We live in a time of constant change, we are becoming more and more open to diversity and we are increasingly opening up on issues and discussions that haven‘t been appropriate to talk about, until now.
People are more liberal regarding sexual orientation and race, prejudice is diminishing and people have generally been given more freedom to live their lives according to their own convictions. Discussions about violence and harassment are more open than ever before and those who have experienced it have finally been given more space to express themselves about those experiences. We have fought for equality and great progress has been made, but there‘s still a long way to go.
I have a strong sense of justice, and I was happy to be offered the opportunity to contribute to the battle to eradicate sexual and gender-based violence. But the more I thought about it, I felt a backlash, I didn’t fit into the box that society demands to put me in and I doubted that people would listen to what I had to say. But all the beliefs, prejudices and ignorance that are ingrained in our society remain unchanged as long as no one stands up and speaks, it‘s our responsibility to educate. I‘m not going to hide. All changes start somewhere.
As I‘m writing this, I have been drug-free for almost three weeks and I‘m aiming for impatient treatment in the next few days. I‘ve tried to recover many times, I want a more beautiful life, but there are memories of violence that I haven‘t been able to push away from me, and they always bring me back to using drugs.
It‘s a well known fact that women and men who suffer from this disease are more likely to experience violence and often more severely than those who don‘t suffer from alcohol or drug addiction.
Despite that, our voices are rarely heard, but today I get a chance. An opportunity to express myself and open up on this issue, and for that I‘m grateful.
I was seventeen years old on a trip to Norway, Lillehammer to be specific. Lillehammer is a beautiful University town with a population of approximately 28,000 people. It took only one of those 28,000 residents to mark a wound on my soul that will probably follow me forever. I met a man who I thought was my friend, we spent some time together and we usually had a good time. He gained my trust and I was happy to have a partner. In my mind, it was just a friendship. I never intended to take this relationship to the next level, but he didn‘t agree with me, he wanted something more and he did not take no for an answer.
I stayed in the hospital that night, I barely uttered a word, I cried in my sister‘s arms and my family took the next flight out to support me.
We underwent interrogations, medical examinations and drug treatment because the perpetrator was infected with hepatitis, psychology classes and admissions to the Department of Children and Adolescent Psychiatry at Landspítalinn. It took many months for me to regain my balance, but with a lot of support and help from various sources, I was able to get back on my feet. Until I received a lettter at my home in Iceland, informing me that the case would be dropped on the grounds that I didn‘t have any bruises and that this had been sex without consent, not rape.
Shortly after that I lost control, soon my life revolved around the next dose, I didn‘t care about anything, I felt like the world had failed me, I started hurting myself almost daily and the drugs were a way to escape. Finally I felt calm, I didn‘t have to think, I didn‘t feel the pain, I felt good.
At that time, of course, I couldn‘t imagine the position it would put me in today. The drugs soon failed me and I suddenly found myself in a world where there are no rules.
In a world where violence is a part of everyday life. I don‘t know how many times I’ve seen violence and harassment, I don‘t know how many times I‘ve been abused and I don‘t know how long it will take or whether I will fully recover from it, but I will learn to live with this experience, I won‘t allow these men to harm me any more.
The reality of women with addiction is something I will never be able to fully explain in words. I‘m not underestimating the violence that men experience, but I can only speak from my own experience.
My experience is that women in this position don‘t have the same right to express themselves, we are not considered to have the same right to exist and we often have to accept being subjected to insults, harassment, violence and humiliation in order to get the substance we need to get through the day.
I wish I had stronger words to describe the impact that sexual violence has had on my life, I have nightmares, I have re-experiences, I cry and I tremble. I think I can say with certainty that nothing has had as far-reaching an impact on my life as sexual violence. I‘ve fallen into the pit again and again of starting to use drugs to try to escape from these thoughts.
Every day I have countless feelings for the people who have taken advantage of my situation in recent years, I have a hard time figuring out how people can think like that, I don‘t understand what‘s behind it. I think it‘s unfair when I think about the fact that they probably don‘t remember me, and that this probably doesn‘t affect their lives. People I thought I could trust, even people I thought were my friends, have taken advantage of the distress I was in.
It hurts me to think about how I have had to come to terms with this violence, how often I haven‘t even been able to refuse, due to too much drug use. I‘ve blamed myself. I’ve regretted using too much drugs, I‘ve regretted trusting them, I‘ve regretted putting myself in a situation that I could have anticipated going wrong.
Violence shouldn‘t be the result of consuming mind-altering substances, violence is always the responsibility of those who resort to it. It‘s the person who uses violence who makes the decision, whether it‘s thought through or not, no matter what condition the victim is in, violence is never excusable.
I hope that women suffering from addiction have an increased voice, that we will have space to express ourselves, so it‘s not always someone else speaking for us.
Even though we use drugs, we have feelings, we have the right to exist, we should be able to have opportunities in the legal system, even though we‘ve been under the influence when the violence took place, we should be allowed to take space.
Violence is not the result of consumption, but consumption can be the result of violence.
I hope that people will start to open their minds to this issue. It’s important, we are no less valuable than those who usually go through life sober.
Let‘s help each other and make this world a better place, for everyone.