Shared Stories

“I ask of you to live with what you’ve done, like I’ll try to survive it for many years to come.”

By Berenice 

My abuser managed to send me an email through the only address I hadn’t blocked him from. Shaken by this, I wasn’t sure how to respond. He begged me to answer, asked for forgiveness, told me of his pain and his nightmares. Answering him on my private address seemed too personal, too intimate for a criminal. Posting this here gives me the space to talk without feeling like I’m just addressing my demons directly. I’m also tired of private apologies when publicly he’s seen as a cool guy and I’m the liar. So this is what I wrote in return.

The most difficult thing for me was burying you.

Once I managed to get myself out of my hole of misery, once I was able to go out without wanting to die, once I could manage during the day, the nights and the terrors came.

It’s nice enough they waited that long.

Flashbacks mostly, and I can manage that. I’ve had them every day since early morning on the 2nd of July 2017. They come when I hear a particular breathing, they come when my closest friends surprise me from behind, when someone touches my neck or just when I hear too much noise.

They come when I think I see you in a crowd.

No the worst wasn’t the nightmares, the worst was the dreams. The dreams where you weren’t the abuser. When you were my friend, my soul mate comforting me because something bad had happened to me. The ones with solar hugs solving everything and nothing. The ones where I would wake up happier than I’d been for a long time, only to realise after a second that it wasn’t the case. You can’t imagine how fucked up it is to dream you get along with the man who raped you. To wish it so deeply in your heart. To cry in your shower because you miss your friend, cry out of anger because he decided to take that away from you.

Mourning the loss of you was and still is difficult.

I live with PTSD, I live with depression, I heal and every now and then it’s bad, but I always get back up and I’m fucking proud of what I’ve achieved and the fact that I survived.

Two weeks ago I went to a gig in Brixton and I thought I’d seen you.

I had to leave. I cried so hard because of the time I’m missing, because of the many spaces you’ve taken away from me, because sometimes I’m weak. But this is nothing compared to being in class, surrounded by all those people who don’t know the old B, who don’t know what happened either and I have a panic attack right there and then because the name of an old friend I thought was dead appeared in my email.

You’re a persistent ghost, and I think you will always be with me whether I want it or not.

I live my life running away from any proof you still exist because I can’t bear to understand the truth: the one I once loved so deeply destroyed me with nothing but his will against mine, empty promises, and a shit load of fucking lies. And if I want to respect myself and survive, I can never see him again.

Plato said we’re just all halves of a whole, roaming the Earth in search of our other half, and although in moments of doubts I think ‘That’s it, I’ve found mine and he was so cruel to me I can never stand to see his face’, when I have hope..

When I have hope D, I don’t think of you.

When I think of a happy future, I don’t think of you.

When I think of love, I don’t think of you.

You’re the monster lurking in my darkest hours, you’re the friend I sometimes remember when I’m with others and we’re talking about uni, it’s bittersweet but I always keep it bland.

Even writing to you right now seems so surreal.

You belong to a life I was forced to leave behind, somewhere where I trusted people and most of all myself, somewhere where I didn’t need therapy and a support group to be sure I won’t end my life.

You ask if there is something you could do for me?

The worst is done and I’m not sure where this can go, but I think the best you could do is just wish me good luck. When I feel like I’m drowning, wish me the best.

In my first message to you, I asked you to please get some help, to educate yourself on consent and be sure never to do the same to another woman. I’m not sure you followed that.

Knowing you, you probably went in full denial until you were in too deep and were forced to accept reality. Maybe me pressing charges was that moment, if that’s the case, good, I intended it that way. It was never meant to hurt you like you hurt me and get revenge, that’s not who I am and you know it.

I’m never going to feel sorry for you, whether you’ve been through a lot or not.

This is not a contest but the difference between both of us is that you’re entirely guilty for the pain you’re feeling right now.

You’re also guilty for mine.

I ask of you to live with what you’ve done, like I’ll try to survive it for many years to come.

I ask of you never to do the same to someone else.

