Warning: This piece includes description of sexual assault, which may be triggering for some readers
Remembering trauma is like recalling a dream. You’re not completely certain of what happened, but you remember both the important and absurd scenes: struggling to breathe, a hand tightly fastened onto my neck. My face deep into a pillow. Making pointless noises, muted by a polyester prison.
I remember he had odd socks. It’s funny how years can go by from trauma, but you’ll still remember those parts.
I was 21 when I was raped. Though, to tell the truth, it took a while before I realised what had happened. With a lot of wounds, the realisation came through seeing bloody water on porcelain, circling down a plughole.
My rapist was handsome. He stank of cigarette smoke and deodorant: a difficult thing to find out via messages. If he’d put ‘rapist and smoker’ in his dating app bio, I’d probably have swiped left. But his profile told nothing past his age and body type.
“In the days after he raped me, I struggled to stop telling myself that it was my fault for trusting him”
In the days after he raped me, I struggled to stop telling myself that it was my fault for trusting him. It was me that said yes. It was me who hosted the hookup. It was me who even gave him a glass of water afterwards. It just didn’t click that this was a crime scene until I saw red.
Suddenly, inside my head was like a hurricane. In the mirror, I began to notice all the marks, scratches, and bruises on my hurting body. I looked like a corpse, and I felt sick to see this joint of tatty meat in front of me. The shame I felt was excruciating. But I knew I couldn’t just ignore the pain. I chose to book an emergency GP appointment. Going to A&E was, I cynically thought, reserved for the seriously wounded. In hindsight, I probably should have gone there.
My GP was the first and only person would talk to about the rape for over three months. His eyes widened as I told him what had happened. Luckily, no significant damage caused downstairs. Had to keep an eye on my toilet trips for a while, just to be safe.
Upstairs was another story. My neck was seriously bruised from my rapist’s hand. You could see deep purple dents where his fingers had pressed, bruises so severe I wore scarves for weeks after. But having this constant beacon of injury helped, in a morbid way. It was a physical sign of damage done towards me – something to shut my sense of guilt in a dark room.
“For me, the hardest task was overcoming the shame – to this day, I haven’t spoken much about the experience”
I had counselling and therapy, and gradually came to terms with what had happened. The physical pain and trauma subsided over time. For me, the hardest task was overcoming the shame – to this day, I haven’t spoken much about the experience. For family and friends, this will be the first artefact of my history. But to other male rape victims, this shame is so familiar. Men struggle to express themselves, especially if they feel emasculated. Being open and honest about such a crime is difficult. I felt as though I would be judged and sentenced for being the victim. I still do to some extent.
But rape is never the fault of the victim. I didn’t want to be raped, nor did my actions give permission for it to happen. My rapist took advantage of me. Rape is not just a sexual crime, it’s about power. The rapist overpowered me and forced me to survive his assault. The bruises I displayed for weeks after were intense natural tattoos telling me this cruel truth.
The shame I’ve felt also came from being a male victim. The rape charity Survivors UK estimate 12,000 men are raped every year, with more than 70,000 men sexually abused or assaulted. The number for women is significantly higher, and dwarfs the statistics for male sexual abuse.
But both men and women in the UK experience rape, and having different figures for both does not make either less important. Had I accepted this, I may have come forward sooner. My worry was that I’d walk into a police station, give my details, and the police would simply laugh at me for reporting rough sex. I was more concerned with judgements than accepting the truth, and wanting justice.
“Rape is a crime inflicted upon you. You are no less of a person for being a victim. You are not ugly or dirty”
So I’m passing the point of feeling shame. Men out there who may be reading this and thinking back to an experience they’ve struggled to accept – please read these words. Rape is a crime inflicted upon you. You are no less of a person for being a victim. You are not ugly or dirty.
But don’t feel like you must erupt into self-confidence immediately either. It’s taken me two years to find the words strong enough to express myself. After I visited my GP, I took a couple of weeks to look after myself. I played games, watched my favourite films, and ate a lot of bad food. It was an expensive week, but gave brilliant profits for local takeaway businesses. I needed that two weeks to hide. We all need our space.
There’s so many conflicting opinions and methods that people use to recover from trauma. One world-leading psychologist will say one thing, and your best friend will say another. Finding that space to recover on your own terms was so helpful for me to soften the blow.
I was raped in early 2017. I remember it was raining. It’s one of my worst memories. I’ve wanted to talk about this for a long time, I think. Putting it into words has helped me even more. Rape victims and survivors are the strongest people – we suffer so much harm in an instant, and continue with the pain for a lifetime.
I hope one day to forget it happened, but I’ll fight with anyone to speak over the darkness.
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Useful helplines and websites:
- Victim Support - Visit victimsupport.org.uk or call 0808 168 9111 Sexual Abuse Referral Centres - Find a SARC
- Rape Crisis - Visit rapecrisis.org.uk or call 0808 802 9999 The Rape and Abuse Line - Visit rapeandabuseline.co.uk or call 0808 800 0123 (answered by women) or 0808 800 0122 (answered by men).