I never thought I’d share this story on my blog. I never thought that one experience could change so many parts of me but I feel like it’s time to open up. My hope is that this will raise awareness about sexual assault that many women unfortunately experience – while travelling or at home. This is the story of my sexual assault while living abroad.
Sexual Assault Happens Everywhere
Before I get into the story, I think it’s important to note that sexual assault happens everywhere. Sure, mine happened when I was living abroad but it could’ve happened at home in Toronto. Sadly, many of my friends have experienced some form of sexual assault or harassment at home so the place isn’t the problem.
Shortly after moving to Melbourne, Australia in 2018, I was sexually assaulted. I went to the police station alone and got tested for STIs by myself. Having to pick up all of the pieces mostly by myself was challenging to say the least. I had no close friends or family nearby and only told one or two new friends. As you can imagine, I didn’t have much support – but that’s mostly because I didn’t want to tell many people about it.
It wasn’t until recently that I realized how few of my friends or even family members know about this incident. I wanted to keep it a secret because I felt like talking about it made me look bad. I was ashamed about it, although I had no reason to be. “What would people think of me if they knew I was assaulted?”, “they’re going to think less of me” and “I’m going to be judged”, are all thoughts that popped into my mind at one point or another.
Suddenly it hit me that not talking about these issues is a HUGE part of the problem. Whenever I tell a guy friend about the various occasions where I’ve been cat called on a street at night or when I’ve been followed on my walk home, they’re horrified. Little do they know that’s not the worst of it. They also often don’t realize that almost every woman they know has dealt with with sexual assault or harassment in some capacity. I believe this comes from a lack of education and willingness to discuss these topics. Because it’s still somewhat ‘taboo’ to talk about, many men don’t have the slightest clue as to what women face regularly. It’s my hope that starting this conversation will allow others to do the same.
Now, almost four years later, I feel like I’m finally able to speak openly about my sexual assault while living abroad. Right after the assault happened, I didn’t know how to handle the pain. The most emotionally draining aspect was when I was dealing with the police. I spent months waiting for things to happen. I was mislead and ultimately left disappointed with how things were handled. The assault also happened to come at a time when a young woman in Melbourne had been assaulted and killed in a park near where I was living. Not surprisingly, the police responded by saying that women should be more careful. It shocked me that they weren’t discouraging type of behaviour from men. I started researching victim blaming to understand why this was happening.
I was absolutely enraged and I reached out to a feminist magazine called Archer. When they published my story I felt a huge wave of relief. I was finally able to get everything that was bothering me off my chest. At the time, the best part was that I didn’t have to share it with anyone I knew personally.
Writing that article was a healing experience for me. I also recently realized that it was (unintentionally) my first paid freelance writing gig. Although I had a degree in English and was working in the realm of writing at the time, this changed everything for me. I wanted to speak up about the injustice that I, along with so many women face. It felt so great to talk about this issue online and truly express how I was feeling.
Let’s Continue the Conversation
I hope that sharing this story helps at least one person who’s going or has gone through something similar. My DM’s are always open for anyone who wants to continue the conversation and I’ll be back shortly with another blog!