Shared Stories

“So in short I blame myself I feel like I did this to myself and I will never remember enough to answer all my questions.”

By an Anonymous Contributor

It’s been three years since that night and I still cannot believe what happened is completely real. Everyday is either one where memories or some reminder will pop up in my mind or where I don’t think about it at all and just act like a regular person. Some days I feel like this sadness and anger is somewhere in the back of my mind influencing my current state but difficult for me to pinpoint the source.
Three years ago I thought I had already had my quota of negative stuff happen for the year. My Mom was deep into alcoholism and my school work was suffering because of the instability. Then because I let myself get suckered into going to a party with my good friend to act as her support I find myself suddenly waking up the next morning thinking it was just a vivid dream. It seemed slightly more real when I realized I was just wearing a shirt and underwear and then a bit more when I noticed the dried throw up on my face and in my nostrils. But I was late for work and didn’t have time to care I just needed to get dressed and leave just hoping that it really was a dream because I know I’m a strong person and would have had better self control.
The dream started with my thinking it was a good idea to have a couple of shots of vodka before leaving for this party my friend wanted to go to, I have social anxiety and I thought well maybe a little liquid courage will at least make my anxiety calm so I could speak to people. When we got there we were offered more drinks which I accepted thinking because my friend knows these people well enough that they wouldn’t do anything to harm us. So I talked and played ping pong and went to the bathroom and then my night gets spotty like flashes of events but nothing in between to tie them together.
One flash is a guy kissing my neck and I’m zoning out looking at the surrounding people. The next flash is the host asking if I want another drink and receiving a cup. The next flash was a different guy asking me if I wanted to have sex. I don’t know what my reply was I feel like I might’ve said yes. Then another of being dizzy and him guiding me to a door. The next flash is him above me with his genitals in my face in a dark room with a tv on. Then the next segment is him above me on a bed, him pulling my pants down, the jeans feeling rough. At this point I do remember being confused and tired and just wanting to sleep. I regained some awareness when I felt him grope my chest and this burning sensation in my vagina. It felt like sand paper was being rubbed against my skin but it was internal. I really felt uncomfortable and was in a lot of pain and I just remember gasping and feeling so weak that I couldn’t raise my upper body. I was in shock and had trouble speaking I was focused on the pain and trying to escape but also wanting to sleep. I remember trying to use my hands to slide upwards on the bed hoping to get away from him but still feeling this overwhelming weak and tired feeling. Then just a feeling of a force and constant pinching feeling from below and my mind was wandering looking at this dark doorway. Then in another flash my friends head appeared in the doorway. Then another flash of standing in the original kitchen with my friend talking to a few guys about leaving and then noticing I was gripping my underwear in my sweaty hand.
I did go to the hospital on my sisters urging after work. I had bleed through my underwear and wasn’t sure what to do because I didn’t know if he used a condom. I remember being mechanical waiting in a room with my sister for the doctor. Feeling so uncomfortable and cold as they transported me in a wheel chair to the examination room. To the nurse asking me question after question and then repeat the same ones. I remember feeling scared and judged by her, like she was trying to trip me up, like she didn’t believe me. The victims advocate came in and asked if I needed her support, I didn’t understand what was the right answer. She said I seemed very calm , I wasn’t crying. Was I supposed to cry? Should I cry? I didn’t feel like crying , in fact I felt the opposite I felt like stone. I wanted to help my sister who was upset about something and comfort her. I felt small and tired it was hours before we were able to leave and felt like an eternity. For as tired as I was I couldn’t rest in the hospital their were too many people so much to watch and be aware. After the exam was done they gave me the nessessary pills like morning after and as a precaution a months supply of anti retrovirals to prevent hiv. At the end of the pelvic exam I learned that I had been penetrated both vaginally and anally. There were abrasions on my vagina and because I had been a virgin at the time the bleeding was somewhat due to that.
I had no idea I couldn’t feel anything mentally or physically.
So it’s been three years since and you’d think I’d have accepted what happened and moved on. Unfortunately no, I dropped out of school that semester and started working more to distract myself. I struggle everyday with anxiety especially if people get to close and attempt physical contact. The biggest struggle is the shame and overwhelming guilt I feel because I don’t know what I said that night to prompt those events. I have this fear that I must’ve said yes and was probably too drunk to say no and give a clear answer or understand the question posed. I struggle with the idea I gave consent to something that I never wanted but was irresponsible and got too drunk to comprehend anything. So in short I blame myself I feel like I did this to myself and I will never remember enough to answer all my questions.

Shared Stories

A letter to the man who tried to rape me

By Sara Roebuck 

Dear individual,

I write to you on this cold December evening, almost one year after you tried to rape me, because it’s the first time that I’ve felt strong enough to put pen to paper. I write to you because this afternoon we met again, only the surroundings were not quite the same. Your hands were cuffed behind your back, not sweatily gripped around my body. Your eyes were on the floor, not greedily inches away from my face. We were in the same room, only this time it was my choice and not yours. This time, you didn’t succeed in blocking the door with a fire extinguisher and keeping me against my will. This time, the door was closed behind you, by an armed police officer, and within, you found yourself looking at three judges in front of you, and my lawyer to the left of me. I write you this letter knowing you will never read it, because you are about to spend a significant duration of your adult life, as you already have done for the last ten months, in prison. But, I must write it nonetheless, for men like you, for women like me, but above all, for my own emancipation.

I write to you in order to put onto paper the gravity of what you did, to materialise the story that unfolds, the choices you put down to “youthful stupidity”. I write this to you, so others and I can look at the words take its ugly form on this page. I write this because I am tired; I am exhausted of stories like this. I want myself and others to understand how and why we as a society still continue to struggle with the poisonous and violent reality of rape, the gravity of sexual assault, the complexity of misogyny, and the patriarchal weight that continues to minimise the role of the rapist and blame the women whose body was snatched from within her own skin.

I want men to read this and feel just as sick as the women who have lived through things like this do. I want things to change. I insist that things change.

You had many psychoanalytical terms and labels thrown at you this afternoon from the belly of the law. Infantile, sickly, deranged, narcissist. Your lack of father and suffocating mother, the absence of a stable job or decent education, your tendency to lie, to undermine, and furthermore your absolute inability to comprehend the severity of what you did, to understand the clear difference between “I consent” from “I do not”. Yet quite honestly, I am not interested in skirting around the context of your sad life in order to seek excuses for a man who tried to convince a row of three judges that you heard “stop”, “no”, and “help” and therefore were lost in translation because you do not speak English. Even though, when I stood up and addressed the court loud and clear in fluent French, we all know I knew how to say “arrête”, “non” and “aidez-moi”, and did so appropriately when you threw me against a wall. You tried to abuse me, to undermine my sexuality, to enclose me into a cage like an animal, but you will not undermine my intelligence, my integrity, or my strength to call you out in a language that is not my own, in front of a jury of three judges in a country that is not my own, for your weak lies and pathetic account of what simply did not happen. J’en ai rien à foutre.

You said that what you did lasted a few minutes, not that you locked me in a room for twenty minutes whilst you tried to take off my clothes, whilst you launched my body onto a sink, whilst you tried to rape me. You said that you were on top of me on the floor because I dropped my drink and slipped, not because, after I managed to push you out from in between my legs, you twisted my body and pushed me onto the floor, pinning me and holding me down with the weight of yours. You said that whilst you threw me on top of the sink, pulling my legs apart and placing yourself in between them whilst I cried and screamed, thrusting my dress way above my chest and exposing the most intimate and vulnerable part of my being, all you did was touch me “one or two times” but on realising, seeing, feeling that I was in fact menstruating and had a tampon inside of me, after you had tried multiple times to ram your dirty hands inside of my body, you decided to stop. We both know that is not true. Everyone in that room knew that it is not true. Because it was not you that decided to stop. It was me who fought back. Your eyes were black and you looked straight into my soul and told me you didn’t give a fuck that I said no, that I had a tampon. You held your thick wrist against my chest whilst you abused me, whilst you fumbled with your belt and pushed my underwear to one side, constraining my freedom by forcing my legs apart. Whilst I kicked and screamed and cried, you grabbed and constrained and yanked and hurt every part of me that in no given universe would I have consented you to touch; that the only thing blocking you from succeeding in what you tried to do was the thing that led you to violently assault me: my sexuality. What a concept, the fact that the thing that repulses men, even though it symbolises and embodies female fertility and sexuality, was the thing that saved me.

It was not easy to do what I did today. My lawyer told me I didn’t need to be present. But I was. I wanted to stand up and respond when the judges asked me if I had anything to say, because I did. I stood up with every ounce of strength inside of me, fuelled by a blind raging fury, furious against your lies, against the absence of recognition of what you did to me, furious against the fact you thought you could take what wasn’t there for you to take. I tapped on the microphone, declined a translator, and delivered my speech to the judges, my voice echoing around a full courtroom, squarely and loudly, in the language that you claimed I did not speak.

