Shared Stories

I Need To Feel No Guilt

By an Anonymous Contributor to the campaign 

“I can’t wait for sex tonight.” Five words written down on a scrap of paper, harmless on their own, together they terrified me.
I was 6, he was almost 9, my brother. My wonderful funny, annoying, loveable brother. We shared a room as most children do, we’d talk at night when we should have been sleeping. Then it changed. He began asking me to climb into his bed, or he’d get into mine once my mum had left the room. It was never penetrative, but it was wrong and I didn’t understand what was happening. He’d ask me to touch him, so I did, which makes me feel sick. If I didn’t do as he asked he’d say that he would tell mum and dad, so I had to. I wish I’d been stronger, but at 6 are you really strong? It lasted for a few years until eventually we were put in separate rooms. My mothers reasoning for this was that I’d be getting my period soon….This still confuses me…Did she know?

He would come into my room. I somehow made him stop, but he started bullying me massively. For years, until I left for art college, he would tell me intimate details of his conquests and try and make me read his sex diaries. I still love him, he is my family, but I hate him for what he did to me.
My family life was hard, I had no one I could confide in. My mother had my father to deal with, a verbally aggressive alcoholic with bi-polar, she didn’t need my problems on her shoulders as well.
At 11, I broke my own arm to stop my father from coming to watch me at a fun run with my school for fear of him being drunk. Self harm became my release. At 13 I became an angst ridden teenager. Hanging out with all the wrong people. Then at 15, I was drunk at a club and I was raped. I didn’t know him, my “friends” did. Being used yet again for someone elses pleasure. But “I deserved it, it’s what I’m here for” – to be used, I don’t matter to anyone, I’ll get over it, shove it right the way into the deepest darkest corner of my mind, joke and drink my way through my later teenage years, meet the love of my life at 20 but wait a whole 16 years before telling him what happened. I can’t tell him about my brother, I just can’t.

I had a breakdown last year. It all came out. I couldn’t live with my demon anymore. My counselling, with an amazing charity CRASAC, has been an absolute life saver. My counsellor has given me hope, I have my last session next week, I’m scared to have the thoughts growing bigger again. I need to be strong, I need to not blame myself, I need to feel no guilt, but it is oh so hard.

I think I can survive this.

Shared Stories

Why did you ruin our friendship?

By an Anonymous Contributor

Why? Why did you do it? Why did you ruin our friendship? Or was it never a friendship on the first place – is this just what you wanted? After 7 years of ignoring, distracting and self blaming, I am starting to now believe that I did nothing wrong. For 3 years we’d been friends, 3 years you’d slept over after a night out, I completely trusted you. There was never anything sexual when you slept over, it was just convenience so you didnt have to drive home. So why on that night was it different?

I had a few drinks and took some medication that night. The two together made me completely out of it. Vulnerable, but I trusted I was in safe company. It’s why I have blamed myself, I shouldn’t have combined the the medication with a few drinks. I got myself in that state. I excused your behaviour believing that if i’d been able to say ‘no’ you would have stopped. I used to feel guilty for not being able to take control of the situation, everything was just a big misunderstanding. I now believe silence is not consent. Not saying ‘no’ does not mean yes. I would never have consented to what you did that night. It hurt. Sometimes i’m glad I don’t fully remember what happened, sometimes that scares me. Part of me wants to ask you ‘did you rape me?’. I dont think i’d believe your answer, so there is probably no point. I never heard from again since that night, maybe you were to embarrassed since you knew you were wrong or maybe you just got what you wanted.

I am now on the road to acceptance and recovery. I will no longer blame myself for your stupidity and ignorance. I will no longer blame myself for your decisions and actions. I will move passed this and have a happy life.

Shared Stories

“But what if your words aren’t listened to?”

By Kate Wyver

You’ve always believed that words have superpowers. They can bring out the strongest emotions and form the most elaborate stories. They can create new worlds, make people laugh, help you fall in love and spread empathy and understanding.

But what if your words aren’t listened to? What if you say stop but he doesn’t hear, so you say it again but this time he chooses not to? What if he thinks he knows what you mean and he thinks you mean the opposite?

If that one syllable can be misunderstood, mistaken or ignored – if someone can put their orgasm before your consent – then what’s the point of using any words at all?

The law acknowledges that it takes a few seconds for a man to gather his wits and pull out or away, but this is longer than a few seconds.

You tell him to stop because it’s too loud and you don’t want your family to hear and you tell him again and you mean it and you’re more nervous now and he’s not stopping and you’re not turned on anymore and as your body reacts to your brain it’s not exactly painful but it’s not feeling good and he’s not listening and it’s like when you’re on your phone and someone’s talking to you but you don’t really hear them because you’re too engrossed in the conversation and it’s not an excuse and you can see from his face that it’s going to end soon so you stop saying no and you give up and you look to your wall by your right side where there’s a bunch of photos of you and your friends from school and you’re all smiling and you wait and you’re silent and he doesn’t even notice and he finishes and he’s triumphant and he has no idea.

It’s maybe only a minute but for that minute you don’t want to be there, and you told him that by saying no. He gets louder when you want silence and now he’s gone and you can’t deal with the silence so you distract yourself by putting on a scary TV show to scare yourself in a different way.

That night you send him a message. He should have stopped when you said stop. You curl up in your sheets and hug the teddy who has been with you since you were two. You get out of bed and drink a lot of water and brush your teeth until the taste of him is gone.

He gets your message in the morning. He hadn’t realised what he’s done and begins to apologise so much you think his fingers will weave an enormous sculpture of the word sorry and his mouth will turn into a stitching patterned in the same shape. You thank him for accepting it and not being defensive. He says he would never do that. But then he says he only continued because he thought you wanted to. He didn’t think you meant it when you said no.

You keep wanting a shower.

When you ask directly, he admits he wouldn’t have said anything if you hadn’t told him. He doesn’t really realise it’s wrong until you point it out. He says he wants to cry. You tell him it’s okay. You find yourself comforting your – no surely, can you call him that? He’s still your friend, isn’t he? But he did it so surely that makes him-?

You’re fine. You’re not scarred for life. You tell him that. You try to joke. But as you say that you wonder if maybe you are just a little bit. If you’ll be more hesitant about going home with someone from a club, or be more wary of Tinder, or if you’ll ever be able to trust a boyfriend so completely that you know they’d never do that, that they wouldn’t be with you like that without your consent. That they would stop if you asked them to. You wonder if you should give a contract to every boy you ever consider messing around with, make them sign an oath that they will never do that. Insert a chip into their neck that automatically pulls them back to the opposite wall as soon as you say the word stop.

