Scottish Member of Parliament Michelle Thompson shared her personal experience with rape during a House of Commons debate on the UN International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.
“I wanted to give a very personal perspective to help people in this place understand one element of sexual violence against women,” Thompson, 51, said in a video shared by BBC.
She recalled leaving a youth event at age 14 with a person she knew, who offered to walk her home and instead brought her to a wooded area and raped her.
“To be honest, looking back at that point, I don’t think I knew what rape was,” said Thompson. “It was not something that was talked about. My mother never talked to me about it. I didn’t hear other girls or other women talking about it.”
She experienced a wide range of emotions, both during and after the incident.
“I remember first of all feeling surprise, then fear, then horror as I realized I quite simply couldn’t escape,” she says. “Afterwards, I walked home alone. I was frightened, I was cold, and I was shivering, and I now realize that was the shock response. I didn’t tell my mother, I didn’t tell my father, I didn’t tell my friends, and I didn’t tell the police. I bottled it all up inside me.”
Thompson said keeping the incident to herself ultimately led her to withdraw from her loved ones.
“The support and resources to process it were very limited,” she explained. “I was very ashamed. […] I felt that I was spoiled and impure, and I really felt revulsion towards myself. I felt detached from the child that up to that I had been. […] My friends must have sensed a change in me, but because I never told them, they didn’t know the cause, and I allowed myself to drift away from quite a few years.”
WATCH: Lady Gaga Reveals She Was Sexually Assaulted as a Teen
As time went on, Thompson continued to bear the emotional burden the raped had caused.
“I carried that guilt, anger, fear, bitterness and sadness for years,” she said. “When I got married 12 years later, I felt I had a duty to tell my husband. I wanted him to understand why there was a swaddled kernel of extreme emotion at the very heart of me that I knew he could sense, but for many years, I simply could not say the words without crying. It was only in my mid-40s I took some steps to go and get help.”
Thompson questioned if she should share her story during the debate, but ultimately decided it was a story she needed to tell.
“There is still a taboo about sharing this kind of information, and certainly for people of my generation, it is truly shocking to be talking in public about this sort of thing,” she said. “But if this was the effect from one small, albeit significant, event in my life, how must it be for women that are carrying this on a day-by-day basis?”
She ended her emotional speech by encouraging women to support others who are victims of rape.
“We women, in our society, have to stand up for each other,” she said. “We have to be courageous. We have to call things out and say where things are wrong. […] Like many women my age, I have encountered other aggressive actions, both in business and in politics, but one thing I realize now is that I’m not scared. I’m not scared, I’m not a victim, I’m a survivor.”