Shared Stories

I’m not sure how to stop the PTSD

By an anonymous contributor

When I was three years old, my father got a brain tumour. Shortly after that, my great aunt discovered my father had been sexually abusing me. She walked in to my room and heard him moaning and found him on top of me kissing me in a way he should not have been. She never called the authorities. Rather she spent every night on the floor of my bedroom, guarding me. Meanwhile my mother was dying of cancer as well. She never knew. I struggle with this every single day. Why a father would do such a monstrous thing to his daughter who he was meant to protect. He died before my mother did, I was 5 years old. I’ll never know why, and I’ll never truly get justice. This event has haunted me for years, I’m not sure how to stop the PTSD and depression that has come with this trauma. But I hope that one day I will be able to share my story without being anonymous.

Shared Stories

5 years ago today I spoke up

By an anonymous contributor

A quick way home.

5 years ago today I spoke up. I told a trusted teacher that my best friend, the guy I loved, had forced me into having Oral sex.

I blamed myself. After all I bore the name of my biological father, a man unlike my friend, so maybe this was to be my life.

I was destined to be the ‘sweet girl’ the girl that whilst being pressed up against a headstone (I can laugh at the irony, a quick way home could lead to this) I wished for death.

He pushed me to the ground, his privates in hand and looked me in the eyes. Those beautiful eyes I grew up adoring became the eyes from every horror movie, the monsters under my childhood bed became his essence. My best friend was dead, and in his place was it.

It has haunted me for 5 years, during in my darkest times where no one believed the cries, of my best friend sexually assaulted me! My best friend touched me in a place no man bar my husband should, my best friend got let off scotch free- because of me.

I never screamed, I never moved, I let it happen, no I am not guilty, no I did not ask for it to happen.

But I didn’t scream. I was scared, not of what was happening, not of him, but of loosing him. Because in my young, screwed up mind, I thought that if I moved, or made any noise, he would leave me and I only had him, he made sure I only had him, he conored me off from the world, told teachers that I was a lier, told friends to leave me to fend for myself, he did everything I thought he would never do.

But in my head, I still thought of him as my hero, the boy that saved me from bully’s, the guy that gave me my first kiss, the man I was going to marry. So I let myself close down, I became numb, I never moved, I think I let myself go, just go.

Now he is the boy who’s eyes are the stuff of nightmares. The boy that tarnished my past memory’s and has engraved images into my mind.

For years I have not trusted men, for years I have gotten comments, at times it gets too hard. But then I remember that even if I feel alone, even if I get shut in rooms and forced to recount every detail over and over again, until I’m in physical pain, I’v not done anything wrong, I spoke up, I thought against my demons and whatever crap the world threw at me and I carried on.

I see him sometimes, he is always with his mum or alone, and I can’t help but feel.. Something, not fear, never fear, but sad, not because of the past, but for his future.

Because I know the truth. And for along as I live, I won’t give up the fight. Not just for myself, my rights as a human on this earth, but for every girl and woman and man who have been harassed, hurt, or worse by the people they love.

Shared Stories

To the Caregivers of the Son Who Sexually Assaulted Me in Foster Care

By Olivia Johnson 

To you.

If you’re reading this you know who you are. I don’t need to address you by name. I don’t think that is right for me to publicize your personal information like that. It would be legally and morally wrong. And NO this isn’t a letter to your son that assulted me. This is a letter to you, the caregivers

7 years has passed since that horrible night. A night that has been ingrained in my mind for the past 7 years. The night your son sexually assulted me. What happened that night is not something you can “just get over” or “pretend it didn’t happen” but god do I wish it never happened.

I have gone over that night an unbearable amount of times. Thinking about all the countless different ways I could have changed the outcome. Which sounds ridiculous because I had NO power to change the motives of your son who assulted me. It wasn’t MY fault. Although when I took him to court the defense tried to tell me it was my fault..that I was “obsessed” with him..I can count on ONE hand the amount of times I had previously BRIEFLY had any communication with him. I barely knew him!  And if was up to me he would have had NOTHING to do with my life but that changed the night HE decided to sexually assult me. Only after that night has he contaminated my mind. I am disgusted and repulsed by him. And NO (defense lawyer) this did not happen because of the clothes I chose to wear when I was 15. NO i did not “make it up” and NO my sleeping pills did not cause me to “fabricate a story”. NO my past mental health issues did not cause me to “create this story” in my mind. I am not as crazy as the defense made me out to be.

