T/W: sexual assault, sexual abuse
Memories can be crystal clear and sharp, a bit hazy or just non-existent. I often question some of my more obscure or old memories, because maybe I got them confused with a dream. Did that really happen? Dunno.
Good stuff happens but I can’t remember it properly. Bad stuff happens and there are horrible flashbacks. Like, excuse me brain but sort yourself out, look out for me instead of repeating negative memories in my head like a zoetrope. How is that helpful? Fight or flight, this is neither.
I did a good thing recently, a great thing really, and spoke at the Houses Of Parliament to a roomful of people (around 50 people, including an MP, academics, journalists, etc.) about the image-based sexual abuse that I have been through. I was invited by the organisers, whom I have worked with before at a different conference in Newcastle last year.
It was an extra good thing for me because it meant a 2-night stay in London town, my own little hotel room and plenty of time to spend however I liked. I saw friends and family, did a tonne of walking, sweated my ass off. It was great.
The speaking bit was cool too. The MP Maria Miller introduced the conference and then myself. I was the first to speak. I hadn’t practised at all – I just had some notes scribbled down in my planner for things I definitely wanted to mention. The thing is with this kind of speaking is that you can’t really get it wrong. I wasn’t that nervous because this was my story to tell, and not one person can judge me for not saying the right things, because they haven’t gone through exactly what I have.
I remember it being well-received but I can barely remember what I said. I did however read out this as the last sentence of my speech;
We are not giving consent to be published all over the internet. We are not porn stars. We are victims of sexual abuse, and it’s time we were treated as such.
I remember the applause, which was nice, and then the rest of the conference began, which was brilliant. A wee while later we went over to the Supreme Court for more presentations and speakers, as well as horderves and refreshments.
I was incredibly moved by one of the other speakers, so much so that with the help of a friend I left the room and had a big cry. I did manage to go back in and hear the rest of the speech because it was too powerful to miss. In true Lauren-style, I decided to give a standing ovation, or at least lead one, which I did – however, I got up too early, as one of the speakers still had something to say. So not only did I interrupt with my tears but I interrupted with an applause. Good one.
I was rather fragile that evening. The presentation at the Supreme Court had triggered a lot of feelings, a lot of sadness and a lot of rage. I didn’t particularly feel safe within myself nor the streets of London. Thankfully, many of the people I had met at the conference were very supportive and kind, and one of the professors escorted me back to my hotel, which was incredibly kind of her.
London felt scary to me because about 6 weeks prior to this event, I was sexually assaulted on a night out in London. I don’t want to go into details about it, not yet anyway. What I will say is that I blacked out, lead somewhere by a stranger, and then came to. I blacked out again, came to again, and found myself back at the pub where I had been drinking previously. I was alone and in distress.
Thankfully, the kindness of strangers saved me. Two women sat down next to me, I told them what had happened, how confused I was, and with the help of the security guard the the pub, I got an Uber to take me to the train station so that I could catch the last train home.
I think it’s understandable that being alone at night in London is not a situation I want to find myself in. So you can imagine that after an emotionally and physically draining day at the conference, I was terrified of travelling back to my hotel.
Thank goodness for kind people.
If you’d like more information on the conference, here’s a few articles: