This blog was originally posted over at Lightswitch Foundation.
When I was five I was sexually assaulted at my school by an 8 year old boy. I was scared and I was confused as to what had happened to me. My parents believed at the time that if I didn't talk about it, it must not be bothering me. They didn't understand about the guilt that keeps victims silent. They didn't realise I internalised what I had gone through.
This meant that when I was 8 and had sexual advancements made on me by an older man, I was unprepared to talk about it. I again felt guilt and shame and squashed it right down inside me. I didn't talk about it but that didn't mean I wasn't feeling it.
So when I was raped at 16 I had years of learning to keep quiet to draw on. The guilt and shame were overwhelming. I became depressed, struggled with a long period of psychosis, self harm and eating disorders. I didn't talk about what happened to me for years to come and it is only recently that I began to share openly what had happened to me.
Unfortunately, my story is not a isolated event in the lives of New Zealand women and girls. 1 in 4 of us will be sexually assaulted at some point in our lives before the age of 25, and one in 5 men will experience the same. We live in the shadows, refusing to show our pain, refusing to talk about what happened to us for fear of slut shaming, not being believed, or simply opening old wounds.
We are hurting. Surrounded by people in a society plagued by sexual abuse and yet still isolated and alone. We turn the guilt and hate on ourselves and in doing so we not only continue to harm ourselves, we deny our stories to the next generation to help them understand, grow, protect and heal.
I started Lightswitch Foundation because I believe that it is time we talked.
We need to talk about the reality of what is happening to us, in this and many other topics. We need to stop pretending we are OK and realise that there is a massive amount of us who are feeling lost and alone. We need to stop hiding from the difficult and ugly subjects and bringing into the light all of the things that have been lost to darkness.
We cannot take back what was done to us. We cannot reclaim our innocence. But together, we can turn on that light, flick that switch and start a conversation that may start us on the road to healing, as individuals and as a nation.
We would love to hear stories from people who have struggled in darkness with any topic. If you are still there, struggling, or if you have come out the other side. If you know someone who has walked dark paths, or if you have seen the affect that it has had in your community.
Please message us with your stories of struggle, of pain, or of hope. Together we can turn the light on these subjects and start our way toward wholeness.
I think it's time we talked.
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