I think I was raped.
Putting those words to paper makes me feel uneasy. I have made it real. For the last fourteen months, it has just existed inside my head. I have relived the events and questioned them. I have tried to convince myself that it was my fault, so that I don’t have to admit it really happened. I tried to rationalise that because it wasn’t a violent, visceral and totally malicious event, that it wasn’t really rape. I have tried to drink it out of my memory and cut it out of my skin.
The events of that night are blurred with drink and drugs anyway. But with over a year between me and the evening it happened, a lot more detail has faded. Most of the significant detail remains, and the way I feel hasn’t changed, so I don’t think time has twisted my perspective. I will recall what I can remember.
The evening was a weeknight, possibly a Tuesday or a Wednesday. I think it might have been a Tuesday. I had the night off work, so I was going out with some friends, all male. I’m sure this story has already started exactly how you expected. A night out with a group of male friends. Probably a bad idea, right? Yeah, yeah. She’s asking for it.
We started the night in the centre, hit about four or five bars, smashing cocktails and shots too fast. The individual that raped me that evening was with us the whole time. To be honest I had always found him a bit odd. Socially awkward, not quite as quick witted as the other lads, difficult to make conversation with. It sounds pretty trite, but I think I am quite a good judge of character, and I had always thought something was up with this one. It wasn’t necessarily my instinct to avoid him, but I found him jarring and hard to get on with, and therefore wasn’t really inclined to associate with him. I didn’t really care that he was there but I hardly spoke to him that night.
After about six or seven drinks we head a bit further out of the city. The cocktails are catching up with us so we decide to pick up some coke. I get cash from everyone and make a call. Half an hour later and we’re taking it in turns smashing lines in the toilets of a bar.
We have a few more drinks in the same bar and finish the gram. It must have been getting late, but we were all pretty wired so decide to take it back to one of the guy’s flats. I have some leftover MDMA from a few weeks ago, probably about half a gram, so we all do dabs. We probably stayed there a few hours, chatting shit and smoking and drinking whiskey. I’m piecing the night together from flashbacks at this point – snippets of being at my friends house, with whiskey in my hand. I don’t even remember what time we left. But when we decide it’s time to go, I think I remember him suggesting we walk together as we would both be going in the same direction. I agree. Not overwhelmed as I kind of just wanted to sneak away by myself as I do most nights when I’ve had enough, and go home alone.
It is safe to say that at this point we were all pretty fucked. I don’t know how fucked the boys were compared to me, but I was very fucked. I can’t remember if it was dark or light outside, I can’t remember walking home apart from one snapshot of us turning up my street. I don’t remember unlocking my door.
What I do remember is he is in my bedroom, and I feel weird about it. I don’t like people being in my space, in my room or in my bed unless I want them to be. I feel reluctant about it. I feel like I had been coerced into it somewhat, or persuaded. There was some vague idea of what seemed to be a logical proposition, “I may as well stay here.” I was too done to argue at this point, I just wanted to go to bed.
I appreciate that in a court of law this would not stand up. Young woman, out with a group of lads, pretty smashed on booze and fucked up on coke and MD. Agrees to be escorted home by one of them and he ends up having sex with her. Her defence, in her drug addled stupor? She felt weird about it. Yeah, I know how it sounds.
I am just being honest. I know what I felt, and in that moment, even drunk and high, I know I did not feel comfortable with what was happening. I felt I was being coerced. I could feel the tone in his voice, patronising and cajoling.
I remember putting my pyjamas on. Not something I would have done if I was alone. Not something I would even have done if I was sharing a bed with my sister or a friend, where a tee shirt and pants would suffice. And not something I would do with someone I was intending to have sex with. I put full pyjama bottoms and a long sleeved top on. I don’t know what I thought I was doing putting pyjamas on. But something made me do it.
