I lived with a boyfriend for over a year who I very rarely argued with, and who never physically threatened me. He never told me he loved me either, but I told myself I didn’t need that. I just wanted stability, something easy. When friends asked me about my relationship at the time I always used to say “it’s very low drama, and that’s what I need at the moment”.
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.
“Stop being silly, forget about it.”
That’s what I was told after it happened, stop being silly, forget about it.
I was 8 when “it” happened, my mother worked three jobs to put food on the table, as a single mother life wasn’t easy, and she needed a baby sitter. My 16 year old cousin seemed the best choice, he was close, he was old enough, and he was family so could be trusted with the care of myself and my younger brother and sister. I would help my baby brother at the time to go to sleep, I would rock him gently to sleep and put him down and silently walk away to wait at the door and see if he would wake. The first time he touched me it was after I had done just that, standing in the door way waiting, my cousin groped my rear. I froze, I felt cold inside, how should I react? What should I do? I felt so confused, what had I done to get that response? Was I over reacting?
My first sexual experience wasn’t one I wanted. I was fourteen, and friends with a guy two years older than me who thought he knew everything. He was messed up, manipulative, unhappy, and I couldn’t see that my friendship with him was leading in a troubling direction. My friends started to become worried when they noticed that I was getting quieter and quieter and didn’t really talk about anyone or anything except him. I seemed unhappy, they said, but I ignored them, thinking that they just didn’t understand.
What word to use? I have never known. Rape? Technically untrue (no penetration). Abuse? Sounds too premeditated. Assault? Too brutal. Domestic abuse, date rape – nothing fits. None of the language, none of those words that appear in all the books, all the films, all the articles I clung onto after the event – none of them lock into place against that night.
If there is any irony in this, it is in the fact that I love words. I even work with them, my stock in trade – I chop them, change them, pick and place them. This one escapes me.
I call it a ‘thing’, then. That ‘thing’ that happened between me and him at university. He, my close friend, as high as a kite, as drunk as a lord, as sad as a black dog. He and I, getting into a crazy, misjudged situation that somehow became a crazy, violent situation.
I’ve been molested & raped so many times, I’ve lost count. It began at 4 & now I’m 28. I’ve never went to the police because of fear. Fear of being blame. Fear of not being believed. Fear of the questions. Fear of the stigma. Fear of my attackers.
I already blame myself. I’m haunted everyday with the fact that I didn’t report to the police & these people could be doing it to someone else. I feel selfish & therefore I want to self destruct.
It only struck me recently that it all happened in the space of one academic year. Less, even, but I cannot remember the exact dates. Why would I want to?
I had finally escaped the place my counsellors and therapists had been telling me to leave for years. I had finally moved away. Things were supposed to get better. But they didn’t. Instead, I had a very bad year.
I was vulnerable. I was younger than my years. And someone decided to take advantage of that fact. The typical story. It all started because he was put in a position of power. Someone else entrusted him to take care of me when I was in a vulnerable state. But instead of doing what had been requested of him, he insisted on following me home. He forced himself on me on a bus. Just kissing at first. I was too shocked to do anything. I didn’t know what to do. I told him I had a boyfriend, but he didn’t care. Looking back on it now I’m surprised by how much he tried to do to me in public. Picking me up, pushing me up against a wall, touching me in places I’d never been touched before. He talked his way into the house, not caring that it wasn’t empty, so cocky that he didn’t seem to care about getting caught. I eventually managed to force him back out the door. But it was too late. He’d already got his claws into me by then. I wish I’d given him a fake number. But I was too stupid, too naive, too innocent.