Trigger warning: Talks about depression, self-harm and sexual assault.
This is a guest post written by someone who prefers to remain anonymous.
Depression is something I have struggled with for as long as I remember. I think I might have been around 9 when it first started, and when you’re a kid you just get called a sook, a cry-baby or an attention-seeker. I got the same responses into my teen years, when I did speak up and try to get some help.
I was just a kid who had nothing to be depressed about, right?
I remember being in year 6 and so skinny that my hip bones stuck out. I had to wear jeans that were too big just so they would accommodate my protruding bones. I was wearing a ladies size 8 and the kids at school called me fat because I was no longer wearing kid’s sizing. At night, once my family had all gone to bed, I would take a saucepan into the bathroom and repeatedly hit my stomach and hip bones because I believed it would make me skinnier and, therefore, more likable. I know it sounds nuts, but this is how I felt I could deal with it.
In High School, Things Got Worse.
I was 12, was one of the young ones in my grade, and somehow I ended up hanging with the “cool kids”. They were 13 and some had already had multiple sexual partners. I felt horrified at this. I remember telling them that I had no intention of having sex. I got teased for not wanting to be a “slut” and, after one weekend hanging out, they spread rumours that I was, anyway. That hurt. That weekend, we’d all stayed over at one girl’s house. Her parents let her go out partying and even supplied her with condoms, even though she was only 13. Everyone said her mum was a “cool mum”, not strict like mine. They didn’t want me out partying or having boyfriends and I can see why.
On that weekend, we all went out on the Friday night up to the headland. This was where all the cool kids went to hang out, party and drink. Unbeknownst to me, the other girls had planned to meet up with their (much older) boyfriends. They left me alone with another older guy that I didn’t even know. I felt awkward, annoyed and shy. My friends were gone for an awfully long time, and I was sitting there in silence with this stranger. I was pissed at my “friends” and wanting to go home.
I Wanted to Leave.
I finally said something to the guy, who was about 16, tall and super buff. I told him that I wanted to go and find my friends. He said he knew where they were and to follow him. So I did.
We were headed down a bush path towards the beach when he pushed me into the grass and bushes, laid on top of me so I couldn’t move and covered my mouth with one hand. I tried to fight him off but he was bigger and stronger than me. He started doing things to me. I was crying in pain. He wasn’t gentle. When he finished he got off of me and said “If you tell anyone, ever, I will make sure your life is miserable, you slut.” I sat and cried while he did up his pants. I was 12 years old, 155cm and barely 50kg and had been a virgin.
I found my friends and told them I wanted to go home. They told me I was ruining their night and to just leave. I walked back to the house we were staying at. My friends got back at around 2 am and when I told them about the sexual assault, they told me to stop lying- he wouldn’t have done that!
The Aftermath of Sexual Assault.
I told my so-called friends that I didn’t want to hang out with them anymore. In retaliation, they spread awful rumours about me, calling me a slut and telling people I was really uncool. Kids are cruel. Thanks to them, I was a 12 year old in Year 7 who had no friends. I hated going to school. The guys would make sexual advances towards me, acting like I deserved it. I remember being in the music rooms, practicing for my exams, when this guy walked in, locked the doors and put his hand up my skirt. He said he knew the guy who had “been with me” the weekend before and that if I told anyone what he was doing, he’d make sure I got bashed.
I became so revolted with myself that I retreated from every part of my life and began lashing out at my family. I would either scribble out or cut out my face from all the photos around the house and I started drinking. My self-worth was non-existent and I started believing all the words said about me. I was a slut, I was easy, I was a whore.
I cut off all my hair as I just didn’t want to look attractive anymore, I didn’t want people to see me anymore, I didn’t want guys to want me anymore. I started self harming and it was about 5 months until someone noticed. It was a teacher at school who saw and sent me to the Principal’s office. I don’t know what gave it away; the fact that I wore knitted jumpers in summer or that I had made the mistake of rolling up my sleeves one day because I was hot.
I changed school towards the end of that school year and went to a public school. Unfortunately, it was the same school my attacker went to. I had to walk past him everyday for the next 3 years until he finished school. He’d pucker his lips and make kissing faces at me. It was disgusting. I would see him and my stomach would churn as I remembered the sexual assault. Often seeing him made me physically sick. No one really understood; he was one of the “cool” guys. Thankfully he left when I finished year 10. The school counselor at my new school was the only person to try to help me. without her, I may not have gotten through all of this.
Relationships as a Teen.
From the ages of 13 to 16, I didn’t have many boyfriends. I would be “going out” with a guy for a few months and the pressure to have sex would become an issue. I’d refuse and get dumped and they’d spread rumours about me, saying I was a “scaredy cat”, I was “frigid”. Maybe I was; I had very little faith or trust in any of these young guys. I didn’t want to be used and abused, I wanted to be respected. I craved my rom-com movie moments; I wanted to find love in some charming and uncanny circumstances and live happily ever after.
I waited until I was 16 to lose my virginity with my consent and on my own terms. When talking about ‘my first time’, I try and remember that moment, not the one that took place 4 years earlier.
I’m a Survivor.
It has been 13 years since that awful weekend. I’m lucky, in a way. I am happily married and have moved on with my life since then. Many aren’t able to do so. I still suffer from low self-esteem and self-worth, but in the last 5 years I have made a huge effort to improve the way I see myself. Some things haven’t changed, even though I have grown up and gotten married. I don’t really enjoy sex, for example. I never really have. Having endometriosis is one factor that adds to the discomfort but I think all that happened to me has an impact there. My husband understands. We have a marriage based on being the best of friends before anything else.
When you read about girls who were raped or sexually assaulted, there should never be any question around them “asking for it”. It doesn’t matter what she was wearing or how much she drank. Women are not objects; we are human beings. Women don’t ever set out to get raped or sexually assaulted. Was I, at 12, responsible for my rape? Of course I wasn’t. It doesn’t matter where I was, what I wore or who I was friends with. I was a 12 year old child. Even if I was a 20 year old woman, those things wouldn’t matter. Rape occurs when someone decides that your consent is irrelevant to their desires- for whatever reason.
Placing blame on victims makes no logical sense. It’s stupid and cruel and needs to stop.
If you need someone to talk to about sexual assault or family violence please call 1800 RESPECT.
If you’re feeling low, please call LifeLine on 131 114.
#IBOT @ KyliePurtell.com