No, I’m not channelling Bob Hoskins from those BT ads back in the 90s (showing my age much?!), but it really is good to talk. By nature I am quite a private person, I keep a lot of things to myself and don’t tend to open up that much about things – I have always been this way but I don’t really think it’s all that healthy … not for me anyway. Keeping huge things that have happened to yourself can start to eat away at you and you never fully move on.
I have recently been inspired by some truly brave ladies on Twitter and Instagram to open up about some of the things that have happened to me. I am not looking for sympathy or attention from this post, that’s the last thing that I want or need, but if writing this helps just one person, then it will have been worth it
There are 4 events in my life that have changed me – massively changed me, so I will start in order of when they happened over a series of posts. Some of these are things I have very rarely ever mentioned even to my loved ones, so bear with me.
A couple of weeks before my 21st birthday I was raped. That’s probably the 4th time in my life that I have ever said that. My parents had gone on holiday and I had the house to myself. One night I was feeling bored so I went to the pub at the end of my street. It was busy in there and there was a good crowd in. I quickly found people that I knew and I started to have a good night.
One man, who I was vaguely familiar with – he lived on my street – started talking to me and buying me drinks. We were having a good time, and I will admit that I got drunk. He was flirty and making me laugh and I went back to his house (don’t judge – it happens).
Now I admit that I slept with him, but during the act I sobered up fast. He was rough and aggressive and he was hurting me. As soon as it was over I started to get dressed and made my way downstairs. I said goodbye and went to open the front door … and that’s when the rape nightmare began. Back then I was slim little thing and he was over 6ft and a rugby player so he was a hell of a lot bigger than me. He slammed the door shut and locked it.
When I said that I wanted to leave, he smirked and said “But we’re having so much fun, what makes you think I’m going to let you go?” I was terrified – frozen with fear sort of terrified. Then he grabbed me by my hair and twisted my arm behind my back before literally throwing me back up the stairs to the bedroom. After a few kicks and punches, he forced himself on me. My instinct was to fight and scream, but in reality I laid on that bed too scared of what else he might do to me to put up a fight.
After he had finished he remained lying on top of me, crushing me so that I couldn’t move. Then he raped me again. After a couple of hours of this he’d had enough. He threw me off the bed into the wall and told me to get dressed. Shaking, sore and ashamed, I did as I was told. Then he finally let me leave. As I was leaving, he told me not to tell anyone as they wouldn’t believe me. That because I had willingly slept with him once I had given consent. That everyone in the pub had seen me flirting with him and leaving with him. That it hadn’t been rape.
My Dad was the local vicar at the time and my attacker knew this – he said that he would tell the community what a slag the vicar’s daughter was and make life difficult for my parents. My Mum was undergoing cancer treatment so I didn’t want to cause them any stress, so I went home, got in the shower and threw my clothes in the bin.
I did my A Levels quite late, so I was at college at the time and 2 days later I went to my lessons as normal. Except it wasn’t normal, I wasn’t normal. I never went to college looking scruffy, I was always dressed nicely, but that morning I wanted to be invisible and as unattractive as possible. I didn’t want men to look at me. So I turned up to college in tracksuit bottoms, a jumper and no makeup – big mistake as the second my friends saw me they knew something was wrong.
I spent the day barely speaking and not answering any of their well-meaning questions – I was in shock. At the end of the day, one of my lecturers asked me to stay behind. One of my best friends was there too and she had been to him with her concerns for me. They sat with me for an hour as I eventually broke down and the truth of why I was so quiet came out. They didn’t judge me, they just listened. My lecturer asked if I wanted to call the Police, but I had already destroyed the evidence and I didn’t want to embarrass my parents, so I refused. Again, they didn’t judge me.
The college arranged counselling for me and I reluctantly went. That counsellor made me feel so dirty and disgusting – she implied that I’d given consent and drinking, flirting and wearing a short skirt in a pub full of men will always have consequences. I was so angry that I walked out and never returned. I then went into shut down – I didn’t and wouldn’t talk about it. A couple of my friends knew but that was it.
I refused to ever tell my parents and I tried, and failed, to forget about it. I had to walk past that house every day to go to the bus stop. Every single day. If I wanted to go to the shop, I had to pass it – there was no escaping the memories of what happened. My parents did eventually find out – a friend’s boyfriend decided to pay them a visit to tell them – he wanted to hurt me. I knew that they knew something but it wasn’t until a couple of months before my Mum died that she ever really spoke about it with me. She apologised for not protecting me or supporting me – this broke my heart. I hate that she was made to feel like that.
That night happened over 13 years ago and I have moved on. It hurts still, it causes nightmares still and it gave me such a warped attitude towards sex for many years, but it doesn’t invade my every thought and I have gone on to be happy. I put this happiness down to Mick. He has shown me so much love and has taught me that not all men are like that – I know that he would never do a single thing to hurt me. We don’t discuss what happened to me and I’m fine with that. It’s my past and I don’t want it to hang over our relationship and it doesn’t. The actions of one man do not have the power to ruin my life. It’s taken years to have that attitude but power is given, and I refuse to give someone that power.
So many sexual assaults go unreported for a number of reasons:
Fear they won’t be believed
Fear of judgement
Fear of repercussions
Even when they are reported, getting a conviction can be extremely difficult and this makes me sad. Women, (and men, as they can be assaulted too), have every right to report a crime and to be treated with decency and compassion throughout the process. I really hope that in the future, there is less of a stigma surrounding victims of rape. No-one has the right to force themselves on you – if you say NO, regardless of the circumstances, then you mean NO. I hope that one day, victims do feel like they can report an attack without any fear or shame.
If you need help or advice, then there are charities such as Rape Crisis who can and will help. Don’t ever suffer in silence.