Thursday, 4 April 2013

Why so angry??? (rant alert)

I feel very angry. I feel the angriest I have ever felt in my entire life and I also feel my most helpless. I know this is how people feel before they jump on an extremist bandwagon of some kind or another and I fear these feelings. I am lost and confused, whilst feeling on fire with bitterness and rage at the same time feeling utterly numb and like I could just drive into a wall and not care whether I lived or died or whether it hurt or not. Perhaps that level of hurt would make me feel something? Perhaps excruciating pain would be somewhere to focus all the fire inside, a place for it all to root? Why so angry? Because of me being a “don’t have” and being constantly treated as the one who has everything and should be giving up as much as I can afford to pay for those who are poor and unfortunate and are classed by society as the “don’t haves”. To me it’s the other way round, they have what I want, what I need, what I would give up everything to have. I suppose I'm really thinking about a select few. I don't want to jump on the benefits-bashing bandwagon, but somehow there are some people out there who abuse the system and it's made me more annoyed than I ever thought I could get about anything. They have children, they have so many children that they can afford to treat them in whatever way they choose to get what they want. They have children to get houses, they have more children to get bigger houses. They don’t appreciate what they have and they don’t appreciate what taxpayers give up to be able to provide them with what they see as a right and not a gift. They don’t see how many couples who both work end up not having enough opportunity to get pregnant in their early years, how we don’t feel ready because we have to establish ourselves in a career and make enough money to buy a home. We don’t get given a home by the government, we have to earn it and we have to work every month and live with the worry of what happens if we lose our jobs. We then lose our homes and our lives too. We are walking a tight-rope with so many people hanging onto our coat tails that eventually we’re going to fall off and they have no-one to provide for them anymore. Why should we do this for ungrateful people, people who demand being supported by the state. It isn’t a faceless institution which is supporting them, it’s thousands of people like me who are feeling the pinch of years of inflation growing more than pay packets, of increasing bills and increasing debt and decreasing quality of life. All whilst these others are being cocooned from these effects. Why shouldn’t they feel it too? Why shouldn’t they have their hearts in their mouths every time they get an official looking letter through the door and every time they open a bill or a statement? Why shouldn’t they have to rob Peter to pay Paul, with an increasing number of Peters and Pauls on their heels? But most of all why should they have children and I can’t? As a working couple with a lot of travel involved we struggled to put in the amount of baby-making needed to succeed, we’ve been stressed at times when we should have been calm, too stressed for the process to work, or indeed too stressed to even try. We’ve had the wrong diet through not having enough time to concentrate on the right diet or through comforting ourselves in the stressful times. We’ve had too many boozy weekends (to make up for the stressful week days) and we’ve just worked to survive each month as we’ve never had enough spare cash to save. We’ve probably lived a similar lifestyle at times to those “dole bludgers”, drinking and lazing around, but we’ve earned it and we haven’t had kids to get us the money to do it. Because of it though we’ve lost our most fertile years and probably reduced our fertility during those years too. Biology has caught up with us now and the prospects of us having natural children through our own efforts are very small. So we pay again, we pay for IVF. Or we go for adoption and we pay to get all our debts in order and downsize the house to be able to afford to be a good prospect, able to take parental leave and work part time to look after children, able to jump through all the hoops that these other people who have all the children and all our spare money don’t have to do. Why do they have the children and we do not? Because they don’t have to wait. Because they didn’t waste all those years getting educated and developing a career, just to be able to pay more tax into the system. Because they don’t have to worry about who is going to support their children, they can just keep on having them. Because they use their children to get more money from people like me. I’m so tired of being the faceless cash cow whose life is slipping away and dreams are fading whilst I’m just waiting. I want/need/deserve a family of my own to nurture and support. I’m not going to use them and abuse them and set them on fire to get more handouts. I’m going to care about them and put them first. I wouldn’t even mind if they were other people’s children, I just want to be helpful and have a proper place in society, in nurturing our young people, no matter who they are or where they came from. It’s all screwed, it’s all in favour of the people on benefits in terms of having children. They are the last people who should be making their families bigger if they can’t afford them in the first place. They are creating a need for people to support them and they are taking the opportunities away from those people who can’t afford to stop working or reduce work to be able to concentrate on having a family. For so many women of my generation/class the choice has been career or children in those early years when we were at our most fertile, now our careers have led us to supporting other people having children to the detriment of our own chances - that just sucks! What qualifies you for benefits? Is it a list of unfortunate circumstances? Is it a list of demands? Shouldn’t also the ability to appreciate that it’s a gift and not a right also be one of the criteria? SHouldn’t a desire to achieve or return to self-sufficiency be part of it? If someone’s stuck in a trap (poverty trap) do you try to get them out or do you just chuck food and provisions into the trap for the rest of their lives? Would you encourage them to try to get themselves out? Wouldn’t we all try as hard as we could to help them do that?

