In her testimony against the swearing-in of Brett Kavanaugh as a Supreme Court judge, Dr Christine Blasey Ford painfully admitted, “I don’t have all the answers, and I don’t remember as much as I would like to. But the details about that night that bring me here today are ones I will never forget. They have been seared into my memory and have haunted me episodically as an adult.”

I can never forget the first time I was groped as a 13-year-old while walking down a quiet street one evening. The numbing guilt, the constant wondering as to what I had done for a stranger to harass me and invade my private space so conveniently. It goes without saying that this singular experience made me resentful of the space I occupied and overtly suspicious of the intentions of the other sex.

We have often spoken about the psychological ramifications of sexual assault, but illustrator and poet Priyanka Paul recently took to Twitter to share how repeated instances of such violence has affected her physical self.

The 20-year-old started by saying that she has never felt any sensation in breasts and although she was okay to dismiss it as something a lot of women go through, a part of her wondered why that is the case – “I genuinely thought I was just a biological screw-up, always felt lacking, we as a culture put so much of a woman’s worth into her breasts, also I really wanted to feel how boob-related oral sex felt like, I just couldn’t feel anything. Touch my hand, touch my boob, same feeling…”

And only last year was she able to join the dots and find out that the numbness in the breasts was an effect of sexual assault trauma, more specifically childhood sexual assault trauma. Some victims of rape are unable to feel any sensation in their vagina because of the horrific ordeal they went through. As she plainly puts, “Your body shuts down.”

Priyanka recounts that she was sexually assaulted by a classmate from ages 13-15, “The subject of assault mostly being my breasts. He’d grope me in public, in the classroom, ask his friends to do it as well. Please note I also got slut shamed for this.”

“My aunt was telling her therapist about me, about how I got a piercing in one of my nipples and her therapist said that this was a common trend among sexual assault trauma patients. I was desperate to see if I could feel anything at all, willing to stab my own tits with a needle,” Priyanka narrates.

She elaborates that the entire purpose of sharing her experience is because people are still not eager to take sexual assault trauma seriously – that the implications are just not limited to mental health. And most importantly to point out that while it was still happening, not a single authority from her school did anything to help her out.

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The society has been insistent on women to pride themselves on physical aspects such as their breasts which are incredulously sexualised and fetishised, “but every time I look at my breasts, it takes me back to what that boy did to me, what he took away from me,” Priyanka adds.

With the lack of sex education in schools and most parents being hesitant to talk to their children, especially young boys about consent and safe sex, many turn to mainstream porn (where women are ceaselessly objectified in unrealistic situations) to find their answers. This results in a skewed perception of what desire is and what sex entails, leading to an extremely pervasive culture in schools (among other places) where boys and men are unable to take ‘no’ for an answer.

Towards the end of the thread, Priyanka says, “What also fucking hurts is having not known for so long why my body is the way it is, and then to have to revisit your past trauma to be even able to function.”

While many on Twitter lauded her bravery and some resonated with what she went through, it’s important that we also have this conversation in real lives. That children are informed about sex in a way that doesn’t shame them for being curious, that they are able to confide in adults if ever they are violated without feeling an iota of guilt.

Our children deserve better.

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