“I’ve never spoken about this,” Abbie confided, before continuing:
“When I was in high school … Basically, I had consensual sex with one guy at this party, and then I was so drunk that I was passed out in a bush, and then this other guy had sex with me – who I’d kissed two weekends before, or something. That was rape.”
She said she had confided in her friends following the experience, but was shocked when they didn’t equate his actions with assault.
“It was kind of shocking … My friends were just kind of like, ‘You’re being ridiculous, you’re just a sl*t, and you just regret it so you don’t want to talk about it’,” she said.
Abbie went on to say she “didn’t push the subject, because I was like, ‘Maybe [what my friends said] was right”.
“I think I was like, ‘Well, he obviously didn’t mean to do that’. So I’m just going to accept that I quote-unquote ‘f**ked two guys in one night’.”
According to Chanel, this mentality is the result of “a mass gaslighting” of women in regards to their what qualifies as sexual assault and harrasment.
It was this minimisation of experiences like Abbie’s that inspired Chanel to start the Teach Us Consent movement.
“Sexual assault is seen as so mundane to us… It’s almost like a mass gaslighting of women to say [what happened to them] is not that big of a deal,’ she explained.
“You feel as though you shouldn’t speak up about it or you shouldn’t call it that, or you’re attention seeking if you do or you’re being dramatic … or you’re going to ruin his life,” she continued.
“And I think, also, lots of self doubt and misunderstanding [from women] of this situation. I think [Teach Us Consent] opened a space for that type of sexual assault to be called out, and be like, ‘Actually, it’s not OK’.”
Abbie weighed in, admitting that she had felt unable to call out her attacker for fear of “ruining his life”.
“I think, even still to this day, I haven’t spoken about it because I’m like, ‘Well, he was young and didn’t have the information to understand that that wasn’t OK’,” she said.
“So therefore [I feel like] if I speak about it, I’m potentially just ruining his life because he probably has no idea how that affected me.
“Why are we carrying around the guilt and the shame and the anxiety about it?”
If the content of this story has affected you, there is help available, including survivor mental health support and legal reporting.
Full Stop Australia (national phone and online counselling for survivors), 1800 385 578.
The Survivor Hub (youth and survivor-led grassroots organisation).
NASASV (support directory for sexual assault services and reporting organised by jurisdictions), (03) 5025 5400.