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Carnival Against Sexual Violence

Once again this fabulous resource from Marcella Chester has highlighted my writings, and contains lots of links to really interesting and though-provoking pieces.

Click here for more details.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Resolving through reliving: nothing quite hits the spot

Last night I sat obsessively at my computer, passing hour after hour, until the small hours of the morning when I could no longer stay awake. I was hungry for resolution and to see and experience something that came somewhere close to representing the events of being raped as I remember them.

I was restricted to watching anything free to view, which was a fictional scene. I was never ever going to pay to watch something which would end up with someone profiting from it really happening.

I sat through Jodie Foster's gang rape in "The Accused", I watched Clint Eastwood raping some woman in a barn in the old West (can't remember the film) to show her some manners, I watched the attempted rape of Sookie Stackhouse in "True Blood", I watched some Spanish film where the woman was theatened at knife-point, I watched what was billed as some hard-hitting Bollywood rape scene but was a little too smartly choreographed to seem realistic, and many others including "Last Tango in Paris" and something with Jennifer Aniston in it.

But nothing hit that spot. Nothing wrenched my stomach, nothing crushed my lungs threatening to rip them out through my ribs, none of it made me feel anywhere close to how the memories make me feel and how I remember feeling at the time.

Perhaps it's the fact that I know I'm safe watching it, all that I can cause damage to is my head and my wellbeing, but physically I don't need to fear harm. Perhaps I've lived it all over and over again so much that I'm numb to it? But I didn't want to be numb. I wanted to feel it all again, I wanted it raw and vicious in front of me, I wanted the emotions and fear coursing through my veins again to remind myself how bad it really was.

Am I completely insane??

I wanted to feel it now, as the person who I am now, so that I could make sense of it all, so that I could really understand what I'd been through and to help me prove to myself that I WAS really violated, that I can consider it to have been rape, which is the thing I've struggled with for years and why I didn't acknowledge that it had happened or how it had affected me.

Today I've been thinking a lot about why none of these scenes were enough for me. On paper most of these situations were notionally worse than my situation - with multiple assailants, weapons, vicious intention etc. Yet they didn't make me feel like I was living it again. I think I've hit on it now though. These clips were only minutes long, they conveyed the story and the events, but they did not let the viewer actually live in the scene. They didn't build up the tension, they did not show the detail, the nuances, they did not show what that woman saw from her own eyes and did not give us any idea of the physical reality. They did not take as long as the act took, they didn't make the viewer have to sit uncomfortably through every movement, every separate act and violation which added up to the big event, like the victim had to do. They weren't put into the place of the victim and can only ever be observers.

So I've turned to the only scene I've found in my life which comes close to echoing the experience of the undignified struggle against invasion, which still haunts me more than the eventual act itself. Well, that's probably a little simplistic, it's all pretty harrowing really, but the part of it all which still makes me lose my stomach was the initial fight before I gave in.

Anyway the scene is one in Buffy the Vampire Slayer Series 6. I don't expect I'm alone in this, but I've often felt a real connection with this lonely young woman who took so much on herself to protect others and had to battle her entire life. This scene in particular was where the man who she had been involved with, but had ended things with, came round to her house. Well, I say "man" but he was actually a vampire, Spike. There was symbolism from the start, she'd previously invited him into her house, thus he was able to enter (unlike your vampiric stranger) so there was the inference that she'd already consented to his advances before. He was also a monster in a man's body. Vampires have no soul, no ability to see what's right and wrong, no boundaries, the inevitable predator.

He ended up catching hold of her in the bathroom, on the floor (mine was in a bathroom too and with a blond-haired lanky bloke - the same) and tussling with her. The rawness of the scene is palpable, the bathroom is harshly lit and the surfaces are hard so there is no sense of it being a place where people would want to have sex out of choice. She hits her head and it's clumbsy, which is the reality - so many rape scenes treat it as a sex scene gone wrong, they have the same smooth happening to events and the man is able to "perform" and to hit the spot. It's just not that neat.

He pushes for what he thought he deserved, what he should have, what she'd previously given willingly and what he thinks she should give again. The lines are blurred between them because of their history so it echoes in some respects my own experience (I didn't have history with him, but instead with his girlfriend and he got it into his head that he could have me in the same way). Some time in her life she trusted him and there was a fundamental breach of that trust (in my instance I put it in the bloke's girlfriend).