Back to you, the caregivers. You were my favorite caregivers. I loved being around you. You’d call me your “favorite girl” I was so happy when I was with you. I could truly be myself. Your house was my “home away from home”. A place I felt safe and secure. You were a funny, entertaining couple who from day one I just “clicked with”.You ate my favorite foods, and drunk my favorite drinks and you always made sure to have my favorite things in the cupboard for when I came over. I loved you guys. I am an EXTREMELY sentimental person but remember when I gave my favorite childhood toys to your granddaughter so she’d have toys to play with? Those toys meant the world to me but I was willing to give them to her because I valued you guys and wanted to make her happy.

Remember that time I heard you say “I check her nappy” (referring to your toddler granddaughter aka the daughter of your son who sexually assulted me) to “make sure he hasn’t toto(ed) with her” and when I asked what “toto(ed)” meant you replied “touched”. You were already SUSPICIOUS.

W H Y would you be even remotely shocked when I came foward and told the police that he sexually assaulted had your suspicions..what happened to me just CONFIRMED them.

Let’s say the defense was correct(they weren’t) but let’s just say I did “fabricate this story”…what exactly would my motive be? What exactly would I have been gaining?
The answer is simple.

N O T H I N G.
Doesn’t that mean anything to you? Doesn’t that make you think “oh maybe she did tell the truth”.

I gained nothing but lost so much. I lost my favorite caregivers. I lost my home away from home. I lost the people who made me laugh, the people who I could be myself around. I lost you. And more importantly I lost control. I lost my 15 year old self. I lost my sense of trust. I lost me.

Despite thinking of myself I thought of you. When I told someone what had happened I defended you and said it wasn’t your fault. I never attacked or blamed you if anything I did the opposite I defended you from day one. 7 years later I still don’t have hatred for you. I hate and dispize your son but I do not hate you. Because it wasn’t you who touched me.

Once upon a time I was your favorite girl..then that night happened and from the moment you found out I was a disgrace in your eyes as you stood by your son. You chose him over me. I know that blood is thicker than water but by you supporting him you are telling him that what he did was OK and (I hope to god this doesn’t happen again) but what if it does?  What if it’s already been done to your granddaughter…that same granddaughter you were worried about..will she end up like me and become a disgrace to you too?

For years I have wanted nothing but to talk to you, to explain to you every detail and to just have you hear me out. Because in my mind if you just listened to what happened from me directly maybe you would believe me and see the ugly, disgusting, smart, cunning monster that your son is.

I’ve spent a long time trying to understand why you made the decision to support your son. I can only speculate..maybe you know what happened to me and you know it’s true but you don’t want to believe it, maybe by you believing it it would cause too much pain maybe it’s easier for you to just pretend it didn’t happen and just pretend I was some “mentally ill foster kid that made a story up”. Writing that sentence breaks me heart because you of all people knew the type of person I was. Notice I used past tense because you have no idea of the person I’ve become.

I was a teenager when the police took him to court on my behalf. I was a teenager when I gave my testimony to the court room. I fought for myself and spoke honestly. I was articulate and when I left the court building that day do you know how I felt? Amazing! I spoke my truth while being doubted and nit picked on every tiny detail by the defense. But I stood my ground. The verdict didn’t matter to me. I knew in my heart i spoke the truth that day and I’ll forever be able to live with myself because I don’t have guilt of lying in a court room.

I fought for not only myself but also for anyone else who has been a victim of sexual assault or for anyone else that may become a victim due to your son assaulting them -past, present, future.

Although I felt amazing after the two court cases. Reality of life after a traumatic sexual assault slowly began to cause devastation on my life. But now years later I have been receiving help for it. I am starting to think of me and putting MYSELF first NOT you. I am starting to see my life again. And starting to LIVE life again. Because for the past 7 years I’ve lived in fear.

