Cindy Brown has decided to open up about her sexual assaults, because she doesn’t want others to feel ashamed like she did.
Cindy Brown has decided to open up about her sexual assaults, because she doesn’t want others to feel ashamed like she did. Supplied

‘I’m not ashamed of being sexual assaulted anymore’

WARNING: Distressing content

AS A child, Cindy Brown was sexually assaulted. Despite being told not to tell a soul, she shared her secret with someone close to her who, devastatingly, didn't believe her.

Years down the track, on a night out with friends, she was raped, sustaining horrific injuries and memories that still haunt her to this day. But still, she told no one, and that man - those men - got away with it.

Today, Cindy is 34. She's a Sydney-based executive assistant and a mother. She has a loving husband and a sound perspective on life despite everything that has happened to her - or perhaps, because of it.

And she's desperate to tell women that there is no shame in sexual assault. That rape is never their fault, no matter how they are made to feel. That they should tell someone, and keep telling people, until they listen.

"I'm learning that I'm not weak, and that I can embrace vulnerability, and to let myself be seen, as terrifying as that sometimes is," she told news.com.au.

"I think about what happened to me all the time - it gives me great perspective."

Sharing her story publicly for the first time, Cindy credits her courage to speak up to one defining moment - one of judgment and shame - that changed everything.

"I was sitting with a table of women recently, and somehow rape statistics came up in conversation," she said.

"Someone said 'one in three seems a bit high - I mean there are five women right here!'

"That was a defining moment for me.

"I realised that as victims, we hide, which is what our rapists and abusers want.

"Not only that, it eats us alive.

"I've done a great job of hiding - but it certainly did me no good.

"I responded to that woman by saying 'the stats are right - I'm one of those three'.

"Suddenly everyone avoided eye contact and the subject changed.

"I felt instant regret, I felt judged and ashamed.

"We have got to start having hard conversations, and start talking about things we may not like to think about, and these conversations must have a theme of compassion and empathy."

Cindy Brown is telling her story for the first time.
Cindy Brown is telling her story for the first time. Supplied

The sexual assault started when Cindy was just five-years-old, and living in New Zealand. It was a boy from her neighbourhood.

"I'm not sure how old he was - when you are little everyone older than you just seems 'big', but at a guess I would say around 15.

"He would take me away from the group of friends, and walk me around behind a shed, pull my pants down and sexually abuse me.

"This went on for a while - it's hard for me to know the exact time frame.

"I've learned now that part of the inability to remember these details is because of childhood trauma - my brain has cleverly created a 'fog' around it.

"Every time he told me not to tell anyone.

"Sadly, and possibly the most damaging part of this, is that I did tell someone close to me, but they didn't believe me.

"It wasn't until I had my own daughter that I recognised how horrific it was, and that I was experiencing the effects of the trauma ever since."

As a result, she struggled to "fit in" during her teenage years and battled an eating disorder and drug and alcohol abuse.

"I was so lost and unsure of myself, and I always felt like I was an alien on the wrong planet," Ms Brown said.

"I would do anything to make someone like me.

"On a trip to Surfers Paradise with some friends from school, we bumped into three guys also from New Zealand.

"We managed to buy vodka - I was 16 or 17 - and we went to the beach and drank.

"Later in the night we were walking back to our hotel room and the loudest guy in the group kept saying 'there's going to be some pounding going on tonight' - I remember being kind of grossed out but I laughed because I wanted him to think I was cool.

"I suddenly realised that there was an expectation from the loud guy that the person getting the 'pounding' was me.

"I decided to buy myself some time in the bathroom to see how I was going to get out of that situation, but the door was locked so I went to the ensuite, which was of course attached to a bedroom.

"I stood in there for a while thinking about whether I could just say I was going to go for a walk but eventually I opened the door and he was right there in front of me.

"He grabbed me, and I was wriggling like a cat trying to get away but he was a strong guy and just kept forcefully kissing me so hard that I couldn't even speak.

"He ripped my jeans down and raped me."

Still, she didn't tell anyone.

"I couldn't even speak," she said.

"I felt like I was mute, there was nothing.

"I can't even remember what we did the next day - I can't remember anything else about the trip, I was just empty.

"I didn't report it to the police because I didn't know it was rape.

"I thought I was just a silly girl who had gotten myself into a silly situation and that I should have known better."

For years afterwards, Cindy suffered with eating disorders, and drugs and alcohol became a constant in her life. It wasn't until her doctor referred her to a counsellor who practices Cognitive Behaviour Therapy that she was able to heal.

"A few years down the track, I married my best friend."

Ms Brown doesn't have a message for her rapist - he's not worth it, she says. But she's got something to say to any woman who has been betrayed, any little girl who was taken advantage of and not believed.

"I want you to know there is no shame in what has happened to you," she pleaded.

"It happened TO you - not BECAUSE of you.

"I carried this around for years and I was ashamed and embarrassed, and that did nothing but give it power.

"Seek help. Life can get better. It has to."

Cindy Brown wants other women to know that there’s no shame in being the victim of sexual assault.
Cindy Brown wants other women to know that there’s no shame in being the victim of sexual assault. Supplied

Anyone struggling with abuse or sexual assault can contact 1800 RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or Lifeline on 13 11 14.

News Corp Australia


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