MY SEXUAL ASSAULT STORY

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Let me clarify something before I even begin, this is NOT clickbait. I know that revealing this particular story on the blog won't make friends. The truth is, I already lost friends over this happening and for the longest time I didn't even realise that what had happened to me was in fact sexual assault until someone else very brave recounted her story and told me that it was. I remember not wanting to 'make a big deal' about the whole thing. He was my best friend's boyfriend and though we weren't close, I knew him. Because she loved him and I trusted her, I trusted him and I shouldn't have. 

 

She was there the night it happened, in fact I think she was sitting right next to me when it happened and she didn't bat an eyelid. We've all heard the term 'boys will be boys' but truth be told I'm sick and tired of hearing that. I wasn't raped so I don't know what rape feels like and I don't claim to know nor am I able to imagine it. What he did though and what he said was at the very least sexual harassment. I don't remember saying 'NO' or 'STOP'. I think I told him to stop but maybe I didn't. I do remember being in a group of 10 guys (maybe more) and around 3 girls. The girls who were there knew me and claimed to be my friends. I wasn't drunk at the time and I don't remember what I was wearing (nobody should care). I was drinking but not even tipsy. It was a birthday party. The girl I called my best friend was one of the only other girls there. All I really remember is the boys taunting me, a few of them trying to touch and grab what was never theirs to touch. Then him. He claimed protectorship on the basis that I was his girlfriend's best friend. I don't know how much he had had to drink at that stage. To be honest, I don't care. All I know is that he grabbed me, touched me inappropriately commenting on how my hair was now the same colour as his girlfriend's hair and so obviously he could have both of us. I remember that he touched my breasts. Nobody has touched them since. 

 

That night after all the taunting and touching and inappropriate behaviour (all at the first bar) I couldn't work out what was 'wrong' with me, why I didn't feel myself and why I was constantly fighting the urge to cry. I couldn't figure out the pain in my chest or the unfamiliar feeling that was flowing through my body. I wanted to scream, shout or hide in a corner and cry maybe all three. Instead of going home, calling an uber or calling my parents I stayed and I smiled and I pretended. The girl I called my best friend didn't stand up for me when I couldn't keep it together anymore at the end of the night. The boys drove home with a guy in the group who was notorious for drinking and driving. From the car, her boyfriend called her and lied (joked?) that the friend in question had been arrested and that they were all being driven home by a third party.  He did this when he knew that just a few months previous to this 'party', I had been held overnight in a police station for drinking and driving though the charges were never upheld and I wasn't drinking and driving anyway. They thought it was funny when they pitched up in the car with the driver not arrested and instead killing himself laughing at our (or rather my) expense. They thought that I was overreacting when I wanted to walk and didn't want to get into the car. They laughed. I gave them the finger. I wasn't sober enough (nor did I feel mentally able) to drive myself home and the plan had been to stay with at her house with the group. She attempted to calm me down and wondered why it didn't work. She didn't notice what was actually a full blown panic attack. That she didn't see the signs earlier in the night amazes me. That when I shook and cried and held myself, she didn't see it. I cried, they laughed uproariously from the living room. I called my Mum and I left.

 

I saw her maybe the next week. I wanted to explain myself, explain what had happened. She repeated that I had overreacted, was in fact currently overreacting and that everything was 'just a joke'. I haven't seen her since. I have survived suicide attempts, anorexia and depression and I have no doubt that I will overcome this...in time. Right now though, I'm not sure I know how to be in a relationship or how to be touched. I know that I cannot expect someone to love me when I cannot love myself. I'm giving myself time to heal, as much as I need...

 

*This probably wouldn't be everyone's version of events from that night but this is mine, this is my truth. 

*Also, this is not aimed at anyone but I feel that enough time has passed and it is important to speak out on issues like this. We need to stop the stigma. This is my story...

 

HOW TO GET FIRED

Okay so this doesn't sound like the kind of post that any reasonable person might read but you should. I've been fired twice while I've lived in England and I've had three jobs...to be honest, this is not great statistics-wise. However, in some jobs, in fact in the two that I got fired from, I hadn't actually even got through my probationary period. This sounds shit...it is, it truly is. 

Here's the thing...as long as you don't lie on your CV or during your interviews and you are honest about who you are, what your skills are and what you can bring to the table...it's not your fault if you don't make it through the trial period. This was not particularly apparent to my brain yesterday though when I got taken in for 'the talk' after only 6 days at the company. By the way, by 'the talk', I mean the 'we don't like your work/think you're right for the job/believe you can do this' talk and not the sex talk...that would be infinitely worse. 

