Approximately 85,000 women and 12,000 men are raped in England and Wales every year alone.

Generally speaking, I don’t like statistics-primarily because they tend to take the emotion and personality out of heart-breaking events. But under some circumstances, the shocking reality of numbers empowers us to make a stand against what we know is wrong and speak out on behalf of those in the world that need us the most.

Living in a day and age of so called “gender equality”, it would be forgivable to make the assumption that everyone shared the same viewpoint that victims are never at fault in an attack; yet, shockingly, this isn’t always the case. Social media is awash with accusations and downright pro-rape-culture propaganda. Whether it be a debate over what she was wearing, how much she’d had to drink or whether she’d been leading the perpetrator on, the blame doesn’t always tend to lie where it should.

And, in a country considered to be one of the most developed in the world, that’s very concerning. It’s a shame that it’s actually not needless to say that the recipient is never at fault.

“Okay. But then, why was she wearing such a tight T-Shirt?”

Is the general theme of the question I hear so often. And the answer is, most likely: Admiration. And a boost in self-esteem, I should imagine; as a young woman myself, I like to feel attractive and it’s perfectly normal to want to feel desired: but that’s not to say that I’d necessarily want anything more. On numerous occasions, I’ve been told “well, in that case, it’s your responsibility to look after yourself”-a piece of advice that wouldn’t go a-miss, but certainly shouldn’t be the answer. Every cry of “it was her fault for getting drunk”, “she shouldn’t have bought him that drink if she didn’t want to go all the way” only further compounds the plight of women in an already misogynistic society. Every time you criticise a victim, you are excusing a rapist.

Remember that.

To find out more about the often secret lives of those on the receiving end of sexual abuse, I didn’t have to travel very far. As it turns out, my closest friend, Alex, now 18, was a victim and survivor of horrendous power games during his early childhood, followed by an un-related account of rape aged 13. This has never been, exclusively, a woman’s issue.

“Abuse doesn’t just happen to girls, I think that’s what needs to be raised. Men like to act big and bold, strong even. I’ll be the first to admit I like to act like the hard man, but deep down I’m really a sensitive person.” He tells me.

Neither is it exclusive to heterosexual situations or to homosexual males-often, abuse has no sexuality: neither does the stereotypical image of penetration have to be involved. It commonly has very little to do with pure arousal or a need for instant sexual gratification; instead, power and control. All genders qualify as either potential victims or potential abusers. And the impact can be life-long.

“Experiencing any form of abuse messes you up, it affects your life and your interaction with others on a daily basis, which is particularly true of sexual abuse survivors.

There are so many triggers, big and small. They take you right back to that very moment, the moment you were used for someone else’s pleasure. They not only bring back memories, but feelings too. It’s amazing (yet sometimes terrifying) how our bodies work.

It depends on the person. Even 5, 10 years on, when you are triggered you can feel every single sensation you felt during that horrific event (or series of events), the same pain or overpowering feelings that you COULD NOT control. The same shame and guilt even though IT WAS NOT YOUR FAULT, the same disgust with yourself and your physical being for maybe not fighting back.

But during that moment, its fight or flight, sometimes you get blackmailed, physically hurt, kicked in the stomach, smacked against walls, suffocated even. Abusers do this to gain power, to remain in control of the situation and to terminate the “fight” response in the victim.

Too many people carry this secret to their grave. They let it turn them inside out their entire lives because they are ashamed, ashamed of what the world will think: and that is wrong. Why does society have the right to make people feel ashamed for something that WAS NOT their fault?”

Behind the veil of taboo and stigma lies a truth of heartrending pain, but, also remarkably, ever-shining hope. The hurt can never be eradicated-it can never “disappear”: but it can, in time, be lived with, it can become bearable and you can live a normal life. It’s not easy, it’s unbelievably painful-but definitely not impossible.

“It’s not that I’m “over it”. But I want to be the person that I never had. I wish that I’d grown up in a society that encouraged open talk, rather than shunned it. To all the survivors out there, don’t ever stop fighting. I’ve got your back, always.”

As our conversation draws to a close, it occurs to me just how much more we need to open our minds and our hearts to those left behind in the wreckage of sex crimes. If only we had the words and the courage to talk without fear of expressing ourselves as ignorant, or unsympathetic.

If there is anything to be taken from this, I think to myself, then it is a reminder never to fear rape is a topic of conversation, but to embrace it and address it head-on.

It’s time to break the silence.

If you need any advice or support, I’m available most of the time, and Alex can be personally contacted at ! Thank you, as always, for reading πŸ™‚