You would say it’s a conversation we don’t have enough, but we do. Everyone knows it’s wrong. And of course he thinks it’s wrong too, it’s just that he didn’t see that he was doing it. He was ‘lost in the moment’. And you talk to a friend and ask if that counts as rape and the friend says yes and you google it over and over on incognito and the time from you saying no to him finishing was only maybe a minute so surely it’s not that bad, you think, but that minute has been playing on your mind and made you feel like you need to hold yourself together slightly in case you fall apart. You hide how much it affects you so as to save him from more concern. To be fair, you’ve just accused him of something pretty hefty, so he’s got thoughts of his own to deal with. You carry on talking and after he’s apologised a lot more you start to talk and joke as normal. Your approach to most things is sarcasm, and gradually it re-emerges, but it’s hard to forget that one minute and carry on joking.

You’re constantly being told off for being too PC, for jumping on everyone’s comments in case they could seem the slightest bit derogatory. And you can’t tell if you’re overreacting, because you both wanted to have sex and up until that moment it was completely consensual, and it wasn’t as if he hurt you or treated you abusively. He just put his own desire over everything for a minute. Is a minute really that bad? And you need to write it down in order to make sense of it. Because you kissed him after and you meant that kiss and you like him and he’s not the type of person to do that at all, and you’d never expect him to hurt you or anyone else, and neither would he, and he’s horrified that he did it, once you told him. He’s probably more scarred from the realisation than you are. And he’d never do it again. But he still did it.

You don’t want to tell your best friend or your mum because you were one who went searching and you’re worried they’ll say you kind of brought it on yourself, by putting yourself in that position. But you also realise how dangerous that view is. That is only a step away from saying a girl shouldn’t drink because if she gets raped it’s kind of her own fault for not being aware or sensible enough.

And you carry on talking and joking but you still feel uncomfortable and you tell him you don’t want to have sex with him again and he understands and apologises again. Then you tell him you want space because his continuing to message you with kindness and smiley faces feels uneasy. Because however nice he’s been to you for the rest of the time you’ve known him, you don’t want to be reminded of that one minute. But he doesn’t seem to understand that’s the reason and sends another smiley face, expecting to hear from you soon.

You’ve just been through an intensely sad break up and you told yourself when getting involved this time – nothing serious, it was just fun and not stressful – that you wouldn’t let yourself get hurt. You thought that meant not getting too many feelings. You thought that meant restricting yourself in some way.

Maybe it’s not that big a deal. Maybe you’re overreacting. Maybe you should just forget about it and not let it affect you. Or maybe you can do without guys for a while, until you’re ready to trust someone else with your body and then maybe your heart and maybe even your Nativity DVD’s, because you really don’t fancy any of them getting hurt again anytime soon.

He sends you another message. ‘Are you just not wanting to have someone at all?’ At first you think: Yeah. Yeah that’s what you want, for a while at least.

But then, on second thoughts: You have plenty of people in your life already.

Writing it down helps. Words may not have had much impact in that moment, that minute, but maybe in the aftermath they really do have healing superpowers.

Shared Stories

“Let’s actually get together, start talking about it and start helping”

By an Anonymous Contributor

I have re-written this article several times.

First, I kept deleting it and writing it out again because I didn’t want the memory on my computer. I didn’t want someone to find it. I didn’t want to speak out and be the voice the 1 in 3 other girls who have been sexually assaulted on university campuses in the UK.

I decided to tell my story because of a recent scandal at my university; a student published a short story called ‘Nights at the Disco’ about a boy who spends his nights taking drugs and finding drunk women to take advantage of in clubs. A girl found it and reported it to the university on the grounds that the story was so similar to real events, it could be at best harrowing and at worst true. The university demanded the story be taken down because it brought the institution into disrepute- not because it was insensitive. But it was only after reading the victim’s statement from the Brock Turner sexual assault case that I had the confidence to actually get this published.

After I was sexually assaulted in my own bed, I googled “what to do if you’ve been raped”. The websites that came up suggested help lines and not washing but going straight to the doctor so that the perpetrator could be caught and swabs could be used as evidence in court.

My case has not gone to court. I chose not to. As the victim of the Brock Turner case so eloquently explained, taking a rape or sexual assault case to court is extremely harrowing. You have to repeat what happened to you every day so that you remember it clearly and your character is completely questioned. I don’t need my character questioned. I have spent enough time blaming myself, thinking it was my fault; that it wasn’t rape; I wasn’t forceful enough; I am over-reacting.

I was not and I am not overreacting. I now know, although there are still moments when I am unsure, that my reaction is valid. This was my reaction:

In August, I was sexually assaulted by my ex-boyfriend. We had both been drinking. I don’t quite know why that’s relevant but apparently it is (c.f. Brock Turner’s statements). I had not drunk as much as him. I was pretty sober. This does not make his actions excusable. If he had mugged someone when he was drunk, it would still be considered a crime. This was still a crime.

He convinced me that I wasn’t safe going home alone and that he needed to accompany me. On the way back he was verbally abusive, telling me he wasn’t a rapist and that I wasn’t so desirable that he couldn’t resist me. This was all mixed in with compliments about me being special but not that special. So that’s nice isn’t it? Except it’s not because I didn’t feel worthwhile at all. I just felt guilty for not giving him what he wanted when he complimented me, as though his words indebted me to him in some way. He ended up in my house. What happened happened and the next day he apologised. By text. He wouldn’t speak to me on the phone but he sent me a text to say he was sorry. I didn’t really understand why he needed to be sorry; I hadn’t computed what had happened. So I convinced him to speak to me on the phone and I said I was fine: what he did was bad but I was fine and maybe now we could be friends.

I was not fine. I am still not fine. And we are definitely not friends.

That day, at work, I had my first ever panic attack. I couldn’t breathe suddenly- I had to force myself to breathe, to do something my body has been doing on its own for nineteen years. The next day, I had another one. Then I started crying on the tube home out of the blue. I told my friends that I had nearly had sex with my ex-boyfriend again. Actually, I tried to tell them the full story without labelling it as sexual assault to see their reactions. They didn’t really know what to say, they just asked me if I was ok with it and I said I thought this was good; maybe it was better to have things out in the open.

It took me a week to understand what had happened and why I was having panic attacks and crying. By then, this boy had gone on holiday. I felt out of control. I felt like I had no control over what happened to my body. So I messaged him to say I wasn’t ok. I thought maybe he would apologise properly and I would be fine and we could move on but I was wrong.

At first he said he was profusely sorry and he asked how he could help. I suggested he tell his mother. This is where people tend to question me: why get parents involved? That’s such a hard thing to have to tell your mother. The truth is, I didn’t know what to suggest. I just wanted someone with more experience involved. Now I realize that people find his mother’s involvement unfair because it makes him feel guilty. It is the same mindset that pities Brock Turner. Why should this young boy have his “life ruined” for “twenty minutes of action”? To some extent, I understand that. I don’t think people’s lives should be ruined because of mistakes but the fact is that my life has been heavily impacted by what happened. The perpetrator of the crime has continued a normal life and insulted me since, calling my behavior “vile” when I brought his mother into it.

