Shared Stories

You Can Never Take Away My Voice

By Catherine 

TW: Suicide, PTSD

To the man whom I trusted with my body, heart and soul,

I want you to know what a state I was in after I accepted what you did to me. I have never wanted to die more than I did then and if I hadn’t asked for help I might not still be here today. For two weeks in hospital I cried about three times a day or more about the rape. I painted lots of very dark paintings which all express what a dark place I was in because of what you did. I hardly smiled and lost the life within me- I wasn’t myself anymore. But you didn’t win because I didn’t kill myself even though I came so close and even wrote a suicide note which I later got rid of. I am smiling more again and more of my lively self once more.

I want you to know that you have no more place in my life. The two times I texted you expressing feelings about my rape are the last messages you will ever receive from me. I have unblocked your number and teared up and thrown away the piece of paper with your number written on it.

It is important that you are aware that in my very last message to you I partly lied. I wanted to believe that you have no power over me whatsoever but you do because I am still deeply hurt because of what you did to me. I may not be suicidal anymore but that doesn’t mean I don’t struggle to get through life knowing I was raped. Also, I may have gained back some power from you by pushing you off me halfway through but that doesn’t change the fact you raped me.

If I am honest, I am incredibly astonished that you, someone I trusted and who was my friend ‘before anything else’ as you yourself said, raped me.

I want to know why! Why did you decide to damage another human being so much?

You had no right to take away my virginity against my will, take away my choice, not use a condom and rape me especially as you knew I was vulnerable as I had already been assaulted before and had bipolar disorder and PTSD.

I hope that if you don’t feel it now that one day you will feel very guilty for the rest of your life for what you have done as you rightly should.

I no longer have any romantic feelings towards you and I am learning to trust men again including a new male friend.

I refuse to let what you did to me defeat me and stop me from moving on with my life but it will take time to heal the hurt and get my confidence back.

One thing is for certain, you may have taken away my choice and violated my body but you never took away my voice. I said to you in person and over text message what you did to me and I told your close friend what you did to me even if she took your side. I will keep on speaking up about sexual violence whenever I can through the power of words and sharing my experience so I can raise awareness and make others feel less alone. It is through using my voice that I am getting back the power you took from me. You will never take my voice away from me.

Shared Stories

I Refuse to Let you Have Power Over Me

Electra Rose

I refuse to let you have power over me

Like a boulder you crushed me mentally, emotionally, sexually.

You left a negative imprint upon me.

Now my scar from rape is healing-

I cannot erase the wonderful memories with you from my mind,

I still wear the dresses I wore with you

And the underwear.

I refuse to let you have any power over me-

I am strong and I now feel absolutely nothing towards you

Except my locked up anger.

Shared Stories

“He Just Asked Me Why I Hadn’t Punched Them”

It was dark out and pretty late and I was waiting for the bus. I don’t remember where I was going. The street was empty and I waited alone. Three men walked up, I thought they needed to take the bus too. But they came over to me and screamed at me in a language I didn’t understand. Two of the guys started to touch me and they held me by my throat so I couldn’t breathe. Hands were everywhere on my naked body and my hands touched body parts I didn’t want to touch. Everything happend so fast that I couldn’t even think of what to do, or how to get out. I don’t know how long I’d been standing there, it might have been seconds. The bus came and the driver saw what happened and put up the big light and started honking. I got out, fixed my clothes and got in the bus. The driver asked if I was okay and gave me his card. I don’t remember where I went with the bus. I don’t remember how I got out.

I do remember how I tried to tell my (now ex-)boyfriend what happened, but before I had a chance to say anything he just asked me why I hadn’t punched them.

Shared Stories

It Was Only After That I Realised How Bad It Was

By Tegan

Mine happened at sixth form college, not uni, but I thought I would share it anyway, as I haven’t told many people about this, not even my parents. I was at a friend’s birthday party, and we were camping overnight in her garden as a few of us were from further afield so we stayed the night. A bunch of guys from her school stayed as well, even though we were told we would have the tent to ourselves. They ended up hotboxing the tent (charming) and then coming into sleep next to us. Needless to say, with three guys and three girls, it was a bit of a squish.

The next morning, I woke up and I felt really weird. It was a few seconds before I noticed that the guy next to me had his hand in my pants, just casually rubbing my vagina. I was horrified. I wasn’t sure what to do. I lay there paralysed for a few seconds before turning over quickly and saying something to him. He turned back around and went back to sleep and I decided to do the same. It was only until after they had gone when I told the other girls what happened that I realised how bad it was. I told a couple of close friends when I got home, one of whom told me to tell the police, but I just thought “why would the police care about something so trivial?”

I messaged one of the guys on Facebook to tell him what his friend had done. He just replied “I’m sorry, he does weird shit when he’s on a comedown”. And that was that. Nothing else came from it: I didn’t tell my parents or anyone else, and luckily I just got over it quite quickly. But from time to time I think about it and feel a bit gross, and wonder why it wasn’t such a big deal.