At that moment, I stood and spoke for every woman in the world who has suffered at the hands of men like you. I stood for every woman walks home with her keys clasped between her fingers. I stood for every woman who has switched train carriages because of that one man who isn’t breaking eye contact. I stood for every woman whose parents insist they send a text after a night out, even at twenty-four years old, because they worry for their daughters’ safety because she’s female and not male. I stood for every woman who has felt her sexuality stand on show when walking past a group of men. I stood for every woman who remembers the first time their childlike body was no longer so innocent in front of old horrible men. I stood for every woman who knows how it feels to have the waxy heavy regard of an unwanted gaze envelop her body, drenching your skin in this sickly, uncomfortable glare that you cannot put into words but know so well. I stood for every woman who has been called a whore, a slut, or a bitch for rejecting unwanted advances. I stood for every woman who has felt worthless, used, and judged for having sex when a man has felt empowered, free and strengthened for doing exactly the same thing. I stood for every woman who knows the hot fury in being told blatant outright sexism is just a joke and “you should really learn to chill out a bit and have a laugh”. I stood for every woman who has double-questioned an outfit in case it looks “too slutty” or “asking for it”. I stood for every woman who has suffered the lonely, self-destructive, “if I hadn’t done, worn, said, breathed x y z then it wouldn’t have happened to me”. I stood for every woman who has felt that hot prickly shame when other women, friends, co-workers think they have the right to talk about your attack as if they have any idea what it feels like, as if they have a right to make comment, judging you accordingly in the aftermath for the way you may react and suffer, telling you that “shit happens” and its “no excuse” to fall behind because “you shouldn’t have gone out, you should have taken better care of yourself, don’t you know men just want one thing, you shouldn’t have put yourself in that situation”“t’as complètement déconné” (you fucked up big time), spoken from the lungs of women who claim to be feminists themselves.

I stood for every woman who has been groped, harassed, attacked, raped, filmed, photographed, followed, touched against her consent, suffered verbal vulgarities, obscene regards, disgusting gestures, and worse of all, within a society that allows it, in some cases with other women who refuel the blame, and men around her who are supposed to be progressive and modern, but stay silent. I address all of these women because I am each and every one of them. Because it happens every single day to every single woman you, dear reader, know and love. I want people to open their eyes.

This is an open letter to every man who has tried to exploit, enjoy or profit from my body without my consent. This is to the man who was stood filming up my floaty dress whilst I was queuing to go up the Arc de Triomphe in the middle of blazing summer in 2014 with his reverse iPhone camera. This is to the multitude of men who have either tried or succeeded to grope me in busy nightclubs, to the man in Barcelona who rode up behind me on a bike whilst I walked to the beach in broad daylight, violently grabbed my breast, nearly knocked me onto the floor and sped off, only six months after I was attacked in that little room. This letter is to the man who pushed me against a wall and told me he’d love to “screw me like I’d never forget” when I was walking home in my safe, residential district of western Paris, which reduced me to running home with tears streaming down my face, when all I was doing was walking home. This is to the man who rubbed his genitals in front of me and stared directly at me without anyone else seeing, knowing I couldn’t change carriage or seat because the train was direct and there was no other space. This is to the man who invited me to his party and then threw me out onto the street at 4am, after screaming at me that the only reason he invited me was because all he wanted to do was to fuck me. This is to every man who has reduced me to nothing more than a body, to an object that deserves nothing more than being violated. And what was my role in all of this? I was there and I was breathing.

This year, the issue of rape, sexual assault, and above all the question of consentwas brought into the public eye yet again with the acquittal of Ched Evans, a man with the glimmering title of “occupation: elite sportsman”, a very large income, and more relevantly in this letter, a man with a worryingly large following of strong and passionate male supporters who really got stuck into the rhetoric of “Shows how manipulative lasses can be if they want to be, throwing the rape card about and ruined Ched Evans’ career, justice is done slag”.

Throwing the rape card about. Let’s just consider that slowly. Throwing the rape card about, like having the most intimate part of your body violated against your will and then having the strength to report it is like trying to get an opposing player on the pitch a red card. Do you compare raping women to playing football? That the punishment should be a slap on the wrist because “she can’t prove that she said no, or she was too drunk, or that she was coming onto me before, or that her ex boyfriend said she was able to have sex after the event in question so therefore in the eyes of the law it is ok”? No.

Do you have any idea what it entails to report a rape?

In the immediate aftermath of my attack, after I managed to escape by kicking the extinguisher out of the way with my foot and managing to open the door, the attacker took my bag and hid it on top of a cupboard that was too high for me to reach and re-find. He stole my phone and fled the premises. Yet, without my bag, I was without my keys. Without my phone, I was stripped of my ability to contact anyone close to me, anyone that could help. I was completely alone in what was the most vulnerable moment of my life. But alas, my bag was found, three hours later, my keys were returned, and I was home. Alone.

There are no words in either the French or English language I can source to describe the aftermath of returning home on my own and of the day after.

The way that I peeled off my dress in front of the mirror and looked at the hand prints, marks, bruises start to develop across my back, legs, arms, shoulders, hips.

The way that I rolled myself into the foetal position, my knees tucked up under my chin, and let my brain process the information without needing me to be awake to register the sensation of coming to terms with the fact that someone has just sexually attacked you.

The indescribable, suffocating, nauseating, horrifying moment of awakening a few hours later, quickly realising that what happened really did in fact happen, the tremor of shock and fear and above all, absolute shame that someone took so much from you, that someone had seen your body in that way; and secondly, the natural instinct to feel culpabable and stupid that you let it happen. It felt like someone had died.

The strength that it takes to find a police station open on a Sunday, to arrive and splutter out in a foreign language “I need to report a crime because a man tried to rape me last night”.

To spend fourteen hours being passed backwards and forwards from police, to special services, to medical personnel. To be made to go through, word by word, on no sleep, every single thing that happened to you the night before, the day after you escaped from what is every woman’s biggest fear. Only you didn’t escape, because he had you extended on a sink with your legs spread against your will and his dirty hands trying to invade your body.

To sit down on a chair and your whole body ache, to have to relive what that person did to you, in front of a team of police officers under a grey flickering light in the middle of a cold room. Do have any idea what that is like? For me, in a language that wasn’t even my own.

The way that it feels after being driven to various different offices across the city, to be taken to hospital and to be asked by two doctors specialised in rape attacks to remove your clothes so they can observe the bruises on your body. To be sat on a chair, with your legs extended, so that a stranger can violate your vagina once again to check for lesions, cuts, marks, and insert foreign tools to swab for DNA, skin cells, fluid, sweat, anything scientific to prove that what you have said wasn’t false.

That is what it is like to report a rape. And I can tell you now, no person would everwillingly put themsevles through that proess. It is humiliating, exhausting, terrifying, heartbreaking, and it is just the beginning.

Being thrust into the centre of a legal criminal case is not something that is resolved overnight. The process of finding the individual, being notified of police progress, his account of the events that unfolded, his admittance or lack of, whether he is kept in detention, if he is, is he freed, what can I do, how do I understand, what information can I get. There are no words to describe the level of intensity involved in a process like this, and anyone who thinks that ANY woman would put herself through that is simply closing their eyes to the fear and acknowledgement that “men like me who undermine the gravity and the severity of what it means to rape someone do the things that women like them have to experience”. That, people are so disconnected from the painful, violent reality of rape and sexual attacks, perhaps these men are so ashamed of the way they themselves think and the way they see, bash, objectify, deny and abuse women if only verbally, they can’t bear to imagine that it is men like them that are the ones who think that a woman’s body is there to be taken, there to be enjoyed, even against her will, and will go ahead and take it one step further.

For me, not once did anyone from the police service ever question “the role” that I played, because I played no role. Because the problem we have is social. It is not the services allocated to help and protect us that culpabilise the victim and free the actor, it is the society around us that has allowed that to happen.

I did not do anything other than live. I did not do anything other than breathe, exist, happen to be there on that night in the same space as a man who was so furious against my rejection that he thought he could take what he wanted regardless. It is so important to understand this mentality. Because what happened to me is extreme, but not uncommon, and as I wrote earlier, this letter exists as an expression of the overwhelming existence of diluted forms of misogyny, abuse, violation, and intimidation that occurs every single day to 100% of the women of which every person reading this will have in their lives.

So to avoid any confusion, for anyone still struggling with the fact that no matter what a woman does with her life, she does not live asking to be raped, here it is in a nutshell:

As a human being, I have a right to live my life without my sexuality as a woman being used as justification by men to touch me or sexually benefit from my body.