A big part of the guilt I felt and still feel (although less so now) was the guilt and pain I could cause this boy and his family by labelling him a rapist. The severity of the punishment for rape if the defendant is found guilty deterred me from reporting my own experience. I think that’s a deterrent for a lot of women and men. They don’t want to be bitter or cause more pain- I, at least, didn’t and don’t.

It is a very difficult circumstance when you know the distress you feel can deeply hurt others. Especially people you care about. I cared about this boy, I didn’t want to ‘ruin his life’- I still don’t want to. I don’t think it would be productive or helpful to anyone. That’s something that I haven’t really found talked about much- the responsibility you can feel after you’ve been assaulted. Hearing a relative or a good friend has been sexually assaulted is confusing and distressing. I’ve experienced it on both sides and each time I have felt uncomfortable, I haven’t known the right way to have the conversation. How do you comfort someone who’s been assaulted? How do you comfort someone who’s friend’s been assaulted? It’s scary on either side.

I am still not over what happened to me. I try not to let it but it has taken over my life. I think about it all the time. To say daily is an understatement. It defines the way I see the world now. For the first few months I suffered panic attacks and depression, yes, but I still have more complex issues and lower self-esteem than ever before. My relationship with food has changed for the worse. I used to love it; eat when I was hungry and enjoy it. Now I binge. I try not to drink too much anymore but in the months following the event I did. I drank far too much. I was desperate not to be a downer and to appear fun. It wasn’t fun. I was not having fun; I was trying to hide how sad I was and not bring sadness into the room. My interaction with men also changed. Rationally, I know it shouldn’t have but it has. I don’t trust romance now. I don’t get excited at the idea of it for me. For others I do but not for me.

The night I found out this boy had a new girlfriend was particularly bad one. I went upstairs and sobbed in a room at a party. And I don’t mean quiet sobbing, I mean uncontrollable sobs of fear, anxiety and impotence. My friend- who’s birthday it was- had to console me while I repeated “it’s going to happen again”. I ended up throwing up on myself. I don’t even think that was alcohol. I think that was fear. I know this is bad behavior. I know you shouldn’t cry at a birthday party. You should know that I don’t do that much and that I am mortified. Just as I am embarrassed at all the other inappropriate times I have cried this year. You should also know that I can’t really control it. I have tried very hard to and if I could, I would.

So how is this relevant to the recent controversy over ‘Nights at the Disco’ and the issue of free speech? To be honest, reading that particular story did not make me feel more distressed than other things have but I know it has made others feel uncomfortable. The way the university dealt with it was wrong, yes. The way universities deal with sexual assault is, frankly, wrong. There is very little counselling and aid available and the aid that is available has a waiting list. When you are in that vulnerable a position, you do not want to wait four to eight weeks. It should be made as easy as possible to get help. The help should come to you.

Ideally, rape would also be something we can talk about openly without embarrassment. That does not mean no trigger warnings. I don’t think they’re tools for militant political correctness, they’re informative of the content. The fact is that there is a rape-culture at universities in this country that we are, for some reason, choosing to ignore even though this article is by no means the first of its kind. The issue isn’t just rape. The issue is the way women are still blamed for sexual encounters whilst men are congratulated.. I know it’s been said before but it’s still going on so I’m saying it again.

The “oppressed party” in ‘The Night’s at the Disco’ scandal is not the censored writer, it is the victims of sexual assault whose very real cases and reports are being ignored for the sake of the university’s reputation. The university is openly trying to cover up the issue instead of dealing with the fact that sexual assault and rape has become almost normalised by its commonness on campuses and yet is barely being combatted or talked about.

This is a societal problem. I’m not innocent- I have seen unsettling situations and not intervened because I didn’t want to be rude. Ridiculous. We need to change the way we look at sex, the way we educate children about it. I’m not in a position to know exactly how sex should be addressed but I do know that the way we are addressing at the moment is damaging.

So this is my attempt to slightly change that. The Brock Turner statement is what motivated me to share my story. Hearing someone else say that they had felt similarly to how I felt reassured me that I wasn’t being mad and dramatic so I’m hoping this might do the same for someone else. You are not being crazy or dramatic or selfish or whatever else might be thrown at you. If you have been made to feel uncomfortable or damaged by a sexual encounter; be it with a stranger, and acquaintance or someone close to you, you are not alone and you are definitely not to blame. There are millions of women and men who have felt like you feel and who want to help you. So let’s actually get together, start talking about it and start helping.

Shared Stories

“A Not Guilty verdict a double blow”

Submitted by an Anonymous Contributor

ANGEL EYES…Yesterday I felt sick, today overwhelmed, tomorrow I may never recover. You see, I too was abused as a little girl, likewise my closest friend, my only friend. We suffered in silence, we needed each other, it was our secret, no-one knew. Over the years it was not mentioned much, but the psychological effects of that abuse was clear to see. We have lost our childhood, our youth, adult years… even today you catch your breath once in a while get back to reality today – my life is not so good. I was a witness for my friend, she took a giant leap of faith and jumped, past all the obstacles, she was believed the CPS approved, marching forward to hope and a conviction, but devastatingly the defendant – you guessed it – a resounding no. I went blank, got very emotional when mentioning the sexual act that I lost all concentration. Normally I am OK, I now blame myself, and a not guilty verdict a double blow, another cross to bear, they lied on oath, now proof came forward too late, case closed, a paedophile walking the streets yet again. This wasnt a robbery, ,or a fight even though I dont discredit how serious but sexual abuse of any kind affects a life permanently if it was down to money all the money in the world can’t bring the dead back to life but I know a man who can and I have to trust him. I made a mistake in court I said a wrong thing not thinking straight and to fearful to speak up my friend. I never wanted to pursue court, I encouraged her, I will carry that burden the rest of my life, my friend devastated but oh so brave. She said we may have lost the battle but not the war, yes so true. If I could get the law passed that in child historic cases to allow the defendant to give evidence, first victim last, I believe a fairer trial would happen. Everything is stacked up for the abuser, he has the advantage already and you only have to sound convincing enough to be believed… not necessarily fact. So yes I’m trying, no sleep, eaten much but not backing down, there is hope for the living. I have written to the prime minister, I hate injustice and if I can help people like you and me im not going to stop until we get justice xxx

Shared Stories

A Letter To You Both

A letter to you both… By an Anonymous Contributor 

8 years ago you walked into a friendly local pub and saw me; what you saw was a 16 year old girl who on the face of it was a confident, outgoing person, enjoying the social life that came with living in a pub. I was old before my time; life changes had made me grow up quicker than others my age. I didn’t like people knowing how low my self esteem was, I didn’t want them to know that I was always the target of fat jokes even though I was only a size 12-14 so I put a brave face on. To the outside world, the girl you saw was me.