To say I felt like shit would be an understatement. Basically, my boss didn't like the job I was doing and expected more of me (within a week apparently) but this isn't actually very fair. I was myself during the interviews and told them only the truth about my abilities and the work I had done. I am 23 years old and I have about as much experience working in an office as the average cat. They knew when they hired me what I could do and somehow, a weird assumption was made that in fact, I'd been lying about my talents in the opposite way...that I'd somehow been underselling myself. 

There is not a person in this world who doesn't make mistakes and fail occasionally, it's part of life. The best thing about mistakes and failures is learning from them. As long as you're learning from your mistakes, you aren't failing, you're just learning and growing. Essentially, there were one or two things that I definitely could have improved on but I didn't get the chance. The thing about employing someone in their twenties is that no matter how highly qualified and how good they are at their job, they will screw up because that is how you learn and grow and get better at your job. 

Both of the jobs that I got 'fired' from were in the fitness industry and I think I might have finally got the message that I just don't belong in fitness. I somehow managed to make the same mistake with two different companies.  That first job was stressful and horrible and I spent a lot of time crying even before I was 'let go'. The people weren't nice at all and I found myself being constantly badmouthed when they thought I couldn't hear them. 

My first boss really was an awful little man who thought a lot of himself and was really good at manipulating employees, particularly the female ones. He was quite rude and quite mean. It stands to reason that when he fired me, I cried. I cried right there in his office and it wasn't the silent and dainty kind either. This probably reinforced the idea that I was too young and immature to him but really, sometimes you just cry and you can't help it. I made things much worse for myself by begging him to reconsider, which he was definitely not going to do. Looking back, I know that my actions on that day were not good and I could have dealt with it much better. I don't like him and I have little to no respect for the company because of the way in which I was dismissed and the way in which I was treated whilst I was there. However, this isn't meant as a hateful post so I'm not going to go into it. 

After that job, I took a job in luxury retail...the job was okay but my boss there was a wonderful woman who respected and appreciated me. She was a great mentor and leader and she taught me a lot while I was there. I did not get fired from that job. That job, however, included a lengthy commute from the depths of Kent to London every day which easily took 4 hours extra off my day and sometimes I would end up working 7 or more days in a row without a break. I enjoyed the selling and the clients, I built great relationships with my colleagues and learnt a lot both about myself and others but I couldn't continue. 

It's hard to admit it but for me, London was just too much. There are so many people and its always so busy. I always ended up feeling alone and like it had managed to suck out all my energy. It was because of that and my respect for my mood and body that I decided to leave and start over in Brighton. 

Before I could move to Brighton though, I needed a job. I didn't actually even reach out to them, they found me. What I didn't realise in the midst of my desperation to settle down and get a job was that this was the same job and the same style of company as my first company. It was only the week before I started that I began to have doubts because, thinking laterally, it was so so similar to that job I'd been fired from. 

It just so happens that in fact, I was right and this job was exactly like the first job. I tried really hard there, I honestly did. I was nice to everyone, took all the criticisms on board (and all I actually got was criticism) and looked happy even though the constant negativity from my boss was making me very unhappy. I tried everything in my power to impress her and I failed but I honestly don't believe that there was anything else I could possibly have done, I don't think I could have impressed her if I stood on my head and whistled 'God Save The Queen' through my asshole. There was just something about it and we just didn't gel for whatever reason. Funnily enough, I feel no hatred for the company at all, I just wish that they'd at least allowed me a month to prove myself. 

Here's the key thing though, when she told me that they had decided to 'let me go' I didn't cry or freak out (externally). I was shaken but I managed to calmly explain to her that I didn't believe that they had given me enough time to prove myself and that I had more to give. I also expressed to her that I understood and thanked her. In the spirit of full disclosure, I did end up crying when I got back to my desk but it was just drippy and sniffly, at no point did I bawl and at the end, I turned in what I had done (in my first job, I rather spitefully deleted it all but I don't believe they would have wanted it anyway), thanked her, told her that I hoped we would get to work together again sometime (albeit a bit tearfully), she gave me a tissue, walked me out and thanked me. 