As a human being, I have the right to go out.

As a human being, I have the right to drink, to talk to people, to wear what I want, to go where I want, unaccompanied, alone, with a group, with no group, to live my life.

As a human being, I have the right to have sex if I want to, and that right is identical to that of a man.

As a human being, I also have the right to say no.

If I am unconscious, if I have consumed alcohol, if you are naked with a condom on your penis and I have already said yes but then I change my mind, that does not translate to consent and sex beyond this point is RAPE.

A final word. A letter to women like me.

I hope reading this has empowered you. I’m sure it wasn’t easy, I bet you reading this right now, yes you, there’s something in your mind that connects with something on this paper, something that makes that hot rush shoot up your back, your eyes kind of well, your palms clench just a little, that necessary deep breath. It’s ok, and I understand, and if you want to talk about it, you go ahead and write me a message. But above all, I hope you are empowered. Because I did this for you.

I stood yesterday and I spoke for you. I wrote this to you, so you know that you are not alone, you are never alone. I wrote this to you, when you’re doing something completely ordinary and all of a sudden it comes on top of you out of nowhere, like a tonne of sand, burying you under the banality of your day, and all you can do is push it behind your ears and carry on looking for your Navigo Pass or your Oyster card. I understand. I understand how you feel when you don’t even understand how you’re reacting. Because you thought that a rape victim or a sexual assault victim was this quivering pale thin gaunt-looking woman who locks herself away in a room and never leaves the house. Maybe you are her. Or maybe you’re not. Maybe you had to pick yourself up after that first two months or so of complete and utter shock and denial, that you managed to go out for drinks, or have relationships, and take control of your life.

Because apparently, some people like to think that if you don’t embody that frail empty miserable woman, people you even know, friends perhaps, co-workers, of course society would put yet another expectation on the victim (remember though, we know she was raped, we accept this one, so we demand that because of this she shows us that she suffered), then was it really that bad?

Yes. It was bad. And no. It was not your fault. Rapes happen because of the rapist. And as you have just read my lengthy speech to any person who considers otherwise, know that, by doing this, we are making progress, we are forcing people to open their eyes to the daily, hourly sexism and misogyny, sexual assaults and rapes that unfold against women who are simply living their lives.

But believe me. This is not the end of you. No. This does not define you. This does not outline you. This does not do anything to you other than to know that you survived this. You deserve to know, from me to you, that you are beautiful, and wanted, and you deserve every single ounce of happiness in your life.

You deserve to know that you are strong, so unbelievably strong, that you can and will achieve things that seem impossible, even if sometimes, you find yourself unable to sleep, staring out of the window and chain-smoking cigarettes, or overdoing it for a while on something that relieves the pressure just a little bit. Because that’s okay.

Because you are a lionness. You are fearless. You are unstoppable. You are incredible and you will achieve great things. You are beautiful and I want to cover you in love, because you deserve it and so much more. You will survive this. You will walk home at night, as I do every day, alone, with your head held high, afraid of nothing, afraid of no-one.

You will have a lifetime of precious, intimate, loving relationships. You will make love, enjoy and appreciate your sexuality, and you will connect with someone who cares so deeply for you, the love will fill you and never leave. But before that, you’ll be great on your own. You’ll do your thing, just as you want it, you’ll eat alone, drink alone, read alone, walk alone. You’ll discover the world without constraint, without oppression, you’ll live.

My life has not been destroyed, and yours has not either.

I will not allocate this event to determine who I am, or alter the way I feel about myself. And neither must you. I must not, am not, and will not be afraid of intimacy and my sexuality. I am proud and sometimes quite in awe of how I found the force inside of me to fight: to fight against him, to fight against sexual discrimination, to speak my voice in front of those judges, and to learn about myself from what has happened. I must learn to love myself, and to appreciate everything I have done. And as I progress at Sciences Po, as I learn so much about philosophy, political science, the law, I can approach this subject head on, because I must. And you must too.

I refuse to let my life be taken down by this. I refuse to be defined by this, because I am so much more than that, Paris means so much more to me than that, and I will carry on talking and fighting for everything that I believe is right. And you will too.

Shared Stories

An Open Letter to Nicholas Crawshaw

By an Anonymous Contributor

I am one of the eleven women you raped and sexually assaulted.

You may have fooled a jury, but you, me and the many other survivors of your sexual violence will always know the truth.

I did not expect you to plead guilty; you are not that much of a man. You stated that the police made you out to be a “monster” and that is exactly what you are.

You are a coward. You are a coward who paid thousands of pounds for a criminal defence barrister to defend your lies. You are a coward who allowed your own parents to speak out your lies. You are a coward who forced eleven women to relive the pain you had already put them through.

You didn’t just violate those women and me; you violated our partners, our families, our friends and our rights. After what you did to me I experienced depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder. I had flashbacks and nightmares. I self harmed. I wanted to die.

I never got the opportunity to read to you my victim personal statement. This explains the emotional, physical, social and occupational impact that your attack has had on my life. You will never know the pain you have caused. However as you said yourself, you are a “heartless p****” and the fact that you lied about what you did shows that you have no remorse.

I feel failed by those twelve jury members. I feel failed by the legal system. I feel failed by society.

The 16 months you spent behind bars wasn’t even close to enough, but I hope it made you feel like the criminal that you are. You are not a “womaniser”. You are a rapist. A rapist who feels entitled to take advantage of women, who preys on the intoxicated and vulnerable. Thanks to the Chester Chronicle, Chester Standard, Mirror, Daily Mail and all the other newspapers, the world will forever brand you as a sexual predator. The articles with your pictures on will be available for everyone to see forever.

I hope this experience will stop you from raping and sexually assaulting any more women. I hope you will learn what consent means and that no means no. I hope you will learn to respect women.

I am so proud of myself and the ten other brave women for standing up for justice and speaking out the truth. I am just glad that you were brought from a cell in handcuffs and forced to sit and listen to each of us describing the horrific things you did to us.

You have brought more pain into my life than I could ever imagine I could feel. You took away my confidence, my happiness, and my rights. You almost took my life. But you do not have that control anymore. What didn’t kill me has made me stronger. You will never silence me again.

From
One of the survivors of your acts of sexual violence

Shared Stories

“I was later informed the following day that the drug they were trying to give me was GHB aka a date rape drug when taken with alcohol.”

By an Anonymous Contributor

My assault took place on Tuesday, July 19th of this year. I had just gotten off work and was planning of spending the night in when a friend of mine convinced me to join on a night out to a bar I frequented. I met up with them at their house, and we drove together. This bar has a lot of allegations regarding women getting drugged there. I had heard about these incidents numerous time, but chose to ignore them because I always felt “so safe” there. This is something that I have realized about my sexual assault: I never thought it would ever happen to me. We finally arrived at the bar and I ordered a drink, and then another. By this point, I had probably had about 2-3 drinks when I was suddenly approached by two attractive males. They were quite charming, and we ended up talking for a while. At one point, they offered me some sort of drug in a dropper that looked like some sort of water enhancing package. I was later informed the following day that the drug they were trying to give me was GHB aka a date rape drug when taken with alcohol. The bar was beginning to close and the two boys asked if I wanted to come hang out at their apartment nearby. I agreed, and was told there would be other people there–I was soon to find otherwise. I got into their car and felt pretty intoxicated by this point. Finally we arrive at the one boys place, and get out of the car. By this point it was about 2:45am, so I was just planning on crashing on his couch. He gave me a change of pajamas and the three of us were all talking. His apartment was a studio so the bed was in the same area as the couch, etc. We were all in a conversation for about 30 minutes when I just decided to lay on his bed, not implying that I wanted anything from either of them. The one boy (will use the name Eric,) decided to come and lay next to me while the other boy (will use the name Nick) stood about 3 feet away from the bed on his phone. Eric started trying to make out with me, and I kept telling him I felt uncomfortable because Nick was standing right there. They both kept reassuring me that “it was hot” and that “no one cared.” Suddenly, things got extremely aggressive, and Eric started pushing my hand down to touch his genitals. I kept saying I didn’t want to, but he kept forcing me. Nick was just standing there. I started freezing up and didn’t know what to do–I felt hopeless and scared. Eric kept getting more and more aggressive and I kept saying I didn’t want this and that I felt weird. Finally, he got up so I assumed he would stop. I was laying faced towards the wall in shock with my pants pulled down. I was suddenly surprised when Eric came back from behind with a condom on and began having sex with me. I just laid there frozen for about 1-2 minutes until I finally screamed and pushed him away from me. His response to this was “Oh no? I’m sorry.” Feeling empty and afraid, I got up and put my overalls that were on the floor back on. I strapped my shoes on, and walked out the door. The only thing Eric had to said which still haunts me to this day was “I’m sorry if I made you uncomfortable.” The entire encounter went on for about 45 minutes and the entire time I expressed that I did not consent yet he still continued, and all Nick was doing was just standing there. At the point where I left, it was about 3:30am. The two boys walked outside with me and just walked to their friends house immediately after as if nothing had just happened. After this event, I lost so many girlfriends because they thought I was overreacting and going to get their favorite bar shut down. This has been a huge part of the pain–realizing that no one cared. I know I am #NotGuilty.