Shared Stories

“My Rapists”

I’ve become used to saying the word rape. I’m close to being able to drop it into everyday conversation. I’ve come a long way.

A term I am not comfortable with is ‘my’ rapists. Or ‘my’ attackers. They are rapists. They chose to rape me. They don’t deserve to ever lose that label.

But they are not mine.

When I lost that fight, they sickeningly took ownership of my body. They made me one of their victims.

If they were mine, if I ever had any control over them I would make sure they can’t rape anyone else. Unless I win this fight I don’t want anything to do with them. Unless I can prove that they made me their victim and a judge gives me the power to influence their future, no part of them is mine and I don’t want it to be.

Until then, they’re free to be anyone’s rapists.

Shared Stories

“Why can’t I drink as much as I want and still not get raped?”

By an Anonymous Contributor to the Campaign

I once wrote a line in a poem that “All of Southern California smells like the same boy.” And it’s true, it does, and it probably always will. Why can’t I get this one boy out of my head, even though years have gone by and I am happily with someone else? Because he sexually assaulted me.

For the longest time, I would have felt ridiculous to even call it that. Part of me still does, which just makes me angry. It is what it is, right?

He was a nice enough guy. Not that cute, and one of my close friend’s (AJ) good friends. We’ll call him X. AJ was best friends with X’s ex-girlfriend, who had just broken up with him for sleeping and subsequently getting chlamydia from a stripper. So it goes without saying he was not on the top of my to do list that night. But it was his birthday, so we drank and drank and I was so drunk, so drunk that it stands out to me as being one of my most drunken nights out I’ve ever had. We left the club, 4 of us altogether. AJ and a guy she met, and me and X. It was obvious that AJ wanted to hook up with her guy, and so it was suggested that all 4 of us head back to X’s place who lived alone. I was so drunk I don’t remember ever getting to his place or what happened in the moments leading up to what I do remember: this guy with his head in between my legs. It was a complete and utter violation and I felt that as it was happening. I felt it and I wanted to act but I just couldn’t. I couldn’t because I was shocked, because I was in and out of consciousness, because I wasn’t sure who I was with or where I was. It was all very just: shocking. And I remember the things he said to me…about how I was “tight” and now his words literally haunt me…follow me everywhere I go…and it doesn’t feel right to have this stranger’s voice constantly in my head.

The toughest was feeling like I didn’t belong in any kind of category. It was my fault, I was the one who drank so much alcohol, and who knows if when he asked (or if he ever did) for consent I said yes. I very well could have said yes, the problem being that I don’t remember. So who’s fault is it? The fault feels like mine, and still feels like mine, for getting too drunk. I was feeling so bad about it, especially since he had performed sex acts on me that no one ever had done before. It made me feel ashamed and embarrassed and now even years later when I think about it the urge to hide my face in my hands and cry is strong.

After a few weeks of feeling awful I decided to tell a friend. Not the same friend that introduced me to him, but a different one. She immediately called it rape which completely threw me for a loop. I think I even told her “you’ve got to be kidding me.” But then it started to all add up…why I was feeling the way I was feeling…and then I felt worse. Why did I feel worse? Because it felt like I let my friend talk me into believing he raped me when he really didn’t. Was he really such a bad guy? Even though all signs pointed to yes, I still struggled to accept that. Maybe I had wanted him to do that stuff, even if I don’t remember, and who am I not to believe him if he says I wanted him to do it?

But I never gave him the opportunity to say anything. I never asked him what happened. I woke up the next morning naked and alone and afraid and managed to gather up all my belongings sans underwear and leave. AJ assumed I had as good as a night as her, and I let her believe it. I even blamed AJ more than X, because she was the one who trusted him and promised me he was a nice guy. I realize now the blame should go to no one, or to me. But not to me, so no one.

Do I have any advice? My advice seems sad. Don’t drink too much. What kind of advice is that? Why can’t I drink as much as I want and still not get raped?

I guess I’ll never know.

Shared Stories

The Impact Of Sexual Assaults

By an Anonymous Contributor to the Campaign
I have been sexually assaulted whilst intoxicated by 7 different men. 2 of them attempted to rape me.

On four occasions, even though I was drunk I told the men that I didn’t want to sleep with them and so they did other things to me and coerced me to do things without my consent.

On one occasion I was blind drunk and a man indecently assaulted me. I didn’t kiss him back and yet he continued to kiss me and I didn’t stop him until he started touching my breasts and then was trying to touch my vagina. I made an excuse to him that I needed to see my friend to and gave him my number because I was scared and wanted to get rid of him.