You must have noticed the vulnerability though; I think you saw how I reacted when you would give me a compliment. To have someone a couple of years older than me saying I looked nice…I had never had that before. You noticed that and you kept it in your mind.

Over the course of a few months you worked on becoming my friend; you would regularly pop in to the pub and chat with me, you would text me, message me online and always be a smiling face for me to see. You started flirting with me and of course I flirted back…I was 16 and enjoying the attention. But I never thought it would go further than that. You were just a guy in the pub who I thought was nice.

I remember the night you invited me out; you said we could go for a drive along the coast and have a chat. I knew you pretty well at this point so I jumped at the chance. I knew my mum wouldn’t approve though, so I told her I was going out with a female friend of mine. She wouldn’t want me going out with someone older than me.

When I got in the car your friend was there, but I knew him too so I didn’t mind. It was just friends going out after all. You offered me a bottle of vodka and straight away I started feeling on edge; I was sure the bottle had been opened. I took a sip and said that my lips were sore; any excuse so that I didn’t have to drink it.

Then you started driving, along the coast like you said we would. But you pulled over in a car park. I was naïve and thought it was just to get out and have a walk along the beach. But that’s when you did it.

You locked the door and your friend jumped over to sit in the back with me. He started touching my leg, and put my hand on his. I moved it away but he kept on asking me to touch him. He was rubbing my leg, kissing my neck and grabbing my breasts. I asked you to let me out but all I heard was “go on suck it for me” as your friend got his penis out. I told you both that it wasn’t funny and kept on asking you to let me out.

Eventually you did, and as I started the long walk home I saw you drive away. I can’t explain how I felt at this moment; I suppose I felt stupid. Why would an older guy be interested in me?

A little while later you text me; “please let me give you a lift home, I don’t like the thought of you walking, it was his idea, I promise, I am really sorry”. Text after text read the same thing. I agreed. You picked me up and started to drive me home, which I was grateful for. It was a long walk and I was freezing cold.

But then you pulled over again, into another car park. You locked the doors. You did exactly the same thing, but you were different about it…you knew what to say. You were telling me how much you liked me, how bad you felt about what your friend had done, how you wanted to be more than friends. But then you were just the same…you started touching me, putting my hands on you and asking me the same question as before. I told you to let me out and I remember you laughing…telling me to lighten up.

I got out after what felt like a lifetime and started walking home. This time I couldn’t stop crying; I text my friend and asked him to come and meet me but he was busy. I cried the whole way home until I got to my front door. I remember walking through the pub and straight up the stairs to my house. I ran a bath and sat in it for at least an hour just scrubbing myself. I felt so…dirty. I told my mum I was just tired and needed an early night, and cried myself to sleep in my room.

It wasn’t until I went into school and told my friend what had happened that I thought about telling someone. She told me I had to report it to the police and walked me to the station straight from school that day. The police drove me back to my house and sat me down with my stepdad. They had to tell him what I had told them; I can’t imagine what that was like for him. Knowing it had happened days before but not being able to do anything as I hadn’t told him. But it wasn’t telling him that worried me, it was my mum. They called her back from work and went through it all again with her. They took my phone, laptop and my clothes. I was totally cut off.

But I am not writing this to tell you what happened; you know exactly what went on. I am writing to tell you what you really did to me.

No you didn’t rape me. I was not hurt physically in anyway; no bruises or cuts. No black eyes. No scars. Except for the emotional ones.

I felt nothing but guilt and blame since that day. I should have told my mum where I was going, I shouldn’t have flirted with you, I shouldn’t have gone out with you, I shouldn’t have got back in the car for a second time.

It was my fault. The police did nothing as they didn’t have enough evidence so obviously they saw the messages we had been exchanging and saw that I was flirting back and thought I was asking for it? Thought I wanted to have sex with you?

Fast forward 7 years and there I was. Sitting in a counsellor’s room asking them for help. I had no self-confidence, I had difficulty in trusting people and I was suffering from extreme anxiety. I thought all of this was because my dad died; I saw a counsellor before and they told me I was hyper aware of mortality, which is why I was feeling so anxious. I thought the low self-esteem was only because I was in a relationship with someone who didn’t find me attractive. I thought the trust issue was because I had been burned by friends so many times.

I remember sitting there feeling stupid. I had lost my dad 5 years before and had managed to somewhat move on from that. I had battled with depression and anxiety and had got to the stage where I was managing it. I returned to university after a year off and I was doing it…I was succeeding. Yet I still felt crap. How can I move on from my dad dying, but not from what you did?

I didn’t want to be seen as a victim. That sounds weak. I had gone through so much that I no longer felt weak and vulnerable, I felt stronger than before. But something was still holding me back; that something was you two.

You are the reason that I had no confidence, the reason I ballooned to a size 22, the reason I feel anxious when I see men in the street, the reason I couldn’t move forward.

But my counsellor taught me how to see things differently; no matter what I did, what I said to you, you NEVER had the right to do that to me. It didn’t matter if I lied to my mum about where I was going; we have all done that at some point…that still didn’t make it acceptable. And NO I am not a victim; I am a survivor. Victims don’t need to be weak…they can be strong.

There is no way that I am over what happened; the emotional scars you left are still there. I sometimes feel like I am fighting a losing battle. But every time I think about you I feel something deep inside…I feel pity. How sad you must have been to prey on a 16 year old girl because you couldn’t get someone your own age to have sex with you. How pathetic it is that you had to physically lock me in the car to stand a chance of getting any action. How ridiculously boring your lives must have been that you sat and thought of this together; down to the finest details of the alcohol that you got for me.

I don’t know what you are doing now or where you are…but if you have a daughter, think how hard it would be for her to tell you this story. The story of how two men took advantage of her, locked her in a car, wouldn’t let her out and sexually assaulted her. I had to tell my two big brothers who live 300 miles away, my uncles found out and so did my friends. They told me they would fix things…they would find you and they would hurt you. But that wouldn’t make it any easier for me. Looking back now, honestly, I wish they did. It wouldn’t have made me feel any better at the time, but it would have made you hurt…just like I did and I still am.

But at the end of it all I am not a victim. I have learnt from what has happened and I am now helping other people who have mental health issues. I have empathy and understanding that I never had before.

You have no power over me anymore.

It’s time to let you go.

Goodbye, and good riddance to you both.


“I Did Not Choose To Be Raped”

By an Anonymous Contributor 

I was told by Police ‘he’s had his telling off, he won’t do it again’
‘I haven’t just had my purse stolen, this is very serious’
‘but you chose to go back to that house’

I did not choose to be raped.