Buffy was also an immensely strong woman, but because he caught her off guard he got the upper hand. She was portrayed as uncharacteristically vulnerable at this point. She'd normally be kicking him in the face and putting him out of a window with her superhuman strength, but this scene showed her with such frailty that it has been a source of strength to me to watch it, to see how even the most strong and brave of women can be undone too.

I suppose I didn't need to spend all that time looking. I have my perfect "rape" scene to play over when I need to feel it and have a cry to myself. Out of any of those scenes this one where there is actually no rape in the end, where her fight is ultimately successful, is yet the one which I find most raw.

In the end he realises what he is doing is wrong. He is disgusted with himself and sees himself for the monster that he is. There is perhaps an element of sadness watching this scene that the guy in my own scene didn't realise this too.

.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Opening the cage door and moving on: Part 2

To write the rest of my story I needed to first come to terms with the fact that it was always incomplete and it will always be incomplete.

I like to know both sides of a story before I can assimilate it and make it my own, yet I've not been able to do this with my own story, the biggest story of my life! I've only got half the facts, well less than that actually, and I’m either going to have to make things up around the edges or I have to accept that I’ll never know. There are gaps in my recollections, it’s been 15 years so that’s normal. Some things I do remember very very vividly, other things have just fallen away and I’ll never be able to remember them enough to satisfy myself that they are correct so I should stop torturing myself.

It’s like broken bottles in the sea, eventually the edges get smoothed so that they are little glass pebbles, easier to carry around. I can’t get those jagged edges back in tact to piece it all together again into a whole thing, I just have to accept that the option has now gone. Without being able to question those involved and those who might have witnessed things then I’m never going to know.

I’ve always feared that the whole truth wouldn’t stand up to scrutiny, but I shouldn’t apply that pressure on myself. So what if people hearing my account would go away and grumble to themselves that I was stupid, that I was partly to blame so should stop whingeing, that I should have done this, that and the other. So what? What do they matter? The only person who matters in this is me, isn’t it? My version, my truth.

I wasn't quite sure how to launch into this and in the end I read through my first post telling my story and posed to myself the sorts of questions which a reader might have posed. I wanted to answer the doubts I've had in my mind for years, which were born of the doubts which I would expect others to have hearing my account.

(I am presuming a reader will have read this first account linked to above. It's too difficult for me to merge everything together at the moment)

WHY DIDN'T I LEAVE THE PARTY AFTER HIS FIRST ATTEMPT?

It was New Year's Day about 2.00 in the morning, I was drunk and already it was a bit late to head home, and the girlfriend (G) had already said on impulse that I could stay at her house, after having worked with her in the pub that night and even then I didn't know for sure that her boyfriend/the perpetrator (P) would be there.

I had only met him for the first time that night. I’d known her for quite a while by this point and she’d only just recently mentioned him (he lived away) and she acted like a singleton mostly. She and I had got involved with each other before she mentioned him, so I thought she was single, although I don't suppose that would have stopped me, I'm not making out that I had any moral superiority or anything, just that I had genuinely been rather surprised by the news that she had a boyfriend. She and I had been sexually active together as I said in my previous post, so she certainly didn't seem like the devoted girlfriend type. From what she'd told of him (when she had finally mentioned him) I knew I wouldn't like him and I was surprised she was with him. He sounded like a bit of a b*stard before I even met him, he pawned her hired video player so he could buy drugs and many other stories...

She didn't seem like that though, the girl I knew was gentle and caring and she shouldn't have been with him, but she seemed to be resigned to being treated badly and to the casual relationship they seemed to have.

I guess I'm just trying to think of why I trusted myself to be in the same house as him after that first incident. I trusted her judgment I suppose, or at least I trusted that with her around I’d be ok. And I suppose I couldn’t imagine that he’d end up being so insistent and I was bolstered by the fact that I handled it the first time and defused the situation when he tried to push me for sex in the bathroom. How would I know what he was going to be like though, really? How far he’d push it? How bold he would be? You only know after the event that you had put yourself into an unsafe situation. The question I posed was "why not leave after his first attempt?" - well at the time that was the only attempt, I didn't know there would be a second, successful, attempt!!

It was a party with lots of people there. And I thought I'd made it clear that I wasn't interested in him. I thought I'd made it clear to her too. But then I'm not sure what I did or said.

All the pub staff went to this party, it was somewhere on the other side of town to where I lived. I had no idea where I was. I knew I was near her house, so I thought we’d end up back there when I could just go to bed, out of the way. After things had died down at the party and when there weren't so many of us left then I became painfully aware of his eyes on me, and he got me a drink and gave me a spliff, in the group, and although I didn't want to be there I just wanted to be in a group. I didn't want to go to another room, attempt to walk home in the dark or be out of the public gaze, so I just joined in, although I mostly passed the joint on. Maybe he was just a chancer or maybe all this was his attempt to "loosen me up". Who knows? I don't know. This is another thing which I can suspect, but can't ever know.

