issues.
All I can say is: It is hard. But it is worth it. I know that I am on this journey for something that’s bigger than myself and I am willing to fight for it.
Please stay open hearted. Open minded. And your true self.