Shared Stories

The Year In Between

By Ione Wells 

Today was a great day.

Sunday morning, a day off. One of those gorgeous sunny but crisp mornings when spring is just teasing into summer. The park is heaving with Londoners, wearing shorts and flip-flops despite the fact it is still barely scraping thirteen degrees outside, and there is a jingle of an ice-cream truck in the distance. My body is seeping with endorphins (even if admittedly everything hurts) after completing the first session in one of those intense fitness bootcamp courses that I roped myself into as a 4-month-too-late-New-Year’s-resolution. Better late than never right? I make time to read the papers, and ignore my attention-sapping phone, over breakfast. I started the afternoon by accepting an exciting new work opportunity for the summer. I can’t stop grinning. My best mate is back in town and we make plans to go for a drink. I can’t work out how or why, given I’ve let work pile up for weeks, have bills to pay, and have many an undone to-do list floating around, but everything just seems to be going right today. Today, I can’t help but speak in clichés – I feel on top of the world.

Back home, I sit and fill out my student finance form (a menial task, but who cares, today is great!) I sign the form and date it. The date stares back at me, rather like when you’ve looked at a bright light for too long and can’t quite remove it from your field of vision.

Anniversaries are a weird thing. They are artificial, really. There isn’t really a point to them other than marking that something significant happened on this day once, at least a year ago. Yet we use them as an excuse to revisit all occasions both positive and negative: marriages, deaths, shops opening, wars ending. Reading the newspapers this morning, I came across a feature about Easter 1916 regarding its own anniversary. What struck me about the feature, though, was not so much its focus on the event itself, as we so often dwell upon with war memorials, but on the ripple of events that this one event triggered. The way it influenced how we have seen other conflicts since, the way it changed the shape of a nation, and the progress that has been made since that day, which we recognise all the more in remembering what happened in the past. Indeed, the only real purpose I can see for anniversaries is that they remind you to take stock of what exists today in light of, and sometimes in spite of, what has passed.

A year ago, today, this day ended and I was rock bottom. I spent the end of 10th April, or more like the early hours of 11th April, 2015 having the cuts and bruises on my naked body photographed in front of the police for forensic evidence, after being violently sexually assaulted on my own street on the way home from seeing friends. This day, a year ago, nothing could take off the bleak lenses that I was seeing the world through. It was, contrary to today, one of the worst days of my life.

Not every day is, or has been, a great day like today. There were the days of post-traumatic stress, the days of flashbacks and night terrors. There were the days of intrusion and invasiveness by a few notorious newspapers that, unlike the others, forgot that I was a human being and not just a news story. There were the days of court hearings, police visits, anxious waiting for phone calls, Twitter trolls, hate mail, rape threats – you name it. There were also just those ordinary crappy days that are a fact of life – the days of exams, of bad weather, of people being a bit shit, of getting the flu, of missing your bus even when you’ve just run a mile to catch it and everyone at the stop is staring at you like a fool. Not every day is a perfect day, for anyone. Of course it isn’t. It might look like it is for some rich kids on Instagram, but inevitably the days we project for others to see aren’t ever the whole story. We’re all human. ­(Back at it again with the clichés.) We can’t always pick which days we will feel on top of the world, and which days we will feel like the world is a dark place to be.

But when I take stock of this year, and the significance of this day, it is not those darker moments that stand out for me. This ‘anniversary’ does not make me want to think about this day last year, but about the year that fell between. I don’t want to define the year that fell between 10th April 2015 and 10th April 2016 by the incidents that tainted it, but by the incidents that transformed the energy of injustice, upset and anger from the negative incidents of this year into things to feel positive about: by the community on here; by the fantastic people I have had the chance to collaborate with through #NotGuilty to encourage social change: The Schools Consent Project, My Body Back, The Clear Lines Festival, Amongst Women Festival, Women of the World Festival, TED, Cambridge4Consent, The Survivors Collective, Goblin Baby Theatre…the list goes on; by the incredible, brave contributors we have had to this site – sharing their stories and, through every word, standing up for fellow survivors and themselves, stressing that no individual is alone or to blame for what they have gone through; by the inspiring survivors of assault that I have spoken to at our support groups and events, in the street, via email; by the people who have found solace and felt encouraged by #NotGuilty; by the days like today that remind me that I, and my life, are so much more than something that tried to define me and overcome me for a while, and that I can aim to have days like today every day if I want to; by the people in my life who I see every day, the people I share meals and stories with, the people who make me laugh.

#NotGuilty started as a tiny article in a student newspaper, not even half a page, towards the end of the paper, past even the blind dates and adverts. Little did we know it would ever catch public attention, let alone travel worldwide. Before we launched the campaign, I remember saying to my family that if we managed to reach out to just one person, to make even just one individual feel a little less alone and a little stronger, then I would feel that it had all been worth doing.

The world feels a lot closer with all of you who have read, contributed to, written about, engaged with, reached out to, and been part of the campaign this year. In the letter that kick-started the campaign, I told my attacker that he had not proved any weakness in me or my community, but had only demonstrated the solidarity of humanity, and confirmed my opinion that there are infinitely more good people in the world than bad. Infinitely more people than even I could have imagined, it seems. Without whom, I could never have anticipated such a transformation from negative to positive events ever being possible.

When I clocked the date today I wasn’t initially going to write about it, fearing that it could all too easily make ‘the year in between’ into an ‘anniversary’ of one especially bad day – that day changed my life, but it was people who transformed and shaped my experiences.

Once I started, though, the words simply poured out and I am glad they did. If only so I can say to all of you who made it possible: thank you.

Shared Stories

YOU don’t control me anymore

  By Stephanie

Remember playing with your neighborhood friends when you were little? Riding bikes and flying down a hill without fear of falling or a car coming? And when you did fall no matter how bad it hurt you always got right back up and kept riding. Most of us today still bounce back from falls just like that. I did, until I was raped. I had and did a lot of things before I was raped. Like freely express my mind, sleep at night, not fear anyone, not fear myself and most importantly I had self worth. I swam, I enjoyed hanging out with my friends, I adored my family, I had healthy relationships. Life was simple, not easy, but simple. Before I was raped I had enough self worth to know that I could accomplish anything I set my mind to. I had enough self worth to make someone else laugh and smile. I had enough self worth to set goals and run after them while knocking everyone down in my way. A guy named Tom not only took my innocence. He took my voice, sanity, power, and focus. He took Stephanie away and turned her into a self destructing pity party. I am not proud or by any means want your pity. This is bigger than me. This is for the little girl riding her bike and having to go home to an abusive dad. This is for the little boy that is too scared to tell anyone he’s been assaulted. And this is for all the teenagers who lost their voice.