My first kiss was not consensual. I got into a guy’s bed just because I didn’t want to sleep on the floor like my friend, not because I wanted to do anything sexual with the man. He kissed me and for the most part I didn’t kiss him back or forced myself to kiss him back-the kiss was forced on me. He also dry humped me and would have raped me as he assumed I wanted to have sex with him and said he was going to get a condom. I had been very passive whilst he had touched me whilst I was in a state where I couldn’t give consent as I had had far too much to drink and this was impairing my ability to say no.

One situation was complicated. I consented to kissing a man I met after going to an event and then going for a drink with him but not him touching my breasts, vagina and bottom. I froze like in many instances when I have been sexually assaulted and was unable to do anything but I felt very uncomfortable.

The sexual assaults made me depressed and the final acceptance of the sexual assaults caused a nervous breakdown which made my depression even worse. I tried to go back to university for the next year but became suicidal to the point where I woke up thinking I wanted to take an overdose and so I had to take the year out to deal with my PTSD symptoms stopping me from going back.

Shared Stories

Two Contributors Talk About Self-Blame

There was a time I let go of myself….I had broken up with a long term partner but enjoyed feeling single again. I had my family & friends and with that came a great social life. On one typically great night out I met a man. He was tall, freckled and Irish. I didn’t need to know much about him and I told him enough about me for him to be interested that one evening. One thing led to another and before I knew it the sun was up, numbers were swapped and I was leaving. A while passed before we unintentionally bumped into one another again at a local bar. A similar night awaited us only this time he pulled up at my house a couple of hours later. A lot had been drunk that evening but it was clear what was about to be laid out on the table. However, I blacked out. When I woke up the next day, he was quick to leave. I went to get tea before remembering that he wanted to have sex without a condom and I said no. Surely it was left just like that? Literally, within minutes my phone was bleeping. I received a text saying to take the morning after pill. This 27 year old man, after being told I did not want to have sex with him without a condom, had gone and put a condom on, only to pull it off when I wasn’t looking. Such a situation makes it difficult to understand who should be blamed in today’s society. I took the blame. I laughed it off with friends but felt terribly stupid and violated beneath. What could I do? I didn’t know so I left it but realised many years later that I wasn’t alone and there are a number of women out there who have suffered the same fate I have but never had the courage to talk about it.

By an Anonymous Contributor to the campaign

My first time was a rape when I was 17 nearly 18. This had been my first experience with a guy. I was confused I didn’t tell my parents or friends till a few months had passed. And since around 18 till 25 or 26 I was floating from one abusive relationship to the other. Maybe in some ways I thought I deserved it the first assault because I met the guy or how I was dressed. I eventually got counselling in a rape crisis centre. Which helped another I stopped hating myself met my current partner and I am currently setting up my own business.

By an Anonymous Contributor to the campaign

Shared Stories

Poetry by Electra Rose

By Electra Rose 

I am a fragile rose and my head is a broken balloon

I am a fragile rose-
my petals have been crushed
By cruel hands and words-
They lie dead on the floor.

I am told to hush hush-
Denial that my head is a broken balloon.

Collecting remnants of my troubled rose
Is halted each moment that I froze
In fright-
I thought someone was hurting me again that night.

Boys Will Be Boys

Shocked, confused,
ashamed.
No amusement
At the strike of embers.
Twelve and no reaction to their toot;
Insignificance of harassing shouts and toots.

Summer lesson
Of the place of women;
Men may whistle, shout and toot
But to women it’s all a hoot.
Pretend you aren’t burnt
by the embers
As they’re only embers.
Shrug it off;
That’s just how it is.
We all learn;
Boys will boys.

Fourteen and at a school dance
After a glance
A boy puts his hand up my skirt-
I didn’t even flirt.
I stop him and pretend I’m not burnt by the embers
As they’re just embers.
Shrug it off;
That’s just how it is,
We all learn;
Boys will be boys

I’m eighteen and seriously sexually assaulted,
I didn’t view it as assault.
When you try not to remember
When the embers
Hit you
You think nothing of the flames
When they burn you.
Shrug it off;
That’s just how it is,
We all learn;
Boys will be boys.

Society taught me women are dolls for men to play with.
I thought it was okay for them to play with me,
To tug my hair without my consent.

We need to stop normalising verbal sexual abuse
If we want to stop viewing physical sexual abuse
As inevitable
And trivial.
Embers are the start of a flame.

You shredded my soul

You shredded my heart, soul and body
And unvaryingly left
My broken paper on the floor
With your forceful, unwanted violation.

A revelation-
I’m not really okay
As my heart is sobbing inside,
My soul is crying for life,
For hope I will stop half dying inside
And move on with my life.

I can’t and won’t let you defeat me-
I am a warrior and I will keep fighting until the end.

I wish I never made you art

I wish I never made you art
Because you shattered me-
You violated me with your dart.

How dare you spoil me
And break my heart.

The Ultimate Betrayal

Betrayal when you broke down my bedroom door
Without my consent.

