I wrote this a few nights ago and then deleted it. Well, I’m putting it back up here. For those who know me in real life, you can still look at me and talk to me the same way. For those who don’t, if I wrote about being mugged, my house being burgled, crashing my car, being stabbed, having acid thrown in my face, being poisoned, having cancer or being the subject/victim of any other crime or even act, it wouldn’t be the same. I’m not ashamed of this. And I’m tired of women hiding the crimes of others.
Warning: Massive Trigger warning for rape survivors
If you’re having a shit day, you might as well get all the bad stuff out in one go. And after reading that Dan Hodges has been on a spite filled, entitlement fuelled hate fest that passes as a newspaper column, I thought I might as well get this out there. I almost wrote this on another blog, where I am “me”. But that would be too hard. Because it’s about being raped. To those who read this blog and know me, actually, I’m fine. Please don’t worry. This is about my anger about rape, not my trauma. But if I, in my real life, wrote about being raped, people would question my wisdom in doing so. Because that would make me the woman who wrote about being raped. And everyone knows that’s a bad thing.
A very long time ago, over twenty years, I was working in a job that I loved. I was quite new, very keen and a great deal younger than any of my colleagues or the people we worked for. This marked me out, mainly in a good way, I suppose. I was the young, gobby one, with bright red hair and an attitude. Amongst my colleagues, I was the only woman. Early on, I was asked to accompany a delegation to France, to talk about our work and learn about our French counterparts. I was so excited, and it caused some jealousy amongst other colleagues – but I spoke French and so, my role was to be the translator. Of course, on the trip, this made me more visible. But you know, when we’re young and excited, being the centre of attention, is great isn’t it? Everyone complimented me on my French and as our French counterparts were also mainly men, there was a lot of flirting and compliments. We went out in the evening and one French delegate paid a lot of attention to me. He was very charming and funny and I laughed a lot. He joked about his heart being broken when we went home and I laughed some more. And drank some wine and laughed.
On the return to the residential place where we were staying I went to bed and met this man in the corridor. He tried to kiss me and I kissed him back and said I was going to bed. He said he was coming too and I told him no, that I would see him in the morning. He kissed my hand and I went to bed. The room had no locks on it, but I got into bed thinking nothing of this. Ten minutes later, he came in. I asked him to leave and he didn’t. He then raped me. He was a psychiatric nurse in a residential hospital and clearly expert at restraint. At the time, I couldn’t scream, but afterwards, I couldn’t. Even when he left and I used my best French swear words at him, I still didn’t scream. I sat and sobbed as quietly as I could. In the room exactly next door was my boss of four months. I imagined the horror and shame of telling him what had happened. Of the important French trip becoming an incident because the new girl got raped. Or at least that’s what she said, because you know, we all saw her laughing and flirting. I had the bruises on my arms and bite marks on my breasts, but did I want to sit in a French police station and have photographs taken or semen samples taken? But worst of all would be the people who knew me a little at work having to deal with this, with me. I didn’t feel I deserved pity or sympathy, I just felt shame that I’d “gone and got myself raped”.
If I felt horror and shame at a small number of people knowing that I was raped, and this was enough to prevent me reporting this, how on earth is anyone supposed to report rape knowing the world will be told. That even with a conviction – you are the person who got raped and you can’t erase that. Your options are lose lose. I know absolutely that what happened wasn’t my fault, that even if I’d gone out wearing a Baise Moi T-Shirt and no knickers that consent is consent is consent. But I don’t get to choose how the world outside behaves, thinks or feels and all I faced in reporting this crime would be shame and humiliation.
If a man is innocent and faces trial for rape and is found innocent, of course he will have been through trauma and shame. But the last few weeks has shown us that there will always be those who will speak out in his support, cry for the false accuser to be named and shamed – he will not be short of pity. But who will be given airtime to talk about the victim in successful prosecutions who have won absolutely nothing except the knowledge that perhaps the next woman is safe? Who will speak out for the woman having to sit in a police station having photographs of her body taken or samples of her bodily fluids, knowing that she faces months of having her integrity attacked and that even if the rapist is found guilty, many around her, possibly even her own family will still ask questions and wonder.
It took me years to talk about this, even to close friends and over twenty years to write this. I even felt guilt about not reporting it, thinking about how many times it might happen again. But I’m sick of feeling guilt and shame and shutting up about it while every time a man walks free, having been found innocent, half the world seems to rise up to demand changes which will reduce the rights of victims, to harrumph about the balance being in favour of women making false allegations and how utterly awful it is that a man has had to stand trial and has been found innocent. Is that really the worst thing that can happen. No, it’s not, and I and thousands of other women know that only too well.