And then I am coming round. It takes me a couple of seconds to realise where I am and what is happening. I am laid on my side facing my wall, and he is fucking me from behind. I was limp. Rocking involuntarily. He has his arm over my shoulder and round my neck. For a second my eyes are open, my head moving lazily back and forth towards the wall. I’m confused. I’m still not fully with it after a few more seconds. What is going on? I realise someone is fucking me, and not long before that I was unconscious. I remember the events of the previous night. I work out who it is. Am I allowing this to happen? No, I don’t want this. I push him off me, summoning a mumbled “no, stop..”. I don’t think I was met with any resistance. Maybe just surprise. I push him further away.
“You need to go now.”
Not a word. He didn’t say a single thing to me. He didn’t even pick up all his clothes. I didn’t notice until I had the Police at my flat later that day, and they noticed his boxers and socks were still on the floor of my room. He just put on his fucking trousers and shoes and scarpered. I didn’t hear from him again.
I don’t know how long I laid still in my bed, absorbing the shock of what had happened. I don’t necessarily think it was even shock. I just couldn’t put it together in my head. Maybe disbelief. Maybe confusion. I think the fact that it had happened was more shocking than the actual act. I laid there for a bit, I think. Wondering what to do.
At some point, something must have hit me, and I started crying uncontrollably. I took a bath. Maybe I felt dirty, I don’t remember. I didn’t think I could tell anyone I knew, so I called the Police. They came round, two female officers, and I cried relentlessly. They took my bedsheets and pyjamas as evidence. They asked me questions, and then took me to a rape clinic to get tested. I remember being driven through the city in a police car. How strange it was sitting inside that car, barely dressed, unable to breathe properly for crying, and outside in the daylight people were going about their business as usual. Nothing had happened.
I was swabbed and poked, peed in a bottle. They made me a cup of tea and I sat in a room on a sofa with a lady advising me what help was available. I would be put on a list for sexual assault therapy (still haven’t heard anything, actually). I can’t remember much else of the conversation. I was driven home and left. The rest of the day was a blur. I told my best friend what had happened, she came over that night with a six pack of Stella and I just cried into her chest and watched TV together. She remade my bed for me and put me to sleep. It must have been about 3am. She said she would have stayed with me but I made her go home.
The next few weeks were a blur, too. I just drank a lot. I numbed myself. I worked at a pretty shady, independent bar at the time so it was easy to get away with. Before shifts, during and after. I think it was the only thing that kept me going for a bit, not having to be sober. I could manage to work if I could drink and forget it. Nights off I just spent on my sofa, drinking bottles of wine and watching mindless TV. I was scared to go outside for a few weeks after. I’d have to have a drink before I left the house to calm my nerves. I was scared of seeing his face. I couldn’t look up to passers by’s faces in case I saw his. I think at a point I was easily having three or four beers before I started work.
I cut myself a lot more than I ever had before. Don’t get me wrong, I’d done it before. But nothing this severe. I ended up in hospital twice. I had to go to hospital one night to get stitches in a really bad one, I think they gave me two layers of stitches. It was on the top of my leg. They had to put so much swaddling on it to stem the bleeding, and bandage it so thick, that leg ended up twice the size of my other. I had to go come for Christmas like that. In agony, hiding the cuts and bandages from my family. The day after being in A&E, I could barely walk. I called my boss at work to say I couldn’t come in and he gave me shit. Wasn’t a legitimate excuse, apparently. So I quit. I was out of work for six weeks. Looking back on it, I think I needed it. At the time I justified quitting my job because I couldn’t work with someone as self-righteous and unforgiving as my old boss anymore. He was a cunt, to be fair, but really I just needed some self-care.
In the New Year I stopped drinking, smoking and doing drugs. Partly for my health, partly to distance from the group of people that I had been with that night, and maybe partly because I blamed the substances for getting me into that situation. I definitely blamed myself too, but I thought cutting out the narcotics would be half way to stopping anything like that happening again.