WHY DID I GO WILLINGLY TO THE HOUSE OF A MAN WHO TRIED TO RAPE ME?

Again I have to say that you only know that the night is going to end in rape when it does end that way. If G had said to me "do you want to stay at my house so my boyfriend can rape you?" I would have declined!

It was about 4 in the morning by this point. No chance of getting a taxi. I suppose I could have phoned home, but I didn't want to disturb them. If it had been the days of mobile phones I'd have called my big brother, but no such luxury. I told G I didn't want to be with P, that I just wanted to go back to hers and I'd have the spare room. I hoped it was enough to tell her that I didn't want any of it with him. Niave maybe!

She seemed upset with him anyway, she never said Goodbye to him when she left the party house and she said to me that he would probably stay at the party all night. I've no idea what went on between them, but I remember feeling relieved that it would just be me and her.

Back at her house, in her room drinking vodka, I told her what happened in the bathroom, that I didn't want to do anything with him really and that he wouldn’t get the message, but she didn’t seem overly concerned about his actions. In fact it turned out that she was the one who had knocked on the door and she knew what he was doing. I don't think it crossed her mind that I'd been fighting with him in there and I didn't put it in quite those terms. I dumbed it down. It sounded a bit far-fetched or like I was looking for an excuse to justify my behaviour. Maybe I wanted to believe that it was innocent, so that's the line I took.

I didn't particularly want to get into anything between them, any arguments or accusations, so I just left it. Plus I thought that she might have felt let down by me somehow, that secretly I wanted him and not her and was just covering it up with this story. This was partly what led to me and her being together again that night. I don't feel ashamed about that choice. I needed right then to be with someone caring and gentle and unthreatening. That's why I felt so let down by her when she just left me with him minutes later. That after I’d told her my wishes, she thought I wanted him to join in, that she couldn’t understand that it was uninvited. Or perhaps she didn't care?

God knows whether she was jealous about him with me or about me with him. God knows. It's all a bit confusing, but she definitely got mad about the idea of him and me when it was a reality in front of her, rather than just a possibility in her head, and she got up and left the room in a great hurry having only managed to find a shirt and some shoes to wear. A few moments later the door went, so I knew I was alone with him. Although it was only a few minutes later that she was knocking loudly on it. That was another thing I hoped would stop him, that she needed to be let back into the house. I told him that. Pleaded with him to go and let her back in. It was snowing and she was only partially dressed, any caring boyfriend would have thought it was more important to go let his woman in from the cold in the middle of the night. But then he would have lost his opportunity wouldn't he?

WHY DIDN'T I DO MORE TO STOP HIM?

To some extent I have answered this in my previous post.

People have visions that they'd put up a jolly good fight, but the reality is very different. I'd already fought with him earlier in the night and he didn't get the message, I just couldn't see how it would do any good. I did try to push him off, tried to keep him at arms length, but my arms were not strong enough, tried to get away, but I was pretty tired soon in to proceedings and all it was doing was getting me into a worse position. So like I said I gave in. Let it happen. It was awful really. I still see his face inches away from mine, with such hollow eyes, like he wasn't really there either. What was so horrific was that he didn't see the need for protection, which was another thing which made me feel so degraded. He didn't care what the consequences were or what would have been respectful to me. And he wasn't really bothered about being "hygienic". He just wanted to thrust away wherever he could make it fit and he didn't mind about switching between vaginal and anal. This is the first time I'm admitting that he also anally raped me. It left me feeling like a piece of meat, with no rights to choose what ended up where. Mostly if you switch from one to the other, you don't switch back! It’s filthy. It made me feel filthy.

I don't remember what happened when he finished. Which sounds pretty strange, but I just don’t remember that part any more. I'd disengaged by that point. That's what makes the whole thing seem so worthless, and in turn made me feel worthless, was that he got bored! Like I wasn't even good enough for him. I don't remember how it ended, I think he went away to let G back in. I didn't put the light on, just found somewhere to rest and hide. Like an animal. I felt like an animal. He'd taken my humanity away, I suffered such a huge loss, lost such essential parts of myself and he was indifferent to it. Bored. Unmoved. How devastating that was, surely there should have been some kind of sign that something so important had happened?

WHY DIDN'T I LEAVE THEN?