You left my sky blue crystal eyes
Disorientated, confused, overwhelmed.

Uncertainty clouded my mind
As I walked through my maze inside.

As the days went by
My uncertainty disappeared-
Denial phase was over-
I was raped.

Now I must get out of my maze
And it will take time
But I am like a rose-
Both strong and fragile.
They never plucked my petals,
They just bruised me.
My strength will save me from despair.

Forceful Night
Acceptance shrouded my sky in dark black clouds.
Gone is my sapphire sky-
Now all that exists is night.
The night he forefully gave me against my will.
How will I ever get day to return?

Stockholm Syndrome 
That very first day our eyes first met
I had to talk to you,
I showed you the way
So you didn’t go astray.

The truth is that I have never been as forward with anyone,
That night when I said “we should revise French together”.
Except I was too drunk to know what I was saying
And I never thought I liked you

Later I wanted to talk to you more but I became shy every time
lost the will to speak,
Didn’t know what to say
I think now it is because of
What you did to me,
I just thought I liked you.
I wonder if you know
My mouth hurt the day after.

I can’t believe I wanted to have sex,
Watch a French film and eat dinner.
With you
After what you did to me,
How you treated me.
Now I know what you did wasn’t right
You really gave me a fright
As I lay there wishing you to stop
To stop now
To stop kissing me so violently.

I thought you were like me
But just because you’re similar to me
Doesn’t excuse what you did

I felt the sexual tension in the air,
noticed when you arranged your hair

I just focused on that moment where you held me and I was glad
Because no one ever held me,
So I ignored when you made me feel bad,
I ignored the fact you committed digital rape,
That’s right in some states in America what you did is rape
And I told you, “please be more gentle, you’re hurting me”
When all I wanted to say was stop
But I was too intoxicated to say the word stop
Because I never wanted that to happen
And yet you hurt me again
And I had to say it again
And move your hand away

What you did to me was not okay
You took advantage of me
And used me for your own pleasure.
I am not a commodity to be used.
You shall not be excused
For what you did

It was not my fault
What you did was not okay
And I was too used to men taking advantage at every stage
When I was not in a state to know what was going on
And all I ever wanted was to be walked home
Or have a chat
I don’t know why I lied to myself and said I was like that
I am not like that

Now I know why I felt so confused in the morning
And asked myself “what happened?”
And decided to leave straight away
And didn’t want you to walk me home
And didn’t let you walk me all the way home
And didn’t want to text you
Because of what you did.
I now accept what you did.
I hope you realise what you did

Rape Is Murder

Virginal rape is murder of innocence.
Rape is murder of the body,
Rape is murder of the sexuality,
Rape is murder of the soul,
Rape is murder of the heart.
Picking the petals of roses
Without the consent of the beautiful rose is sexual assault.
Ripping the head of a rose off unlawfully is rape.

Shared Stories

“What can a mother do to make this right?”

By Biddyshere Williams

3 months ago my lovely daughter lost her friends on her way home. She was attacked and raped by a stranger. His Uncle stumbled on to the scene and called the police. My daughter ran home. She did not want to pursue with charges. However after hearing of your campaign, she did. After 6 weeks of anti HIV drugs and losing time off work because the drugs made her feel so ill (unpaid) the case came to court and the 18 year old with previous convictions for violence and anti social behaviour was found not guilty. He broke bail conditions twice. My daughter is going to move from her small town because she is afraid of what may happen if she bumps into him. She was brave. She did nothing wrong. The police were shocked at the verdict. He will do it again. What can a mother do to make this right?

Shared Stories

Date Rape

By Catherine

I had a lunch date with a guy I really liked and then went back to his house. We were kissing and then I told him I was a virgin and he said that that was fine and we would do whatever I was comfortable with. We continued kissing and started undressing. We were half naked and he put me on my back and came towards me slowly, didn’t say anything and forced himself on me. I pushed him off me halfway through and he asked me if I was sad.

The acceptance of the rape shattered me. I became extremely depressed and suicidal and almost jumped in front of a train. I had to be hospitalised and started a suicide attempt in hospital. The rape combined with my bipolar disorder made for an extremely traumatic and difficult two months.

I was blamed by people who told me that if you get naked with a guy you should expect them to have sex you. I was also told that as I liked him and I dated him, although he forced himself on me, it “didn’t count” as rape.

I asked him if we had had sex when I met up with him a time after, as I was in denial about the rape and had tried to convince myself I had consented. I also think it was because I had been sexually assaulted in the past and so had skewed ideas about consent. I asked him after dinner and once we in his house if we had had sex and he said no. I then got very sad and cried a lot. I asked him eventually what he was thinking and he said he was scared and that he forced himself on me and attempted to rape me. I told him that it wasn’t attempted rape but rape due to the fact penetration occurred.