Shared Stories

“I’m writing this story in the hopes that I can help save somebody 30 years to understand what I finally understand.”

By Dawn Spellman 

November 25, 2016

I’m writing this story in the hopes that I can help save somebody 30 years to understand what I finally understand.   I pray for each and everyone of you that are on this site because I know the pain you’re in, that few can relate to unless you’ve been through it. I consider myself lucky that it only happened one time to me, and that I had my mother and step-dad to support me.

I was a teenager, I was 16, I was partying a lot with my friends, ditching high school and getting in a lot of trouble. I didn’t realize that this was the criteria that he was already looking for. I didn’t know that this is typical criteria for what a Predator looks for because we wouldn’t be considered credible. I hung around with a bunch of guys, party, hiked, went off roading, they had plenty of chances to take advantage of me but never did. And he was my favorite uncle, and I trusted him. I didn’t even think twice about him taking me out to dinner and buying me drinks. It didn’t even strike me as odd or out of the ordinary, when he asked if I wanted to go to the teepee hotel to watch pornos, because he was my favorite uncle since I was little and I assumed I would be safe like I was with my friends. I didn’t worry about it when he kept giving me wine coolers. I didn’t worry about it when he laid on the bed next to me because there was no chairs to sit on to watch the movie. We were relaxed and comfortable. I didn’t see him put anything in my drink, I didn’t see any pills, I didn’t see anything. And when he tried to touch me sexually, I said no. I assumed I would be safe and he would respect my wishes. I was used to men making advances on me, but I was also used to people respecting me and my wishes. I assumed he understood that I wasn’t interested in sex, and would leave me alone, and didn’t think about it anymore when he gave me another wine cooler. But what happened next, is that I couldn’t move. So even though I told him “no” I couldn’t move and he did whatever he wanted with me. All I could do was lay there. And that’s what I did. He dropped me off, and and I just sat and petted my dog. I didn’t tell anybody except my 2 best friends. But, like all teenagers partying, we all knew what happens when you’re partying and drinking, but because my friends had always respected my boundaries, I didn’t expect my safe, favorite uncle not to respect me.

I told 2 people, my 2 best friends. My mother found out 6 months later. She filed police reports, my step dad wanted to kill him, but we had to explain to him that him being in prison wasn’t going to help anybody. I’m very grateful for the support system I had with my best friends, Mom and step-dad. I had to go to the police station and tell them everything that happened. The police were very kind, they wrote everything down and put it in the files. I had to go to the hospital and do a rape kit. The nurses weren’t as kind, because it was 6 months to a year after the incident, they insinuated that they didn’t believe me. My father reprimanded me that I shouldn’t have been drinking.

But what happened afterwards and for years to come, hurt more than my uncle ever could have. My grandmother and my great uncle kept coming by the house and screaming at myself and my mother that if the charges weren’t dropped, they would go to court and testify against me of what a slut I was.

My uncle ran away from the law and went into hiding for 5 years. I knew he was still around. I made sure I always knew where he was so I didn’t run into him. By the time they caught him I was 21, married, pregnant, living in another state, when we started receiving phone calls from him from jail asking to drop charges, I knew that he was suffering.

The law prosecutes perpetrators of this crime because a lot of times the family doesn’t support the victim, the victims can’t face the perpetrators anymore, and the families don’t support the perpetrators being convicted. So when the police called me and asked what I wanted to do, I asked not to testify. I knew what was going to happen if I went to court. I had already listened to my family say that they would testify against me in court and I couldn’t handle revisiting all of the old memories again.

My family tried to pretend that nothing had happened, they invited my children and I to all the family functions, and expected me to pretend that everything was okay. My family wouldn’t stay away from him so that I could visit them. They wanted me to go to the same functions as the man that raped me, and I couldn’t. My children grew up with only a few relatives that I could trust because I knew I couldn’t trust the rest of my family to keep my kids safe. My family hadn’t kept me safe or cared about my feelings. And they knew of the situation and if it had been up to them, we all would have pretended for the rest of our lives that everything was okay, but my life has been changed for forever.

The holidays hurt the most, when everybody was happy and with their family, and I couldn’t be. He was my favorite uncle, the man I trusted, the man I assumed would respect my boundaries and wishes more than anybody else because he loves me, and my family included him in everything and expected me to pretend everything was okay.

For years and years I went to counseling, everybody kept saying it wasn’t my fault but I didn’t believe them. I didn’t understand why my family turned on me, and even though I research it , I still don’t understand why families take his side and are against us. I’m just glad that I don’t have to pretend anymore that everything’s okay because I know that my life will never be the same.

The part I want to share is the following:

I didn’t understand at the time that I fit all the perfect criterias for what he was looking for. That I partied, had bad judgment, was a little naïve, and that’s what he was looking for. He told everybody that I wanted to have sex, I didn’t know at the time that that is how a perpetrator sees it, that the woman that they victimize wants their advances. He truly believes it was my fault , that a friendly smile meant that the women or child wants to have sex with them or worse. My favorite uncle even told me that it was because of a blouse that I wore on picture day for high school, that’s when he first was attracted to me.

Even today, my family still gets upset when I bring things up. They would like to pretend it never happened even though it changed my life forever. I choose not to pretend anymore that everything’s okay and have tried to live by that motto for the rest of my life. It is been hard not to be angry about my life, to choose to still trust people even though I know that not everybody is trustworthy. I chose to believe people are good, even though I know not everyone is.

If I can just help one person save years of guilt, because I wasted 30 years not understanding that what happened really wasn’t my fault, that in his mind- my smile at him, and me being friendly suggested that I wanted to have sex, and that he was looking for a person in my description: young, naïve, trusting, drinking, assuming he would respect my boundaries. if I had understood that it is so typical for families to support the perpetrator, and that none of what happened was my fault, if I can help somebody understand all this and shave off 30 years of blaming themselves and believing it’s her fault, then I believe publicly printing this is worthwhile. If I can help one person to understand all this, and ease some of the pain, I want to.

To talk about the all the incidents aren’t easy. Its been 30 years. I’m healed, but it’s the holidays again, and it still hurts. The memories come back of all the holidays that I spent by myself, hurting, because I wanted a family that acknowledged what my uncle had done, not trying to pretend that everything was okay.

It was reading on the “NotGuilty” website of other people’s stories of how their families did the same to them and how their loved ones head treated them, that helped me to understand that it really wasn’t my fault. It took me 30 years to understand that I was “not guilty”. That I was a typical scenario of rape.

I finally understand and believe what my counselors and loved ones had been saying, that “I’m not guilty”. I  pray that by publishing my story, it will touch others and save someone 30 years by understanding that you’re really not guilty. He knew what he was going to do to you before he did it.

Dawn Spellman

Shared Stories

A Letter to My School After My Assault

By an Anonymous Contributor 

To whom it may concern:

This letter is coming to you as a plea to change our campus views and practices on the handling of sexual assault cases. Since my freshman year here, I have heard various stories of classmates and strangers’ dealings with the administration after sexual assault incidents. Of course, hearing those stories I sympathized with the victims, but never went out of my way to hear the entire story or find out what happened to the students, until I became one of those students yesterday.

My rape didn’t happen on this campus, or even in this country. I was studying abroad last semester when a man chose to take advantage of me 12 minutes from my home by the side of a lighthouse. After the assault I ran to the police and was told since I didn’t know his name or where he lived they could do nothing. I shut down after that. I told no one, except two close friends on my program and returned to the United States a month later. I thought I would grin and bear my pain until it went away.

But that’s the thing about trauma, it does not go away. It does not get easier. So finally, after living and working in Lancaster all summer, multiple panic attacks, two paralyzingly terrifying flashbacks, my friends convinced me to reach out and get the help I needed. I reached out to our campus counselors and finally found the help. After my first visit I was diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, depression, and anxiety. To help combat these issues I was also started on several medications.

The team I was working with at health services was incredible. They were always available to me and I felt that they genuinely cared. But even with wonderful treatment, this semester started slipping away from me. I lost interest in everything. I went from being captain of the rugby team, an ambassador of the school as a 4 year tour guide, an active member of my sorority, to a woman neither me nor my friends could recognize. It was after one of my worst bouts of depression – inability to get out of bed and complete sense of helplessness – that I reached out to my therapist and asked for leave. I just couldn’t function at the level F&M required of me anymore.