I was shell shocked. I was confused as to what had just happened and as to what he thought had happened, and what G would have thought had happened. I couldn't fathom any of it and I was tired and confused and all I wanted to do was to sleep. Maybe it would all be ok when I woke up? I'm not a confrontational person and this wasn't a Hollywood blockbuster where the accidental heroine ends up fighting the baddies and blasting out into the street. I just curled up and tried to disappear. Where could I have gone?

Then events took a strange turn. This next event is the really damaging event. I realise that now, years and years later. A rape is horrible, but over time it's fairly easy to see it as a rape, but being targeted when vulnerable and talked into having sex willingly, now that's the really harmful consequence. That's what happened next and what caused me to spiral into promiscuity for years afterwards which obscured the effects of the rape and made me feel pretty worthless. See my post Reapeat to Fade for some discussion of how the rape led to promiscuity.

Eventually G came in and I remember saying sorry to her. Crazy really, but I just felt so sorry that I'd let him sleep with me when it clearly upset her. She brought me a cup of tea and a proposition. There was another guy right behind her in the doorway. She asked me if I would sleep with him. Crazy. What conversation did that come up in? ("Yeah there's this girl in the spare room upstairs, she'll sleep with anyone, I'll go and ask her for you"). She said he was good, that she'd slept with him before. My mind went crazy then, what the hell was this place? Where the hell did I end up? How do I get out of here? Who else is lined up outside that door? I had a vision that I'd never leave. These all felt like wild thoughts afterwards. It was ok in the end, there was only one more guy, how ludicrous to imagine an endless string, but how the hell was I supposed to know what was going on anymore? I think I said "Whatever". I should have said "no", and I should have told her that I hadn’t wanted to sleep with P either. Why didn't I?

So I let this stranger use me for sex. I didn't do anything, just was like a doll and I cried. Any decent bloke would realise that wasn't right. But what else could I come to expect from this house of horrors? He did look a bit apologetic I suppose and he skulked off pretty quickly when he'd finished.

You can see where I might start to wonder if I was spaced out, if I'd made the whole thing up, dreamt it? Or that maybe I was just trying to justify being a crazy wild child by pretending I didn't want any of it after the event. It would be so much easier to think that I'd wanted it, otherwise it's a bit too much to cope with. Why would there be a whole group of people so loopy in the head as to think that all this was normal? Surely I got it wrong? I'm just being overdramatic about some bad choices, right? But then that wouldn't still haunt a person 15 years on.

SO WHY DID I FINALLY LEAVE?

It was probably about 6 or 7 in the morning by this point and I just knew I needed to get away, after the second guy. I could take no more. I should have done it earlier I know, but this is what finally pushed me to risk it. After all I didn’t know who else she would bring in and what else was in the plan for me. I got up to go and found that I was pretty dizzy and weak. I managed to get to the bathroom and locked myself in. Thank god they had a lock on this bathroom. I puked. Had a shower. Ate some toothpaste. Put on the clothes I'd found and bolted for the door, and ran over the road to the park opposite. I stayed there for a bit, hiding, and then I just walked. It had stopped snowing thankfully, but was bitterly cold and I hadn't managed to find my coat or purse. I walked for ages still not knowing where I was. I eventually found a garage with a phone and sat on the wall until it seemed like a reasonable time to phone my Dad. I reversed the charges and tried calmly to ask him to pick me up and told him the name of the street. I decided I couldn't tell them what had happened. I just couldn't. It was excruciating wondering what Dad would say, what he would make of finding his daughter in such a state, knackered, smelling of booze and smoke (and probably sex and puke too) and having stayed out all night without the decency to sneak in again without bothering him. I looked like a wreck. I know I did.

He's disconnected at the best of times and he never used to tell us off. Mum used to do it and he used to just frown. Dad's frown is the worst thing to me in this world. It means deep disappointment and always looked a little bewildered, like he couldn’t understand what I was doing there sometimes. I could hardly see his eyes under his eyebrows he was frowning so heavily, but he didn't say anything for ages. Eventually he told me off for upsetting my Mother. She'd been up half the night worrying where I was, as I said I was going to a party after work and not to wait up, but that doesn't work with my Mum. She knew that I wasn't home and she'd started to worry from about 4 am onwards. She was right to be worried from about 4 am onwards! I wished I could tell her that.

So here I was, craving support and friendly faces, but having decided not to put my parents through the trauma of working through this with me I didn’t ever ask for the support I needed and decided to put up with whatever they said to me. So instead of support I got told off. Told I was a disappointment and a disgrace. That felt about right to be honest. I was disappointed, appalled with myself, and felt pretty disgraceful. It took Mum a long time to forgive me for staying out all night and doing those things which they suspected I'd done but would never mention in polite conversation.