Shared Stories

Exploiting Drunk Individuals is Rape

Anonymous

I’ve known this guy for 2 or 3 months. During this period we’ve had sex twice with no serious relationships attached. One night he texted me and I told him where to find me in the city. I had drunk a lot before his arrival and right after I saw him I completely blacked out. The only memory I have after that moment is me throwing up in the middle of the street and him picking me up from the ground. The morning after I woke up with a girlfriend who was staying at mine for the night half naked. She told me that when she entered the house he was lying on me naked, having sex with me while I was wasted and passed out. When he saw her he dressed up and run away. I texted him in the morning asking him about what happened but he never replied. I feel completely humiliated and powerless and I can’t stop thinking about the fact that if my friend haven’t been there, I wouldn’t have known anything he was doing.
Shared Stories

Appealing for Compensation after Drink Spiking

By Fred

I am a gay man from the Netherlands. During a visit to London as a tourist the summer of 2009 my drink was spiked, I was robbed and sexually assaulted by a member of gang targeting gay men. I would like to share my experience appealing against the decisions of the CICA because this may be of use to victims of drug-rape.

I decided to apply for compensation two month after the incident when I realised the police investigation was not going any further. It was the only thing left for me to do.

My application was rejected by the CICA 6 month after applying. They wrote: “It was several days after you reported the theft before you then advised the Police of the sexual assault. l have considered whether his could be related to drugs, however, there is no evidence available to us that shows you were administered recreational drugs, or any date-rape type drugs.” By this time I knew of lab-results showing Diazepam in my urine so I decided to ask for a review. I also further explained the delay in reporting the sexual assault.

To my dismay my review application was rejected in this manner: “We have checked with the police who confirmed that you had a trace of diazepam in your urine….
… you did not see anyone administer anything to your drink ….
in addition, it is noted that you did not inform the police of the sexual assault allegation until around 4 days after you reported the theft.”

This was infuriating. “you did not see anyone administer anything to your drink” What kind of a fool was I taken for? My arguments about the delay in reporting were ignored. I was devastated knowing that appealing would entail attending a hearing. This meant going back to London, something very hard for me to do. In the end I did decide to appeal.

Later on I was sent the hearing bundle. I was shocked by part of the police report. “…the victim does appear delusional…” This confirmed my feeling that my allegation had not been taken seriously. On top of this I now read the officer’s comment to the CICA. “Mr B. stated that he was a willing party when ‘R.’ rubbed his groin. Mr B. did not object to this and in fact stated that he found it pleasurable. No complaint was made regarding the rub of groin but only the subsequent action…. The findings of the toxicology tests do not change my opinion of Mr B.’s allegation.”

Was this the result of being totally open and honest to the police in giving them a very detailed statement? He basically said I should blame myself for what had happened. From this I very much doubted my chances in appealing, as well as feeling embarrassed about the details shown.

By march 2011 the hearing took place in London. A caseworker from GALOP accompanied me for “moral support”. The hearing took 3 hours. Early on a member of the panel started questioning me in a rude way, using four letter words. My caseworker spoke out on this. This intervention did help, the tone was less sharp from then on.

I was lucky to have my case reopened by the police after I read news reports on similar cases 1 year after my incident. It was investigated by a different officer, I was able to get him attend to give evidence in my hearing.

There was a misconception both on the side of the police and the Authority on the effects drugging. The solicitor from the Authority claimed that the effect would be immediate, not gradual. This was vital to her argument; it would mean my drink was spiked after the sexual assault. This would have implications on the issue of consent.

Very important to winning my case was a “diary of events” I had written 5 days after the incident. The process of writing everything I could remember of the events on that night triggered my memory and made me recall the sexual assault. It also helped to piece together the events and filling in some of the blanks. From the start what had been foremost on my mind was finding out what had happened during the time I had “lost” due to the amnesia.

I advise any victim of drink-spiking to do like me. Write down on paper all you can remember in a chronological order. It helps to get back some sense of control. It may also help by giving more detailed information to the police for their investigation.

Part of the written reasons on the decision from the Appeal Panel:
“ His diary of events corroborates his statement .. the later reporting of the sexual assault to the Police, so far from being inconsistent, is entirely in keeping with what would be expected following the administration of Diazepam.
…There is no realistic possibility of Diazepam taking effect instantly upon being ingested… The history of gradually diminishing recall is much more likely”

From applying for compensation to finally winning my case in a hearing took 18 months. I am glad I did persevere. It was a very challenging but also very rewarding to finally getting acknowledgment on what happened. The money was less important but did come in handy.

It has helped me to cope with the incident. It was beneficial for my recovery. Ultimately [as with any crime involving sexual violence] it was about loss of power – control. Going through the process of applying, review and appealing has given me back a sense of control over my life. I did accomplish this and it has helped restoring my self confidence.

I do hope this information can help others going through this process.

