I’d been out with work colleagues on the evening it happened. I met a man on the dance floor who I thought was attractive and when my friend and I got in a cab to leave he jumped in with one of his friends. We took them up on an offer to head back to their house and soon enough I was with him in his room having sex. After a few minutes there was some banging on the door- lads messing around I assumed, but then he quickly got up and left, letting his friend into the room. There are a few sections of that night that I remember crystal clear, and this was one such moment. The look this other man gave me as he walked in was one I’d never had from anyone before. He stared down at me like I was prey.. it was not a look given to another human being.
I’ve never wanted to badly to be out of a house, away from someone. I started desperately grabbing all my belongings but as I got up he pushed me back down onto the bed. He was strong and I was scared but I was bigger than him and as we struggled I managed to escape his grip, forcing my way to the door. I ran out of the house and down the road, and I called a taxi. He was not far behind me and I yelled back at him to tell me the name of the road, now. He told me the name of the main road but not the smaller street we were stood on at the time. I had no shoes on.
He grabbed my hand and pulled me into a gap between two houses- that was where I gave in and stopped fighting him. I still don’t understand quite why- I wasn’t frozen in fear, I just remember feeling like there was no point in resisting; it was inevitable somehow. After a time though- maybe seconds, maybe minutes- I felt a sudden rush of power. I pushed him back with all the force I had and ran. He tried to pull me back again a few times, I even agreed to kiss him thinking he might go but of course he didn’t. I pulled away and ran, heading for the main road, lights and cars. He shouted after me a derogatory term and disappeared, and I descended into a panic attack. I kept calling for my taxi but received an automated message saying it had arrived already. I have never felt such panic, fear and distress in my life. It was like someone was standing on my chest.
Eventually I called 999 and told the operator “I think I need some help”. He was one of the people who saved me from a worse experience that night. He managed to drag me out of my panicked state with calming words and simple questions. Shortly after that the police arrived- two male officers. That was another part of the night I remember with clarity. There I was, crying in the street with no shoes on. They looked at me with total exacerbation. They tried to extract some information from me, but all I could say was that a guy trapped me in his room. I don’t know that anyone who’s just been raped can admit that to someone immediately afterward, but if they’re going to do that it surely won’t be to two men who are sighing in frustration at the mess before them.
I couldn’t describe the men I had been with, I couldn’t tell them which house I had been trapped in, I couldn’t tell them what had happened. At one point two men came out on to the road and it seemed as if they were looking for something- they were quite far away but I’m certain it was them. The officers asked me if it was, but of course I said I didn’t know. I was as uncooperative as anyone could be. They asked me what it was I wanted them to do, and I just told them I wanted to go home. They called me another cab and sent me on my way, but not before I suddenly remembered with total panic that my friend had been in the house too. How could I have forgotten?
I called her and found that she was safe at home in bed, having left the house before much of this unfolded. She heard the upset in my voice and demanded that I not go home but head to her house instead. I resisted that idea a lot, but she asked me to hand the phone to my taxi driver and I did- we were soon headed for her house. Another of the moments I remember very vividly is the taxi driver glancing at me in her rear view mirror and saying “Listen, whatever’s happened to you tonight, it wasn’t your fault”. Those were the exact words. It barely even registered with me at the time, of course I wasn’t going to believe it, but years on the fact that she said that with such conviction and compassion is so special to me.
In the hours after, my friend was the most supportive and unafraid person you could hope for in such a situation. In the days and weeks after, I tried to make sense of and deal with what happened to me when I couldn’t even bear to use the words. I tried to piece myself back together and accept that nothing about what happened could be changed. I veered from the realisation that it was rape, to the complete denial of that fact which came with a whole host of questions about myself, to the conclusion that it was coercion, to where I am now.
Now I know that if someone repeated that story to me, I would call it rape. Now I can see so much of the night in perfect detail, and I can see the perpetrator for what he is. I didn’t report. That decision comes with its own guilt. As a consequence, I wrote to someone at his university. I explained the incident and that I did not wish to report it, in the hope that someone could explain to him what he did and how wrong it was. Someone did, from what I was told, but I don’t expect he understood. I spent a lot of time living fearfully in that tiny city, as I cycled past his university, went back to the familiar bars. Not fearful that it would happen again, but that he would furiously identify me as a desperate liar.
That experience changed a lot for me. It made me more aware of how the topic of rape sneaks into conversations, usually in trivial jokey ways. It made that hurt. It made me angrier. It made me feel worthless for a while. It made me more vocal about rape but simultaneously it made me feel gagged. It made me reconsider self harm as a coping mechanism. It made me angry with everyone and everything sometimes, particularly myself. It changed me, but it certainly does not define me. It’s one small part of me that grows momentarily every 1st March, and I’m thankful for all the ways it could have affected me yet didn’t.