That really made me feel incredibly alone.

I wanted to tell them what I was doing for them, what I was saving them from, but I couldn't.

I went through the next trauma alone too. Finding out whether I was pregnant and waiting for four months to see whether I had HIV. I didn’t tell my friends at university because I didn’t want it to follow me there, it felt like it was a world away and I could pretend it was all some kind of dream (or nightmare), so I just pretended I’d had some wild encounters, an adventure, and shelved the bad feelings.

I was pretty convincing I suppose because I convinced myself too.

.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Finally some truth in the Roman Polanski "affair"...

I've been trying to read about this case, although I've found it hard to do so without getting irate and depressed because of the treatment of the victim and the idol status that famous people seem to be able to call upon to make their crimes seem less serious.

When I heard a tiny snippet of the story recently on the news I heard the accusation "unlawful sex with a minor". That could mean anything. It could mean a 17 year old who freely consented. It could mean that he's been caught on a technicality and that all the fuss which was being made about the case might even be unfair vilification. How wrong I turned out to be once I actually decided to look up the facts and some discussion about it!

He made advances on a 13 year old girl, asking her to pose topless for photos, he gave her drink and he had sex with her against her consent. By her account she clearly said no. The guy anally raped her too. How can any of this be generalised as "unlawful sex with a minor"? It was rape pure and simple.

I studied for a law degree many years ago and I know the concept of plea bargaining on the behalf of the victim, plus I know that quite often lesser charges are brought to secure a conviction. Winning a lesser charge is seen as better than fighting and losing a more serious charge. This is what happened in this case, so the world treated it as a less serious situation than it really was.

I haven't done enough research to give any kind of structured argument or comment. I'm finding it difficult reading much about this case. But I would like to point out a post which I've found very enlightening:

"Jay Smooth on Roman Polanski" - from Filthy Grandeur

It says it all to me. Thanks for posting this FG.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Opening the cage door and moving on: Part 1

I've written here about my rape experience, and what happened afterwards, how it affected me, and the dreams that I still have. Writing about these events and feelings has given me an opportunity to finalise a version of my truth, which I can work on and can start to come to terms with. It's so much easier to fight a demon if it's got a form, and to be honest sometimes putting the demon into form means it's a lot smaller than it threatened to be when it was just in the mind, running wild.

My first post, Rape or just bad sex?, gave my account of the rape from a particular perspective. I felt that the biggest hurdle which was placed in the way of me trying to get over what happened to me was the issue of consent, so I concentrated on the aspects which led me up to my conclusion that so often rape victims feel like they consented and therefore cannot truthfully see the situation as rape.

I tried to be as matter-of-fact as I could be to convey the bare facts, to avoid confusion, and to enable people reading my account to be able to see my arguments clearly and to hopefully give me some reassurance that my situation was rape. The trouble with that was that I missed a lot of things out and I still was left with the feeling that if someone knew the whole truth they would find that actually I was making a load of fuss calling it rape.

I worried for so many years about whether I've had the right version of the truth, whether the guy who I think raped me would have had the same version of events, whether he'd refute it, and sometimes whether it really happened at all or whether I just made a bad choice and tried to blame it on someone else afterwards. This has so often stopped me from telling, and it's been the main reason why I haven't really told my friends. Nearly all the people in my life who knew me back when it happened don't know any of it did happen. Most of them in fact. Only my now husband and a close friend. And it seems quite impossible to tell my friends now after I've pretended for so long that it hadn't happened. I felt that they would never really believe me or worse that they would believe but would be upset that I didn't trust them with it at the time.

I've recently told a friend. Admittedly it's a friend who has only known me a few years, so those fears were not relevant. He was supportive, sympathetic and non-judgmental. He was amazing, more amazing than I could ever have hoped. And yes, he was a "he". I broke so many bonds which have been holding me by telling a male friend. I have written in my post "Repeat to fade" about the way I felt after the rape, when I'd started to basically go with any man who was interested, that the rape increased my promiscuity as I had disconnected from the emotional sides of sex. Because of the rape I've been unable to feel strong enough to say "no" to men who proposition me, who I probably would have said no to if I'd been the former version of myself, the untainted version.

I have imagined that going through the process of saying "no" to a man would force me into telling. I'd somehow connected to two events in my mind and began to wish for the situation to present itself where I would be forced to tell my story. It was therefore incredibly important for me to tell a man of my experiences, without it leading to anything sexual between us or being caused by any sexual advance. He is a man who I find attractive, but I only told him on the basis of us being friends. This has broken the spell, like someone has waved a wand. Literally. The connection has snapped and I feel so incredibly free, like the door to my cage has been flung open.

