Ghost.

I saw him again a couple of nights ago. I woke up and he was on my bed, on top of me again. I could feel him. I could feel him touching me again and it made my skin crawl. I could hear him. I could hear his broad accent and his ‘charming’ words and my blood ran cold. I could smell the stench his sweat and it all took me back to that night.

Three and a half months on and he still haunts me. He still visits me in my nightmares and my hallucinations. I wish I could get rid of the feeling of his hands clenched round my wrists, but I can’t. He’s trapped me and now he won’t let go. I just hope he isn’t going to hold my wrists this tightly for much longer.

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Hysteria

I’m writing this while there are tears falling down my cheeks, as I am gasping for breath.

I can still feel his hands on me in places I don’t want them. His hand prints are stained on my body and I can’t get them off. He’s marked me forever. I will never be able to get away from this, I’ll never be able to get away from him. I’m so tired of holding it all together but I’m also tired of crying. I’m just so tired of everything. How is it possible that one person can take all that you are and shatter it into a million pieces so easily? Why should I still be able to feel him on me? Why do I still feel trapped, even when I’m in my own room?

It’s times like these that my bedroom transforms into a torture chamber and he rudely visits me. He visits me in the form of hysteria, tears, anxiety and flashbacks. The anxiety traps me and the flashbacks make me scream until there’s no life left in me anymore. I am so scared. It’s like it’s happening again. I don’t think he will ever set me free. I don’t think he will ever stop visiting me. I don’t think he will ever let go of the power he has over me. I’m damaged goods and no one wants damaged goods. They find out what they’ve signed up for is broken and throw it away; they’ll throw me away. I can’t keep going on like this, but I don’t know how to stop it.

Exhausted.

I am struggling again. I feel lost and I feel scared. I’m scared of not being able to cope. I guess I’m scared of myself too.

I feel like what happened to me has ruined so many things and I can’t stop thinking about it. I used to be relatively confident, but now I am too scared to walk into a lecture. I’ve struggled a lot with anxiety previous to what happened, but I’ve never felt this sad and numb. I’ve never gone from feeling so euphoric to so low in such a short space of time. It’s exhausting. I’m tired of putting on a brave face to manage and balance everything. I feel like I’m wearing myself out and soon I won’t be able to pretend anymore, I feel like soon I’m going to become undone and everyone will see how weak I am.

I know I’m not doing anything to the best of my ability anymore and it frustrate me that I can’t just get up and change that and get back on with it all. Trust me, I want to be back to normal more than anything in the world, but I can’t because my brain feels paralysed. I literally feel like I can’t think properly, I can’t organise my thoughts like I used to.

I feel like I just need a break from the world. I’m not coping. Everything and everyone is moving along so quickly without me. I’m getting left behind. I just want to pause everything so I can catch up and be on the same level as every other person in my life, but I can’t. It all feels hopeless and pointless.

I have a great support network, but I feel like I’m letting them down because I’m not getting any better. I don’t know where the fight I had in me has gone.

I don’t feel like the same person anymore and at the moment I really don’t know if I will ever feel myself again.

An open letter to those who doubted me.

**TRIGGER WARNING** Mentions of rape.

Dear those who doubted me,

I am sorry. I’m sorry that my rape story is not the ‘textbook’ rape story. I’m sorry that I didn’t have bruises or cuts or other injuries to prove I was raped. Most of all, I am sorry that society’s view of rape is so twisted. I’m sorry that society’s perception of rape is so physically violent that when rape occurs in a different situation, it seems so unbelievable to you.

  • Will is a big guy, she wouldn’t have escaped if he really wanted to rape her’
  • ‘She isn’t as sexually experienced as the rest of us, I mean, we’ve all had guys hold our heads when giving a blow job – it’s not a big deal’
  • ‘Why did she go back with him if she didn’t want sex?’
  • ‘He’s a forceful guy, it’s not his fault she couldn’t take it’

The above are examples of some of the ridiculous reasons you do not believe me and, disappointingly, there are many more. I just hope for your sake that one day you can see how illogical and damaging these thoughts are that you selfishly let pollute my mind. I have never been made to feel like such a liar and a fraud than when I told people about my rape. In my vulnerable state, I was so easily manipulated by such a small group of people into thinking no one believed me, into thinking that I was wrong.

But no, you are wrong.

