A year ago today, in about ten hours from now, I was sexually assaulted whilst on public transport. I escaped my traffickers and my last abusive ex. at the same time in May 2012; I’d been safe and free from sexual violence for 2 years and 5 months. I was just about starting to get a sense of safety, I was just about starting to believe that I was free and safe and I wasn’t going to be in that situation again, I wasn’t going to be hurt again.
Now what happened, relatively speaking, was kinda mild (at least based on my own experiences) and I mostly just dismiss it but the effects that it had on me were much more severe. It completely ruined any ability I had to feel even remotely safe; it ruined any belief that I had, that I was starting to build, that it wasn’t going to happen again. It destroyed any lingering hope that there were good people in the world who would make efforts to stop it.
It was a busy tram, packed to capacity. I’d spent the day (the fifth one in a row) at the hospital with a friend and I was far too exhausted to wait for however many trams it took to find an emptier one. I shoved down my claustrophobia and packed myself in with everyone else, finding myself shoved in up against the door, unable to move.
I felt someone touching me and just rationalised that it was simply the tram being too busy, that they couldn’t physically help it, that of course I wasn’t being attacked. They started grinding up against me and whilst I tried rationalising it was just the movement of the tram, part of me knew that really wasn’t the case and I couldn’t doubt it any more. I started silently begging and pleading that someone would notice, someone would say something, someone would stop him. All I could do was stare out of the door window, all I could see were fireworks going off above the city and I just completely froze, memories of my granddad being pressed up behind me whilst all I could see and focus on were fireworks. I started to dissociate, I couldn’t move, I couldn’t shout out, I couldn’t make him stop. I just froze and found myself stuck somewhere between my granddad as a child and this man on the tram as an adult.
It was only when the doors opened and I half fell out at my own stop that I was able to ground myself enough to get off the tram and get away. I didn’t dare turn around to see who it was that had just assaulted me. When I got back home, I found that he had oh so kindly left a deposit all over the back of my jeans. This definitely wasn’t some man struggling with the movement of the tram or even some relatively harmless man who had taken advantage of that movement. This was a man who had gotten his penis out and had ground up against me before ejaculating on me.
Now (and I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, if I ever say that x was worse than y, I’m talking about my own experiences and from my own perspective – I’m not in the habit of dismissing or demeaning other womyn’s traumas) this was absolutely nothing compared to some of the things that I’ve been through before; trafficking means that you see the absolute worst of the world and there are specific traumas that come with that, but this incident still sticks out so strongly and still had such a massive affect on me.
I had been safe for so long. I’d made a clean break, I’d actually been able to escape and I’d actually lived without being raped, without being abused, without being beaten or threatened or murdered or ejaculated on or filmed or anything for nearly two and a half years; the longest period free of abuse I’ve ever had in my life.
And this fucking man violates me, in a public place, treats me like nothing more than a piece of meat to deposit his semen on (which yeah, I’ve had a million times before and it’ll always, always leave me feeling like a worthless piece of shit, like nothing more than the whore they’ve always told me I am), while there are people so close by on every side who did nothing, who barely even noticed the womon silently calling out for help next to them, who didn’t notice him get his cock out, who didn’t care what was happening to me.
I had so much going on November last year; one of my closest friends in hospital and the fact I was the only person around to care for her and advocate for her. My other friends breaking down and struggling with the hospitalisation. I’ve said it before, but dissociation is a hell of a useful skill. It got me through that month and the coming months. I wasn’t feeling anything, I was barely aware of the world around me, I was on auto-pilot. I cried for maybe a minute, that same night, whilst desperately trying to rub his cum off of my jeans, trying not to throw up and trying not to flashback to the millions of other times I’ve been trying to wash it off of various parts of myself. But other than that, I felt nothing and didn’t until February this year. I was still getting on busy trams at night, I was still pushing that trigger over and over again, but in February I completely broke down.
My agoraphobia got a million times worse again, I could barely go outside unless it was absolutely necessary, I couldn’t get on public transport, not even with friends who were slightly used to my agoraphobia, but had never seen it so bad. I was having massive panic attacks the moment I got anywhere near the tram stop and if they did manage to get me on, I simply couldn’t breathe and we’d end up hopping on and off at various tram stops because I just couldn’t cope being on there for too long. I stopped eating again. I started drinking again.
I really started drinking again. I was going out on a regular basis with my friends, getting stupidly drunk and having complete psychotic breaks; I broke down and told them far more than I ever intended. That one of my friend’s ex’s raped me, that I was a trafficking survivor, not just a CSA survivor, the extent of the abuse from my ex partners. I finally told them about the attack on the 5th November 2014. This happened more than once. Between those nights out, I was drinking almost constantly at home. My life was falling apart and there was nothing I could do to stop it.
I felt so fucking worthless. I felt like I really was just a whore, that I was never going to be worth anything more. My life was falling apart, I’d been violated again. All I was ever going to be worth was something that men could cum on and in. I was so close to going back and if not going back to my traffickers, to start working again, on my own. I wasn’t struggling for money (though, drinking as much as I was whilst on disability benefits wasn’t exactly doing great for my bank balance), but I was struggling so much with my sense of self-worth; that was all I was worth, it was all I was ever going to be worth, so why not go back? I didn’t deserve the life I had, I didn’t deserve the friends I have, I didn’t deserve the opportunity to heal, I didn’t deserve anything other than the life I had, the life I’d always had.
I was so very close to doing it, to either contacting my traffickers and going back, or going to work for myself and strangely, what got me out of that mess was Tumblr and the persistent love of my friends (plus there was a cathartic benefit to my frequent breakdowns, to releasing some of that trauma). Now, Tumblr is a fucking cesspit and the ‘radicals’ on there are barely such, but with my depression and my agoraphobia I was spending much more time on there than usual and whilst I was already aware of and a part of the groups of exited womyn (and some men) on there, I ended up becoming a little more involved. Deliberately seeking out posts and more radical theory (both in regards to prostitution and pornography and other topics) and I ended up becoming more and more openly radical. I never really told anybody that I was on the edge of going back, but others pulled me back from being on that edge.
I slowly stopped drinking, slowly started eating a little more again, started very slowly putting my life back together. It took a long time for the urges to go back to start to subside, but they eventually did. Especially in June when someone new entered my life and I found so much motivation to heal, to start a new life, to be anything other than what they said I was.
In a ten minute tram journey, that man took every sense of safety I’d started to build. He took all of my self-worth, he violated me and he nearly pushed me back into prostitution. The act itself may have been minor, but it was the first time I’d been hurt in almost two and a half years and it nearly destroyed me.
I’m finally starting to feel that sense of safety again, a year later and I’ll actually be on a tram, late at night, in the dark again tonight, though this time not alone. I will reclaim my life. I won’t let him ruin it.
I know today isn’t going to be easy, I know that today is going to be full of triggers and flashbacks (I wouldn’t be writing this post, otherwise) but I equally know I can get through it.