To be clear, leave was not my idea. My therapist brought it up as a last case scenario during one of our first meetings. I fought the idea all semester, even used it as one of my goals to get me out of bed in the morning. Until that moment, I had viewed leave as the cowards way out. I felt it was my attacker’s final affront on me and the person I used to be.

But after making the decision, I realized that the strength it took to write that email and admit I was not OK and needed help, was the most I’d felt like myself since last May.

Unfortunately, since getting the school involved in my leave, I feel that all of my power has been stripped from me once again. This stems from a meeting I had with my Dean to discuss the process of extended medical leave. Instead of giving you a transcript of the meeting here are a few main highlights:

  • The process of coming back from leave is the same for every single student. So me, as somebody who is leaving the school to undergo intensive therapy for a trauma I did not ask for or cause, has to write the same letter to the school asking for readmittance that any person put on a disciplinary leave must write.
  • To go on leave, I must give access to the school to open my medical records. We cannot even start the process until I sign over my permission, which leads us to point three…
  • At the end of this meeting I was told by my dean who looked even more uncomfortable than I was feeling, that my assault would have to be officially reported because she was a mandatory reporter. I asked why this was necessary because I didn’t feel comfortable with it and her response was that they needed it so our Title IX coordinator would have more statistics. She then followed up by saying yes, the school probably couldn’t help me with anything since the attack happened internationally and in all honesty the Title IX coordinator wouldn’t even be reaching out to me. But since it was an official report, she or I would have to fill out the correct paperwork. She handed me the sheet to read over. The simple one page document asked me about every single detail of my assault. And gave me six lines to describe the entire experience. Six lines?

I left this meeting shocked. The shock turned to pain, grief, and sadness, then anger, and has left me here writing this letter to all of you. Never in my life have I felt less human, boiled down to a simple statistic. As a school that prides itself on community and inclusivity, we have failed sexual assault survivors. We have a Title IX coordinator, yet we have not put in place a separate system for those survivors who want nothing more than to return to their lives at F&M.

Why do we require that every employee at this school be a mandatory reporter, if we do not give them enough training to not call a victim of sexual assault a “statistic”?

Why isn’t recognition from my treatment provider at home enough to get me back to school?

This isn’t an injury, or disease. And I did nothing wrong. I don’t believe we can designate all leave as the same.

Dealing with the school has only been the salt on my invisible wounds. I thought I would find solace, and I did not.

That does not mean the story can’t be different for anyone else. I hope this letter is a catalyst for change. I hope there is some discussion and some delegation to ensure this process stops with me and that no other survivor EVER has to deal with what I have.

Shared Stories

“They raped my partner, my family, my friends – My rights.”

By an Anonymous Contributor

Lost sense of what is real anymore
Because you only ever hear about it
It’s not supposed to happen to you.
Sometimes I wish I could remember every detail
But all that’s left is a shattered recollection
With shards of suffering even too small to see never mind try to process

Cold, rigid hands
Taking anything I ever owned
Moving into every space I ever had
Giving me no choice
Pathetic, lifeless, hopeless
It’s too quick to react
The realisation will only come years later
But the pain is instant.
The tidal of emotions
Anger
Grief
Shame.
Drowning in shame.

No excuse will suffice
“It’s not your fault”
“Don’t blame yourself”
Don’t blame yourself.
How can I not feel responsible for allowing such an invasion?
An invasion of my privacy, my morality, my dignity.
“The state or quality of being worthy of honour or respect.”
Dignity.
You begin to question yourself
Did I ever have any?
Is this just a reflection of what I’ve been projecting all along?
Don’t blame yourself.
It doesn’t happen to everyone
Wrong place, wrong time
But a decision made to get there.
Don’t blame yourself.

Sometimes you want to tell people, you want everyone to know
Because maybe they’ll understand, maybe they’ll help you understand
But only to be met with awkward glances and long silences
Possibly followed by socially acceptable clichés
“You’re so brave”
You’re so brave.
But the only words that make sense are weak, vulnerable and afraid.
Because I’m not the first to speak out and won’t be the last
Just another one added to the ever-growing list
You’re so brave.
Maybe it’ll make it better
But telling doesn’t give closure, accepting does
The action of consenting to receive or undertake something offered.
Acceptance.
But how can I accept what I never consented to?
You’re so brave.

An ingrained humiliation
A mockery of everything you once stood for
An accumulation of anger and resentment
Because that’s when you realise
That intruder didn’t just rape me
They raped my partner, my family, my friends
My rights.

Shared Stories

“It’s been 10 years and yet I still remember every single moment, every single sound.”

By M.J.M 

It hurts. After all these years I know it shouldn’t but it still does. I wish it would stop. I’ve been reliving these moments so many times in my mind, sometimes I don’t even know if it’s true anymore. And then I remember the pain, the shock, the horror I felt. It’s real. And much more real than the thing itself is the memory of it. The shame of it. After 10 years, the physical damage is well healed, but the shame and guilt aren’t. The constant fear that someone might discover my secret, that I might lose my job, my loved ones, for something I didn’t do, something I didn’t ask for.
The fear that people would judge me and despise me, that they wouldn’t understand why I’m making such a mountain out of this.
But it is a mountain. A big one, one that I’ve been trying to climb for the last 10 years and I still didn’t reach the top. And I keepgoind down, and down, losing hope that I might one day make it back up. I wish it would stop.
I wish I could go back in time and keep it from happening. Maybe I could’ve acted differently? Maybe I could’ve just said “no”? But I did. I said “no”. Only it didn’t change anything. Maybe he didn’t hear? But I said it loud enough, often enough, and I know he heard. He heard my cries of pain. He saw the blood. He saw the tears. He didn’t care.
Nobody cared. They saw the blood on my sheets, on my clothes, they saw the tears, they knew I wasn’t feeling good. They didn’t care. I stopped eating, laughing, living, all they said was “eat, drink, dress up, go to school, act normal, why are you being so weird”
But how could they know what I didn’t tell them, and how could I tell them when I felt such shame… And now I’m 24, all grown up, now I understand what happened to me, how can I tell them knowing the pain it might cause?
What if they told me it’s my fault, that I should’ve screamed or ran or fought, that I should’ve gone to the police, that I didn’t do all I could to prevent it? But I couldn’t scream or run or fight, I couldn’t do anything at all, I was too terrified even to realize I was being robbed of my innocence.
It’s been 10 years and yet I still remember every single moment, every single sound. And it has to stop. Because it’s not my fault, because there’s nothing to be ashamed of, because it’s my life and it’s time I started living it.

Shared Stories

look out for one another not in a fearful way but with the sense that whether I know you or not – we are community

By Sarah

In the light of Ione’s important point about ‘community’ and also the way her community of friends, neighbours and family were looking out for her – I want to say a deeply sincere ‘thank you’ to the mother pushing her baby in a pram and walking her dog along the river bank in a suburb of Vancouver.
I was new to the area, and I was walking down a track unbeknownst to me as isolated and You had spotted a character following me. As we passed each other you warned me who was behind giving me a chance to turn and walk back with you to a safe walking track.
I am still deeply thank ful for your warning that day.
Let’s all – women and men -look out for one another not in a fearful way but with the sense that whether I know you or not – we are community – and that as we do so we can live safer lives and send the message to would be attackers that your power is no longer – your intimidation is weakened – your darkness becomes a chance for light and Human solidarity.
Thank you Ione for this ‘platform’.
With best wishes and healing – deep deep healing to those abused. You are held up and supported by us all in our hearts and in Spirit.

Shared Stories

“I was sexually abused as a child by my own nanny”

By an Anonymous Contributor

I was sexually abused as a child by my own nanny.

I wouldn’t say that it was severe abuse that prolonged for months, but it did happen more than once when I was a very young child and curious about sex. That curiosity started with porn magazines and videos my uncle left at our house. My nanny caught me with the stuff and consequently abused my trust. I am lucky I realized that I was Not Guilty when I was around 17.

In short, I am a survivor of sexual abuse. I like to think of myself as having a growth mindset, so feminism, equality, and human rights are topics that I love getting into.

On Facebook, I posted about how I, like many other women, chose to minimize an incident of sexual transgression for the sake of the party. A guy slapped my rump as I was making my way past him to sit down. Big deal, right? Again, minimizing the situation. But that’s another conversation.

My post invited several other girls to comment, much like this website. One of my friends said, “Your incident reminded me of something that happened to me years ago, and I was called a slut for it…” So I kindly responded to her saying that It is unfortunate that even other girls would slut shame victims. I posted online that I even overheard a beauty queen slut shame someone and it blew my mind because slut shaming has to stop. It is so pervasive in our culture that continuing to do so just brings all women down. The more you slut shame someone, the easier it is for others to call any girl a slut.

