I WAS R*PED BY A STRANGER

MUST READ, THOUGHT-PROVOKING, Uncategorized


This list makes for difficult reading. I wish it didn’t need to be written. Now more than ever I think we all wish that we, as women, felt safer. Until then I think it’s important to keep shining a light on the uglier reality of life.  With that in mind am grateful and in awe of the author, who wishes to remain anonymous, but goes under @fancybeingfree on Instagram who is truly courageous for having written this:

  • I have written and rewritten this list – but there is no one size fits all for this experience and I can only tell mine. I understand so many people have gone through this and we shouldn’t feel compelled to use our trauma as education for others, but when I looked for stories online that looked or sounded like mine, I couldn’t find many. For something that has such a far reach and such devastating consequences, it takes some of us having to offer up our stories for the sake of the bigger conversation. 

  • A UN Women UK Study recently released statistically 97% of young women have been sexually assaulted. I know this encompasses a wide spectrum – I can only tell my story.  

  • For a long time I was in denial that what happened to me was as big and bad and scary as it was, because I had willingly and consensually kissed the man who went on to do what he did to me. I tried to trick my mind into believing it was a one-night-stand and I just didn’t know how they worked- but that I had got it wrong, not him. My mind didn’t buy it though, because our bodies know when they have been wronged. 

  • Outside of the situation, you think you know how you would respond to a woman’s biggest-fear-turned-reality if it happened to you.  I always thought I would have gone straight to the police, the hospital, the papers, or the news. I have always fought for other people’s rights, stood by them in their trauma. I could advocate for me, right? 

  • Wrong.

  • It shouldn’t take NOT surviving for people to be shocked. I don’t know how much louder we can scream it before the world will take notice. 

  • I am a survivor of rape. In truth, I was attacked, raped, and left in a different part of London. But that sounds so dramatic, and our minds play tricks on us. So I tried to tell myself he was just a bit aggressive with me and he had forgotten I didn’t want to have sex. He got his wires crossed. He couldn’t have actually raped me…?

  • People think of rape as the “knife to throat, stranger in dark alley with tears and screaming, fighting back, being overpowered… blood and bruising, ropes or restraining” type of crime. 

  • I didn’t have that experience. For me, it was a boy who I had willingly kissed while being completely trolleyed in a bar. He knew from the first moment I didn’t want it to go further, but that I was happy to give him a kiss as a newly single, ready to date girl in a drunken euphoria – I had been at a work party and was about to start two weeks annual leave. My parents were on a flight and were arriving the next day.  

  • I was on top of the world. When I think about that night, it was one of the best nights of my life, until it wasn’t. 

  • When a boy approaches you on the first night of the year you’ve put in some effort after finally getting over your last heartbreak – you say sure. I’m a strong independent woman with all my wits about me – I’ve got this.

  • The bar closed. I was high as a kite on life and alcohol and the rush that comes with feeling fully alive. These are the moments I used to live for in London, but now I look back and cover my face with embarrassment at my drunken naivety. 

  • I couldn’t find my friends and the tubes weren’t running, so I put my trust in the boy. It was fine – he knew it wasn’t anything. He was saving me from something bad happening in the middle of the night and said as much. 

  • So we got a taxi back to his, to “sleep it off” while the tubes stayed still and silent. It’s safer to sleep in the nice-enough man’s bed than sit outside a station waiting for morning alone… right? 

  • We all know that girls shouldn’t be left alone in the city; bad men might find them. 

  • But the bad man had already found me. 

  • It was only once we were in the Uber that he told me how far away from home he was taking me. I asked the Uber driver to drop me back at the other end of London after this – but I couldn’t change the address on his booking and the boy laughed; and we kissed and I giggled. I giggled, but I was sobering up and thinking it was going to be a very long journey home in a few hours and I wished my phone had battery, that I hadn’t lost my friends, that I hadn’t spent all the money on my card on that final round of G&Ts for everyone who had then disappeared into the night and left me with the boy I was now sat next to, who was taking me to the opposite side of London. 

  • I told the taxi driver this isn’t what it looks like; I am not sleeping with him tonight! 

  • He knew. The taxi driver knew. We all knew. 

  • I am on my period. And I don’t want to have sex with him. And he knows this and he says OK. 

