I'm currently in Budapest, Hungary. Tomorrow I'll be at the Budapest International Book Festival, talking on a panel, "No means no" alongside the director of Hungarian Amnesty International and the editor of Hungarian Cosmopolitan magazine; the topic of our discussion will be rape.
I've written about this subject previously and believe me when I say, it was incredibly difficult for me to publish the post I wrote. For over a decade I had kept silent about my experience, but I had been wanting to write about it since I began blogging more than four years ago. Whilst it would have been easier - much easier - to have written something whilst I was still anonymous, I finally decided to post something in spite of the fact that everyone now knows who I am; that doing so would reveal far more about me than I might feel comfortable with; and that in the semi-public domain in which I now work, it would leave me feeling even more exposed.
But I still felt I needed to post it. Not because I wanted to reveal my vulnerability; not because I wanted sympathy or attention; and not because I wanted page hits to the blog. The reason I posted about my experience of being raped was because, like much of what I've written about over the years, I hoped it would provoke debate. Talk may be cheap, according to the cliche, but communication and better understanding can still help effect change. If there is one thing that needs to be transformed, it's the depressing reality of rape.
And the result of that post was incredible. Not only the hundreds of comments, where women and men shared their experiences of rape, sexual assaults and abuse, but also the scores of private emails I received, where people expressed gratitude for my talking about the subject, because it helped validate their own feelings on the matter.
So when my Hungarian publisher invited me to Hungary to participate in this talk and do a booksigning, I agreed, believing that no matter how difficult it might be for me to talk about it in public, there are hundreds, if not thousands of other women out there who are, for whatever reason, silenced, and if I can use my public platform to highlight and bring attention to this 'unsexy' topic, then I should.
Of course, it's less than twelve hours to go until the talk and I am currently in my hotel room, petrified. It's one thing to type words onto a computer screen and hit 'Publish'; it's quite another to be on a stage in front of an audience, and then in press junkets, talking openly about something that is still painful for me to think about.
Still, I'm a Brit: we've got that stiff upper lip thing going on, so I'll be doing my best to hold it together tomorrow - and have, what I hope will be, a stimulating debate.