So this beauty queen registers my comment and privately messages me. We have an intense exchange, and my only issue is that all people, especially women, need to stop slut shaming eachother. She began her message telling me about her sexual abuse and how much she hated sluts and prostitutes. Her angle is that prostitutes and sluts in her beauty queen world make her job hard. That she takes offense when someone defends a slut because she’s worked her whole life trying not to be one. She also feels like she has the right to call anyone a slut, much like a spade is a spade. Totally degrading, and she doesn’t even know it.

I tried my best to convey to her my message, that slut shaming is wrong and you shouldn’t do it in public no matter WHO the person is. But she made it all about herself and had to defend herself until the end. She couldnt understand why I couldn’t see things her way, and I kept telling her that I did and that I even have the same views as her. I just wanted to tell her slut shaming is wrong.

After watching Ione Wells’ talk on sexual assault on social media, I had to put in my piece. Victims and survivors must know they are not guilty, that in fact we do share common beliefs, and we need to stop talking over each other. I feel so let down by this beauty queen. She’s supposed to be educated and support equality and all the good things women can especially offer. In this case, she was clearly thinking and speaking as a victim, and couldn’t help but show me her prejudice and hate on social media. She twisted my only point and made it all about her, defending herself and simply afraid and defiant to admit that maybe she was wrong. She can’t seem to understand that a slut is a derogatory term for a woman. Her ignorance and defiance made me sick. I am sad some victims cannot think in a healthy light about women’s rights and choose to be so selective about justice. I just hope everyone can realize they are NOT GUILTY, before they go on to spread victim blaming behavior and justify themselves further.

Shared Stories

I was raped by my housemate/best friend and his friend while they were on cocaine, in my own home

By an Anonymous Contributor

Justice is a word that I have been thinking about a lot since the incident.

In a TED Talk, Ione defines justice as “maintenance of things that are right”.

There are handful things that are right in this world.

Social Media can be a tool to amplify one’s voice, she says.

I don’t have to keep quiet.

It is ok to speak up.

I should not feel ashamed or guilty that,
I was raped by my housemate/best friend and his friend while they were on cocaine, in my own home, co-op in San Francisco.

One Thursday night, I had a guest from out of the country who was interested in learning about community housing, and creating organic communities. As I loved my intentional living community and wanted to share how awesome it was, I gave him the tour of the victorian house and introduced him to my housemates. As the night progressed and more housemates came home, my guest, housemates, their friends and I all ended up hanging out and chatting in the living room. Some people were drinking, there were two guys doing cocaine, me and my guest were sober. It was around 2am, I was extremely exhausted, but since my guest was engaged in conversations, learning about the community, I felt bad and stayed awake. Despite my attempt to stay up, at one point I dosed off, people decided to move the gathering into my housemate’s room, which was closest to the front door and noise didn’t carry over to the rest of the house. My guest ended up crashing on the couch in the living room since it was too late for him to walk back to his hotel. Since I was asleep, or more like half-asleep, I was carried by my guy housemate (later become one of the attackers) to his room with other people. There, three of my housemates, one guy housemate (attacker) on my right and a couple (guy and girl) housemates on my left sat up on the bed. I soon dosed off. (and apparently the couples did too). Then I woke up to someone kissing me, pressing his lips so hard against mine, trying to put his tongue in my month. I soon realized it was not the guy housemate, one of the couples, that I remembered was sitting next to me. Who could this be? What is going on? The moment I realized it was my other housemate’s friend P who was doing cocaine in the living room earlier that night, someone started undressing my pants from behind. It was my guy housemate who was doing cocaine with P earlier that night. I was sandwiched by two large men, both literally twice my size, while still in a hazy, foggy and sleepy state of mind. I was in shock that I could not make any noise. The housemate started to finger me and go down on me, while the other guy P shoved his penis inside my mouth. P screamed, “make me cum” repeatedly. I was in a shock, in a fear, and froze. P grabbed my head/hair and violently moved back and forth all the while his penis was inside my mouth. My housemate pressed my back onto the bed while he seized both of my legs while going down on me. My mouth was filled with his friend’s dick. He eventually came in my mouth. I spit out the cum on the bed sheet. He turned around, snorted more cocaine and then shoved his hand into my mouth. I tasted something very bitter. I figured it was the cocaine. My mouth felt disgusting with the cum, cocaine, and everything. All the while, the housemate was going down on me, fingering me and touching my breast. I felt like I was in a violent porn film that I never wished to be in part of. My housemate’s friend left the room after touching all over my body, leaving me and my housemate. Then my housemate started to undress himself and I felt his penis against my butt then vagina. N….No! I exclaimed, rolled out of the bed. I grabbed my clothes quickly put on my underwear and pants, got out of the room and went up to my room.

**After the incident, I was informed that the couple also fell asleep next to me. As they woke up in the middle of the night around 4am and went up to their room, leaving me behind, they saw the guy P doing cocaine on the couch in the same room.

I am #notguilty nor ashamed for what happened. I own the truth.

7 months later
When feeling like exiled from the community I belonged to, by being literally blocked out of the co-op’s FB community group.

As I try hard to convince myself that it is ok to walk away from bullshit.

As I try to wrap my head around what I have done to deserve this kind of treatment from the community I used to belong to and live in.

As I listen to my close friends that I should not burn bridges with people but at the same time should not be even friends with the people in the community.

As I feel that I am so connected to my professional community that will judge and shame me for what happened.

As I fear that there is a serious mental damage in my brain caused by the incident and aftermath of PTSD.

As I fear that some day I will run into my attackers, who tell their peers that they did nothing wrong.

I remain in solitude, questioining justice and faith.

-The following day after the incident, without knowing what is the right thing to do, I ended up calling the hospital, sexual assault dept. Police escorted me out of the house and drove me to the hospital. Some housemates found out what had happened, and rushed over to the hospital to see me. The word reached to the leader of the community (who happen to be a successful male founder of a large Silicon Valley startup, if that gives more legitimacy to his words), and learned about the incident from the attacker. The leader came home telling everybody “I would have done the same if I were him”.

The attacker moved out of his room and the house right after the incident.

I was in a state of shock, for the first time in my life, I was numb to my own emotions, physically felt a heavy block in my brain which seemed to intercept all my thinking process. In that state, housemates began telling me what they thought was right.

Naturally, I listened as I initially believed that my housemates had the best intention for me.

“How can you report him?”

“time will heal”
“You cannot make any noise when you have a dick inside your mouth?!”

“Why didn’t you make any noise?”

I felt belittled, I felt that I needed to prove to housemates, to highly intelligent individuals, startup founders, highly respected, regarded people I always had been intimidated to. I felt like I was shut down and judged as being over dramatic. There was no place for me to be. I felt crazy for saying that all I wanted was to feel safe. In order to seek safety, I needed to lower my voice in my own home so I don’t offend anyone.

The following Monday after the incident, on my way to the usual family dinner with my housemates, my legs shook so much that I sat on the staircase for a long time (about 10 min) before I could go down to the dining room. While we went around the room do our weekly “checking in,” updating each other on what’s going on in our lives, housemates who sat near me said, “you don’t have to speak if you wanted” when my turn came. Instead, I read a letter addressing my state of condition, confusion and needing of help. My eyes were swollen from uncontrollably crying, for the longest period- every single day, I would say 3 weeks straight.

It seemed like the PTSD would never end.

Now, fast forward 7 months later, I am trying to move on, live a normal quiet life, feeling exiled from the community I once loved. Trying to find a new life and friends in the same city. Repressing the memory, while trying to avoid contacts with people who are connected to the attackers.

I don’t hate, just wish I could still be in the loving environment like nothing had happened. Only to realize and feel a pain in my heart that NO, THEY DID NOT CARE DAMN ABOUT YOU FROM THE BEGINNING. THEY DIDN’T GIVE SHIT ABOUT YOU. WHAT HAPPENED TO YOU ONLY BROKE HARMONY IN THE HOUSE. OR AT THE VERY LEAST IT EXPOSED TO THE THREATS AND DANGER TO THE COMMUNITY. THEY DON’T WANT TO ADMIT IT EVEN HAPPENED IN THE HOUSE.

How can we raise awareness that this can happen in any co-op. What I have experienced is not unique. Loving community exists everywhere. But when inconvenient incidents happen, why is it brutally difficult to bring justice to the community? When people care so much about social justice, rally and stand up for good cause, why can’t they even deal with their own housemate being raped?
All of the sudden, they turn away, keep silence, and block the victim out.