  • In his home the situation quickly changed, and I found myself the victim of a crime that has upended my entire life and taken more than eighteen months to come to terms with. 

  • I’m not one to stay quiet. I have always advocated, always been opinionated, I am not shy. But while I was there, I lost my voice. I couldn’t speak as he handled my body, as he stared through me, as I froze- unable to communicate the only word burning in every nerve ending under my skin – STOP! 

  • There was no humanity. All life was vacuumed out of the room and we both turned into animals. He, the predator. Me, his prey.

  • Everyone who’s watched any Attenborough in his or her life knows about “fight” or “flight”. 

  • In humans, “fight” is the expectation people have of a victim and of how they themselves would respond in the same situation. They expect that a supernatural strength would overcome them; they would fight back or bite their attacker’s penis off in self-defence. In a million years and in every replay my mind has conjured of this night, I still know in my heart of hearts I would never, could never have been able to react that way. 

  • When “flight” animals (imagine a deer) are captured and can’t run away they “freeze”, drawing as little attention to themselves as possible. In their most heightened state of terror, they may even “flop” – they play dead, hoping the predator will give up on its attack. 

  • Back in the room, back in the terror… that is what happened. As he used my body for his pleasure and I froze in my shock, I found myself falling, hanging off the bed, still and silent. 

  • My mammal instinct had kicked in and with no training it was reacting exactly how it would in the wild. And right now, further south of the river than I had ever ventured before, it was the most in the wild my body had ever been. 

  • I flopped and I forced a noise out of me. A groan? A moan? 

  • If I make some noise I might be able to get through this. 

  • As I fought my lungs to push through the effort of cracking out a sound, I got my voice back. 

  • What are you doing? 

  • He kept going.

  • I whispered into the pillow, I’m on my period.

  • He knew. He already knew.

  • And he did it to me anyway. 

  • I turned and curled in a ball, away from him. He ejaculated over my body. My eyes so tightly closed and wishing myself away that I didn’t realise he’d done it until later. When the remains of his release creased up the sleeve of my dress and dried, it became a scratchy reminder. He did this to me. It was real.  

  • Somehow, we both fell asleep. I stayed. I think about that a lot.

  • For the months that followed I couldn’t forgive myself for sleeping those 30 minutes next to him. The man who had just done that to me- even though it was still the middle of the night and I now had no idea where I was on the other side of London. 

  •  There’s a lot I took time to forgive myself for, I was so harsh on every “what if?” I could have done differently.

  • I woke to him rubbing himself on the outside of my underwear, tugging it down and asking to be let in. My insides turned to stone again, freezing over. 

  • I rolled over and tried to make a joke to appease him, saying I was sorry I hadn’t let him do anything to me last night. 

  • Maybe if I say that, last night will evaporate. Maybe it was all in my head. It can’t have actually happened, could it?

  • He laughed, said pretty sure I still did! and got up to go to the bathroom.

  • Fuck.

  • He came back out and saw me dressed, frantic. I was looking for a charger. My phone was still dead and I didn’t know where I was; but I knew it was light and that I could get out now. I had survived the night and now I needed to leave. It hadn’t been in my head. That boy I had innocently kissed in a bar really had torn my body apart for his own pleasure. For his own gain. 

  • He asked what I was still doing there, and my voice became hysterical. 

  • I don’t know where I am! 

  • He led me out of the house with his hands on my shoulders, marching me right past his parents sipping morning coffee. 

  • I stared at them, willing them to look at me. 

  • Do you know what your son just did? 

  • I grabbed my shoes from the front doorway and let my body propel me outside, down a path and into some trees away from any view of his house. 

  • A dog-walker saw me. I wanted to cry HELP! But they didn’t know. They couldn’t tell – I’m just the girl walking down the street in the dress and last night’s makeup and ruffled hair. Does anyone ever ask a girl sneaking home if they are OK?

  • I didn’t put my shoes on until I was a block down the road. It took me two hours to get home. Tubes were halted; there was a body on the tracks near my station. Someone else had had a worse night than me.

  • But I was bleeding through my knickers and hovering above my seat, aching. 

  • Back home, away from it, I wanted it to be over. But it wasn’t. 