Despite being burdened by what happened that night seven years ago along with the PTSD that has come with it..I have grown and changed so much as a person. I have overcome things that I didn’t think I’d be able to cope with-but I have. I am not where I want to be but neither am I where I used to be. So much has changed but one thing that has remained the same is the painful memory of that night and the two court cases that followed. I am a work in progress. One day I hope that memory is a little less painful. One day I hope it has a little bit less power and control of my mind. One day I hope it becomes a distinct memory one that does not bring tears, greif and heart ache. Ultimately I hope one day that night means nothing to me..that him, you and your family mean nothing to me. No more pain. No more hurt. All I want to be is left with is a peaceful mind where you and your family play no part in. One day I will overcome the devastation of that horrible night.

Tonight 15/5/2017 marks seven years. Today seven years later I tell my story.

As I said in the beginning. To you, the caregivers. All these years have passed. I hope you understand the gravity of this situation. I hope you question that night and this helps put the pieces of the puzzle together. I wish you well although I believe you don’t wish the same to me. I hope you know what happened that night DID happened- whether right now you believe it or not I hope one day you see the truth. I don’t believe you directly are bad people and I don’t wish harm on you.

Although this letter isn’t written to your son. I hope he remembers that night for the rest of his life and I hope that the guilt of him lying eats away at him. He was an adult I was 15. What he did was sick, disgusting and horrible. He is a disgusting human being but he made his bed. Time for him to lay in it.

To this day i still suffer from the traumatic events that happened 7 years ago. But I am doing well, considering. I still fight for the truth of that night. I fight for my freedom from the PTSD that remains long after the assult. I fight to be heard. I fight to be taken seriously and not labeled as “mentally ill” and have my story disregarded or have my mental health used against me. I refuse to “keep quiet” in order to make others comfortable.

[To anyone who knows this family. Don’t contact them. Don’t harass or attack them. If they read this then so be it if they don’t it doesn’t matter. I wrote this because it’s what I’ve wanted to say to them. I’ve said what I wanted. It’s done]

-From Olivia, your ex foster kid.

Shared Stories

It has made me feel hatred and paranoia about men

By an Anonymous Contributor

One day, during a 6 month stint travelling around South East Asia with my long-term boyfriend, we stopped off at a beach for the day. We set up in a quiet area directly in front of some fishing boats. Whilst I was reading my book, I noticed a man leaning on one of the boats and looking at us. I tried to ignore him, but soon after I noticed that he had his penis out and he was masturbating whilst staring at me. I quickly told my boyfriend who jumped up, but the man ran away. I know that this is not a terribly horrific story, but it has made me feel hatred and paranoia about men, and I hope that the process of sharing my story will help me to overcome it.

Shared Stories

Love’s Cry

By Diane Kaufman

When I read that Gessica Notaro’s ex-boyfriend had thrown acid in her face and she might go blind, as if her being attacked might not be merely enough violence to warrant a headline, as domestic violence is so commonplace, I was galvanized to write a poem. Or put another way, the poem was galvanized to have me write it. I had been reading of women being assaulted and women being murdered by their ex-boyfriends, lovers and husbands for years. I found myself within the last six months saving articles about women being hurt and killed. All those stories of these women, all those words and images stirred wildly inside me. A chaos trying to organize itself into some kind of meaning, even if that meaning might feel like “meaninglessness,” at least now it has a shape, a container, and can be shared with self and others. This is how “Love’s Cry” entered the world. It is a poem about domestic violence that has such powerful energy. This poem is alive and its intent is to do good in the world. The sickness which is violence must be cured. It must be prevented from ever happening. I found images to go with the poem and collaborated with other artists to have it become embodied as a poem video to prevent domestic violence. I am a poet, a child psychiatrist, and a humanism in medicine awardee. As a child I was molested. I grew up afraid. Of all that I have ever done, I am most proud of Love’s Cry. Please help Love’s Cry be heard around the world.


