Over the weekend, I did what was possibly THE scariest thing I've done in a very, VERY long time, and filmed a message of support and advice to Twenty-Five Year Old Me. In the video I shared really openly about why my last relationship ended, as well as the fall-out of everything that happened. I spent most of the day compiling useful information and resources to share alongside the video, as well as thinking about what I actually needed to get out - let alone actually filming.
The process of recording, was definitely emotional, but also somewhat cathartic. As soon as I hit "PUBLISH" I felt ok, and totally in control. I started receiving comments, texts and messages on Facebook from friends and Girl Gang members who had watched my video and been affected by it, and I was glad that I'd put it out there for the world.
The next day, however, I felt slammed by what I call 'A Feels Hangover', and spent much of the day feeling totally overwhelmed (aside from the time I got to share hugs and a catch up with epic Rad Bitch Jessi Anna, and her little man).
I started to worry about what the impact of sharing about something so dark (and let's be honest, negative), would have. I mean, I'm supposed to be empowering women, and surely that means sharing stuff which is positive, or inspiring, or you know, doesn't just make everyone cry?
Jordan decided that getting out of the apartment was in order, so took me out for brunch and a walk in the sunshine, which definitely helped.
After sitting with things for a little longer, I've realised that it's important for me to share this stuff - especially the dark, complicated and challenging experiences, not only because it's cathartic for me, but because my story matters.
If nothing else, from my experience, when I was Twenty-Five I wish that I'd had somebody who I felt that I could at least relate to - to look towards and see HOW they'd re-built their world, and what had worked for them.
I actually had an amazing conversation with my coaching friend Nell Boath the other day, about my general beliefs and philosophies on life and how the Universe works, which I feel ties in well here. I don't necessarily believe that anything happens to us for a specific (higher) reason, but I do believe that there is something to be created from every experience. As Carl Jung said, "I am not what happened to me. I am what I choose to become." I think that also because of the experiences I've had, I've always viewed life as a battle to fight my way through. While with time and age, I've learned that I don't always have to push back and fight so hard, because of this, the idea of letting the world beat me has just never been an option.
While I posting my videos was definitely scary, I didn't necessarily think it was brave, or feel particularly courageous. In many ways, I dealt with it the same way I do with everyday life with a stubbornness that says, "Okay, this is what it is, and I am going to beat it."
While it's extremely messed up that this happened to me, I'm extremely fortunate that I left and that I did find support through my friends and family. I'll continue to push and fight for a world where shit like this doesn't happen - let alone a world where it's accepted as normal. In the meantime, I've realised that my story matters, because right now there are people like Twenty-Five Year Old Me who need to feel less alone in the world. I guess my story matters, if only because by telling it - and being here to tell it, is the thing which needed to be created from this experience.
You can check the video out here:
THE CONTENT DISCUSSED IN THE VIDEO IS PRETTY HEAVY, I ALSO SWEAR A BIT, AND SOME PEOPLE MAY FIND IT UPSETTING. BELOW, I'LL LIST SOME SERVICES AVAILABLE.
Lifeline Suicide Prevention Hotline: 13 11 14
Victorian CASA (Centres Against Sexual Assault): Sexual Assault Crisis Line 1800 806 292. For Sexual Assault Counselling Services 1800 RESPECT
Beyond Blue: 1300 224 636
Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria: http://www.dvrcv.org.au/support-services
Sexual Assault Report Anonymously (SARA): http://www.sara.org.au/
I also want to let any of you out there who've experienced abuse or assault know that it doesn't matter what the circumstances are, IT'S NOT YOU'RE FAULT.
However you choose to deal with what's happened to you, is your choice and there is no wrong way of coping.
Talking about what's happened to you doesn't reduce your sense of ownership over your story, or the legitimacy of your feelings.
Some other resources I want to share include:
Leslie Morgan Steiner's TED Talk: http://www.ted.com/talks/leslie_morga...
Suzy X's Comic 'I'm A Sexual Assault Survivor': http://bitchmagazine.org/post/comic-i...
Project Unbreakable: http://projectunbreakable.tumblr.com/
And some other really important stuff to remember about consent:
Consent explained simply: http://www.theloop.ca/this-woman-just...
Informed Consent MUST be given or it's rape. If you're passed out, asleep or intoxicated, you can not give informed consent.
If you're unsure, it means NO.
Silence means NO.
"Let's just cuddle", "Let's just go to sleep", "Not tonight", "I'm tired", "Stop!", "Wait...", "Slow down....", "I'm not ready...", "You're/I'm/We're too drunk/high" or any other variation, mean NO.
Resistance (unless it's part of a game) means NO.
The person (or people) you're with should be able to read your non-verbal responses, and be able to read the way YOU are reacting - not to be confused with how your body is responding. They should know if you are feeling uncomfortable, and they should stop. IMMEDIATELY. Ask if you're ok, and not try to push things.
You have every right to change your mind, AT ANY TIME, (even in the middle of sex) and if your boundaries are not respected, it is rape.
The absence of "NO" doesn't mean "YES".
If you're under the age of consent (which varies greatly, and is kind of arbitrary), then it's rape, particularly if the abuser is older than 18 and in a position of authority.
Nobody should ever pressure or threaten you to say yes.
Your experiences are your own, and nobody has the right to make you question the validity of your feelings about them.