If I can give you my top tips on being fired (because shit happens) 

  • Don't ever beg for your job back, that is below you
  • Don't expect them to change their minds but do explain why you disagree with their decision (try not to do this while bawling)
  • Don't spitefully delete everything, even if they have treated you abominably and you are thinking of ways to burn the place down
  • Don't ever be rude (or as my Dad likes to say, don't burn bridges as you just never know where you will end up)
  • Try your best not to cry, although this is just human so if you do, just give a watery apology
  • Clear up your desk, pack everything up and just leave
  • If you're feeling very teary and trying to walk down the road, I suggest an audiobook or song to distract you. Try to take deep breaths and don't walk in front of traffic. 
  • Don't get angry, it's over
  • Do whatever you can to end it on good terms
  • Go home and have a good wallow (for how to have a good wallow, see Daisy Buchanan's book: How to Be a Grown Up - Chapter 12 you can get this book from Audible if you click on this link (http://tidd.ly/bc57b896) or click on the link below.

THE STORY OF ARI&ME AND LEAVING HER BEHIND

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Aria has been a huge part of my life since I got her as a birthday gift in 2011. When I got here, she was just a little bundle of fluff, about the size of the palm of my hand and my favourite thing in the entire world. She was so small, and had such little legs that she couldn’t make it up (or down) any steps and slopes were nigh to impossible. It was in a carpark in the outskirts of Krugesdorp (holla Krugersdorp and SA) that I chose Aria and my life changed forever. My grandparents wanted to get me a puppy for my birthday and there had been a lot of begging involved. Finally, Dad agreed and said I could have her. Nana and Popa said I could choose any puppy, any breed and I could have it. It was almost impossible to find a miniature Maltese but I had my heart set on having one and my internet search was unrelenting to say the least. Eventually, I found Ari and her siblings on Gumtree (which I know now is more than a little sketchy). There were only three puppies left and my Grandparents drove me out into Krugersdorp to go and choose one of the three. All of them were lovely and so, so cute. One though, came to my feet, leant against me and started licking my toes. That puppy was Aria. 

 

It was a steep amount that Nana and Popa had to lay out for my birthday gift but I can only thank them and maintain that it is to this day, the best birthday gift I have ever received. Aria has, many a time, saved my life and for that, I am eternally grateful. After the money changed hands, we were given Aria with her certification and all her vaccinations and off we went. I had nothing for this dog and I mean nothing. When she got back to our house, she didn’t have a bed, she didn’t have food…she literally just had me. I think that the first night she would only eat from my hand whist sitting on my lap and a vague memory says she was given chicken and rice. When I got her home, I sat her on my bed (risky I know) and at that point I only had a three quarter bed. Now, I had a few month old puppy on the bed and she obviously needed to go to the bathroom but had no idea how to communicate this to me. But instead of just weeing on the bed, she wandered around the bed, found a piece of paper and had a wee on that instead. Ari has always been special and she has always had an immense understanding of me as a human and all my weird, personality traits and moods.

 

Since then, we have had a bond which has been unbreakable. I did everything with her, she even came to school to visit me while I was still there. She shone a light through the dark clouds that haunted my later teenage years and to this day, I can look into her eyes and feel the veil of sadness lift. I see her and almost automatically, something inexplicable shifts and I can breathe again. Since 2011, she has been with me, shared meals and happiness and and sadness; she has slept beside (or even on top of) me in our bed with me every night. She has danced with me, showered with me, swam with me and chased me through parks. My whole life since 2011 is Aria covered and it’s something that I simply couldn’t be more grateful for. 

 

Leaving her was the worst…is the worst. I’m up to a count of three times now, three times that I’ve left with the promise of coming back to fetch her and not knowing when. I have promised three times that come hell or high water I will get her to England and that we will be reunited. The first time very nearly broke me when I knew I was going to England and I didn’t know when I’d be able to have her but the second was somehow worse. I’d just assumed that I would go to England, get a job, keep said job for at least three months, rent a flat and then move her here. The course of life never did run smoothly though and I ended up with an absolute bastard as my boss for my first job. He treated me like crap and promptly fired me after just a month of working there with no real reason at all. Suddenly, just like that…I was back where I started and I didn’t have job nor a salary. I had to find another job and quickly and I did but it doesn’t pay as well and I can’t afford to have a flat much less Aria. I had promised her that I’d be back to get her and whilst I was back, I couldn’t have her and it cut me to the core. 

 

I miss her terribly though and my mood is always lower without her than it ever is when i’m with her. I see her and the veil lifts, I leave her as I did again today still with the promise of coming back as soon as possible and getting her (and I will) and it breaks my heart. I feel physical pain without her by my side. For now at least, I have to do whats best for her and right now, that doesn’t match what’s best for me but that’s just the way it is. It is what it is for now. I can understand…she can’t. 

 

Ari, the reason the blog is called Ari&Me, I love you and I miss you.