Shared Stories

I am not a test, I am a human who deserves respect. Do not make me feel guilty.

By Andy 

My body was paralyzed and it seemed like an eternity before I was able to move again. The rush of adrenaline circulated my body and I was alerted by what was going on. The wetness of his lips moved its way down from my lips to my neck as I attempted to move him away from me. I attempted to run, but the strong grip he had around my arm pulled me back to where I was as I faced yet again the sloppy unwanted kiss. I felt his hand around my waist as his cynical smile gleams down upon me as I repeat the words “stop, no, please” over and over again. His hand began to slowly move up from my waist to the inside of my under bra where he attempted to grab my breasts. I pushed his hand away and yet again, another faint whimper as his fingernails dig into my breast, leaving a mark of displeasure. Tears began to swallow up the image of his face. I push him off, only to have myself get pushed to back onto the wall behind me. Where was everybody, in a school of 1800 and not one came along to try to help me?I gather all my strength as I give my final push and run to the staircase. I run down to the first floor, in hopes that he had not seen where I ran off to. I drop to my knees and begin to cry, I didn’t want to look at anyone for the next 3 days, I thought if I made eye contact with someone they would realize what had happened.
I didn’t speak to no one. Days later, I decided to tell my transgender group counselor about it. I was rushed to the dean, who then later called the superintendent who then called my parents. “Did you want to do it? Was he your boyfriend? Are you sure you didn’t ask?”, they all kept saying. I was given a restraining order, but what use of it is it if every time I walked out of school he was standing there looking at me? I called my detective but all I got was, “If he doesn’t make contact, we can’t do anything.” My guidance counselor said that this was bound to happen to him. Do I look like a test monkey to you?
The system is broken, I was not granted safety in my school and to make matter worse, this case was not accounted for. I lived under the shadow of their abuser and forced to live with the memory of that night where their dignity was ripped away from them. Constantly crying in the shower and having nightmares of that day. Everyone deserves to be safe, no one should be a product of abuse. I am not a test, I am a human who deserves respect. Do not make me feel guilty.

Shared Stories

He had assaulted me physically. He had assaulted me emotionally.

By an Anonymous Contributor

He wrapped his arm around my neck, held me close and put his ear very near to my right ear. He was drunk, married with one child and 20 years older than me, and most of all, I didn’t like it at all. It was so disgusting that I hated my guy friend in front of me who wouldn’t do or say anything.

I hated myself to let something like this happen to me again. After all that had happen to me in the past? How can I let someone do this to me again? Why am I so stupid and hopeless?

I couldn’t forgive myself. I told my sister about it. I doubted myself because the unpleasant gesture wasn’t dramatic. She said, “Big or small. You didn’t like it. Then it’s sexual harassment. And, it’s not your fault. He is the asshole. He is to blame. You? Not even a little bit.”

Yeah. She was right. It’s not my fault. He had assaulted me physically. He had assaulted me emotionally. His repression made me believe it was my fault when it wasn’t.

Today, I found a new group chat. There were 5 people in it. I opened it and he was asking me how I was and where I was, three years after the incident. He called me a few days later after the incident then as if nothing had happened and he was in a good mood. I hung up right away and we never spoke. At present day, drunk again, he complained about this divorced life and how the dating app wouldn’t let him sign up because he was too old. I quickly got out of that group chat.

Shared Stories

I was more sad from the loss of a chance to reconcile than from the death itself.

By Nike 

At the ages of 6 and 7, I was molested by my older brother. He was a very abusive older brother, far beyond the typical “boys will be boys” or “older brothers kick butt” expressions. Our older sister found out and told me to keep quiet or I’d cause too much pain in the family. My parents were distant. Years later, I came out to my sister. She told our parents against my wishes. That was when my parents cut me out of their lives. Ten years of no communication went by when my mother suffered a stroke and passed away, during the holiday season. My mother was the more likely to accept me for who I am. I was more sad from the loss of a chance to reconcile than from the death itself.

Shared Stories

This epidemic in our country and our world and especially within the Church.