Shared Stories

First Time

By Sally Fraser 

I remember I had these weird acrylic nail extensions. My mum had paid for me to have them done so that I would stop biting my nails. I had painted them a pearly pale green colour. He had a bald head and I liked the way it felt under them. He had a hairy chest and I liked that too, under my fingers, under my tongue, wiry and salty. He was really sweaty and I’d never seen anything like it, and I remember him taking his glasses off and me asking ‘can you still see me’ and him chuckling and saying yes of course, I was very close up. He was stubbly, rough against my ghostly white skin. But he touched and kissed me perfectly, it was blissful. Yes, yes I definitely wanted this. Not just consent, I actually asked. Please. I want you.

I kept my clothes on, I wouldn’t have been confident being naked in front of someone until years later. My first proper bra. My most grown-up clothes. But still children’s clothes.

The pain was excruciating, it caught my breath and I wondered if I was going to be able to bear it till the end. There was one moment when he let his composure or whatever his not entirely genuine demeanour was slip and sounded frustrated, impatient: just relax. But I couldn’t, so I gently bit his shoulder and held tight.

Afterwards he asked if I felt safe, and warm and loved and I said yes I did and meant it, maybe for the first time. Over the months and years that would follow I would revisit that moment, I was foolish, I had believed someone who said they loved me, that I was beautiful and special. I only ever thought of it as heartbreak, his only crime was deception, not loving me, disappearing.

Until a few months ago, when I heard he had gone to prison. It turns out as you got older the girls didn’t, if anything they got younger. And money started changing hands. Suddenly everything looked different. Maybe I hadn’t been the incredibly mature and sophisticated young woman who had attracted an older man. Maybe this wasn’t a romantic tale of sexual awakening and empowerment at all. I started desperately trying to sort through my memories. Listening to his friend get angry with him and talking about statutory rape, and not knowing what that meant. The time, years earlier, sitting on his knee and him saying I was going to save myself for him. There’s a name for that isn’t there?

Now there is usually a time in the wee hours of each morning when I can’t stop re-visiting that unfolded sofa bed. It’s almost as if I am trying to look over that man’s shoulders and see into my own eyes, trying to trust what I was feeling. Genuine desire, love, lust; on my part even if not on his. But I keep watching and asking: was that a woman or a child? I had always believed it was a woman, the woman I became, I just became her earlier than most people. But if it was a child, then who am I now?

Shared Stories

Leigh’s #NotGuilty Story

Leigh Dixon

I read your story in the Evening Post recently. It hit a nerve with me as I too experienced a similar incident after a night out with university friends. Unfortunately there is nothing unique about being a victim of a violent crime – what I would share and hope those who have a similar story could take solace, comfort or learnings from is around the feelings of guilt and sense of blame for which I continue to experience ten years later.

I am now coming to realise these feelings. Apart from minor scars I have no lasting effects – but the feelings of shame, embarrassment and a sense of harbouring a dirty secret continues to affect my ability to truly forget.

As a typical university student bonfire night was spent with friends, some drinks and a lot of laughs. After saying good-bye at their street end I continued walking towards home. I sensed someone following me only two minutes later, feeling uncomfortable I crossed the street – I heard the footsteps follow me and in that moment I knew that what happened in the next few minutes would be life changing. It sounds odd – but the sense of knowing was overwhelming. Instantaneously I blamed myself for leaving my friends, being too independent and forgetting that I didn’t have the right to walk home safely!

My attack was over within fifteen minutes and I was lucky enough to have managed to scream and raise the alarm. Thanks to a couple of strangers I avoided rape. The men who helped me that night also managed to identify my assailant.

My attacker was charged with assault and kidnap and six months later I found myself in the witness box. I felt my civil duty that day was to give evidence against him so that this could not happen to anyone else. I quickly realised that I was there to defend and justify my own behaviour – or certainly that was how I felt. Where had I been? How much had I drunk? Did I encourage his behaviour? Your timings of events don’t match your statement? You said he hit you on the right hand side how do you remember accurately if you had been drinking? I was forced to answer these questions in front of my attacker and his family. There were many occasions whilst recuperating where I felt exposed and vulnerable – lying alone in the x-ray scanner at A&E, getting undressed in front of a complete stranger so they could take pictures of my injuries or at 21 having to be bathed by my mum. This was worse than being on the x-ray scanner, that was physical, this was emotional – after everything, I was now beating myself up.

I found it tough writing this. What have I learnt? What would I impart to my younger self or others? I don’t think I have the full answer yet – I’m still getting there. What I do have so far is, share your story with others who have experienced something similar – I didn’t and wish I had. There is strength in numbers. The feelings of what you went through will be too raw for you to rationally tell yourself that you didn’t do anything wrong, you didn’t deserve what happened, that ‘what if’s’ are not an excuse and that you are #NotGuilty.

