I Was Raped At 16. It Changed Everything About Me

Overnight, I didn’t know my place in the world any more. Now, every time someone comes forward, I hope my attacker worries he's next.
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Getty Images

Warning: This piece includes graphic descriptions of sexual assault, which may be triggering for some readers

When I look back at my life, I visualise that night as like a canyon between ‘before’ and ‘after’. I had just turned 16 – a shy child but happy and bubbly, really into the 60s and hippie music.

Then, overnight, the music I listened to, the way I dressed, the way I acted and everything about me changed. It was like I didn’t know me anymore, like I didn’t know who I was. I was sort of trying to place myself in this world where I wasn’t that Becky anymore.

It all started at prom. I ended up kissing this guy who was in my maths class, and he called me up later and said “do you want to be my girlfriend?” I’d never had a boyfriend before, so it was all very exciting. We were both virgins – we did everything else – but I never felt unsafe or uncomfortable with him. And then one day he just went distant, messaging me saying “I don’t think it’s working anymore”.

Two weeks later, I got to the party and he was there. I remember exactly what I was wearing: a little low cut top, nice and tight. I wore some jeans and trainers and this long, black woollen cardigan that went down to my ankles, because it was 2004.

“For a long time, I felt a lot of guilt... because I was the one who said to go somewhere else”

At first he kind of ignored me, but then we were drinking and he was getting sort of a bit closer, hugging me and chatting to me. I was like: ‘This is brilliant. This is exactly what I wanted, maybe we’ll get back together again’. We were in this garden when it started to go a little bit further. “Maybe we should go somewhere else,” I said – and for a long time, I felt a lot of guilt about saying that, because I was safe in this garden and I was the one who said to go somewhere else.

We went to a big grass roundabout in the middle of a cul de sac, where all the houses overlooked us. We’re kissing, and then he starts like pulling down my trousers, and I’m thinking ‘this is not cool, because there are all these houses that are facing us’. I felt really panicked – but it wasn’t because of what was happening, it was because I thought ‘people can see me’ and I felt vulnerable and sort of ashamed.

I try to pull my trousers back up. And I still haven’t admitted this bit to anyone but I said “there’s this little alleyway down between two of the houses,” I was just so desperate to get away, I wasn’t really thinking about what was happening. “Let’s go down here instead.” Why did I say that when I could have gone back to the party? In that moment, all I could think of was that I need to get somewhere sheltered. It felt like there were hands everywhere, he had his hands on my shoulders, pushing me down. I didn’t know how there were that many hands from two people.

“I’ll let you go if you give me head,” I remember him saying. I thought ‘well, I don’t want to… but if that’s what it takes so that I can go, then fine, I’ll do it’. So I started, and then he pushed me down on the floor, on my back.

The weirdest thing is my strongest memory from that. I had this little silk bag, and at the time it was really fashionable for your Nokia 3310 to have a transparent case with LED lights. Mine was kind of on the blink where if I dropped my phone or shook it too hard, it would start flashing. What I remember really clearly about this night, as I was sort of pushed onto my back, was my bag hit the floor and, from the inside, all these little rainbow lights shining through.

“For a long time, I thought maybe he got carried away, and maybe he didn’t really know what he was doing... now I look back and think there is no way he didn’t”

He kept saying things like “I love you,” which was awful, and caused me to have huge issues with that phrase for a long time. “I’ll go back out with you... if you have sex with me. I’ll let you go if you have sex with me.”

For a long time, I thought maybe he got carried away, and maybe he didn’t really know what he was doing – we were both drinking after all. But I was literally crying, begging him, saying “please, please let me go. I’m a virgin, please don’t do this,” and now I look back and think there is no way he didn’t know what he was doing.

Then nothing has come back from that part of the night, even now, until I’m on the street. I just sat on the kerb outside the party. His friend came out, who I’d never met him before this night. He said, “I think you should know that he’s in there telling everybody you’re accusing him of rape.”

He was 16, and he already knew that if he goes in there, and if he gets his story in first, who’s going to believe me? I knew – and it’s so sad that at just 16 I already knew – that I was drunk, and that people had see me flirting with him. And I was wearing revealing clothes. And that I’d been involved with him previously. He’d got in there first and warned everybody and I knew that everything was stacked up against me.

I never reported it. I didn’t even consider reporting it. I knew I wouldn’t be believed.

“I think there must be a tiny part of him deep down that thinks, ‘I know what happened’. And I hope he’s scared”

After that I had so many problems. I was suicidal, drinking, taking drugs. I stopped eating. I used to cross the road without looking, just step into the road, because I thought the worst has already happened to me. Who cares if it happens again?

That night tore me apart. Over time, I just kind of got used to it, little by little. I genuinely thought for a long time I wasn’t going to make the first anniversary, I thought I was going to kill myself. But you get past that, and then you think well, I’ve got past the first anniversary, and then bit by bit things get easier. And it’s all little achievements. And then they build up until it doesn’t hurt as much any more, and you don’t think about it as much any more. It’s more like, in a little box now.

He probably tells himself it was all fine. We were just drunk. We were messing around. But I think there must be a tiny part of him deep down that thinks, ‘no, I know what happened’. And I hope he’s scared. Especially now, when there’s more people and more people coming forward. And I hope every time someone comes forward, I hope he thinks ‘oh God, am I next?’

As told to Lizzy Dening, founder of Survivor Stories, a new website documenting the stories of survivors of sexual violence. For more information, visit their website here

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