If I pretend it didn’t happen…

Part one of ‘Ten years after rape’

Immediately after the rape I ran down the street wailing. I was hysterical. For the first twelve hours after it happened, my emotions swung erratically. I cried. I got angry. I felt shame, disgust and fear. I didn’t have to pretend it hadn’t happened because I couldn’t even comprehend that it had. I had been reduced to primal emotions. I was a wounded animal.

When I scrubbed my skin in the burning hot shower the next morning, I reconnected with my body and the enormity of what had happened dawned on me. It was more than I could handle so I did the only thing I could: I pretended it didn’t happen.

I moved through the following weeks like a ghost observing the life it used to live. I was there, but I wasn’t present. If you asked, I would have told you I was fine, but the stitches in my arms told a different story.

I wasn’t the most mentally stable person before the assault, but the trauma pushed me into a layer of hell that I didn’t even know existed. I developed phobias and intrusive thoughts. My already bipolar moods became more severe and intractable. I had to drop out of sixth form because the year was a blur of hospital admissions. I wasn’t trying to kill myself but I was willing to die to escape facing my feelings. It wasn’t possible to totally shut the rape out of my mind though. There were reminders everywhere that sent me hurtling back to that night. I kept trying to pretend nothing had happened, but I couldn’t keep the memories locked away.

I wasn’t the only rape victim on the wards. Some spoke openly and some used doublespeak but none of them were ashamed of being raped. They didn’t blame themselves or see themselves as broken. They encouraged me to speak, to name what had happened to me. I never got beyond “the thing that happened” or “what he did to me” but it was a start.

The first anniversary of the rape was approaching when I was finally allowed to leave hospital. I still hadn’t discussed what had happened but I knew that if I wanted to recover, I would have to start speaking.

On 9th July 2007 I walked into a police station and said I wanted to report a crime.

Pretending it didn’t happen hadn’t helped. It was time for a different approach.

Part two: Promiscuity after rape

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