By Rebecca Drew
THIS inspirational mother is on a mission to help other survivors of sexual assault ‘overcome the shadow of shame’ after she was first raped when she was just sixteen years old by a man ten years her senior.
When doula and wellness coach, Megan Gibson (25) originally from the United States but currently stationed in Okinawa, Japan, was a teenager, she started hanging out with the wrong crowd at school which saw her turn away from the people she cared about the most. One night, Megan was forced by a group of people she knew as friends to perform oral sex on a young man, a similar age to herself. Later, in the same evening she was trapped in a room with an older man who raped her and this is when her world as she knew it fell apart.
Instead of speaking out, Megan chose to punish herself and wore her shame ‘like a badge’, believing that she deserved what happened to her but as the days passed by, she survived and felt stronger. Megan married her husband, Travis and they started a family. Before moving to Japan in September 2014, she held a house party and was assaulted for a second time by someone she considered a friend. Unfortunately, her case never made it passed the investigation stage.
Thanks to her family, Megan was able to see the light in the dark and has started opening up about her ordeal to help others, assisting two women to take their stories to the police.
“One dark night I found myself newly sixteen and locked in a room with a young man I barely knew. He and I were both victims to the people outside that room who forced me to perform oral sex on him. We plotted and faked as long as we could before giving in,” said Megan.
“Later that night I was trapped again and forcibly raped. A man nearly ten years older than me, about seven-stone heavier than me broke me. He broke my spirit, my will, and my fight.
“My universe collapsed. It was like I was being buried alive. I was gasping for life, barely hanging onto the glimmer of light as the sand fell in above me. And I thought about giving up, but instead I turned on sleep-mode and it all went away.
“Numbness has no filter. When it overpowers your pain, it overpowers your happiness too.
“The absence of emotion is a big black hole of nothing. It takes great strength to climb from, but sometimes it swallows you whole. If you’re lucky enough to find your way back to the top, you can be fully prepared to be kicked back into a pit of heavy air, and try again.
“I picked myself up and I lived. However, this life was different than the one I knew before.
“I treated myself like I didn’t have purpose, that I don’t deserve love, that somehow what happened to me was my fault. I lived like I deserved to be raped because it made what I went through that much easier.
“I was bullied, harassed, and used by boys time and time again because I let them. I was slut-shamed by girls who had no idea what I’d endured.
“I essentially allowed myself to be raped over and over and over again. It was a form of self-harm. To ensure I felt worthless, with a hope that I could normalise my trauma but it never did.
“I wore my shame like a badge. I wore it like it was something to be proud of.
“It’s how I survived. Everyday the pain became less until I could barely remember what happened to me.
“Before we knew it, we had orders to go to Japan. One huge house party and a fun night to celebrate our send off, and my world came crashing down again.
“I couldn’t believe it. How did this happen again? I was assaulted by people I considered my friends.
“Granted it wasn’t as gruesome, and as sick as my first attack but nonetheless, here I was back at square one.
“I reported them, clung to justice, and prayed they would never hurt another again, but my case never made it past the investigation. Every agency failed me.
“I wanted nothing more than to die, but my beautiful girls and my husband anchored me to this earth. They will always give me reason, even when I’m lost in the dark.”
Now, Megan sees a therapist once a fortnight and says this has helped her beyond belief. She keeps a journal to track her moods and triggers and to help her work through her daily difficulties and exercises everyday to boost her endorphins. Despite this, Megan admits she still has off days, weeks and months where she suffers from vivid flashbacks, nightmares and social anxiety, unable to trust those around her.
On her Instagram, Megan charts her journey and hopes to be a safe place where other survivors can turn and admits that accepting what happened to her is still a struggle.
“I used to hardly tell a soul. But that’s exactly the problem with today’s society. We pull the blanket over these conversations because they’re uncomfortable,” she said.
“I felt the world needed to hear my story. I wanted people to find a safe place with me.
“Since I’ve started being open and honest, I’ve heard countless stories from friends and family.
“I’ve helped two women take their stories to investigators, and I will never ever stop trying to inspire others to stand up and overcome the shadow of shame that a rape “victim” carries around with them every day of their life.
“I still struggle with accepting what happened to me. I haven’t been able to heal yet because I haven’t fully processed the pain and the feelings around the events.
“Every time I try to my body and my mind become numb in a way to protect me. I struggle with forgiving myself.
“There’s so many victims that blame themselves for their traumas. Deep down, I know it wasn’t my fault but I do wonder often if I hadn’t had that drink, if I hadn’t worn that shirt, if I was fatter, if I was a loner and didn’t have those friends things would be different.
“It’s definitely a sharp echo of voices that round your mind when your triggered into thinking of your trauma.”
Megan shared her advice to others.
“You did not deserve this. You are strong, you are beautiful, and your body is yours alone,” she added.
“It’s ok to not be ok sometimes, but never lose hope for your future.
“I am on a mission to help other’s see their light in the dark; to love themselves; and to find their strength to rise.”
For more information see www.instagram.com/megangibson.stillirise