By Megan

My name is Megan and I was sexually assaulted. It feels unreal to write these words as I have been in denial and misunderstanding about the event for 17 years. I was 15 when it happened. I was a child, even though -ager was the suffix to my age. I had only been a teenager for 2 years. I couldn’t drive and had only finished one year of high school.

I was assaulted by someone I trusted, someone in a position of leadership and authority over me, and someone whose attention I enjoyed. I was away at a youth camp and Youth Leader was always there, always around, and even though I had a boyfriend at home, who was a jerk, this guy seemed like a real person of faith who valued me. Even though he was a college leader on a high school camp trip and 5 years older than me. A big gap when those 5 years are 15 and 20.

He would secretly show me his attention which was somewhat confusing, but I guess I understood the secrecy since he was a “leader”? I am a romantic at heart and was even then. I have also always struggled with my value and my physical appearance. I was at camp with a bunch of beach blonde beauties and I always felt inferior to them. What guy would like me?

So when someone showed me attention instead of them and I kinda liked it. Because I kinda liked his attention I thought what happened was a result of me liking it, and therefore I was deserving of it. Or maybe I deserved it because I wasn’t a valuable person. Or because my dress was too tight…

My interactions with Youth Leader at camp were relatively elementary. He was always around talking and flirting, secretly holding my hand sometimes. Like on the bus ride home.

When camp was over I don’t remember if we talked anymore. It was 1999 and there was no texting and he definitely didn’t like me enough to call me.

Weeks, a month later, I am not sure, but Youth Leader was back in town from college for some reason. He came to our Youth Group Meeting and in my blurry memories of 17 years ago he picked me up from my house (along with another one of my guy friends) and drove me to the meeting.

That weekend he also came to our church group. We used to all go out for bagels afterwards and he came along. We were sitting at a table with OTHER people. In a booth I still walk by weekly because I still live in the same area of the same town and go to the same damn bagel place. Underneath the table he started touching me under my dress. I don’t know what I thought. This is weird? He must really like me? Why do guys always want to touch me down there? I guess its ok since he’s a christian and he’s a leader…maybe this isn’t wrong like I always thought it was?

Somehow, I used to think because I was an idiot, but the real reason is probably because I was a naive 15 year old, I let him drive me, alone, to where my parents were having lunch at their club. He stopped the car off to the side of the parking lot. And he took that opportunity in that parking lot of the place where I still go to eat with my parents, where I had my wedding reception, where my kids love to go and look at boats, where I spent every summer after that working out like a crazed athlete, laying by the pool eating pineapple and nothing else, trying to get tanner and skinner by the minute…

In that parking lot is where he assaulted me. No asking, no romantic gestures, no gentleness, or “I really like you”, just full on aggressive painful touching and “kissing”. I say “kissing” because I felt like he was going to bite my face off. I am pretty sure I tasted blood. And it hurt. A kiss that hurts??? I don’t think that is actually a kiss.

And then the other stuff, which I felt like I brought on bc of the strange touching in the bagel place. Which makes me feel sick to talk about and remember. I could throw up right now. But full on aggressive down the underwear “object penetration” (a new legal phrase I have learned) painful touching.

I remember it hurt, I wanted it to be over, and when I got of of the car I felt nasty. Scared my parents would be able to tell.

I also thought later that night…”that felt so wrong and bad but maybe it was ok because he is a good person. He was my Youth Leader”. But the shame was so heavy, I had no way to deal with it, I was too scared to talk about it, so I just minimized it, denied it, ignored it. For years. We never talked again, he never looked me in the eye when I ran into him at church. Which led to me feeling even more shame. He called once not long after the apologize and though it’s very blurry I have some memory of him asking me not to tell anyone. I had no plans to tell because I felt like it made me look bad I didn’t even think about how royally he had fucked up. I also remember the realization of “Wow, he really didn’t like me. He didn’t do that because he liked me or wanted to be close to me.” Which in turn led to even deeper shame and struggle with my value. Someone took something from me and he acted like it was because he liked me, but he didn’t.

