Today I was told a story that made me feel uncomfortable and angry.
In the context of the conversation, a woman shared a story about her daughter who had become paralytic at a party and subsequently raped. She talked about the trauma it caused her daughter and the long term emotional distress she had witnessed and knew her daughter had suffered. However, the women went on to say there was no way in hell she would have let her daughter report it and go to court. She said ‘absolutely no way, I just wouldn’t put her through that’. The women then went on to discuss how because the daughter had been ‘paralytic’ when the assault had taken place, meaning that the judge would not favour this, and may feel that the girl had put herself in a vulnerable position. She concluded that the learning from this was that the daughter should not become so intoxicated with a substance that she can not defend herself in the future.
This story made me feel anger and my chest tightened in an uncomfortable but sadly familiar way. I wanted to ask her why, why was the learning on the victim and not the perpetrator? Why would you teach your daughter that although she had been sexually assaulted, that it was simply best to stay quiet and get on with life? I was shocked. I didn’t trust my voice to stay detached and level toned, so I stayed quiet.
Two weeks last Saturday, I was raped. I am a 24 year old woman, I would not be classified in any way as a vulnerable person. I am still numb to what happened to me, with only a couple days of complete emotional breakdown. To summarise, I was out with my ‘best friend’ of nearly 10 years, he is a family friend and our parents are close. I have had ‘too many to count’ drunk nights out and stayed over each houses together over the years. We trained together every week with our running and in general, told each other everything.
I was saying over at his house. We’d come back from a night out with some other friends and I had left my car in the town centre. We waked back to his. I had stopped drinking before the others as I felt I had drunk too much already. The others stayed up whilst I crashed in bed. My friend had always said to me, when I stayed over I could have the bed and he would take the sofa. I went to sleep with all my clothes on. I was awoken to him on top of me. I am not going into details and I don’t want to write it all down here. This story isn’t even about me. I am angry about the bigger picture now. In the morning my ‘friend’ apologised more than once.
Since then I went a crises clinic where they took my statement and gathered evidence. They told me from the evidence given (texts from him accepting and apologising for what he had done), I had high chance of conviction. Since then I have been getting on with my life, trying not to think too much until I had spoken to an Independent Sexual Violence Adviser.
My parents told me not to tell anyone. My boyfriend begged me to report him to the police. My friends were supportive but felt it was my choice on what to do. I didn’t know what to do. It felt as if all of my teenage years spent with my friend and our friends all together were flashing before my eyes. All those times…they were the best. I’d lost a best friend in the most hurtful, insensitive and horrible way; violating everything myself and my boyfriend had together.
The days and weeks that followed the assault I felt empty. I felt numb and struggled to sleep, when I did I had nightmares where he would be in the same room as me or had flashbacks. Alongside feeling numb I also felt dirty, disgusting, tainted and extremely low. I felt that everyone could see it on me, like it was written all over my face. I stopped eating and struggled with my panic and anxiety disorder more than ever. My protective factor was my boyfriend, without him I don’t think I would have got out bed in the mornings and I will forever be grateful for that support and love.
Back to the story I was told this morning. What kind of culture do we live in today where we are telling victims NOT to report their sexual assault due to what the barristers will put them through? What message is that sending? How can victims have the courage to stand up and speak when our cultural scripts are telling us to stay quiet and not make a fuss? I feel so much anger and the need to speak up for young people and all women victims now. Comments such as ‘well, because it wasn’t a violent rape..’ or ‘it wasn’t on the street or anything..’ only underestimate and de scale the victims trauma and lived experience. I had bruises on my body. Finger grip marks on my forearm and bruising on my lower spine. But for some reason, to the public, this is discarded because the assault took place inside and I was out of it (drunk).
I feel a cultural change is needed in order to address this very much unspoken crime should be allowed to have more of a voice and be spoken about. I am aware that currently I have a lot of power and if I do report the assault that my once ‘friend’ would serve a prison sentence. What kind of message does it send out if women are encouraged not to report rape if they were intoxicated during the time of the assault? What was done to me was wrong. After a little research I have found out that only 18-40% of victims report their assault (by a friend or acquaintance) to the police.
‘Due partially to low reporting rates, only 9 percent of all rapists get prosecuted. Only 5 percent of cases lead to a felony conviction. Only 3 percent of rapists will spend a day in prison. The other 97 percent walk free.’ (Reporting Rates,” 2013).
These statistics in themselves speak volumes.
I do not believe at all that any blame can be put on me for what happened. I trusted that person and did not, for one second, believe he would ignore me when I asked him repeatedly to stop. It does not matter if I was out of it or not. Rape is rape and No means No. Or thats what I thought? The learning I took from what happened was to never trust a male friend fully ever again, never to stay over if my boyfriend wasn’t present as well. However, the real learning for me is that men have learnt that they can go out and groom, assault and rape women and not have any repercussions. Due to the fear women feel in speaking up. I feel a stand has to made against this.
I am not sure what I will do yet. I have time now to decide whether to report what happened to me or not to. I would like to get across the importance of being sensitive with rape victims and not to silence them or make them feel reporting it is the wrong thing to do. I am so furious and upset with the stigma and exclusion victims face when sharing their assault. The image of a women with a zip over her mouth comes to mind. I will leave you with something the crises worker said to me, ‘it is like a bomb going off and the shrapnel hits everyone’… which is very much the reality of this assault for me, my relationship and my family.
I am re reading this about three weeks later and have decided I will post it, all views welcome.
— Amelia, age 24