When I was 15 years old, I was raped by a stranger who held a knife to my throat in a dusty lavatory stall. I thought he was going to kill me. Some days, I wish he had.
I didn’t tell anyone what had happened. I took myself home, cleaned myself up, waited for the bruises to heal and pretended it had never happened. I didn’t whisper a word of it to anyone for 11 years.
The experience had been coiled inside me for so long, it had turned rotten. Toxic. I know now that if I had asked for help as a teenager, I could have exorcised this trauma from my body. I wouldn’t still be carrying it with me. But I didn’t, because I couldn’t. Because women are taught to be quiet about their suffering. Because women are taught to be invisible.
Then, in 2018, I became so sick, I couldn’t function. In the 10 years after I was attacked, I developed Crohn’s disease and endometriosis. I was in excruciating abdominal pain, in and out of hospital, and I had to take sick leave from a job I loved but couldn’t handle. After years and years of trying to obey my instructions, of trying to just get on with it, my body fell apart.
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