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When I was about 13, 14 years old, I remember coming back from school on the bus, wearing my school uniform, and a man brushed his hand up against my leg and then put his hand in between my legs.
I didn't say anything, and that's part of me thinking...
"This is your fault. I deserved this."
"I can control the length of my skirt."
"Maybe it won't happen again."
I was first raped when I was a university student.
While I denied it for a whole year, that I had even got raped, that this had even happened to me.
I was able to keep a strong exterior, but that might have not been the most healthy option for me.
I was overdue a breakdown and so when it happened, everyone was, like...
"What? We thought you were successful."
"You were going to university, you were doing so well."
Even if I can go through the normal paces of life, put on a smile and show everyone that I'm happy, I'm successful, I'm doing well.
In the back of my head, I feel so sick, ashamed and defined by my experiences and I think...
"Will there ever be a time that I won't have these nightmares, these flashbacks?"
Being triggered, you're transported back to the heart of the event.
It can be any small thing that reminds you of it, if it's a loud noise, if it's the feeling of someone accidentally brushing up against you on the tube.
And, all of a sudden, I am reliving it and it is happening to me again, so my body does tense up.
I'm cringing with shame and I can taste spit that isn't my own.
It makes me want to throw up.
I was embarrassed to answer people's questions like, "Why were you alone at that time of night?"
"Didn't you fight back?"
"What were you wearing?"
I was always colourful and playful with my fashion and how I dressed.
I started to doubt that part of myself.
I started to think that I was being provocative and so that whole part of my identity was taken away from me when I was first raped.
I overanalysed my appearance from whether I was wearing too much mascara to how short my skirt was, to whether I looked pretty that day.
I need to appear more introvert, I need to appear less interested in men, you know, to stop this from ever happening again.
All that effort, I spent analysing every detail of my being, none of it kept me safe.
It happened again.
I was raped for the second time.
Because it is toxic for victims to believe that there is something about them that made and makes them justified targets.
It can happen even if you're wearing a winter coat and a big jumper, which I was.
Whatever you wear, however you look, however you talk to men, you don't deserve it and you can't predict it.
I actually kept my outfit from my first rape in the back of my wardrobe.
There was that not-too-mini miniskirt and that strappy top.
One day I saw the outfit and I thought, "I love that outfit."
"Why don't I put it back on again?"
PTSD changed who I am.
It changes my physical reactions, it changes how I feel about things.
To be able to dress how I used to do before my rapes, before my sexual assaults, feels great because I am myself again.
I've learned from therapy, grounding techniques, you know - what can I see around me that's beautiful?
What is the brightest, craziest colour that I can put on today?
And that helps to remind me, I'm safe, I'm here, I've survived.
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Reclaiming My Body After Rape: Living With PTSD

802 Folder Collection
Mackenzie published on November 12, 2019    Mackenzie translated    Victoria reviewed
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