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A story about sexual assault

Updated: Aug 31, 2022

Hi there. I made paintings and sketches around sexual assault.

Why? Because I have issues. Issues that I needed to release out of my body somehow. And for me this felt like the right way to do it.

Why am I writing a post about it?

Because there is still too little awareness around sexual abuse, sexual assault, sexual harassment, men touching a woman without her permission, missing all her signals; even missing a "no". And April seemed a good month to talk about it, because April is the sexual assault awareness month. So with this post I hope to bring a little bit more awareness in the world. I'll share my own story and process. And even if I'm only encouraging one person to do the same, then this post has fulfilled it's purpose.


Countless women have been a victim to sexual abuse. Even in the tiniest forms it can cause a trauma reaction later on. Every person or body reacts in its own way and we can never know how much impact a certain act is going to have. Things that can seem small for some people can have a big impact on someone else. I think we all understand what sexual abuse, assault, etc.. includes. It can be physical, emotional or verbal. But to give an example; being forced into a sexual act with or without penetration, being sexually touched without consent, catcalled in the streets, a touch from the boss, an arm around her waste, a slip with the hand over her butt, an 'accidental' touch on the boob,... It doesn't matter how big or small the act is, it can cause a stress reaction.



My experiences

I can't say I've been a victim to big sexual abuse, assault or harassment but I know women in my surroundings who were. I have been touched in places I didn't want to be touched. I have been shouted at. I have felt countless hands around my waist to reposition me on a party because I was in their way. I have been touched between my legs while playing a videogame on the attic, with a boy I already knew my whole life, when I was only ten years old and he was fifteen. He started at my knee and he slowly made his way up with his hand while I was still playing the videogame. Innocent as I was, I wore a skirt. But after that, I never wore a skirt again in his presence. That was my first sexual encounter with a guy. I didn't have a clue about sex or anything related to it. I felt that it was wrong but I stiffened. When I finally dared to take his hand and place it back on his own knee, he carefully made his way up again. Little did I know that due to his act, being touched between my legs would cause a stress reaction in my body the moment I became sexually active myself.


My second sexual encounter was when I had my breasts grabbed from behind, in a

pool, when I was thirteen years old. He pulled me against his chest in the deepest part of the swimming pool, and pulled me down. "Its only a game!" He said. It took a few more "games" before I had the courage to say to the, at that time, boyfriend of my mom that I wanted to stop. For a long time I doubted to write down who it was, but then realized this man was old enough to know what he was doing.

When I told all this, a few years later, to my mom she answered: "Doesn't all women have stories like that? ". The fact that she could say this, like it was normal, means there has to change something.


I carried this with me for a very long time and sometimes it still happens to

overwhelm me. I feel unsafe being naked. I often feel dirty in a way. I had to learn to own my body, that it is mine. I had to learn to set that boundary because my first sexual encounters were with men touching me without my consent. I still feel unsafe when someone touches me below, it often causes a stress reaction instead of a pleasure reaction. It asks a lot of me to turn that around. So some people may see my encounters as small, but if this is already triggering these reactions in my head and body, than imagine what it does to women who endured much bigger abuse.


First I wrote down that we have to learn to say "no" and not stiffen and say nothing, that the power is in our hands to push, go away or say no. Also for a long time the media said that us women have to learn to speak up. But no, we certainly have to speak up to create awareness, most importantly; boys and men have to be educated, teach them self awareness about what they are feeling and the instincts out of which they want to act.

My own process

Due to my education to become an art therapist, I discovered, some years ago, that this was still stuck in my body. In myself. Something I couldn't pinpoint, I couldn't speak about. I still can't find the right words to express my feeling the right way. We had this assignment to make an autobiography about ourselves. When the topic adolescence and sexuality came up I felt a major block in my emotions and my body. And even when it was not the assignment, I painted something that I felt had to go out of my system. Which resonated with that chapter in my life. It was the first time I dared to put it out there, I dared to give it some kind of voice, turning it into something visible. As I still didn't understand where it came from and couldn't give it the right words when my teachers asked questions about it, it felt good for me to have made it visible and I knew from then on that it wouldn't be my last one. Since then I dare giving these urges and feelings a face or voice and I sketch or paint them whenever I feel it has to leave my system!

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The first painting (2019); I always felt it was never big enough. My paper was never big enough to reflect the feeling. I often had the urge to draw a naked woman, not in a sexual way but to shock. I never really did, because it was never enough or good or,.. Until I followed my feeling in this and taped paper on paper on paper, until I could draw a life sized woman and started following every urge I felt and threw it on the paper. I painted with my hands as a pencil. The thought "oh... what will people think about this" followed me quickly - "People will think I'm sick" - "There is something wrong with me." - "Maybe ask questions I can't answer." But I did it, and it felt good for me, like a relieve, a deep sigh leaving my body. Only now, three years later, I dare to show it to the world with trembling hands and leaving my believes, of telling myself that I must be sick, behind. Why does it have to be a taboo to tell your story? Why did I believe there had to be something wrong with me for painting this? While it's actually not me who has to feel embarrassed.



Men are also victims

I know there are also men being sexually abused. While writing this post it felt double to only pinpoint men as abusers when they are often also a victim. 1 in 6 men have been sexually abused or assaulted whether in childhood or as adult. And this is probably a low estimate. The taboo for men to speak up about their sexual abuse is much bigger; what sometimes seems to be against their nature but also because they often seem to be forgotten, there is less awareness for men, as a result that the problem is seriously underestimated!

 

If you ever were a victim to sexual assault and you are reading this, than know that I believe you. Know that it is not your fault and all your feelings may be felt. You are never alone.

I'm very much open to talk about your experiences if you feel the need to share them. I will answer you asap! - Contact me.

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Als je ooit slachtoffer werd van seksueel geweld/intimidatie en je leest dit, weet dan dat ik jou geloof. Weet dat het niet jouw schuld is en dat al jouw gevoelens er mogen zijn. Je bent nooit alleen.

Ik sta er altijd voor open om met jou over je ervaringen te praten als je de nood voelt deze te delen. Ik antwoord jou snel! - Contacteer mij.


Thank you for reading!












Plaatsen waar je terecht kan met vragen over seksueel geweld:

- Hulplijn 1712


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