I ask of you to leave me be, doing it without you is now the only way.

Shared Stories

Sexual Assault: ‘Forgiveness’

By an Anonymous Contributor

02.08.19. Forgiveness

Right away I wanted to forgive you. To accept that bad things happen, embrace my inner strength and generosity, decide that it was fine. I would come out more kind, more warm, put it behind me as a test of character I was able to learn from. But that isn’t what happened. I am cold, I am anxious, I am self-conscious, I am stuck. And sometimes more than anything else, I am mad. Nowadays every time something small happens, I am brought back to an ever-growing list of bad experiences and I am propelled into a fury I didn’t even know I had the capacity to feel. I’ve wanted to hurt you, emotionally and physically. I’ve daydreamed about seeing you scared. Feeling the fear that I felt. I wanted to become strong, a good fighter, I wanted a redo where I win. I want your friends to know what you are. Your family to know what you are. And thinking about this anger makes me insane, and I don’t know what to do with it, because until now I have rarely been angry. I want it to go away. More than anything else, I want you to say sorry, and I want to forgive you.

But you won’t do that, and it’s hard. How can I forgive someone without remorse? You seem almost inhuman to me. I looked you in the eyes, begged you, told you how scared I was, asked for your compassion from one human to another. And you didn’t give it to me. Do you think of that night often, like me? Do you remember it in your saddest moments? The anguish you caused, the hurt you made another person feel? Do you wonder if I’m okay now? If it was reversed, that night would haunt me all the time. Or did you stay remorseless, unmoved, entitled? The scariest thought – have you done it again?

Now seven months have passed, and I want desperately to finally move on. To be able to talk with people about my experience entirely in the past tense, when it isn’t something I still struggle with. I don’t know how exactly, and I don’t know if it will ever be completely behind me, but I want to feel at peace. I think I am ready to forgive you. This doesn’t mean what you did is okay, or that you deserve to be free from guilt. But it means that genuinely, with all my heart, I hope you can learn. I hope that this doesn’t haunt you, but that it changed you, has made you grow. I hope you can become better. I am rooting for you.

Shared Stories

Sexual Assault: I am 19 and I am a victim of two cases of sexual assault

By an Anonymous Contributor

I have been sexually assaulted twice within my lifetime. I am 19.

The first time I was sexually assaulted was a little over two years ago. July 2016. I was about to start my senior year of high school. I was talking to a boy from another school and I was thoroughly convinced he was “all that.” He was so sweet to me, he would tell me I’m beautiful and he would laugh at my jokes. Looking back, it is so silly to think that this is what started this down-hill slope. We had decided to hangout that day, we were going to watch a movie at his house before we both had to work. I went over there. I remember shaving my legs just in case his leg touched mine. How innocent is that?

I had no idea what was going to happen. Mind you this is my first time ever being touched by a boy. I thought “oh we might kiss a little.” but no. He laid me down and put his hands down my pants. I tried to stop his hand with mine but that failed. I remember being confused as to what was going on. He then took my hand and placed it in his pants. I tried to remove it but then he placed it back. I remember the words “oh shit” flashing in my head in bright yellow lights. I remember thinking “I guess this is what’s supposed to happen?”

This whole situation bothered me for over a year. It bothered me because I was so altered by it, but I was not sure what to label it. At the time I did not believe I could label this as sexual assault because I never verbalized the word “no” and at that moment, I never said “I don’t want this.” After discussing it with my close friends I became to understand, “Yes is not the absence of no.” This has stayed with me every day since.

The second time this happened was less than 2 months ago. It was the middle of this past December (2018). There was this friend I had. We would hang out sometimes and every once in a while, it would be a little more than that. At this time, I was done with that. I was not comfortable with it. He was not someone I wanted to have sex with. I made this very clear. He invited me to come over at a late hour, but I wasn’t tired, so I went. We were on his tiny couch watching That 70’s Show on Netflix.

