When I was 15, I went to a man’s house and had sex for the first time. We didn’t kiss. I didn’t feel anything, but everyone kept telling me that I was supposed to feel different. After this, I kept trying. I didn’t know that consensually agreeing to casual sex meant that my body would no longer belong to me, that only a few months later I would find myself trapped in a bathroom, a grown man pushing me against the door, while his friends whispered “she’s not drunk enough”.

I didn’t know that going to my friend’s birthday party meant waking up to the hands of her 25 year old brother, a man I had never met before, in places they had never asked to be.

I didn’t know that I’d walk into school to find the word “slut” sprawled next to my name, permanently carved into the walls of my 11th grade classroom. I wasn’t prepared for the effect that such a small, four letter word would have on me. Until I realized the effect of an even smaller word, a two letter word, “no”, had on the men who knew how to take, and take, and take. The men who demanded. The men who never asked me if I wanted to, the ones who asked “So, you’re the raped girl?”

I didn’t know that was my name.

I think a part of me left my name on that classroom wall, in the school I never went back to.

While my rapist got an education, I spent my days in hospital beds so that I wouldn’t reach for the knife that carved a name that no longer belonged to me.

As I write these words for the first time, almost six years later, I can finally tell you that I’ve reclaimed my name. I’ve reclaimed my body. I can tell you about the day I finally understood why I never felt anything with those men, about the day I fell in love with a woman.

I can tell you about the day I stopped clutching dictionaries, desperately flipping through the pages just to see if the definition for the word “no” had changed, that maybe I had missed something.

About the day I stopped locking myself in bathrooms, looking for another way out, looking for a way I could have prevented it.

About the day my body wasn’t bruised anymore.
About the day my body wasn’t theirs anymore.
Because my body is mine, mine to give.

Sometimes I still clutch the knife, the phone, wishing I had dialled.

But I’ve stopped checking my pulse on the metro ride home and that, I think, is enough for now.