After telling the story of what happened, some friends said “you were raped.” It made me feel sick and my body felt frozen. I can write the words I was raped but the same words have got stuck in my throat when trying to say them out loud. I’ve had more practice now but still find it very hard to connect with what happened to me as “rape”, as something belonging to my own reality. That night he took my voice, and I’ve been slowly learning how to tell my story since.
He refused to accept that what he did was wrong. I’m the only one suffering the consequences for something he decided to do. I blame a culture that taught him to think I, woman, am a silent disposable object to be used for his male pleasure.
Rape is often assumed to be a monster of a man using physical force against a vulnerable woman. But it’s not always a man raping a woman, it’s not always aggressively forceful and victims can be some of the strongest people in the world but when someone decides to rape them, their power is taken in that moment.
Emotional manipulation, coercion and using alcohol or drugs to have unwanted sexual activity with someone are common tactics used by rapists, none of which require physical force. Many refuse to accept that’s what they’ve done because they think they have some kind of entitlement (like Brock Turner) or because they’ve let themselves believe that there are blurred lines of consent (thanks Robin Thicke).
From the first time we step out of the house alone, women and girls are taught to protect ourselves from the most usually feared rape narrative - a male stranger jumping out and attacking you. We learn early on not to walk through darkly lit areas, to keep keys between our fingers with the sharp bits pointing out, not to wear short skirts, not to drink too much etc. Whilst this kind of attack does unfortunately happen, according to Rape Crisis England & Wales 90% of rapes are committed by known men and not strangers, which can make spaces as private as the home feel unsafe and not just the streets.
The fact my story doesn’t fit the narrative I’ve been scared of for years, made me doubt that I could really have been raped. I didn’t think I had any right to report it as a crime. I thought it was my fault, and that if I was to blame I could still trust in the goodness of others.
I realise now that I didn’t have a say and that he’d preyed on me like a hunter going after his target. I realise that I wasn’t able to consent but I still have a hard time feeling like the words “I was raped” can truly belong to me. Rape victims are treated as the guilty and expected to prove their innocence, as if being raped can ever be their own fault, so it’s no wonder we’re left doubting our own experiences.
I couldn’t doubt the psychological after effects. There were the flashbacks, nightmares, anxiety, jumpiness, days and days of feeling like the colour in the world had been sucked into grey. But amongst it all I’ve had moments of feeling empowered too because I’ve been through this emotional and physical trauma and still found ways to experience true joy, still been able to connect with others and take care of myself. Writing about it has helped to process the events of that night and I’m proud to have my chapter featured in our campaign book.
This blog is part of a mini-series to highlight rape survivors’ experience of the justice system - to coincide with the release of Emily Jacob’s book ’To report or not to report’. Read Emily’s blog about the project and to read other accounts from survivors.