He kept asking me if I wanted to go to the bedroom and I said “no.” At some point he decided to pull me off the couch and into the room. We laid there for a couple of minutes. I thought “this is weird because we are just laying here and there isn’t any tv on or anything.” At some point he stopped talking. He climbed on top of me and started kissing me.

I stopped and said “What are you doing? I am not hooking up with you.” and he stopped and rolled over. Five minutes later he did the same thing and I repeated myself and he rolled off of me again. The next time he did not roll off as I repeatedly asked him to stop. Instead he proceeded to put his hands down my pants. I had to physically push him off of me and tell him to stop. He laid there for another couple of minutes before he was on top of me again.

At this point I could not say anything. I was scared. I could not talk. The words “you need to get out of here” repeating in my head in my own voice. The thing is…I was scared to leave. I was scared if I tried, he wouldn’t let me. I was scared that my friend was going to rape me. So, I didn’t move. I had my hands grasping each other so that when he would try (which he did try) to pull my hand into his pants my hand wouldn’t move. He then pulled my pants down and started rubbing his penis on my stomach and thighs. When I did not respond as he wanted me to he said “you can leave if you want.” I got up and left.

I think about these events every day. I know that there are things I could have done to prevent them. I know I shouldn’t have gone to their houses or I should have used my voice to say “no” rather than be scared. I also know that this was not my fault. I am 19 and I am a victim of two cases of sexual assault. There were parts of me taken on those two days. That is something I have to live with every day. While there are things I could have done to prevent these instances that does not put me at fault. I am not to blame I am the victim. #NotGuilty

Shared Stories

To my Rapist: I never had my turn in court

By an Anonymous Contributor

Maybe this will be therapeutic. I never had my turn in court. Names have been changed.

To my rapist…

I’ve been having this recurring dream. I’m in a house where everything is made of glass, my Mum is there when a girl appears. She’s trying to get to me, to hurt me. She keeps picking up things to use against me but my Mum just calmly takes them off her and there’s no place to hide. Then you turn up. Handsome and smiling. Telling me you love me and you’re going to marry me, and you lead me right to the girl. My Mum can’t stop it and the girl stabs me in the side while you tell me it’s all okay. And then I realise she’s an angel and I wake up.

Dream you is the first version of you I remember. The version I saw on Tinder. Swiped right on. The version that messaged me and told me how beautiful I was and called me to talk to me for hours. The version I picked up for coffee that night. We made one mocha last 5 hours. You made me feel excited about what was to come. I was cautious and guarded and you told me I had no reason to be. Let my guard down. So I kissed you and you told me how you believed in love at first sight and that we were going to be good. You told me everything I wanted to hear. How I lifted you up and made you better. Before me it was dark.

My nickname became Mrs Smith. You sent me messages that were almost poetic and made me feel like I was floating. You were my good karma finally coming back to me. We couldn’t wait to be together. And when we finally got into that hotel room it was like two waves colliding into each other. Intertwined. All over each other. Laughing, loving… You held me close and told me you loved me and that you knew I felt the same way towards you. I don’t know what I felt, but I liked it in your arms. And then we went out and danced and laughed and you called me yours.

Then later back in the room I was feeling on cloud nine. We were wrapped up in each other when I giggled “no babe”.

Then the giggling stopped. I begged you to stop. Over and over. I kept saying your name to get you to see me. You looked right through me. You kept telling me you loved me and were going to marry me. It hurt. I cried. Your hand at my throat. It wasn’t until I threatened to scream that you stopped.

Then it was your turn to cry. And I felt bad for you. You’d got carried away. You made me say what you had done. “Tell me what I did to you!” You told me you were twisted and had never intended to rape me and you were sorry. Then you left. And I panicked. I needed you to come back. If you did you could be the guy who I thought you were and who had just gotten carried away and we could make this better. If not…you were something else. You came back. And I made it better.

The next morning there was a shift. You were distant. Hungover. Until it came time for us to say goodbye. Maybe you could sense my anxiety rising because in the car park you grabbed me and hugged me and told me how you loved me and kissed me. The kiss that would save you.