When I looked back on that period of my life previously, I don’t think I had quite put together the effect that rape had had on my it. I wrote it off as a “crazy time”. “I was a mess”, “I was drinking too much” “I was partying way too hard”, “hanging out with the wrong people”. The kind of things people say about their adolescence or young-adulthood. But looking at that sequence of events, I think I’ve just about realised the severity of it. My drinking increased exponentially, I didn’t go out, I ended up in hospital twice, I quit my job and was unemployed for six weeks. Pretty bad, when you look at it like that. I’m not looking for pity. I’m just adding things up myself. It has surprised me looking at from this perspective, all written down on paper. I had compartmentalised every individual event, not connected them.
I fully understand everyone reading this will have their own interpretations of what happened to me. I got myself into that situation. I got blackout fucked up and don’t remember the majority of a night. To be honest, I’d been in worse states than that, and my male friends had looked after me, staggered to someone’s house with me and put me into a bed. I’m not trying to vilify all men. Im not trying to say that men are always the aggressor in any situation, and women always the victim. Nor has it changed my opinion that there are a lot of good men out there.
Did I acquiesce? Did I resist? I’ve written down everything I remember. Believe me, I’ve been through all possibilities. Who was to blame? Would anyone believe me if I told them? Was I asking for it? Did I allow it to happen to me? If I did acquiesce in one instance that I can’t remember, does that mean I agreed to multiple instances, including one where I was unconscious, and woke up wanting it to stop? It wasn’t by a stranger. I wasn’t attacked or beaten. I wasn’t completely conscious. I didn’t scream or fight. Does that make it any less real? Does that make it any less rape? I still ask myself these questions on a regular basis.
This experience didn’t break me, nor did I have an epiphany long after where I was suddenly healed. I woke up two days later and had to go to work. Like I had been woken from a nightmare, and suddenly had to just stop being upset by it and go back to normal. I had to talk to my workmates and friends like nothing had happened. It was surreal. So I just had to get on with it, as we all do. Just go back to life and carry this thing around with me that no-one else could see. I couldn’t really cope with it. I was so self destructive immediately after, very low, very angry. Angry at myself for letting myself get into a situation like that and not having the clarity to stop it before it happened. Angry at him for doing that to me when I had no say in it. I was angry that my choice had been taken away from me. I am a very independent person, I mostly do what I want within the bounds of socially acceptable conduct. I am active in my life choices. And to have something done to me, to be the passive object in a situation, made me furious.
It gradually got better. I went back on anti-depressants for the god-knows-how-many-th time. That lifted me up enough to get on with things. Stopping drinking definitely helped. I started again last year, but only in situations where I felt comfortable and safe. I got a new job, away from the party lifestyle of the industry I previously worked in. The nine-to-five routine restored some structure to my days, I couldn’t start drinking at midday anymore, or stay up until 4am. I met new people, made new friends, made new experiences. I tried to seek more balance in my lifestyle, limiting myself to going out at the weekends, and trying to fit in more exercise, some yoga and meditation. I read a lot of books about mental health and that made me feel less alone, and taught me to make space for my feelings, and work with them, rather than against them. Things changed, slowly.
My Dad once told me that when he quit smoking, he just went cold turkey. He had his last cigarette, and the day after, didn’t have another ever again. He said it was the easiest way to do it, without any nicotine replacement bullshit. He knew that the first day after would be the worst, the absolute worst. But he just had to get through it, and then he knew that the next day would be a little bit easier. Not easy, but easier, if only by an iota. And the day after, a tiny bit easier than that. And so on, for every day for the rest of his life, until he didn’t even really think about it any more. I think this is true of a lot of things. We all experience hardships and trauma, in many different forms. I don’t think there is a miracle cure to get over things suddenly, for feelings to just stop and go away (and as a very impatient person this frustrates me a great deal). Change happens slowly, so does healing. We just have to get through this day, and know that everything will seem different in the morning, even if just a little bit.