I know what is okay and what is not when it comes to sex. What he did to me was categorically wrong – my sexual experience doesn’t come into it. I was shocked when I heard these things were being said and that some of my close friends genuinely thought like this, but when you take a look at wider society, it isn’t surprising.

Society as a whole encourages a victim-blaming culture, so much so that you may not even realise what you are inferring. When you ask, ‘what were you wearing?’, ‘were you drunk?’, ‘why did you go back with him?’, you are suggesting that the rape is the victim’s fault. You are absolving the rapist of blame. You are making them feel as if their pain, suffering and emotional reaction is not valid, not legitimate. Whether you mean to or not, you are perpetuating rape culture.

I do understand why people victim-blame though. Because if the sexual assault is the victim’s fault, then it won’t happen to you, right? You’ll be more careful, you’ll dress modestly, you won’t drink too much and it’ll never happen to you. Distancing yourself from the victim is an act of self-preservation, I get that.

However, this perception is highly flawed. No matter how much you victim-blame, you do not save yourself or anyone else from future sexual assault. In fact, the more we normalise this thought-process, the more likely it is to happen to you, your sister/brother, son/daughter, because we are letting rapists walk around freely while victims are made to hide away in shame.

Wake up. Rape is not the fault of the victim. Rape happens purely because rapists make multiple conscious decisions to horrifically violate to another human being.

Sincerely,

The girl who is tired of being blamed.

 

**All names have been changed to protect my anonymity**

Next Post: ‘Things that don’t constitute consent.’

-H xo

The R Word.

**TRIGGER WARNING** Detailed account of rape.

I told each of my friends about what Will* had done to me. When I told people, I didn’t use the R word; it felt too intense, too violent. It was silly really, having not spoken to anyone about it yet, I already felt like I couldn’t use the R word, for fear of people not believing me.

Fortunately, the first few people I told were very supportive. My rapist had also sexually assaulted one of my best friends, Georgie, previously. I knew this before I went back with Will. I really struggle with this aspect of things, and this is where a lot of my self-blame lies. I knew he’d done that to one of my best friends, so why did I think I would be safe with him? I don’t know. I guess I just never thought anything like that would happen to me. As a result of all of this, Georgie and her current boyfriend were incredibly supportive of me and knew exactly how to approach me about it.

Another one of my friends who was absolutely incredible was Lisa. She is one of my closest and most trustworthy friends, as well as being outside of my inner circle and a couple of years older. She currently works in the Welfare section of my Students Union, after graduating last year. She was the first person to use the R word. She told me, ‘What he did to you was wrong. He raped you.’ That day, she drove me to the local sexual health walk-in centre to get some emergency contraception. While I was there, Nila, the nurse I spoke to, told me that I could go to a Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) to get forensic swabs taken and frozen in case I decide to report this to the police in the future. Immediately, I knew this was something I had to do. So, the next day, Lisa drove me for around an hour to get to the nearest SARC. We were greeted by two ladies, Helen and Debbie, who were both lovely. Helen is a Crisis Worker and Debbie is an Independent Sexual Violence Advocate (ISVA) at the SARC I visited. They both talked me through the processes of the visit and noted down important information for me. Debbie also helped me understand the process of reporting to the police, should I want to in the future. Then I had my medical examination with a very friendly female doctor. It hurt at points, but knowing that this could be the vital piece of evidence in the case, should I report it, got me through it, along with the support from Helen and  Debbie. I then had to give an extremely detailed statement to be stored for future use. Debbie guided me through this, writing down everything I said and asking me questions to ensure the statement was as clear and detailed as it needed to be. The whole day was long, hard and emotional. Lisa and I were there for around 5 hours. I absolutely would not have been able to do any of this without Lisa, Helen and Debbie. I literally wouldn’t have been able to get to the SARC without Lisa’s help, and her ability to know exactly what to say at what time made me so comfortable throughout the entire process. The support provided by the SARC was absolutely phenomenal and the ladies who helped me were incredibly kind, hard-working and committed to their job. The three of them were my absolute heroes. 