Approximately 4/5 sexual assaults are by someone the victim knows. In my case that was true. It is also true that only 68% of sexual assaults are reported to the police. All the other brave boys, girls, men and woman who do report their abuse only 98% of rapists EVER spend a day in jail. Rape is complex, its not about sex. Its about violence, control and power. It’s about intentionally hurting someone to belittle them into thinking they didn’t do anything wrong. Most of the time they win, ask anyone who has been sexually abused. They will tell you before they started the road to healing they thought it was their fault. And the ones who don’t heal will always think it was their fault. I was abused for 3 years. I was 16, 17, and 18. This is a crucial time in anyone’s life to figure out who they are. I lost the chance to do that and I’ve suffered from transitional issues because of it. I couldn’t go to college and sleep at night. I couldn’t be a good roommate, girlfriend or teammate. But I went anyway because I worked my whole life not only to swim in college but to go for free. I couldn’t let Tom take that away from me could I? Well, in the end he did for 3 years. I lasted one semester in college because I truly believed he was following me. I would see him walking to class. In my swim locker. In my bed. I pushed and fought and refused to get help because I was too embarrassed to tell anyone what he did to me. Today, I know I was suffering from PTSD and I have a piece of shit rapist to thank for that. It still doesn’t hurt any less today but when I see him places I can assure myself he’s rotting somewhere not in my presence. Not talking, not getting help and lashing out at anyone who truly loved me has made me bitter and shameful. Is this all he wanted? To continue to control my life even when he’s not physically hurting me? And I have people tell me today “Why didn’t you tell anyone?” “How could you let it go on for 3 years?” “Didn’t you know any better?” How about a big fuck YOU? THAT is what is wrong. Why am I being questioned? Why am I being blamed? Why is rape so much different than any other crime in America? Rape victims keep quiet out of fear. For one, it is invasive, traumatic and confusing. Gathering the courage to say something and to be questioned like I have is NOT encouraging. I hope this little piece that I have written can give someone the courage to know they can say something in confidence and have a system to back them up. The system let me down and many others, but I hope that doesn’t keep anyone from fighting because YOU matter. YOU are not guilty. YOU deserve to heal. And one day you will be walking down a path full of love and support. You don’t owe anything to anyone. Draw the line where you want to and never feel guilty for not reciprocating. If you’re uncomfortable, it’s not your job to make sure that they’re satisfied. When someone tells a rape joke and you feel like running away, stand up for yourself and everyone else fighting. Not being a fly on the wall is the best thing you can do for yourself.  Guys you hook up with won’t understand how much power it took you to open yourself up to a man again, so they have no place to judge you if you draw the line at some point. The first time you start liking a new guy you may feel guilty, since a guy is what got you here in the first place. Some men you meet will think your rape is baggage and won’t know how to “handle” someone like you. Remember that trusting will always be hard but that you will one day find a partner who can support you emotionally, will read articles to better understand how to help you, will be there for a shoulder when it becomes too much, will be cautious during sex but not focus on it during sex, and will love you unconditionally because they couldn’t believe that someone would ever do that to you. These are things no one will tell you, but its how you break the chain with the one who assaulted you. You can be free. And you are SO loved.

Shared Stories

“I Trusted You”

By an Anonymous Contributor

You were my friend. I trusted you. I thought it was safer to stay at your flat, than to get the bus home on my own. I went to sleep feeling safe. I woke up with you touching me. I asked you to stop. You told me to relax and let it happen. You forced yourself on me, with your knees pinning me down by my shoulders. The more I pushed you off the more aggressive you became. You took advantage of the trust I had in you not to hurt me. For many months I felt ashamed that I had not screamed and left. I did not have the reaction I thought I would have had. Why didn’t I scream? I beat myself up about this – felt guilty. After months of counselling I understand that this is a very common reaction. I felt under attack and my body just froze. I protected you. My friend of 12 years. I didn’t go to the police because I felt sorry for you. Why? You didn’t protect me. You abused my trust. But you will not destroy my trust in others.

Shared Stories

“One of my many Letters to my Rapist”

By an Anonymous Contributor 

I don’t think you know how much you have upset me with your silence. I never would have thought you could be so uncaring, that I meant so little to you. I wonder if you were silent because you feared the consequences of what you did to me or because you genuinely don’t care about me.

I can’t believe that even when I was suicidal you didn’t even ask if I was okay.

Things have been really difficult for me since the six month anniversary as I keep crying about you. Why did you have to violate even my heart? It feels so twisted that I am trying to get over my rapist whilst I deal with my feelings of anger at the fact that you someone who I trusted, let in and cared for betrayed me.

I feel betrayed, I feel stuck in the past, I feel alone in my pain. It’s not fair that you hurt me in the worst way possible and now forever have power over me whilst I deal with my feelings for you and my hurt caused by what you did to me.

I am fed up with pretending to be strong and to be okay. I am not okay; I am hurting and it is hard even though it happened almost 8 months ago. I wish I could just forget it and that the memory were erased from my mind because even though things are easier thanks to the EMDR I still get triggered most of the time when I am in sexual situations and the EMDR didn’t get rid of the pain and the occasional nightmares.

I have started psychotherapy now as I think I need to address the feelings I have for you and the feelings I have about my rape. Thank you so much for putting me through all of this pain and heartache. I hope you feel absolutely wonderful about what you have done.

I am done being kind to you in spite of everything. It is time to unleash my anger. You are a terrible, horrible, evil, malicious, malevolent man. People often say that rape ruins lives and sometimes I feel like it has ruined my life. I have stayed very strong and stopped myself from taking my life but it’s really hard sometimes to live with the reality of what you did to me when I also have severe mood swings as well. I do not know what possessed you someone who also has mental health problems to mess up a vulnerable young woman with a chronic mental illness. You told me that you would never have sex with me when I was high, as in manic, and yet you raped me whilst I was in a manic episode.

I sincerely hope that when I confronted you about what happened you learnt your lesson and that you will never do the same to someone else.

Shared Stories

“The Fear Was The Worst Thing For Me…”

By an Anonymous Contributor to #NotGuilty

The fear was the worst thing for me, I didn’t understand why I would be allowed to live, and possibly tell someone what had happened. Or else, I thought I would be killed by accident, squashed, because I couldn’t breath in that position. I really thought, this is it, I will die now. I will be one of “those women” that is raped and murdered. For sure the violation is sickening, but once I knew I would live the high lasted a few hours – I even said, “do anything to me, just please let me live.” Piecing my life back together was difficult, and sometimes the cracks appear again, I have to try very hard to keep within the normal limits. But one evil individual won’t ruin my life. I never felt fear like that, but I will still take calculated risks, and I will fight for other people who go through horrific treatment at the hands of so-called “people’. I call them animals, these people that do things so harmful to others.


