As a rule of thumb I struggle to remember even very important dates.
October 24th 2014, however, will linger in my mind for the rest of my life.
This day was one that started off nicely. I was 15, about to be 16, and a very close childhood friend was staying overnight while his mother was out of town at a dinner. We had shared a room before, even a tent. We had grown up together and been very close our whole lives.
We spent the afternoon gaming and having fun as friends do, and eventually it got late so settled down for bed. I had my bed as usual, and he slept on the floor on a mat and sleeping bag. An arrangement we'd had in our childhoods, only I had normally been on the floor.
When the lights went out, nothing stayed as friendly.
It would have been rape, if I had not fallen out of the bed. Trying to shuffle away. My parents were asleep across the corridor, if I had screamed they would have heard for sure- but in the moment of terror I was frozen. There was nothing I could do but silently inch my way closer and closer to the nearest side of my bed in the hopes that the wandering hands groping at me and trying to get into my pajamas would stop.
Silence fell for a moment, broken with,
"I was only playing."
He returned to the floor, and I returned to my bed. We didn't speak a word afterwards...
And I didn't sleep.
I was awake when he woke and left at 5 in the morning.
I was scared of boys when I returned to college the next day. Every glance, every possible look. Snicker, laughter, everything became scary regardless of who it was.
And despite my counselling, it was a full year before anything actually happened.
It was a fateful Religious Education class, where we briefly discussed sexual assault. And by 'briefly discussed' I mean a bunch of boys made a foul joke about a woman in a video we watched in class and were thoroughly told off by the teacher. They didn't get the message, sadly.
I approached her after class, and aptly wanted to discuss what she meant by 'sexual assault'. I'd heard the term before, but I never really knew what counted.
When she finished, I told her I knew someone that this had happened to.
We discussed it, and the look on her face told me she knew it wasn't a 'friend' I was talking about.
During my last class of the day my counsellor came to get me, we talked and my mother was called in to speak with myself and one of our vice principals...
Things got better. I learned that my story is not alone. That there are so many others out there who were hurt. My family themselves have had these problems of sexual assault, and some have even been reprimanded for attempting to get out of being assaulted.
You may be scared, but the moment you tell someone that can help you, things can get better. You will continue to grow regardless of the pain, and in the end it will make you far more compassionate than you were before...Stand together, and one day we will live without fear.