In the days and weeks following, I really struggled. For the first few days, all I did was lie in bed crying. The only break in this would be when I would wander to the kitchen, attempt to eat something and then, to the dismay of my flatmates, throw it away. Everything ceased all at once. My feelings, motivation, appetite, social life, education. They all just came to a sudden halt. The worst thing was the numbness. My friends would come to check if I was okay, and I couldn’t even tell them how I felt, because I felt absolutely nothing. I felt like a shell of myself. My once ridiculously high enthusiasm for my University course was now at an all time low. I’d lost all motivation and couldn’t see a point in anything. I’d gone from feeling everything all at once to feeling nothing at all in the space of a couple of days. I didn’t go to any of my lectures, labs or seminars in the following 5-6 weeks. Every night I would go to bed saying ‘I am going to my lecture tomorrow, this won’t beat me’, and every morning I would wake up already beaten, anxious and scared. The more lectures I missed, the less I wanted to go to the following ones and the less I saw any point in trying. Those first few weeks after it happened were a slow spiral into nothingness.

**All names have been changed to protect my anonymity**

Next Post: ‘An open letter to those who doubted me’

-H xo

 

‘He keeps making me do stuff.’

**TRIGGER WARNING** Detailed account of rape.

I was sexually assaulted in the early hours of the morning in mid-February 2016.

It was a normal Wednesday night out at my University’s Students Union with my friends. We’d had huge pre-drinks in my hall common room, like we often do. One of my best friends, Sam*, had his friend up from home, Will. Sam introduced me to Will at the pre-drinks as it was the first time I’d met him, but we didn’t talk much more at the point. Once we got into the Union I was just having a normal night, and I was as drunk as I usually am on a night out – drunk enough to have a good time but not completely out of control. I noticed Will talking very intimately to a girl that my friend Sam lives with  at one point and remember thinking he looked extremely, almost uncomfortably, close to her, but I thought nothing of it at the time.

Later on in the night, I got talking to Will – he was charming and seemed like a decent guy. I didn’t think it was anything flirty; we chatted about his job in the Navy and how we’d each become friends with Sam. Towards the end of the night, Will asked if I wanted to go back with him. At this point I saw no threat or problem in going back to Sam’s house with Will, so I did. We walked back, admittedly holding hands, but again just chatting casually. In my mind, I would be safe at Sam’s house because I knew the house well and thought there would be lots of people there in the morning. When we got in, we went straight upstairs to the spare room, where Will was staying. Will started taking my clothes off and I helped him until he got to my underwear. I stopped him from taking off my underwear and got into bed. He came over to me and said, ‘hold on I’ll be 2 minutes’ – I assumed he was going to the toilet. At this point I knew I didn’t want to have sex with him, I just wanted stay in the same bed and cuddle – maybe this was naive of me. He came back, got into bed and said ‘I can’t find a condom’ with an unnerving grin on his face. I replied, ‘Well then I’m not going to have sex with you’.

10 seconds later, the worst half an hour of my life began. Before I knew what was happening, he grabbed my arms and pinned me down. I was lying on my back and couldn’t fight back, but I continually said ‘no, please stop, I don’t want to, stop, no’. Unfortunately, this had no effect, and he persisted. He forced his penis inside my vagina, which hurt a lot. Eventually I managed to kick my legs so much that he let go of my hands for a second, but he grabbed my waist as I tried to get away and turned me onto my stomach and entered my vagina again from behind, holding me down again. I repeatedly told him to stop and said that I didn’t want this, but he continued silently and unflinchingly. After what seemed like years, but can only have been 5 minutes, he stopped and pushed me to the side, next to the wall so I couldn’t get out. Then he lay on his back while simultaneously grabbing me and forcing my head down towards his penis, where he then forced me to perform oral sex.

The whole thing was horrific, but I think this was the worst bit. He forced my head down so far that I gagged and choked; I couldn’t breathe. Again, between gasps and sobs I told him ‘no, please stop’. I was crying hysterically at this point but he wouldn’t stop. I managed to eventually move my head up quickly when he wasn’t expecting it, and I quickly collected my clothes and phone from the floor and ran into the bathroom.

I couldn’t speak, so I texted my friend Sam to come back and help me. I texted him eighteen times within the space of fewer minutes. One of the texts that still makes my skin crawl sent at 2.43am read ‘I’m scared of him he keeps making me do stuff’. At one point, Will came to the door of the toilet and was banging on the door telling me to come out or he’d come in, but eventually he gave up and went away. Sam came back shortly after and got me from the toilet. He took me to another room in the house and I explained everything that happened and he comforted me and told me I was safe now. We went up to the top floor of the house and he stayed with me while I slept because I was too scared to be alone. In the morning we woke up and didn’t talk about what had happened; we didn’t want it to be real.

I got a taxi back to my halls alone. I didn’t really know what to do or say.

**All names have been changed to protect my anonymity**

Next Post: ‘The R Word’

-H xo