It took my (other) youth leader being indicted for doing something similar 15 years ago to my friend for me to realize this was actually a big deal. Also talking to my friend who was worked with victims of assault and very educated on how often people minimize or don’t understand their own assault.   And now, 17 years later, I am processing both events at the same time. The denial, anger, rage, depression all balled into one are not easy to work through. But it has given me a new passion for this epidemic in our country and our world and especially within the Church.

I ask God why he let it happen, but I already know. He can use my story. He can use my righteous anger. Even if it’s just in educating my own children and being aware of the victims all around me, he can use it. He can come into these wounds and heal them, redeem this story, and maybe I can help at least one other person.

Shared Stories

I feel like everything is my fault

By an Anonymous Contributor

My husband and I have been together for almost 7 years. We have always had a explosive relationship since we were dating. There was always signs of controlling and jealousy from both ends of the relationship. But he would always victimize himself and turn tables as if I had everything to blame for. Unfortunately, it worked because til this day I feel like everything is my fault. I started noticing his insecurity after our 2 year of being married he would always bring up comments about I was going to leave his side after I finished my career he was always making sure I wouldn’t be talking to any guys or else he would be extremely suspicious. It wasn’t until I told him I was not ready to have a third child with him that I needed time to finish my career to think of a possible third baby. He started forcing himself on me I didn’t really know how to react because he was my husband but I did not feel good at all I felt like I had done something wrong to deserve this. My reaction was passive and submissive I have always let people do what they please with me and sadly when it came to the point of this whole dilemma it was my natural reaction. I started befriending a young man I knew from before and soon I caught myself in a love relationship with him. My feelings were mostly about feeling safe and protected which I felt with the young man. Soon after that I found myself pinned down on the bed trying to push myself up but unable to from underneath my husband. It had been the worst one yet and I definitely felt like I deserved it; it was my fault. The moment I tried to get myself untangled from his grip and couldn’t I let my mind drift away I turned my face away and felt warm tears run down my face at the same moment I was telling myself that I deserved it. I had it coming. Up until today I still feel like I am a bad woman.

Shared Stories

The saddest part of all this is…my assaulter doesn’t think he raped me.

By Faith 

I was upset after work one night in a foreign country and decided to make use of the free-flow bar I had access to. I messed up the job that night. I underestimated how much I knew this country although I have been there plenty of times before and I was late. My boss gave me an earful and I threw up my walls, my brain had stopped recording (or so I thought).
I turned to new friends I made that week, hoping to find comfort in friendship so I left the venue to meet them. By this time I had no control over my actions, I slurred the address to the cab driver and off we went. I arrived and I was given more to drink, in my upset I gladly accepted. Suddenly it was me and him. Suddenly I woke up naked next to him. I panicked. In my hazy state, I struggled to remember what happened and I panicked even more. Instead of letting that panic show, I pretended.
As I left to go back to my own accommodation, the haze on my brain slowly faded away and I started to remember bits and pieces. I remember saying that I felt very drunk, I slurred and giggled something about my boyfriend. I don’t remember asking you to rape me. Did I mention that I had a boyfriend?
I got back to my room and started crying. Crying and crying. I called my boyfriend and cried about what happened, but I didn’t get the response I expected at first. His defences went up due to being cheated on in the past. This was akin to that. I was to blame because I drank too much. But I don’t remember ever asking to be groped or kissed or raped. I was upset and so I drank. I didn’t want to be raped. I didn’t want to be raped. Why is it my fault to want to drink?

The saddest part of all this is…my assaulter doesn’t think he raped me. And neither does his group of friends. I do not dare call them my friends any longer. I was drunk, I was upset, I was taken advantage of and I was RAPED by your friend whom you cheered and congratulated and high-fived. Thanks to all of you, I will never trust a new face again. I have hesitated being alone even with old faces. My trust was abused and broken. You are all part of the problem. And I have become a victim of it.

Shared Stories

Tomorrow our country’s new president will be inaugurated.

By an Anonymous Contributor

Many people think of me as someone who is always happy. I am constantly told that I give great advice. That I am a nice person. While I appreciate these compliments I don’t only want to be known as the happy, nice person. I, just like everyone else, have bad days, experience pain, and some days wish I could just disappear forever.

