“Dear Dr. Eve
For years I have been silent about an episode that happened to me at the
boarding school I attended when I was in High School. More recently I
have felt the need to talk about it. Maybe because I think that the bad
relationships and sexual stuff that I have done are a result of this episode.
Is it possible that they are related?
What happened is that two older boys gave me attention, they would
joke with me when I walked past them and I liked it. But one night they
grabbed me and held me down and when I asked them to get off me,
they just joked … and began to use their fingers to penetrate me and
touch my breasts. I was a virgin and terrified. But I remained silent.
I think I need help now.
By reaching out to me you have begun a brave healing process.
It’s so interesting how sexual assault silences people. It’s like this blanket
of shame appears out of the ether, and covers the survivor. Immediately
she (or he/they) shuts down.
So point one for you to know, your experience of SILENCE is universal to
all survivors of sexual assault. As is the consequent shame. Shame then
silences people as they slip into self-blame. Perhaps your questioning of
yourself includes if you were too friendly with these older boys, if you did
anything to make them feel you like them or that you were sexually
The thing is Angel, it’s perfectly healthy to like people, even older boys. Let’s
add on another factor here: being young and at boarding school may make you long for friends, connection, and kindness from others. So feeling attention from these boys perhaps made you feel
special and happy- why not?!
In no way does this translate into you inviting sexual assault. In no way
at all. Older boys may prey on younger women like yourself if they feel
insecure, powerless as well as sexually inhibited with their own peer
group. You, like all women, were an easy target for violent and vicious
Next point is that keeping silent is a protective instinct that kicks in for
people who have been sexually assaulted. Perhaps, like other survivors,
you instinctively moved into weighing up your risks: if you tell you might
not be believed, be kicked out of Boarding School, be shamed by your
family, community, and friends plus get a bad reputation.
So your silence has served a good purpose for you.
However, silence and shame are not easy to hold and so acting out
happens. And, as you have experienced, toxic relationships and sexual
risk-taking are common outcomes. Anything to be loved and anything to
keep pushing down the feelings of pain due to a sexual assault.
Talk to a trauma therapist, find out your legal rights, arm yourself with
information, and then decide how to live without silence and shame so you
can live with joy and pleasure in your intimate life. You deserve this