Words by Sophie, 24 One in six women and one in thirty-three men will be raped in their lifetime. Australia has one of the highest rates of reported sexual assault in the world, yet the number of offenders who receive prison sentences is almost non-existent. Despite 34 years of legislation, sexual harassment is still very much prevalent in Australian workplaces. But this isn’t what we need to talk about. All of these things need to be addressed by society, not you. In fact, you probably know all of this already. This letter wasn’t written to recite statistics at you or to start another social media campaign. Hearing other people’s stories isn’t going to heal your wounds. I’m writing you this letter because there are a few things you need to know that you might not have already been told. These things are so important for you to not just hear, but to believe. They are all true, I promise. Let me begin. You are NOT disgusting. I know you feel it. I know that no matter how many times you scrub your body, or how much perfume you use, you still feel it. The filthiness of their act has stained your skin and it feels like there’s no way to wipe it clean. But you must know, that feeling is not real. It’s a lie they left embedded in your mind and you have to push it away as much as you possibly can. You have NO reason to feel embarrassed. Easier said than done, right? Please try. I know you feel like you need to hide it; keep it your own dirty little secret, but you shouldn’t. It’s not your sin to be ashamed of, it’s theirs. And they deserve the whole fucking world to hear about it. It was NOT your fault. You didn’t ask to wake up to their heavy body on top of yours, their repulsive breath billowing into your face. You didn’t ask to be pinned down, choked or hit until you surrendered helplessly beneath. No matter what you were wearing, no matter how much you drank, no matter how well you knew them, it doesn’t matter. None of this was your fault. You are NOT just a statistic. Yes, every woman you speak to has a story of her own. Yes, many men do as well. But this does not lessen the impact of yours. You are a human being with thoughts, feelings and emotions, and your story is important. Just because it happens all the time does not mean you should have to shrug it off and move on. If anything, it means the opposite. You NEED to talk about it. I know your mother might not have believed you when you told her. I know some of your friends might have thought you were overreacting, or trying to seek attention. I know the triage nurse at the hospital might have humiliated you; telling you that they “don’t deal with that type of stuff here”. But they were all acting how society has conditioned them to act. You can’t let their fear of the word rape stop you from shouting it to the sky. You need to talk about this. WE need to talk about this. Because silence keeps rapists in business. Trust me – the braver you are, the braver other people will be. And if enough brave people are standing up and talking about it, then maybe one day we can put an end to it. Finally: You are STRONG and you WILL get through this. This person took away your freedom to feel invincible, replacing it with fear and flashbacks, but you can’t let them take away your liberty to live. You are so strong for making it this far and you can make it even further, I promise. Surrendering to the negative thoughts spinning inside your mind means surrendering to their success, and they don’t deserve an ounce of that satisfaction. In saying that, you don’t always have to be strong. You’re allowed to cry, break down, get angry, and feel every emotion under the sun. It’s inevitable that some days are going to be better than others. You might wake up one morning ready to take on the world, only to step outside and be smacked in the face by an associated scent, which forces you to start all over again. That’s okay. You can do this. Remind yourself of the aforementioned truths, go get a coffee/tea/whatever gets you by, and keep your self-esteem held high. You are worth one thousand times more than they could ever make you feel. Ready to talk to somebody? Call the National Sexual Assault, Family and Domestic Violence Counselling 24-hour Line on 1800 737 732 (1800 RESPECT). Did you know you can report incidences of rape, sexual assault, verbal assault and violent acts online? If the whole court process terrifies you, or you’re just not ready yet, fill out an ARO (Alternative Reporting Option) form, so the police at least have this person’s details in their system. If you submit a report about somebody who already has marks against their name, the police will take further action. You can be anonymous if you wish, and it does not matter how long ago the assault took place. Simply search your state’s police website for alternative reporting options. Queensland ARO form New South Wales SARO form NB: The author did not supply an image for this piece, we chose a humdinger ourselves.