I challenged myself at the beginning to be as honest as I could be here, telling myself that I needed to do this to really help myself to come to terms with all these things. But only now do I feel like I can tell all my story. I told it to one man and he accepted my truth, he didn't try to belittle my version of events and he didn't give me any opinion about my actions or the rapist's actions, or the actions of others who were involved. He didn't allow me to cling to any words, apart from my own words, but he reinforced to me that I was right. I was the ONLY person who lived this experience and I'm the ONLY person who can decide what really happened. The perspectives of the other people there are not important now. The only truth that matters is my own. It doesn't matter that I can't remember all the details, I can remember enough to know how I felt and whether I'd consented or not. He also said that I shouldn't let this define me and that I shouldn't try to define it. Something really awful happened to me and I should accept that, but not let it become the most important thing about me.

This intervention of logic from one man has broken the hold that another man has had over me. He's stuck a spanner in the wheel that I've been treading whilst I've been convincing myself out of being brave and talking myself out of seeing it as rape. He could see it clearly without all those pesky emotions and self-doubts. I fed off his strength and I need to continue to do that, not just with him but with other people.

All of this has made me realise that whilst I hide the truth, whilst I feel shame about any of the events which happened, whilst I pre-judge myself before I've even told my account of things - then I will still not be able to fully define it and will not be able to move on. I need to put a big fat fullstop onto the end of this and accept a version of the truth, whether it stands up to public scrutiny or not, and I need to give myself the chance to say goodbye to my former self, mourn for those parts of myself that I've lost forever, and then I need to move on.

To do this I need to tell the rest of the sorry tale. Here. So watch this space...

.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

My recurring dream: meeting my aggressor - a feared nightmare or a secret desire?

I have a recurring dream which comes and goes in life and haunts me for ages when it's with me. I don't know why it comes or what triggers it. I don't know why it goes away again either.

Before it goes it's not just a night dream, it's a day dream too and it takes over all my thoughts. When it reaches its most intense stage I spend most of the day with it swimming round my head and it acts as a veil through which all other things are seen and experienced, tainting everything. I think that's why it has to go again, because it threatens to envelop me completely. It's never solved or resolved when it goes. It just dissolves away and I always know it will be back. It lingers in the shadows, a demon at my back.

Perhaps if I resolve the issues here and work out what it really means the demon will be exorcised? Here goes...

THE START OF THE DREAM:

I'm in a pub having a drink with my friends. One of my friends comes back to the table and says "A guy at the bar says he knows you". I look around embarassed to see who's heard that, because there will always be that question flashing in their heads about who this mystery person is and how I might know him. It could be someone I know completely innocently, or it could be someone I don't wish them to learn about, but anyone who's heard it is interested and awaits my response. I can't see him at the bar, he's obscured.

I ask my friend what sort of bloke he is, what does he look like? What did he say? How does he say he knows me? I am shocked by her answer. "His name is P*** and he says he can't remember your name, but that you know him from back home". This makes me catch my breath as the possibility of it being the one man I don't ever want to see again starts to occur to me, but it's the next thing she says which confirms it and knocks the ground right from under me, "I didn't like the look of him, he's scabby and he has mad staring eyes".

Now I start to panic inside, my stomach falling to the floor whilst simultaneously trying to force itself up through my throat, but I maintain as expressionless a face as I can whilst I try to work out what expression I should wear. The next few moments could make all the difference to my present life, could shatter the existence which I have built, and I have to play it perfectly.

This puts an incredible strain on me before I've even seen him - I try to work out how all the possible scenarios could play out and what I could do now to prevent them from turning nasty.
The fact that he still has the "mad eyes" and he's clearly not cleaned himself up indicates to me that he's the same person as he was 14 years ago and I am completely clueless as to how he will react to me or how I should react to him. But what I do know is that I've got to keep my friends out of trouble at all costs. I don't want them bound up inside this along with me, I'd rather deal with it myself and not carry that guilt around too.

The bloke in question, standing at the bar, is the guy who raped me 14 years ago. I've spent many years thinking I'd never see him again as the possibility got more and more remote. I've moved towns, I don't hang around with that groups of "friends" anymore, I never left a forwarding address with any of them. I cut them off cold. Since then I've been rid of him physically, although he's never been far away from me because he's lived vividly in my dreams.

But the unthinkable has happened: the event I'd always feared. Here he is in the flesh and acting like I would want to know him, that he's an old flame or friend, and that I would want to talk to him.

Maybe he doesn't think he did anything wrong?