How can we make it right? How can we help bring justice rather than suppressing it and putting it behind by ignoring and literally blocking out and silencing the victim?

I WILL NOT CEASE FIGHTING FOR JUSTICE. I OWN THE TRUTH.
#notguilty

Shared Stories

I am 58 now, so I don’t recall how I knew, not to ever tell a soul, but I know that I didn’t ever tell — until now.

By an Anonymous Contributor

At age 8, it was my daily chore to fetch my 5 year old brother from school, at a church, one half block away. Diligently, I’d put down my school things and await my mother’s send-off, when it became time. Indeed, I grew to learn that “time” had arrived for much more than freely frolicking that half block, collecting little wildflowers on the way, daydreaming and imagining — much more than standing in the church yard looking up at the huge, stained glass windows in awe. It became, part of the process to expect to be summoned over by the man under a tree, in a wheelchair whom I came to recognize, who sold gum packets after school to children and their parents and caretakers, who saw it fit to fondle and molest me each day, while I waited for class to let out. It became the norm, a part of what was expected of me, like brushing my teeth and doing my homework, neither of which I understood nor welcomed, the need for. But, I am 58 now, so I don’t recall how I knew, not to ever tell a soul, but I know that I didn’t ever tell — until now.

Shared Stories

I just wanted to be alone. I still want to be alone.

By an Anonymous Contributor

I was 16, and it was a year ago. Though I still I remember it all. I remember dancing with my friends and going out to the car, it was dark and the music was loud. I was only coming out for a second to grab something, but then next thing I was grabbed, so tight I yelped. I was slammed into the car, pushed to the ground. He told me to shut up, told me to stay awake. His nails were ripping into skin, it was like I was covered in warm goo and unable to get away. His knee pushed into me with all his weight. I remember him touching me, laughing, covering my mouth making it nearly impossible to breath, I remember the blood and the pain and the fear. Him forcing himself on me. Me lying there after he ran away, I felt like nothing, sharp pain coming and going from everywhere around me. It felt like it dragged out for ever. One of my friend found me, she was saying my name but all I could feel, all I could remember was his hands on me and the taste of blood. I still see him, around corners and in my dreams. I still feel it. It’s been a year since this happened and no one talks about it, why would they? But I still feel it, I still see it. He’s still free, walking around, enjoying life. They had to sedate me at the hospital because I freaked out when the doctors started touching me. They got my statement and did the kit, but there was no “proof” it was him. The only thing that calmed me down was the nurse who was kind and gentle and treated my like a friend and not a patient. That ended soon. My mom took me out of the hospital the day she could. She was on the fast track to ignoring it and hoping it would go away. My friends started going away, I started making them go away. I just wanted to be alone. I still want to be alone. Being hugged, being “comforted” make me feel physically ill, when guys walk to close, when it’s anywhere near dark. I don’t know how to stop being like this. People don’t want to talk about this, and I think it’s making me crazy. It was such a big thing in my life, it still affects me but I can’t talk about it, it doesn’t always feel real. Thank you for letting me share my story, I hope things will get better. I’m not very certain about the future.

Shared Stories

Will I keep my mouth shut?

By an Anonymous Contributor

People say I am brave. People can’t see the pain in my heart. First time. 2006. I went to study with some guys from my university. I thought they were my friends. Happened, they weren’t. We cheered over one glass of vodka that knocked me out. Next thing I remember was that I was lying in the bed being molested by two of them. I was fighting back with nails and all but was passed out and just stop the fighting and left that place ashamed the following day. Their laughing and all the shame I felt for the following days in campus didn’t help either. Second time. 2007. I visited the doctor because I burnt my face with some dying. He went over my records and stopped by the gynecologist historical. He locked the door and got me naked. Put his finger inside me and I felt something was not right. He had the nerve to ask for my phone number before I left! Third time. 2015. I went to this barbecue. Flirted with this guy and agreed to have sex with him. The condom got stuck inside me and I asked him to stop. I cried. Please no! You’re hurting me…. next day I had to go to the hospital for the bleeding and pain. I never complained with the police about any of these incidents. I felt I allowed this to happen and the shame was enough on me but wanted to keep my family away from this. When is the next time? What will happen then? Will I keep my mouth shut? Who will be the next victim?

Shared Stories

It is more devastating to suppress your pain because of the fear of making it painful for others. Respect the ‘no’, no matter how muted it sounds.

By Rakshita Joshi

Child Sexual Abuse is one of the most heinous crimes against one‟s body and soul. As a child, I never realized that I was being victimized, stigmatized and traumatized and that these incidents would impact the intimacy of my relationships as I grow up. I grew up in horror and my silence, never questioned.

I was six year old, when I was sexually abused by a neighbor for almost three years. As I started resisting, I was sexually harassed by the same person for another six years. Lack of awareness about causes and consequences of abuse is more profound in a country like ours which strengthens the secrecy surrounding the abuse, as it did in my case. For a long time, I held myself responsible for it. I thought that I had an affair. In my adolescence, I received immense attention from the opposite gender across all ages. I craved for it, yet despised it. I was ashamed of myself. There were repeated incidents of sexual abuse by few others, unstable relationships with family and friends, especially with my parents. I had a distorted opinion about love, relationships and intimacy. Often, I felt suicidal. It is bewildering to acknowledge that I was vulnerable to substance abuse, addiction to pornography and promiscuity. The entire cycle of shame and guilt, rage and confusion and ambivalence made me self-destructive. I was extremely vulnerable and that resulted in another sexual assault. I was raped when I was sixteen. In an event that frightens us, our body‟s response would be to either fight, escape (flight) or freeze. I froze in extreme shock. I couldn‟t tell anyone.

I was partly raised by my aunt. I grew up with her from when I was an year old till I was ten. I had strong attachment with her, not with my parents and the abuse would occur when I‟d visit my parents during vacations. I always felt abandoned. I always felt that my brother was more important to them. Around the same time, she survived a major paralysis stroke and it left me paralysed. Isolation and loneliness was persistent. I had nobody to turn to. I was surrounded by people; aunts, uncles and cousins. Yet, I was alone. I never had a sense of belonging. I was vulnerable because I desired to be held, to be hugged and to be loved. I wanted attention. Little did I know that I was innocent. I was very scared to tell anybody. I felt dirty. I felt bad about myself. I felt I was a curse to my parents. In the whole process, I became my parent; a parentwho is extremely critical.

I was eighteen when I first recognized that I was a victim of child sexual abuse. It pained me and I felt helpless. My prolonged silence caused despair. I couldn‟t get any help. I still suffer from anxiety issues. I am still, to some extent, a mixed bag of self-conscious, emotionally sensitive and unstable personality and at the same time, an intelligent human with false pride. There is a deep fear, fueling an ego, changing the dynamics and perceptions of emotions. I‟m filled with contempt.

Even now happiness seems to be a crime; expectation, a burden; imagination, a horror. Often I think of ways in which I can end my life. I don‟t do it voluntarily but I do let my mind sway. I feel hopeless about something or the other. I spoke to every person I could. I wonder if I understand what support is or perhaps I fail to tell someone what I seek. The constant isolation

makes me wonder if I ever had any friends. I blamed myself for that. Everybody has a life and their own priorities. I have a career, parents who support; financially I am not so bad. But there is a void. And I try frantically to fill it but nothing seems compatible. I have a life which anybody might envy. But there is emptiness. I didn‟t feel it much before. After knowing the truth, revealing the truth, and caught in the dilemma whether to rebuke the person who caused it fuels a fear. I seemed more pleased with the elated ego and arrogance I often showed before. It is fearful to be humble, threatening to be truthful and easier to live a life of pretense with contemptuous interpretations of events which hurt.

Amidst the mess, it was a child’s dream that gave me hope; a reason to live, a reason to change. I clinged to my academics and that became my identity. Things seemed to settle down with time. I believed I was selfish but I tried to change. I tried to make everybody happy, yet miserably failed. I sought validation for my character and I believed the lies. I was in a seemingly happy relationship which lasted for three years. I had confided to him that I was sexually abused as a child. But it all blew up when I was, again, sexually assaulted by him. Yes, by the very person I loved and trusted the most! It didn‟t stop at that. I was more devastated when I saw neither guilt nor pain in him. Rather, he used the fact that I had been sexually abused as child to justify his act. He seemed very agitated and blamed me for the situation. Well, I was the one who didn‟t want to get engaged right away. I was assaulted when I cried to him and begged an apology for no mistake of mine. Families were aware of this and people had to be answered and he is a good story teller. While I battled with Post-Traumatic-Stress- Disorder, he was engaged and soon, he got married to someone else.