  • I spent more than half an hour with my hands covered in blood as I tried and failed to find any part of the tampon I had put inside me more than 15 hours before. 

  • A terrifying realisation – I was going to have to go to hospital. 

  • I couldn’t. I couldn’t let anyone else touch me right now. My animal instinct kicked back in and I found it – flattened and lodged in what may as well have been my ribcage, deep inside me. 

  • A concave imprint of the shape of him, left in me. 

  • I stood under my shower for an eternity. I scrubbed my body. I put on fresh clothes and let myself bleed. 

  • I picked up the dress, the underwear. His DNA. I put it in the washing machine, and then hesitated. I knew what I was about to do. I put it on the hottest cycle. I took myself to bed. My parents were on their way and I had hours to sleep it off and forget. 

  • But I couldn’t forget. 

  • Don’t let this define you. If you ignore it, it didn’t happen. Don’t let this sink in. 

  • I told people what happened, but I didn’t quite believe it could have. That happens to other people, it doesn’t happen any more – surely!

  • I knew something dark; something evil had happened. But no one wants to believe the worst has happened to you unless you spell it out. 

  • I couldn’t spell it out.

  • Friends couldn’t quite believe it was as bad as I said. Most married with children, they thought my emotions were linked to regret at a one-night-stand.

  • They wanted details but I couldn’t explain.

  • They called each other, asked each other whether I must have done something wrong. Said to each other that they couldn’t take sides without knowing the facts.

  • Those friends became my jury. 

  • Why is it easier to take the side of a faceless boy over the friend you have known your whole adult life?

  • A good, supportive friend confided in me of her own experience and told me that women are harsher critics of victims on jury panels for rape and sexual assault trials. Women intrinsically think of all the rules they have grown up being taught about how to avoid this happening to them and then they put themselves into the shoes of the victim. If they have lived a life free of this kind of terror, they think they have done it right. And therefore – the victim got it wrong. 

  • If it has happened to you, you know. You did everything you could to survive that moment. I did what I needed to do to get through that night until morning. 

  • I felt I had no support. I felt judged. I wondered if the whole thing had been a moment of psychosis. I was the only one there, had I made the whole thing up?

  • I wasn’t sleeping. I was living on adrenaline. 

  • He had asked for my number before it happened and had sent me a text. So I texted him. Maybe it hadn’t happened how I remembered.

  • It had. His texts became more crafted, a covering of tracks. Mine became apologetic; I’ll sort this out myself. I shouldn’t have got in touch

  • Perhaps I could pretend to myself I had made the whole thing up. Apologise to everyone for being a drama queen. 

  • And my last text to him told him not to worry, these things happen.

  • These things do not just happen

  • Five in every six victims didn’t report their experiences to the police. I decided to 10 days afterwards, when I still couldn’t eat, sleep or talk. Maybe they could help.

  • An estimated 510,000 women and 138,000 men aged between 16-59 experienced sexual assault in the last year.

  • I am only one woman out of half a million this happened to.  

  • The police concluded their investigation. There wasn’t enough evidence, and my texts to him look like I cared about him. 

  • Cared about him? 

  • The first person to validate what had happened; who looked me in the eye and told me she believed me was not my police officer or even the first therapist I sawIt was a sexual health nurse as she sat with me for an hour, weeks later talking through everything and taking my bloods. She was the first one to call it out for what it was. Rape. 

  • A word I hadn’t dared use. That was something that happened to other people. That can’t really have been what it was. Even though that deep crevice inside of me felt it. Knew it from the moment it started.

  • In the midst of my free fall, the arms of victim charity, Rape Crisis, caught me. 

  • I had a panic attack while on the phone to someone on the helpline. I told them I was worried I must have imagined the whole thing. They offered to call the police and find out why the case had been closed. I bawled down the phone. I was scared if they spoke to the police, they wouldn’t believe me anymore either.  

  • Two months after my attack I was sat in a new therapist’s room as part of Rape Crisis’ counselling service. It was the first moment I exhaled. Until that moment, tears had been brief, and reserved for my bed, alone. 

  • But in that therapy chair I came back into my body.

