What happened to me has so obviously affected the way in which I experience sex and sexuality. And after almost two decades, there was one moment in TV that made me realise that what I was feeling wasn’t ridiculous… Sex Education season two.
If you haven’t seen it: spoilers ahead!
Remember the moment Aimee undermines the sexual harassment they experienced on the bus by saying to their friend Maeve, “I was on the bus, and a guy wanked on my leg, and I got a bit of a shock.”?
To them, they merely worried about the stain that it may leave on their jeans, and brushed off the incident as something ‘silly’. They continued, “I think he was just lonely, or not right in the head or something.” This!
Aimee believes that it wasn’t a big deal, maybe because they weren’t physically hurt or because so many victims are taught to suppress or be ashamed about what happened to them. They also think that their friends are overreacting when they take them to the police station.
But over time, they display behavior that proves that what happened, wasn’t okay. They start to see the person’s face all over town, they feel too afraid to get back on the bus so they avoid this form of public transport altogether, and they feel unsafe and uncomfortable when their partner tries to touch them.
And in that moment when they talk about what happened to them while sitting amongst their peers at school, they are given seemingly endless support, and are made to feel stronger and more confident to get back on the bus.
I identified so hard with this plot, and it was one of the most powerful moments that led me to believe that what happened to me was not ‘silly’ and that my feelings are valid. It also made me realise that I wish someone would have taken the time to help me when it all happened.
Things like witnessing a flasher or being groped inappropriately is sometimes laughed at by others, reinforcing the idea that it really isn’t a big deal. And when someone is sexually abused while under the influence or wearing revealing clothing, it’s often deemed ‘their fault’. It isn’t. At all.
And because my trauma took place because of a situation similar to one mentioned above, those I loved believed it to be partly my fault or that it was consensual.
For nearly two decades, I told myself that I didn’t deserve to make a big deal about my trauma… and so I didn’t. I believed that I was being ridiculous for thinking that it had an impact on my life and who I am today… but it did. Sex Education taught me to that what happened to me was not okay.
The way in which Aimee’s friends were adamant to go to the police, supported them, and made it a ‘big deal’ was so powerful. They didn’t undermine their friend or downplay the situation. And so many individuals worldwide aren’t lucky enough to have that kind of a support system, or believe that what happened to them isn’t a big deal. It is a big deal.
No matter how big or how small, I urge you to trust your feelings and to know that you didn’t nor don’t deserve any kind of violence or abuse, whether it is emotional, physical, sexual, or verbal.
When I think back to when I was in school, the sex education that I received at the tender age of 14 included no mention of consent, rape, and abuse.
Here I was, a new teen whose body was feasted upon by a peer of the same age who very clearly knew what they were doing, but was not taught in school that what they were doing was wrong.
I hope that things are different in schools today so that even one person can be protected from the harm this kind of experience can cause.
Now, I am continuing to work on myself daily, with the help of a professional, to undo the damage that was done. I know that the severity of what happened to me left long lasting effects that I wish I hadn’t ignored.
I am learning new things about myself, and while the experience did not make me stronger, I have hope that I will be able to live peacefully one day, despite it all.