Laura’s story: “you are more than a survivor”.
At 17, Laura went to a friend’s birthday party where, unfortunately, she met the wrong person. “I met a guy who coerced me and raped me, despite me saying no and vomiting through the ordeal,” she says. “I felt humiliated and full of shame, as people seemed to think it had been consensual.”
Laura had already experienced mental health issues, and this traumatic experience heightened her depression and anxiety. Despite seeing a psychologist, it took her over a year to admit what had happened.
When Laura experienced the further trauma of her best friend passing away, she spiralled onto a path of alcohol and drug abuse and numerous suicide attempts. She was admitted into a psychiatric ward, and met the psychologist she is seeing now. “I was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD),” she explains.
“It was through therapy that we discovered that I had suppressed the sexual abuse of my swimming instructor at age 9.”
Surviving through sisterhood
Around this time, Laura started to open up about her experiences to friends and loved ones. “As many of my friends had witnessed my mental illness spirals, I wanted to explain what I had been through to help them understand. I started ‘flourishprojectnz’ on Instagram to share more of my story.”
She also started a “Survivor Sister” series on Instagram, anonymously sharing the stories of other survivors who wrote letters empowering and encouraging each other. “I have connected with so many incredible survivors who all shared similar experiences of feeling shamed, scared and struggling to cope.”
Laura says she wanted to make a difference, which led her to find HELP. Last year, she designed t-shirts, hoodies and stickers and raised over $2,000. “I’ve seen the incredible support HELP provides in all aspects of healing and support,” she says.
“Sexual abuse happens to far too many of us, and it’s horrifying how many survivors are still struggling to get the help they need – which is why the work that HELP does is so so so important.”
Laura hopes to continue to speak up and fight for survivors, stop the societal view of blaming victims and advocate for mandatory consent education in schools.