After this incident which occurred on 20th January 2016, I had only questions to guide me. My past cried out to be resolved. I decided to fight. I wanted to know the damage my past had done to me and I‟m still, fighting a long battle. I reached out to few people I thought would help but most turned away, indirectly. It hurt me more to hear that I ruined someone‟s life. It hurt me when my calls were not answered. It hurt me when I asked them to help me find a therapist and I didn‟t hear from them for months. It hurt me when they reply without compassion. It hurt me when I confronted my parents about it because they responded like it was my fault. Longing for intimacy and affection was my fault! But then, someone helped. I took my chances but found a good therapist. I took a leap of faith and I found a good friend.

I still find it hard to accept that it happened with me and I suffered in silence, suppressing all my pain, agony and humiliation. I was just a little girl, wanted to be held, wanting to be loved. But I will not give up. I will be there for that little girl if there is no one else. I promise to free her from the prison of guilt and shame. It was not her fault.

I pray for the strength to endure this journey, to fulfill the longing of her heart, deeply wounded yet deeply beautiful, to love boldly and pursue her desires passionately.

She walked alone
On stem and stone Ate the leaves Crawled without bone

Ugly they called her Uglier she felt
The leaves she ate
Looked uglier when she left

Alone and scared She built a nest Wound the threads Around herself

Wrapped in the shell She felt warm
She imagined a world That would never harm

Little did she know
That a seed would grow And the cocoon around her Was a hardened dough

The warmth soon turned Into a heat which burnt There was no air
But a soul which yearned

She put her strength
To break the tent
But the fear she had
Had weakened her strength

“Ugly” they would call her Uglier she would feel Blinded to hope,
She was not bereft of zeal

She flew now
From flower to flower Bathed in the sweetness That was unknown to her

“Beautiful” they called her

And beautiful she was
She was the caterpillar Now a beautiful butterfly…

Shared Stories

I stayed in the shower for the longest time ever, trying to scrub off the memory of how his hands felt on me

By an Anonymous Contributor

Why didn’t I call for help? Why didn’t I tell anyone? Why did I smile at him?

I was maybe about 9 or 10 years old, and out to the market with my grandmother. He had a makeshift stall selling cheap plasticware, and my grandmother was busy browsing the goods. He looked at me and smiled, and being a naturally friendly kid, I smiled back. My grandmother had walked a little ahead and I just stood around waiting for her, when he came up and grabbed my breast. My smile faded and I pushed him away, but I didn’t call for help or tell my grandmother. I looked around but all the other stall owners and customers seemed to be busy with their own wares, and nobody reacted. I knew that it was wrong, but I simply was too stunned to respond. I walked away closer to my grandmother, who simply walked a big circle around his wares back to where he was again. Having no choice I walked past him again, and he smiled at me again. Not wanting to be rude, I managed the smallest of smiles and as soon as my grandmother looked away he grabbed my breast and gave it a solid squeeze again. Again I pushed him away and I still did not shout for help. It would haunt me for the rest of my life as to why I didn’t just at least shout in outrage or tell anyone. I was just too ashamed, I felt that I should not have smiled at him, that I should not have gotten so near him again the second time, that I should have called him out after the first grope. I was even embarassed when I thought of how other stall owners might have seen me being defiled. I just wanted to go home.

When I got home I stayed in the shower for the longest time ever, trying to scrub off the memory of how his hands felt on me, and trying to forget. I felt violated but I did not know what to do. I didn’t want to let my family know because I knew I would be blamed for not shouting for help, and my childish mind imagined how I would write a letter to him next time educating him on how he had done a sinful thing, fantasising that he would repent after that.

I would never see him again, and I don’t even remember how he looks like anymore, but I will never forget the feel of his fingers around my breast and how helpless I was when I couldn’t pry his fingers away.

Shared Stories

He said he was sorry and thought that I wanted it.

By Andrea N. Smith 

I was 15 and at my boyfriend’s house. I wore a favourite sundress. We were in his room and he started to want sex. I said no repeatedly. He held me down, pinned my hands under is knees while he took my underwear off. When it was over I jumped up and got dressed. He said he was sorry and thought that I wanted it. He said I shouldn’t have worn such a short dress. I got rid of it when I got home. I fell pregnant and had to tell my mom. I didn’t tell her the truth, I just wanted it to go away and be over. She gave me such a hard time about wanting to end the pregnancy, which I did. My relationship with my mom was strained and she kept bringing up the pregnancy for years, making me relive that awfulness, but she didn’t know.

Shared Stories

You were my best friend’s dad.

By C.B.R. 
You were my best friend’s dad. You knew my family was a mess, knew that I was so starved for love. I thought you were going to be like the father I was missing. I didn’t realize that you had other plans. That you wanted something more. I didn’t realize that the hug wasn’t so innocent nor the kiss several months later. It was so nice to have someone to talk to, I didn’t know it wasn’t just innocent affection. I blocked it out the first time you attacked me, accepted the apology, tried to reformat. By the fourth time, you were so violent it scared me. You yelled just like my dad did when he was mad. You were just more of the same. It ended in pain and fury but not soon enough. And before I could come to terms with everything, you took your own life. I couldn’t even be mad at you because my friend’s heart was broken. And so was mine. So I hated myself for not hating you.

I’m grown up now, but not really. I’m still the child whose soul was broken. I’m still that little girl that just wants a father. I don’t know if you will ever know the damage you’ve done, but I still live with the aftermath every day. I hope that one day it will just be a vague memory of a hard time in my life. Today was not that day.

Shared Stories

I was told, “boys will be boys”

By S.H. 

It took me a really long time to realize that it wasn’t my fault. I was my own worst enemy; I thought I had asked for it. I invited him to my party, I had talked to him all night and probably the thing that made up my mind was that I slept with him before. Once, a few months previously.

That night was my 29th birthday. I decided to have a few friends over for a party at my flat I shared with two friends. Amongst the guests was the man who would become my attacker.

Time passed, music, and drinks, dancing. It was around 3am when I decided to call it a night and head to bed. There were still guests in the house but most were close friends and my housemates were still up. I sat for a while on my bed, enjoying some peace and quiet when he came into my room. I told him I was going to bed and to go back and join the others. He moved closer and closer, I turned my face from his and said no and he told me to “stop acting like I’m going to rape you”.

He left my room and I put on my pajamas and got into bed and it was then that he came back. I told him again to get out but he wouldn’t listen he lay down on my bed next to me. I don’t know why I didn’t shout or push him away. I got out of bed and ran to the living room and told my friends that someone needed to get him out of my room. He refused to leave, convinced that I wanted him to be there. Eventually two of my male friends got him out and I somehow managed to fall asleep. The next morning I woke up alone in bed. When I got up, I found him asleep on the couch. He hadn’t left.

The next day as I sat in my house on the day of my birthday waiting on my boyfriend picking me up, my attacker went to the pub and bragged that I had been “up for it” he said until he put his hands into my underwear then I told him to stop. I can either assume he is lying or that he came back when I was asleep.

It was what came after that was probably the most shocking part of this whole story. I never reported him to the police, I know what the likelihood of anything coming of it was and I didn’t want to put myself through it. I told my friends and they were shocked and disgusted and very supportive. But, from a few I was told, “boys will be boys” “that’s just what men do” and that for him, my attacker “oh, you know what he is like, that’s just what he does”.

I spent the coming months walking with my head down, avoiding social events just in case he was there. I was embarrassed, upset, guilty and felt stupid I had let this happen.

I spent the next two years getting over it, coming to terms with it but also coming to terms with the fact that slowly but surely some of my friends were beginning to speak to him again. This just confirmed to me that people either didn’t believe me or were happy to accept that this kind of behavior is just what women should expect.

Here I am, two years later, writing about this because this past weekend it has reared it’s head again. My attacker sought out a close friend of mines to ask him if I was involved with him, to watch out for me because I’m a slut and that my friend should only get with me if he wants to “know what his dick tastes like”.

My friend didn’t know my story, he does now. I’m devastated he has had to hear someone speak about me that way.

It took me a really long time, medication and counseling to realize that I am not guilty. He is guilty and he continues to ruin me.

Shared Stories

I am his younger brother.

By an Anonymous Contributor 

After hearing Ione’s TED talk I found the courage to talk about my personal experience behind this matter. It happened when I was 7 years old 15 years ago sitting with my older brother watching him playing video games. Suddenly he turns the video game off and commands me to do stuff to him and return does what he has done to me. I am his younger brother. I could have refused when he had told me to, but I was young and naive and did not know what was what, I wasn’t aware of what the nature of this was. I have been in silence for 15 years without anyone knowing this, somehow after the incident I did not speak or even recall what had happened until a few months ago I started remembering this. I hope this message reaches to everyone and to be cautious even with their close ones, including their siblings and those who have children to raise awareness in them at a young age.