Shared Stories

“Your voice is the one that doesn’t count now”

By Alice 

I didn’t think I would ever be writing these words. But I wanted to say thank you. No, not for that night. Not for what you did to me, how you treated and abused me. But thank you for making me realise who I can be. I have shown myself how strong and resilient I am, how I can tackle anything and defeat it. And not just defeat it, but defeat it with a sense of understanding, defiance and a deeper sense of the world than I’ve ever felt before. I know what is right and what is wrong. I can stand up for myself and for others without a ounce of doubt or shame, I can focus on what matters and what truly counts, and I can be happier because of that. Instead of wasting my time with the trivial and the pointless, I know what matters – and importantly, who. And whilst you took that away from me, now I’m beginning to feel that I’m back, with an even stronger sense of who I am. So fuck you. You who took my voice away and stood over me whilst I died inside. Your voice is the one that doesn’t count now. If you listened to what my friend said, if you heard and understood the meaning of that word ‘unconsensual’, I hope that it planted itself inside of you, that it grows with every decision that you make, and every relationship that you have until you can’t deny it anymore. I hope they realise what you did, the women you are with. I hope that you can’t hold it in any more and you tell them. And then it will be my word over yours.


Shared Stories

Jessica’s Letter

By Jessica H 

Dear Rapist,

It has been a long time since I have been able to have a full nights rest. I almost forgot what it feels like anymore. The hatred I have for you is so built up and every little thing sets me off. It has been about 12 years since you stole my childhood away from me like the mean monster you are. I can’t stomach to think what you probably have done to other young girls since you got away Scott free and get to live a happy life. According to the police it is “OKAY” for a minor to rape a minor. Maybe they would have done something if it would have happened now that I am eighteen and you are in your twenties. I however, I still live in fear that someday, some nasty dirty person like you will harm me again. Thanks to you, I am afraid to have a boyfriend and I fear for my future husband.

I’ll never forget that green army tent in the middle of fall. Or the knife that you held to my throat and told me that if I said anything to anyone, my sister was getting it next. I still live in fear that if I see you in town or happen to bump into you anywhere, I am going to lose it. Because while you walk around hehe haha happy go lucky; I sit in the shadows of depression, fear, and anger that you are going to violently attack me again. I’ll never forget the evil devilish look in your eye when you told me that you would never hurt me because after all you are family. After many many many years, months, and minutes sitting in an office with random strangers telling that everything would be okay, I finally realized that everything is not okay.
They say time heals wounds; well I call bluff because those wounds that you left me with will never go away. After years of blaming myself, I just came to realize that I can’t change what happened that night. I can’t change that fact that you are blood related to me. I can’t even change the fact that you get to roam the streets every night like nothing ever happened. What I can change, is the fact that you can’t hurt me anymore because I am stronger than you, I am braver than you, and I am smarter than you will ever be. I covered my scars with imaginary Band-Aids for many years. I finally am able to rip those Band-Aids off and no longer allow you to control me. You no longer have the power to hurt me anymore.

What hurts the most isn’t the fact that you raped me. But the fact that you humiliated me and punished me for things that you did to me. The fact that I can’t sleep at night because I have nightmares of you raping me over and over again. I toss and turn every night, but as soon as I close my eyes I see your face and that green army tent with the silver rods. I see you force yourself on top of me and tell me to shut up as tears raced down my cheeks as you assaulted me. As the green sleeping bag you once had was covered in blood, my blood, is now burnt into ashes. It is weird how as time passes by I can remember more and more details of that tormenting night.

I wish I could feel what it would be like to have a normal life sometimes. Thanks to you, I’ll never know what that will feel like. Thanks to you, I question my faith in God. My family wonders why I won’t go to church and you are the one to blame for that. What you did to me made me believe that if there was a God, he wouldn’t let bad people like you rob someone’s self being from them. You may have taken everything away from me and more but I am strong and I will continue to fight your evil power and make sure you never hurt another person again. What I do know is that no matter what, what you did to me will not define who I am. I am not a victim, I am a survivor. I am neither broken nor beaten. I am battered and happy to be alive after attempting suicide twice to try to erase you from my memory.

Someone you can no longer hurt nor control

Shared Stories

“I am not letting what happened to me ruin my life”

By an Anonymous Contributor to the campaign

After over a year I decided to go back to my university on a visit for a few days. Last time I was there before the university sent me home I hadn’t had the EMDR therapy that got me over my serious sexual assaults and attempted rapes.

I was worried about my trip back. Would I fall to pieces if I saw one of my attackers? Would I not be able to bear being there because of the associations of the place?

The trip was a success. I loved being back in a place I called home for a year. I saw two of my attackers but I was completely fine and didn’t get very anxious or emotional as others expected.

This made me think that I have moved on from those traumas and can go back to the university I love next year. It would have frustrated me if the place had still had the sinister air and if I had got very anxious when I saw these students as it would have made me feel like they have won.

It’s been the most difficult year of my life and just as I had finished work on traumas at university I was raped by someone. Things are getting better though and my bipolar disorder is finally stabilising and I have moved on from the rape 6 months on. I have hope that things are definitely getting better and I think my psychiatrist will declare me fit to study in June if this continues. At the moment I am enjoying my newfound stability and doing everything I can to stay mentally well. I look forward to going into my second year of university next year. Yes, I have been sexually assaulted and raped and it did seriously affect my life and halt my studies for a bit as well as my bipolar disorder but I am not letting what happened to me ruin my life. I am going to go back and get my degree and move forward with my life.

Shared Stories

I Need to Allow Myself to Process This

By Han W

I am not to blame for the rape. I could not have prevented it and I did nothing wrong as I never expected that to happen. There must have been something wrong with him to do that horrendous thing to me. It is something I need to allow myself to process this, to not have to relive the trauma but instead approach it and allow the police and the older you to be there at the time in your mind, put the younger you with you in a safe place and think of a memory from every year that has past to show it is in the past now. Reassure her and allow her to ask any questions. Repeat to allow it to be less painful.

Shared Stories

#NotGuilty in Solidarity with Consent Workshop Facilitators

A statement by Ione Wells in light of recent discussions surrounding consent workshops at universities, following the publication of an article in The Tab.

I remember my sex education at school. It told me how to avoid getting pregnant, and that gonorrhoea looks very unpleasant and so we should probably use condoms. That was about it. It did not teach us about consent, the key to healthy sex that should come before any of these other issues could even become relevant.

This is a grave, gaping gap in our education system because most people have never learnt about, or had discussions about, the nuances of consent. Many people think that consent is as simple as “no means no”, but it simply is not. Consent requires an enthusiastic “yes”. Consent can be given or withdrawn through body language, as well as words. Consent can be retracted. Consent must be mutual. Somebody who does not have the capacity to consent, someone who is asleep, or someone who is unconscious can’t give consent. Consent cannot be assumed because someone is in a relationship with you, or your spouse. Consent to one sexual act, doesn’t give consent for every sexual act. Consent, or the lack of consent, can be verbal or physical. Consent cannot be assumed by someone’s sexual history, the way somebody dresses, or the fact they choose to drink alcohol. Consent is a complex issue.