You were in my head all day. Underneath the numbness, I ached. I text you to tell you you needed to have some thinking time. You weren’t happy. Then I asked you why you did that to me. I couldn’t bring myself to type the word “rape”. Then it crystallised for me when my phone pinged. “I saw your fear and I liked it”. Would you do this to me again? “I can’t predict the future.”

Sat in a supermarket car park, I crumbled. Reading over the texts. I rang my best friend crying. I never call. She picked up straight away and in a voice that cracked asked me what would I do if it were her or one of my sisters?

So I walked inside and fell down crying in front of my Step mum and dad. And I cried. In front of the police officer in my front room, in the arms of my teenage sisters – they didn’t know that I did it for them. You text. “I’m sorry”.

I was stripped naked in front of a doctor, a police officer and a camera on record when you sent your last message – “you called the police?” I didn’t reply. It was too late. My dad pacing silently outside the door. He still hasn’t said anything about it. My Mum on the motorway, crying, 5 hours away from walking through my door.

Armed with a letter from the police, the nurse at A&E read it. She got tears in her eyes and stroked my hair and told me I was beautiful. I didn’t feel it. I felt stupid and naive. She had me wait in a side room away from everyone else to protect me. I fell asleep with my step mum watching over me in between pills and injections. The lovely little nurse coming in with a sandwich and orange juice at 3am. “This one is going to be sore. I’m sorry”. And I cried again.

Waking up at home my Mum and sister had made the drive to see me. She didn’t know what to do. So she tidied up around me and took me for coffee and to buy me a dressing gown. It’s really soft. It makes me feel safer. She held my hand at the GUM when they talked to me about PrEP. You were low risk they said, but how much did I trust you? It could make me very sick. For the next month every time I threw up it was a reminder of you.

You on the other hand seemed to move on fast. You met a girl within a month and less than two weeks later she was calling herself Mrs Smith too. She has a bible verse posted on her Instagram. “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” That makes me sad.

The vision I have of you twists into something else. The poetic texts turned out to be quotes from Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey. The way you huddled me in the corner of the bar and had your hand on my throat as you kissed me wasn’t you being charming, it was you being possessive. You insulted the two women who were nice to us and used it to compliment me. “They’re nothing in comparison to you. You’re gorgeous, they’re ugly”. You took my bank card out of my back pocket without me realising it and laughed when I panicked about it. You didn’t give it me back until after I cancelled the card. “Look after your stuff better. People can take advantage.”

Only 5% get charged. It’s what you say vs what I say but not everyone has messages like I have on my phone. I read them when I doubt myself. When I have to sit in an office and have a recorded interview. When I have to give my phone to the police to copy. I’m not allowed to delete them. I’m not allowed to go to therapy yet. It’ll be okay. I have the messages.

But you have that kiss on CCTV. In the car park of the hotel from the morning after. And I don’t have internal injuries. The sergeant tells me that he knows what happened. That you complimented me at every turn and manipulated me and the messages are “alarming” and “compelling evidence”. It doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. But a jury might not believe me. And that’s it. No further action.

Now I have a different vision of you. When I think of you now I think of the child you were. You told me how you hated your mum for keeping your dad from contacting you after he left. You told me stories about how you used to sit in the tattoo shop while she had some more ink and you always wanted to have that bulldog tattoo, holding up his fists ready to fight. You must have felt quite angry. Causing trouble and bouncing between schools. You hate your baby’s Mum. You called her “it”. I found out her name later. She looks like me. I hope you didn’t hurt her too.

If I could go to the little boy version of you sat in the tattoo shop wondering where Dad was I’d give him a hug and tell him he’s worth loving. That he can be so much more than he thinks he can be. But it’s too late now and I can’t fix what has happened. You’re a tornado tearing up lives as you pass through. You’re a loaded gun and your bullet grazed me. But it’s just a wound. And it will heal. I think time will reveal that in the end you’re not the only one who got off lightly