Part five of ‘Ten years after rape’
I wrote this two years ago
On 9th July 2006 I was raped. I was 16 year old. I had agreed to meet a 23 year old man. He called himself Max but that wasn’t his real name. I wasn’t really sure if it was a date, I didn’t have much experience of that sort of thing, but I was happy to meet up with him and find out. I met him at the restaurant where he worked. I drank diet coke and waited for his shift to finish, chatting to him between customers. After his shift ended we shared a bottle of wine. I hadn’t eaten for days and was very underweight. I got drunk. As I would later learn, that was my first mistake.
We took a walk along the high street and headed towards the canal. He suggested buying cannabis. Not wanting to seem immature I agreed. That was my second mistake. While we smoked a spliff we witnessed a man being beaten up by a group of men. Max told me not to worry about it, he was just a drug dealer. That was my third mistake. I should never have stayed in the company of a man who would dismiss the value of another person’s life. I rang an ambulance for the injured man but left him. Max was more concerned about being caught with a bit of weed than ensuring the injured man was ok. I was no better. I left him too.
We walked further down the canal. Drunk and high, I stumbled as we walked. We reached a tall fence. The entrance to another part of the canal had been closed off for building works. He suggested we climb over, he pointed out we would be smoking cannabis and, given the incident that had just happened, there could be police around. It seemed wise to be in a private place. That was my fourth mistake.
We sat with our backs against the wall, talking and smoking. It became evident this was a date. He said, “what would you say if I kissed you?”. At the time I thought he was a gentleman for asking. I would later realise my answer would have made no difference. How could I not realise that any sexual contact with a man means they are entitled to have sex with you? That was my fifth mistake.
As things progressed I tried to disengage. Things had already gone further than I had experienced before. He had already tried to get me to give him oral sex by forcing my head down. I refused. While he wasn’t exactly happy about that, he went no further than coaxing. I thought that was a sign he understood I wasn’t ready to be that intimate. That was my sixth mistake. He didn’t care whether I was ready.
Stood with my back against the wall, he tried to have sex with me. I didn’t verbally say no, that was my seventh mistake, but I thought it was clear. When he tried to lift my legs up I kept my feet on the ground. I had my hands against his chest, pushing him away. He wasn’t getting the message. That was my fault. I wasn’t clear enough. How on earth could I expect him to realise when someone is ambivalent about having sex? I wasn’t sure if I wanted to have sex. I wasn’t sure I wanted my first time to be with a man I barely knew, against a wall next to a canal. It wasn’t quite how I imagined it. What came next was definitely not how I imagined it.
I was on the ground and he was having sex with me. It was hurting. I was crying and begging him to stop. Repeatedly telling him, “stop it, you’re hurting me” and trying to push him off me. I remember thinking, “maybe if I say please he will stop”. He didn’t. In the end I stopped asking. I continued to cry, occasionally crying out in pain. That was my eighth mistake. As his barrister would ‘suggest’, perhaps I was enjoying it.
I didn’t really comprehend I had been raped until the following day. It took a friend telling me it is rape if a man refuses to stop for me to recognise that was what it was. It took a year for me to believe it was ‘real’ rape because I had known the man who raped me and had consensually kissed him. It took a year for me to report it. I blamed myself for not being more forceful, for not scratching him, for not screaming even though there was nobody around to hear me.
Eight years on I know I am not to blame. I know that for all the mistakes, for all the poor choices that lead me to being in that vulnerable position, the only person to blame for me being raped is the person who raped me.
I still ruminate over my mistakes. I am still regularly reminded that although rape is never the victim’s fault, it kind of is. If you listen to what some people say about the behaviour of rape victims you hear judgement. When someone says “Of course a woman isn’t to blame but what do they expect if they lead him on or get drunk?” what they are actually saying is a woman is to blame. When you are stood in a court room going through every detail of the worst night of your life, being interrogated about how much you had to drink and why you didn’t think twice about being alone with a man, you are being blamed for being raped. It doesn’t matter how many times friends and professionals tell me it was not my fault, the times people insinuate I am to blame are the times that stick. Why? Because although I know I am not to blame for being raped, I want to believe that if I can avoid making those same mistakes I can prevent it happening again. By blaming myself I am saying I have the power to prevent anything like that happening again. Eight years on I realise there is no way of living which can guarantee you will not be raped. I am not to blame for being raped. Sometimes I wish I was. The world would be a much less frightening place.
Part six: Revictimisation