  • I started having massages weekly. I started journaling again. I learned about how trauma impacts the whole body. I began to see this body – the same body that I had spent years hating and abusing with lack of sleep, food-fuelled binges, alcohol and stress – this body had saved me! It had reacted to protect me. It had blocked memories until I was OK to process them safely. It had frozen when I couldn’t use my words. It was using muscle tension to hold onto the warning signs, ready to flee if another situation arose. 

  • For the first time in my life I loved my body – wobbly and unflattering as my curves were. Un-sexual as it felt. 

  • And then the tears came. The release of the uncorking of all this pain flooded me and I had to tell work what had happened. I could no longer keep it separate. 

  • I went to the GP. I cried. I asked for pills to stop the crying. I thought pills would be my thank you to my body, my kindness back to it after how it had carried me through. 

  • She gave me tissues. She was so gentle as she said maybe I needed to feel it. Maybe my body was ready to carry me through this next part too. 

  • I can only write my story. In the process of healing, so many friends have told me their own experiences and we each reacted differently in the aftermath. 

  • Many never told a soul. They went back to work, put it away as their own unspeakable secret.

  • Others went to the police. Some saw justice. Others didn’t.

  • Some medicated – with booze, drugs, men, women, food, starvation, exercise, bingeing. 

  • I felt like I was telling everyone I met. It became a bomb I was carrying, holding onto it as tightly as I could, afraid to put it down but aware it could detonate at any moment. 

  • It became the most obvious part of me. I thought people could see it physically on me, this girl with her trauma written across her body. The unspoken secret weapon in the room that could explode and destroy us all. 

  • The light in my eyes went out and it took more than a year for them to sparkle again. 

  • Every month my period came, reminding me of what he did and how he had hurt my body. 

  • I tried to see the blood as cleansing me, each period one further away from him. I tried to make it a positive ritual. 

  • But every month, I would panic in my bathroom, taunted by a phantom tampon that had been forced into my core and imprinted with a fear so deep that I worried all the blood in all my life couldn’t flush me clean.

  • What do you say to someone who has been through this, especially if you never have? 

  • I’m sorry. I believe you. I’m here. 

  •  “But I don’t know what to say” 

  • I’m sorry. I believe you. I’m here.

  • “I feel like I’ve said everything I can say”

  • I’m sorry. I believe you. I’m here.

  • Over and over. The friends who were there, who managed to walk the darkest shadows with me are the ones who saw an awkward conversation, who sat in it, and who stayed. 

  • They saw their friend in trauma, and they kept eye contact. 

  • He didn’t get arrested. He didn’t go through the courts. He is nameless when I tell people about what happened to me. I know what happened. He knows what happened. 

  • He is free; but after a long time and a lot of therapy and healing – I am free too. 

  • No one knows what they will do if they are in this situation. With all my heart I wish I could be the last person to experience this. I wish I had known sooner about the advocates who give their lives to look after victims, about the charities with phone lines who listen and believe us when we dare not believe ourselves. 

  • I wish I hadn’t blamed myself for so long. 

  • I wonder if things would have been different if I had taken myself to a hospital instead of home when I left his house. 

  • In moving forward, I had to forgive that version of me, who destroyed evidence and sent a text saying these things happen. She suffered enough, and she did it because she thought the future version of me wouldn’t want that moment to define me. 

  • It did, for a year. But now I am free and I’ve got my future back.

  • I am in awe of people who have experienced this and have kept it to themselves. 

  • I am in awe of people who have experienced this and have spoken out.

  • I am in awe of anyone who has done the work to recover.

  • I am in awe of anyone who is still frozen in that moment. 

  • This should never have been my story. It should never be anyone’s story.

  • To every girl who has lived this and every girl who lives in fear of it happening to you – You are courageous. You are golden. You are so brave. I am so sorry, I believe you, and I am right here too.

HELPFUL RESOURCES:

Rape Crisis: https://rapecrisis.org.uk/ 

the Rape Crisis national freephone helpline on 0808 802 9999 (12-2.30pm and 7-9.30pm every day of the year)

Samaritans: phone 116 123 or via https://www.samaritans.org/how-we-can-help/contact-samaritan/ 

NHS: Help after Sexual Assault https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/sexual-health/help-after-rape-and-sexual-assault/ 

 

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