“My body tells a story; not a story of a victim but one about a survivor.”

*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”.

“Woman’s body has been territorialised and yet we are held accountable for the violence carried out on our bodies.”

*Trigger warning for sexual assault/rape/anorexia/bulimia/alcohol abuse*

I was a thin child, undistinguishable from the other lads: a tomboy. The only girl out of a group of 13 who lived in each other’s pockets. We did everything together. I was accepted. Until that is, in the words of Jarvis Cocker: I became “the first girl at school to get breasts”, to menstruate. At the age of ten my life changed completely. Three of these boys stripped me naked in our local park: they grabbed my genitalia and breasts; they pointed at me; they laughed at me. In short, they colonised my body. Their gaze followed me throughout high school. They owned my body in the most negative sense: I became anorexic; I became a compulsive eater; I became bulimic. When I left school I also left the country. Still, I could not escape their mockery.

In my twenties I was raped after passing out at a party. I woke up to find a relative stranger stabbing my body with his penis. I told my mother. She blamed me: “this would not have happened if you had not been so drunk. Had you been leading him on?”, she asked. I did not speak to my Mother for a year. I was disgusted with her. I learned to deal with my obsession with food by turning to alcohol instead. Alcohol provided obliteration and a (very) short term confidence boost. It was a means by which I could have sex with partners who refused to believe I could not have sex with them due to triggering affects such encounters had on my mind. Obviously being raped should not be traumatic enough to dull the desire for a sensitive lover such as you! Such is the mind of man under patriarchy.

After getting lucky with a great therapist and much hard work and facing up to reality on my part I am now learning to befriend my body. I no longer abuse alcohol. This has been the greatest step in being able to realise my self-worth. I do not need to obliterate my feelings any more because they are largely positive. I desire lucidity because I want to remember all my experiences to the full. Occasionally, I still find myself obsessing over food but, fuck it! Who doesn’t! If I want to eat Nutella from the jar I will and I won’t feel guilty about it. I do, however, make sure that I exercise and have plenty of fruit and veg in my diet. Not because I want to become a rake but because I want to be healthy (both mentally and physically) and live for a very long time.

I have forgiven my mum, I have forgiven those boys, I have forgiven my rapist. I know why the world is a mess. Capitalism and patriarchy endorse the commodification of women. Woman’s body has been territorialised and yet we are held accountable for the violence carried out on our bodies. I know this and my empowerment comes from taking steps with other amazing. analytical-minded people to change this. When I do think on these people it is with pity and the knowledge that I am strong, that nothing can defeat me. I would not have this without the community of women I hold so dear. As I cry writing this it is with pride and happiness.

– by rouge