Shared Stories

I will never again apologise for voicing my opinion or doing something that doesn’t please someone.

By an Anonymous Contributor 

This is for the woman who still feels guilty for being too naïve, too trusting and whilst she is not afraid to fiercely announce that she was raped, is too afraid to admit that she will never be the same, or really talk about her feelings and lives in fear of being caught crying on her bed with no explanation but the truth that she doesn’t want to share.

The first time I had sex, the time I lost my virginity wasn’t my introduction to what sex felt like, it was and always will be an introduction to the violence and sexual harassment that would not only become a norm, but eat away at me until I find myself here, writing this.

Maybe this whole letter is stupid, but what is the definition of stupid is shame and guilt I felt after being raped, even questioning whether I was raped, knowing fully well that whilst I had consented to sex with you, you trying anal without me saying yes and not stopping when I said no, and then after what felt like an hour long struggle of me trying to leave and you forcing yourself into me, not even anally, just vaginally. The thought of “I’m being raped” but not being able to do anything about it invaded my mind as you penetrated me. I jumped up as soon as I could, running to the nearest bus stop I could find, only to have you follow me all the way home, presumably to ‘make sure I got home safe’.

I sat there shaking for hours, during which I made the decision not to report you. I didn’t know your address, your last name – any of the basic details and I felt hopeless. I did what they advise you not to do after being sexually assaulted, I showered to cleanse myself of your scent and threw my clothes in the bin. I did the only logical thing that came to mind to calm me down and stop the shaking, I made myself a tea, hoping it would magically make everything better.

It hurt to walk, I bled for days after, even the simple task of going to the toilet hurt. I was ashamed, spending most of my time in a dark room not even able to shed a tear until months later. I took the morning after pill which made me feel sick, or maybe I felt sick before I took it, I hadn’t been able to eat. Then I’d receive them, the texts you sent me, from new numbers after I blocked the numbers you sent them on, telling me you were thinking of me and my body, the texts that made me curl up in a ball and want to die. The reminders of you and everything that I wanted to forget so badly, and forget I did. Or at least I thought so.

I told people. At the start not many, but a few. Some would urge me to report the rape, even pressure me a little more than I felt comfortable with, I even started to feel judged as weak for not reporting it. Others stopped talking to me completely. I found out later on that they just “didn’t know what to say”, as if not responding to my messages and attempts to reach out was the best course of action. But even though I shared what happened, I never shared the extent to which it had impacted me, because at that stage not even I understood. I was told countless times that I was handling this surprisingly well, possibly too well. I just kept living my life, eventually unable to recall what actually happened that day, just remembering the after effects. The bleeding, the pain, the fear, the UTI that I got afterwards because I didn’t empty my bladder after sex, as if I was going to stay to use your toilet.

Months passed, and I had sex again. Thinking everything was fine. I even had a boyfriend. But looking back, I rarely had the courage to have sex sober, and I was often treated badly or disrespected by men, but let it pass because nothing was as bad as my first time. I thought I deserved it, from the times I let men pressure me to have sex with them even though I’d initially said no, to the men that constantly harassed me on the street, making me fear walking alone. But then there were even those men that I’d trusted, that I thought I had something serious with, or serious for my age, that I would tell about being raped countless times only to have them forget, to brush it off like it didn’t matter or had never happened. Like it was nothing.

And then months later, there was a friend of mine who woke up after a night out, believing she had had her drink spiked and was raped. There were the police visits and reports where we were told that because we were drinking, it was impossible to do anything, with the implication that women put themselves in danger by drinking. I knew that I wasn’t drinking, but all my worst fears about reporting were confirmed, it seemed a painful process that didn’t yield any results.

Sometimes, usually late at night I would break down crying, sometimes it would be whilst reading about other sexual assault victims, like the Brock Turner case. Like today, my motivation for writing this being all the stories I read on the #NotGuilty Campaign site. Though this isn’t my first attempt at writing down my feelings and thoughts.

Maybe its because I’ve never processed my emotions properly and will only superficially talk about what happened, maybe it was my determination to be a “survivor” and not let what happened shape me that continue to make me feel like I’m broken.

After moving back to Australia, away from France, where it all happened, 9 months after the event, I come to realise that maybe I will never be able to “forget it” that after watching countless videos of impacts on victim’s lives, I too, have had who I am changed forever, whether it be trying to reclaim my power through meaningless sex, or now calling myself a feminist – a word which I always thought had a bad reputation of being man hating, something I didn’t want to be associated with.

I don’t hate men, I hate people who hold the belief that they are entitled to something they’re not, like my body. I still know men who ignore consent for maybe not sex, but what I want and firmly say I want.

