I initially underestimated how much this experience has traumatised me. For a long time I was in denial about the seriousness of what these men did to me and I especially hated being labelled a victim. It was only when the trial was over that I was able to accept that none of this had been my fault and that I had been taken advantage of, and no matter how weak and powerless I may feel – I am a victim of sexual assault and rape.
In terms of my personal life, what these men did to me has had such an impact that I cannot find any words to justify how horrific the last eight months have been. I, essentially, self-destructed myself and totally destroyed personal relationships with friends and my boyfriend and other men I tried to learn to trust and be with. To say I now have trust issues would not even begin to describe how hesitant I now am to open up and trust anyone.
Since the first day that I realised I had been sexually assaulted I have been convinced it was my fault and I feel embarrassed when telling people the full story. I expect them to wave a disapproving finger at me and assume that it was my fault because I had been drunk. But now I know that no matter how drunk someone is, no matter what state they are in, you and your friend do not take them home and take advantage of them.
The most heart-breaking moment of the last eight months was when I told my nine year old sister what had happened to me, because she is now convinced that something similar will happen to her and no woman, no girl, no matter how old they are, deserves to have that fear. This breaks my heart because I never had any fears of this kind that not one, but two men would do something like this, yet my sister will carry those fears for the rest of her life.
Although knowing that this is a fear shared among many women, and now myself, I know that I did the right thing by reporting what happened to me as soon as possible and ensuring that these men will (I pray) not do anything like this to anyone else.
People often say that reporting sexual assault is the ‘right thing’ to do, however there is no right or wrong in these situations and we cannot force victims of something like this to do anything. But I want anyone who is a victim of sexual assault or rape, or anyone who may unfortunately become one, to know, that whilst it may feel like you have to relive it and the odds are stacked against you, reporting it and receiving any form of closure or justice does help an unimaginable amount. Knowing that these men are receiving justice has helped me slowly start to let go of the past and begin to move on with my life. I do not wish anything like this on anyone, but I want everyone to know that the support I received from the police and the closure that I now have has been so important in helping me let go and I urge anyone else to do the same.
I hate these men, and I still hate myself for what happened, but from this closure I can now say I can find it somewhere at the bottom of my heart, to forgive them, and more importantly, can forgive myself.