5 days after my 16th birthday, I was gang raped. I was taken from a party to an apartment where they took turns raping me for hours. There were around 10 of them, I’m not exactly sure. I remember being left alone for long patches of time, this was when they were watching football. I tried to escape but I had to walk through the area where they were to get to the front door. I fell and the biggest one picked me up and carried me back into the bedroom. I will always remember him saying ‘we’re not finished with you yet’, and how he called me ‘sweetie’ and ‘baby’ while raping me.
For years I blamed myself, telling myself I shouldn’t have been drinking. Some of my most creative moments have come from the elaborate rationales I have used to make this my fault.
The silence is so isolating. My life was such a mess for years afterwards. I have had too many problems to list. To this day I can’t stand football, or any other male team sports, I can’t have conversations about sport, I can’t catch glimpses of it on television or see anyone in a jersey, or think about going to a party, without being triggered. I can’t be in a room where the gender balance is tipped towards men without feeling threatened. The list of ‘I can’ts’ goes on for so long that I can’t even list it.
But that will NOT be the end of my story.
I want the other survivors to know that there is joy and purpose to be found in life after rape. The pain and anger is crippling, sometimes for a really long time and even when it goes, you can be pretty sure it will visit again, But you CAN get through it, you can even use it. I now see that the pain and anger doesn’t belong to me-it was given to me by a few men in a broken society and that is where it belongs. I’m an academic in social policy now. It is possible to harness the pain and anger and return it to the world in a way that is productive-in a way that looks at the root causes of rape in society and shines a spotlight on it.
It did not start with you, it does not belong to you, it is not yours to manage in silence. Speak out, seek support, and don’t ever blame yourself.