Shared Stories

“So Now I Fight”

Anonymous

If I could write to you to tell you about what you have left me with, I think this is what I’d say. Firstly I’d wonder if I was going to be listened to, and then I’d wonder whether it was worth it, because to offer words of honesty to someone who has hurt you beyond repair takes real guts, real strength and real belief in something beyond the immediacy of who and what we both are and once were. I think I’d want you to know that I wonder for myself whether you think of me, whether you think of that afternoon, whether you take time to allow that moment to come into your mind, however fleetingly. In some ways I want to know that it occupies your mind and keeps you awake at night; and yet in other ways I don’t want a space within you or around you, you don’t deserve to have me in your space.

I wonder too if your body has been rocked with memory, if you have felt pain in your flesh, in your skin, within you and in places that it’s hard to say to others ‘it hurts’. I wonder if you have felt your body shaking with memory or when something brings that afternoon to mind. I wonder if you have felt your mouth so dry that words don’t even work anymore, that you can move your mouth and begin to try and speak to someone again and again and the words just don’t come out, however hard you try. I wonder if you have been caught in a wire web of silence and tension, wanting to reach out to one who cares for you at the other side of the room, but not knowing how to break out of the shell that you have built so carefully around you. Or I wonder if you talked of that afternoon, if you felt proud or strong or powerful; I wonder if you told someone what you’d done. Yet I hope that you cried in anguish when you recalled that moment, for you wouldn’t have been the only one.

I want to tell you that I’m strong in spite of what you did, that my life carried on, that you can’t hurt me and that you won’t have the power over me anymore. And yet I can’t tell you that, for you have for too long. You’ve taken my energy as I’ve pushed that afternoon away, you’ve taken my confidence as I’ve recalled it in my mind, and most significantly you’ve taken my body as I struggle to control my reactions to words, to memories and to sensations. You left me with my skin, and I should be thankful, for there was a time when I wondered if my skin too would be broken or if my bone would be crushed beyond repair, but my skin holds my body, my body which is full of memory, full of hurt and full of pain and longs for that memory of invasion to be removed.

I wonder if you planned it, if you meant to go that far, or if you meant to stop. I wonder what it was within you that meant you needed to touch my body so violently, to pull my clothing from my body, to force your body within my body and to push a part of that which was me from my body forever. I wonder what you were thinking when you were crushing me to the floor and allowing the path to indent my back and my legs. Were you looking into my face and wondering who or what I was, did I mean anything to you or was I just an end goal, a thing to be mastered or violated, a means to an end or was there a purpose. And when you grabbed at my breast and pushed it within your hands, did you think of my body, did you think of life that might grow within me that would see the breast as life and nourishment. And did you hear my cry and did you feel my struggle and did you not wonder whether you were doing the right thing. Did you ever wonder, did you ever want to stop. And then when I gave up my fight and you were within me and my pain was beyond anything I’d ever experienced, my breath taken from my body, my fight lost and my fear-filled grief so intense, did you wonder what was happening? Did you wonder what you would leave within my body, or out with my body? Did you know that that experience would become so singular and so hard to replace.

And I wonder how you felt afterwards when you pushed me back and threw back to the floor, when you took away my last fragments of worth. Did you wonder whether I’d make it up, did you care? And did you feel remorse, feel anguish, feel anything that meant that I was the last and not the first. Did you feel empty, desolate, lost or broken; did you body ache in a way that is both of mind, body and soul. Is it possible that my body leaves any memory with you, or is the memory all mine to bear.

And I wonder too, if so far along the journey, so many years down the line, whether it still pricks you, even just once in a while and you think of that afternoon, that moment, that time when life changed forever and a body was irrevocably changed and imprinted with memory.

“So now I fight…So now I walk and work to leave you behind…Now I choose others to walk with me, there is no space for you.”

Too long you have lived in my mind and my body and I long to shake you away, to push you to the ground, and to be the one to stand up and walk away. Too long I have waited for words, for voice and for a space to speak. Too long I have carried it within my body and my heart, too long it has been a thread through my soul, and too long it has pummelled my energy. Too long it has been part of my life. Too long you have been part of my life, and too long I have let you stay there. So now I fight, not to throw you to the floor, for my throwing and your throwing are not worth each other; but now I fight for myself, for my space and for my body. And now in my fight you have no place, you have no right to be part of who and what I am now, you have no invitation to walk this part of the journey with me.

So now I walk and work to leave you behind, to leave you in that place. I don’t know if you’re still there or if your mind and body have travelled so far already, but it doesn’t matter, for now I choose to walk away, to open the space and to show the scars, to walk with it, and now I choose others to walk with me, there is no space for you.

