I’m making a film about a night that happened in 2013. I was making my way home after a party when a man stepped out of the dark and sexually assaulted me as I was 15 metres away from my front door. I don’t think I knew what was actually happening at that moment in time, I just kept asking him his name and saying “this isn’t the way it’s done”. Prior to that night I may have fantasised about a night like this, about a man coming out of the dark and using my body how ever he wanted. Finally it was happening, and it didn’t feel quite right. But I carried on with needing to feel that and feeling it was something I’d worked to deserve, I thought. So I went along with it for a bit. I kept on asking him his name as he became more and more intimate, and then something, I’m not quite sure what, changed…and I ran.
In the years after I would often remark: “that night didn’t mean that much to me”. It was the memories which that night awoke from my past, from my childhood actually, they were the important things to emerge from that night. And they were very important- those unfortunate memories led to the start of my healing, to me being able to confront my childhood abuser in court and also to finally being able to understand why I saw and felt the world the way I did. There was a sadness, a melancholy, a pain, a dirt which filthed my experience of things. I thought maybe it was a rite of passage for being queer. Or perhaps it was my artistic temperament. I had sort of accepted this state of being as the way my life would be, willing against the tide to be one with it.
I’m now using that tainted artistic temperament to tackle that night head on- and I’m making a film, telling the story of when a man came out of the dark to effectively scare me out of my denial and let me see the abuse which had encapsulated my existence. I’m using performers to re-enact that night, as a psychotherapeutic and creative process; we’re using a mixture of psychodramatic workshopping and more traditional rehearsals to bring the night to life. I’m visualising it as an idea of the feelings that were going on in that interaction- not just my own but also his- that man in the dark. What I want to show in this film, is that that night was a re-enactment itself, a part of a cycle of abuse which I had been perpetuating since the original incidents had started back when I was a teenager. Perhaps too, the aggressor was enacting a process himself. A lot of people seem to think that the act of violence, or the initial attack, is the terrible thing, the awful thing to have happened. But the worse part is when you, as the survivor, start to treat yourself as deserving of that kind of treatment as your life moves forward, perhaps in the worst circumstances even perpetuating it further. Victims of trauma and abuse can end up being their own worst enemies as their ghosts keep on making reappearances. I realised the first time I went to group therapy that those feelings I had been having most of my adult life, weren’t just my own, they belonged to an entire community of survivors struggling to deal with the day-to- day of living normal lives. I want this film to show what it feels like to be in that cycle and not see that you’re in it. I’m making this film for this community that I now belong to.
I was shocked a few weeks back, realising that making this film was in itself an effect of the trauma. Another re-enactment. On refection it also represents a deep desire to bring these re-enactments out into the open and recognise them for what they are. I need to give that night that “didn’t mean that much to me” the credit it deserves- it was in fact the night I realised I had been inviting abuse into my life on a daily basis. I see the strides I’ve been making in the six years since: I’m doing the work- doing the therapy, being good to myself, eating healthy etc. I mean I’m now a registered yoga teacher too and I’ve been in a solid relationship since then as well. I still have to check myself when I notice old patterns and behaviour, destructive thoughts and self-destructive tendencies coming forward. I still have some terrible days or weeks. But I’m actually a lot stronger than I ever give myself credit for- I’ve been living with these secrets for a long time, protecting myself against the pain and managing to get by. I have tried to live as best I can, but to be honest, just getting by, just coping with the day is sometimes a heroic feat and should be named as such.
As I began the process of speaking about this film, the mask that I’ve been wearing to keep myself safe and together is beginning to slip, allowing me to see what’s been hiding underneath. I can see that I don’t need to have this history and let it define me; I will show the hurt with pride, show my pain from a place of strength and begin to change the narrative.
Note: Julian is a former client of SurvivorsUK and is raising money to produce a new film on his experience of male sexual assault. Read more about the project and please consider supporting his project by visiting his crowdfunding page.