I’ve learnt to speak my mind, have my voice heard, even if it makes me unpopular, and I regret that I had to learn it the hard way, but I am and always will be stronger for it. I will never again apologise for voicing my opinion or doing something that doesn’t please someone. I am not afraid to be me, even if people consider me a bitch or a slut, just for making what I want known and pursuing what I want.


Shared Stories

“I felt so ashamed that I banned all thoughts about what had happened”

By Hanna 

I was seventeen when it happened. I no longer struggle to make sense of what had happened to me. I know now that it was rape. But what I struggle with very much is my reaction to it. I am confident, I am independent, I am strong. I have a loving family and good friends. I have no problem speaking my mind and talking about my feelings. I travelled alone through the middle east and I backpacked through south america with a friend. I walk home alone in the dark and I am not afraid. But yet, I let it happen and I kept silent about this for a very long time.
I was seventeen and I was spending a few days of my summer holidays with my best friend Lisa. I had recently broken up with my boyfriend and she wanted to cheer me up and so she took me to a party in a different city. I had never before been to this city and I knew no one there except Lisa. We slept at the apartment of a good friend of hers, his name was Christopher and they were from the same city and went to school together. It was Lisa, her boyfriend, me and Christopher. Before the party, the four of us had dinner and drinks and I was going along well with Christopher, he was a nice and funny guy. We went to the party but after a while I was tired and I wanted to go home so I was looking for Lisa. She wanted to stay with her boyfriend so I asked Christopher if he could guide me home since I did not know the way home and I did not have a key for the apartment. He was a little angry that he had to leave the party I think. On the way back, we were walking over a bridge, I remember that he grabbed my hand very tightly, it hurt a little. When we were home, I wanted to go straight to bed. I went to the bathroom, washed my face and undressed myself to put on my pyjama. In that moment he came in, the bathroom door did not have a lock. He threw me over his shoulder and carried me to his room, where he threw me on his bed. He then undressed himself and tried to have sex with me. I struggled with him, telling him “no” again and again. I tried to keep him from me, using my legs to stem against his body. He did not listen. I remember that he succeeded to penetrate me this one time. It hurt since I was having my period and was using a tampon. I do not remember when, but he stopped and fell asleep right next to me.
The next morning he woke up and was very angry. He did not talk to me and wanted us to leave the apartment since he wanted to drive home to his parents. There were bloody spots all over his bed. I felt so ashamed. I said nothing to Lisa, I took a shower and we packed our bag and said goodbye. We left the apartment and walked through the city. She asked me teasingly about last night and if I had sex with Christopher. I said yes. I sat down on a bench and my legs were shaking, my muscles were aching because of my struggle with Christopher. I never told her what really happened that night.
At first, I did not think of it as rape. I tried not to think about it at all. I felt so ashamed that I banned all thoughts about what had happened. Back in school, my ex-boyfriend and I got back together and I tried to tell him but I could tell that he did not believe me. So I stopped trying to tell anyone, because if someone you trust does not believe you, who else would?
A few years later I tried to talk to my friends about it again but I did not succeed to name what had happened to me. Nevertheless, I started processing what happened one how I felt about it. I felt ashamed, I felt guilty. Did I flirt with him and did he think I wanted to have sex with him? Did he just have too much to drink? Did he not hear me say no? But I clearly remember my sore muscles and the bruises I had from the struggle. And I know that I did not want to have sex with him and that I told him to stop.
I struggle very much with my own reaction that night. Why did I not scream, why did I not hit him, why did I not run away? I know that what stopped me from a more radical response to his efforts was that he was a good childhood friend of my best friend. That I was in a city I did not know and that I did not know where else to go. I could not lock myself in the bathroom since there was no lock. He was strong and he was drunk. But still, how did I let this happen to me?
I wonder what kept me silent. I wonder how I was able to convince myself that it was ok. I wonder why it is still so hard for me to talk about it. Why I only think about what others might think about me if I tell them. Will they believe me? Will they think I am damaged goods? Will they think I am mentally ill because of it? But I am making progress. I told my story to a good friend of mine, she believed me. She also told me that something similar had happened to her, too. In fact, many of my female friends experienced something similar. It is easier talking to my friends who made similar experiences than talking to my family. I don’t want them to think that I am hurt, I don’t want them to worry about me.
Recently, Christopher added me on Instagram, Facebook and Linkedin. I blocked him. We have 30 friends in common and many of them think he is a great guy. I would really like to tell them but I am afraid no one will believe me and that he will ridicule me when I speak openly about what happened then. I am thinking about writing him a letter.
I also want to tell my boyfriend about it. We are in a very serious relationship and I love him very much and I have this urge to tell him but I know that he will be furious, that he would want me to report it to the police. I am not sure that he would understand my reaction and why I am still keeping silent about it, why I don’t want to report it. I don’t understand it myself.