Shared Stories

A Lack of Closure and Justice

Anonymous

“I have struggled for decades, since December 24th, 1993. I was driving home from a night out. A car followed me which I noticed it beforehand. I made swift turns to get away when I thought I had. I entered through a driveway into the property where I lived and where I was raised. At the time I was 18. There were no gates closing the property off from the street. I got out of the car and a man approached me. He told me he needed to make a phone call because his car had a problem. He said he needed to come into my house. I refused. He asked for money, I gave it to him. As he thanked me and walked away, I turned my back to unlock the door to the house. He came from behind, put his hand over my mouth and asked me to not say a thing. I panicked. He held me from my throat until I begged for air. With force he ripped my pants and sexually abused me. It all happened very fast and he left. I collected all my things from the ground and went into my house. I went directly to my sister and my mother who were asleep and asked them to take me to the hospital for a DNA test. Then I asked my mother to take me to the police to report the incident.

I live in a country where such cases were very rare and no one could help me. I never got a DNA result from the semen, nor was this man ever found. To this day I walk down streets and think it might be him, or the other one, or that one. I will never know who it was. It was dark. My story has been in the dark all these years. I have never known how to deal with it, or if not dealing with it is the best. But I do suffer, so I feel like I am doing something wrong.”

The #NotGuilty campaign would like to add that as a victim of assault you are not doing anything wrong. We encourage the fact that remaining anonymous does not have to be the same as being silenced, and there is no shame in seeking the help that you need. Our ‘About’ section has useful contacts in the UK for receiving appropriate help after assault and we hope that this can be of assistance to survivors.

Shared Stories

#NotGuilty Reaching Out To Other Survivors

“Only last week whilst commuting in London during rush hour, I found myself distressed when a man put his hand on my back side and then in one sudden movement his fingers between my legs. At first I tried to justify it – busy tube, an accident, but when I turned to see who attached to the hand I looked to see a smiling face back at me. I was so embarrassed the only thing I did was ask him to ‘move it now’! I regret not making more of an example to try to humiliate him … either way, I felt violated and finding myself panicked when getting back on a busy tube (not easy as I live and work in London). So I am so proud of being part of #notguilty as why should WE suffer this form of abuse!” – Anonymous

“My attacker was someone who I have known for a long time, someone who I have cared for deeply and always trusted. I was in many ways naïve, and too trusting, and I am still trying to not blame myself. Which is crazy, I know what happened isn’t my fault, yet I still find it so hard to not feel guilt. I don’t even feel guilt for myself, but for all my friends and family who have been hurt by this to. When it was happening, I tried to fight him off, but after only a few minutes I gave up and just went into a massive state of shock I guess. After he left, I lay there for a while not really wanting to accept what had happened. So I didn’t accept it, I went into denial for a while, but it got to a point where I couldn’t handle it any longer, I needed support. My family were amazing (bar a few small minded people) and they have really helped me. Telling them was a huge relief and I recommend anyone to do the same.

I went to the glade in Worcester (a rape crisis centre) and was questioned for what felt like hours but I got through it and the people there was honestly amazing. I decided not to report him to the police for now, as I am only 16 and I am in the middle of my GCSE’S, so the added stress of that would not be helpful.
I am, in my opinion, a very strong person, but this has pretty much broken me, at the start I was in a state of shock and confusion and rarely said a word, but I soon came to a realisation of what happened, and it hit me like a truck. I have never felt so empty in my life, it feels like nothing will ever fill that void, but I hope in time it will. To be honest I can’t put into words how I properly feel, but all I know it has ruined a large part of my life. I would love to still be my confident outgoing self, but I no longer am. When I go out in public, my breathing becomes a very difficult situation and I feel so weak. I think that’s what gets me most, is how weak I feel.

But I have read many of stories posted on here and I feel more hopeful that if so many women can move forward, then I can too. I feel inspired by many and hope I can be as strong as them some day, and I’m sure I will.” – Olivia 

Shared Stories

The Importance of Community Support

By Amy Wilson

TW: Images of bruising after a violent attack

“Six years ago, when I was twenty, someone followed me when I was walking home from the club I worked in. It was 4am, and as I walked through an underpass – blissfully unaware of his presence as I listened to music through my headphones – he jumped on me and knocked me to the ground.

In the discussions with police, medical and therapeutic staff afterward, I learned that most people will freeze in a situation like this. For some lucky reason, I didn’t. I screamed “Help!”, I kicked wildly, I continuously tried to lift my head up to see his face even though every time I did he would punch me in the face. When he tried to undress me I kicked harder still, and suddenly, he was running away.

Amy's Bruises
Amy’s Bruises

I stood dumbly in the underpass for a short while, unable to find my glasses or my shoes. I did find my phone, though, and I stumbled off to call 999. Unfortunately in my panicked state I couldn’t articulate to the operator where I was. A taxi driver spotted me crying and bleeding in the street and took over.

I have never felt more loved or more strong than I did after that. My flatmates got out of bed and ran through the streets to meet me in the ambulance. The police were endlessly kind. The bouncers at my work drove me to and from the club after that. Everyone rallied around.

And I have felt tougher and safer ever since.”