Updated: Mar 14
Warning: Lola's story discusses sexual assault and may be triggering for some people. Please check out our "Where to Get Help" tab to find out waht support is available in New Zealand
I’ve always been a strong advocate of sexual freedom for women and prided myself on being strong and independent. I’d helped friends deal with sexual assault and I’d always thought if I was ever in their situation, I wouldn’t go down without a fight. But you never know how you’ll respond until it happens to you.
I met up with someone from tinder. I said categorically from the outset that I did not want to have sex with them that evening. It started off well, but quickly deteriorated. They ignored my efforts to push them away and when I realised what was going to happen, I froze. I didn’t speak, I didn’t say ‘no’, I couldn’t move and I just tried to mentally be anywhere else. Afterwards, they said I had made them “feel bad” because I “obviously wasn’t into it”. I went home and told two close friends what had happened - one didn’t know what to say, the other said “just don’t think about what happened and move on”. I tried to talk to the person; when I said that what had happened was against my will, I got blocked. So I kept quiet, bottled up the guilt and the sense of internal disgust and tried to move on - to my own detriment. I became volatile, unpredictable and horrible to be around. I pushed away my friends and my family and no one understood why. I didn’t know why. It wasn’t until a friend pulled me aside later that year to talk to me about my drinking and asked me what happened that I began to process the trauma. When I told them what had happened, their response was “you do know that’s rape, right?”
I am an educated person. I know the definition of and how common sexual assault is. I had the name and address of the person who hurt me. But I didn’t report it. I had been gas-lighted by the perpetrator and my support network and I believed it was my fault because I didn’t say the word ‘no’. When my efforts had been ignored, I had shutdown. It took me over a year to use the term ‘rape’; it took me 6 years to talk to a professional about what had happened. And I still carry an unjustified feeling of guilt to this day. As horrible as this whole experience is, there is silver lining. I have an ability to empathise with the 1 in 3 NZ women and 1 in 10 NZ men that have had similar experiences, it helps me in my career and I have been able to build some very close relationships from shared experiences that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. I thought they’d broken me, but I’ve emerged stronger, more resilient and I can now share my story freely.