Wednesday October 5th. Today is 105 days since I was raped. It is now Thursday January 18th. I was raped by someone I had invested time into. Someone I had cared about. Someone I forced myself to trust. Someone I had let into my life in hopes of helping them and in return they crushed me.

If I could go back in time and warn myself I would say, “You’re right to feel uncomfortable when he pressures you for your phone number. You’re right to want to scream at everyone who is laughing while he continuously asks if you want to hookup with him in the middle of your english class. Listen to your gut”. But instead, this constant harassment was warped into a feeling of flattery. And that is not my fault. Society tells us that we should be flattered when boys continue to pursue us, when they give us unwanted compliments, and when they are mean to us. We are told “it’s because they like you… They’re just boys, they’ll mature someday… It’s because they don’t’ know how to show their feelings”.

This is never the case.

Tomorrow our country’s new president will be inaugurated. He is a person whom our country has enabled to sexually harass, to bully, to rape. No matter what he says it seems that there will always be people who back him up, and who defend him. He has given a voice to those who hurt. He does not care who he hurts.

One week, my therapist asked me to practice saying no. She said, “Your Nos sound like like semicolons instead of period to boys” and that because of this I should practice saying no when I go out to eat in restaurants or when I am in class or with my friends.

This is the problem.

Maybe it was conscious and maybe it was her subconscious, but in that moment she blamed me. It was my fault that my repeated “no” wasn’t respected. My fault that no matter how many times I let him know that I did not want to have sex, he didn’t understand it. It was my fault because I am “too gentle”.

This was frustrating to hear and I bit my tongue from screaming when she said this. I know that in that moment where I gave up and he took over me, I had tried my hardest. If I were to relived that moment I could not have done anything differently. I know that I was clear. I know that I said no. There was nothing left for me to do.

In the moments after he hurt me, I felt physical pain and after only a few tears I was emotionally vacant. I got out from under him and we did not exchange any more words. I was a shell. I wanted nothing more than to cry but I couldn’t. For the rest of the day I told people that I was just tired. And for the rest of the week I felt sick at the exact same time each afternoon. And for the next few months every second I was reminded of it, but especially on Wednesdays as the time crept on.

I took comfort in hot showers. There I was clean. I could wash the feeling off of me that he gave me when he looked at me in the hall. Staring at the ground as I passed him did not make it any easier when I heard his threatening voice, “Heyyyyy Kate”. Fighting back tears each time I kept quiet and kept walking. I never felt anger. Just fear. And sadness. And confusion. These were things I soon learned could not be washed away with scalding water.

I was encouraged to say something, but how could I? How could I drive him deeper into the pure anger he had? After he had told me so much, how could I knowingly add to the burdens he was carrying? I had to protect him because that is what I do.

After a particularly hard day I broke down and said something to an adult. I said something because of the girls after me. I had to protect them. Two days later was the last time I saw him. I wonder if he took anything from it all. I hope he did, but I have an intuition that he didn’t. And that saddens me. I can’t look at men the same way, and I feel that he looks at women just the same as before. I hope more than anything that he learned to respect and love women the way they deserve to be loved. The way his mother wants him to love women. My heart breaks for her when I think of that moment when she was told what he did to me. All of her biggest fears came true and I hope that she is able to heal from that.

Recently I’ve been minimizing the situation. I stopped going to therapy. My friends stopped asking (partly because they don’t care and partly because I don’t think they realize). Most of the time I don’t want to talk about it and other times I want nothing more than to heal and get help. I am still hurting

He did not receive any sort of punishment in the end as he left quietly and without a fight. He is allowed to live his life, go out with other girls, go to his choice college and follow his dreams, and never have any regrets about leaving me with scars. I am just barely getting through my senior year of high school. I am scared for the people he is around now. I care mostly for the other girls, but I know I can not do anything more for them. I just hope he thinks twice before hurting another one. I know I have to let go.

And I will. Just not yet.

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.

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

“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.