*Trigger warning for rape/sexual assault/self-harm/anorexia*
I’ve always been slightly proud of my body.
I’m gay, I have a very liberal attitude to sex and sexuality (I actually work in an erotic boutique!) and, while I’ve never thought my body was ideal, I know that I’m slim and I have nice boobs and a nice be-hind. I’m confident and comfortable in my own skin. It ain’t perfect, but it’s the only one I’ve got so I might as well love it.
I was sexually assaulted and then raped. My initial reaction was to not think about it. To bury it in the recesses of my mind and, essentially, run away, made sense.
I became anorexic and started self-harming. This was because these people, who had taken advantage of me, had so much control over me; even now, when I’ve not seen them for years, they control so much of my life.
I used to be bisexual – now I couldn’t consider having an intimate relationship with a man.
Sometimes, I’d be in a perfectly good mood, when BOOM, I’d start to cry, or to have a panic attack.
Starving or harming myself were forms of control: people who have hurt me controlled my sexuality, my emotions, whether I felt strong enough to out of bed in the morning. I had control over my weight and my physical pain.
I had all these scars over me, and I was dangerously thin. I hated my body. I looked in the mirror and loathed what I saw: a scrawny, scratched and scarred girl. Not the strong confident woman I knew and wanted to be.
Through counselling, support from friends, and learning to accept what happened to me, I got better. It took time and there were so many times I just wanted to give up, but I got better.
Through counselling, I learned not to put what happened behind me or to forget about it, but to confront it, accept it, and move on with it. I now see it as something which shaped me into the strong, confident, compassionate, caring person I am.
And that includes my body. I still use bio-oil to reduce the scars, and I’m no longer underweight, but I love my scars. My body tells a story; not a story of a victim but one about a survivor. Someone who was close to death, who cut herself and who punished her body and nearly gave up on everything and everyone, but didn’t.
My scars say: “remember that time, and be thankful for this time”. They say “you’re a strong, confident woman; you’re not that girl any more”. But most of all, they say “well done”.