I helped to run some compulsory consent workshops to groups of Oxford University freshers last week, and when I asked if any of them had learnt about consent before they gave me a unanimous “no”. They asked important questions, one that every individual should learn the answers to: “would it be rape if somebody had sex with someone who passed out halfway through?”, “how can you check that someone has consented without stopping what you’re doing?”, “how do you know if someone is too drunk to consent?” All these questions expressed great enthusiasm to learn about consent, but also demonstrated how crucial it is that we have these discussions. The fact that not everyone knows the answer to these questions shows that, in some contexts, issues regarding consent may not always necessarily be ‘obvious’ to everyone, and thus we need to talk about these scenarios.

So when a writer for The Tab this week described an invitation to a consent workshop as “a massive, painful, bitchy slap in the face” and “the biggest insult” and called those dedicating time and commitment to filling this gap in our education system “smug, righteous, self-congratulatory” – you know what? I was insulted. I was insulted because do you know what is more “painful” than a consent workshop? The fact that thousands of men and women every year have to be afflicted with the devastating consequences of sexual assault and rape on campuses. The fact that so many people do not know how to recognise when others give or do not give consent. The fact that so many people end up blaming themselves for another person’s inability to check for mutual consent. If the thought of attending a consent workshop makes somebody “overcome by anger” let me tell you that the statistics for assault at universities are far, far more angering than the groups of students across the country trying to reduce them.

The writer claimed that the workshops “imply I have an insufficient understanding of what does and does not constitute consent” but then goes on to say “Yes means yes, no means no. It’s really that simple” illustrating, ironically, an “insufficient understanding” of consent – my reasoning being previously stated above in my description of the complexities of consent. The writer also included a picture of himself holding a sign that read “this is not what a rapist looks like”. But when around 90% of perpetrators of sexual violence are known to the survivor, we cannot claim that there are any defining characteristics of a rapist. The myth that rape can only be committed by strangers in dark alleyways is one of the exact myths that we hope to combat in the workshops. He then went on to state that “You’d think Russell Group university students would get that much, but apparently the consent teachers don’t have as high a regard for their peers as I do.” I’m not sure why “Russell Group university students” are somehow exempt from needing consent lessons. Is the writer trying to say that people who don’t go to a Russell Group university are more likely to assault people? Or that a Russell Group education entitles you to somehow not need consent education? Both these assumptions are false. I go to a Russell Group university, one that has hit the headlines repeatedly in the last decade due to rape and assault cases on campus, because many students still do not know where the lines are between consensual and non-consensual sex, and consent education is a relatively new phenomenon. Regularly churning out essays in a library that is hundreds of years old does not make you automatically clued up on consent, or somehow socially superior – to think otherwise is both elitist and dangerous.

My fellow students, colleagues and I do not raise discussions about consent in schools and universities to “selfishly make [ourselves] feel better”. We do it because we want to live in a university environment that takes sexual assault very seriously. We want a student environment that establishes a zero-tolerance policy to non-consensual sexual behaviour from day one. We want a culture where there are no “blurred lines” to any situation involving consent, and one where everyone treats each other with the respect that they deserve. The writer asks for “a little respect for the intelligence and decency of your peers” but my greatest respect is for those who are willing to have discussions about consent. Those who are willing to ask questions, to help each other combat myths, to stop making dialogue surrounding consent taboo, and to accept that they may have not known about all the nuances of consent before, but are willing to educate each other further. Those who are willing to help to stand up to one of the most prevalent acts of violence that our population faces.

It is not an insult to somebody’s “intelligence” to suggest that we should all be learning more about an important societal issue. When a peer or tutor at university suggests that I read more about a crucial academic topic, asks what my views are on it, or recommends that I go to a lecture about it, I do not feel patronised. I do not feel a threat to my “intelligence” because we all know that nobody knows everything, and that we are all constantly learning. Instead, I feel incredibly lucky that I work in a supportive environment where people are committed to mutually making each other’s working lives better. Why should the infiltration of consent lessons into education be viewed any differently, when it comes to our social lives? Especially when consent has an importance in our lives that stretches far beyond any exam result or dissertation.

Since the article was published, many people have leapt to criticise those who have expressed resentment towards the notions that the writer expressed in the article. People on Twitter have told me that I’m what a “false-rape accuser looks like” and that I am “demonising men” by arguing against this article, in favour of consent lessons. But we’ve never said that consent workshops are just for men, or that only men are perpetrators of sexual assault. Assault is an issue that affects men and women, and is committed by men and women, and we highlight this fact in our workshops. We’ve never ‘falsely accused’ people of rape by raising educational discussions surrounding consent. On the contrary, we hope to make definitions of rape clear, so that ‘what is rape’ and ‘what is not rape’ are definitively known concepts, not blurred by any falsities or myths. Others, more irrationally, responded to me saying that they are going to “drink my feminist tears”, and alike, for speaking out about this. But you know what? There have been tears. Many tears shed by many thousands of women and men around the world due to sexual assault. You can try to “drink” them if you want, pretend that they do not exist, or that we’re “crying over nothing”. But whilst you pointlessly “drink” them up, thinking that will somehow solve the issue, we are going to swim across and get out of this epidemic the other side. Swim, because for too many years the voices of survivors, and the discussions surrounding consent, have been drowned and I, for one, am in solidarity with all those finally raising these issues to the surface of our education system.

Shared Stories

Catherine’s Letter

By Catherine

To the one who causes me to scratch myself,

When you said to me “Not all men are like that” meaning not all men are attackers or rapists were you trying to convince both of us that you wouldn’t hurt me because you were a rapist?

When you said to me that you could end up being unhealthy for me did you mean that you could rape me?

When I said that I had never been raped but seriously sexually assaulted and you said it was still a violation did you think of raping me because it was the only thing that hadn’t happened to me? That is what you did, you raped me.

When we were in your bedroom and you said that we would do whatever I felt comfortable with was it all part of your twisted game where you would in the end do the opposite?

When you lied when I asked if we had had sex after 45 minutes of extreme anxiety stopping me from saying the words and you denied ever penetrating me was that a way for you to get power over me by making me look like a fool in front of you?

When you denied raping me not long after admitting to raping me did you do that to make me look like a fool and a liar and because you knew that because I had feelings for you and you would trick me into thinking I had been hallucinating?

What was your intended result from the rape? Did you want me to get suicidal or at least try and kill myself? Did you want me to start self harming by scratching again to deal with the pain of what you did to me?