So many questions flash through my head that I can't settle on one to start processing it. Like a fruit machine they are whirling round and round. I need to know what he thinks, what version of the truth he's been building his life around and what he remembers. What does he think he did? Has he spent all these years thinking that I was really there in the situation with him through my own choice? Did he hope to meet me again some day to rekindle that night? Does he think we are just notches on each other's bedposts, or does he know he took what he wanted by force, but couldn't care less? Or maybe he does know what he did wrong and wants to apologise?

I've tried to convince myself that my version of the truth is what I should believe, but it doesn't ever quite seem enough. This is the biggest story of my life, in which the facts and the feelings and intentions behind them are so important. Yet I only know half the story, at best.

So maybe he'll make me think I was wrong, that I'm over-reacting. That's the most obvious way for him to play it, isn't it? But the real fear I suppose is that they'll believe him too, that he'll downplay it with my friends and I'll be made out to be some neurotic liar. What if I tell them the truth, MY truth, and they choose to believe him? Suddenly my present life and my healthy and safe environment seems like it's made of painfully thin glass and could shatter with whatever move I choose to make next.

So should I ignore him? acknowledge him in a friendly manner or a hostile manner? pretend he's got the wrong person, what? What? I am completely lost. Surrounded by my friends I am utterly alone. I cannot involve them because I know what is at stake. I don't want them to be victims too. All I know is that if he's still the same guy, anything I do or anyone else does could end up in violence. He will defend himself if I accuse him of rape. The fact that he thought that violently taking what he wanted all those years ago was his right, that it was normal, makes me realise that knocking any one of my friends to the floor who tries to intervene if he turns nasty will be normal to him too.

I knew him from the time that I worked in a rough town centre pub in a North East town, where violence was a regular occurence, so I'm sure he won't think twice about being violent to protect himself.

I'm stuck. I have to make a decision, but I don't know what.
At this point whether awake or asleep I struggle to breath (both in the dream and in reality). If I'm asleep I'll stop breathing completely sometimes. This always wakes me up in the end, breathless and confused between dreams and reality.

WHERE IT GETS COMPLICATED:

When I return to the dream it's exactly where I left it. It's like no other dream in that respect. It's like a video which has been paused and every detail will remain the same. On my return all the different options are playing at once now though, whirring round my head, interchanging, but I know them so well that I know which thread they belong to.

So the next part plays out in many different ways and I flick between them, not able to decide which is most likely and which is most desirable, because ultimately this is all conjecture anyway, being a dream. I have complete control, but still I seem unable to take it.

In one option I'll talk to him casually and make out it was a pretty average night many years ago and tell him that I'm married now so I'm not really interested. This goes well and he acknowledges me on the way out of the pub when he leaves. Or another time he comes over to drink with me like we're buddies and he'll try to talk me into seeing him again, taking his number, wanting a repeat performance. Somehow I talk him out of it in the end, or one of my friends rescues me from what they think is just the normal kind of bothersome bloke on the pull. These are all the good options, the least harmful options because they throw him off the scent and they leave me physically in tact, even though I whither in a corner when I'm finally out of his presence. Only then do I tell my friends who he really was because I can't help being upset and panicky now he's gone. They can't quite believe that he was there and I was so calm, but they seem to believe me.

These options don't happen very often though.

In another version he asks me if I've seen his girlfriend who's left him and taken the kid and I say I haven't seen her for ten years. Sometimes this is enough; other times he harasses me, insistent that I must know more than I'm telling. Sometimes he takes my word in the end, other times he gets violent. In one version he ends up holding me by the throat up against the bar (or against a wall, or he's rushed into the ladies toilets after me and has me holed up in a cubicle) until someone manages to rescue me. Well I usually get rescued, but in one horrible version, which thankfully doesn't strike very often, he ends up stabbing me in the ribs.

Even at this point, in a public place with him obviously being violent, I still just want it all to stop and I don't defend myself. I just let him do what he wants and try to calm him down or avoid the blows. I want to run away, but I can't in case someone else gets involved. I would rather he hurt me than anyone else. I end up screaming at my friends to leave him alone, which just makes me look like I feel something for him and want to protect him. I don't though. I just don't want them getting into trouble for attacking him. This would make him an unwelcome part of our lives, beyond this night. I'd rather just take the pain and not let him know any personal details about me by pursuing him through the courts or by someone defending me ending up being pursued through the courts by him.

In another version I decide not to go to speak to him and when he comes over and says he knows me I act as if he's mistaken, I make up a new name, say I've lived somewhere else, I've never heard of the town he's sure I'm from. Sometimes I convince him, other times he insists to various degrees that I know him. Sometimes he gives up and my resolve pays off, maybe he does doubt himself, or maybe he just thinks it's too hard work? Other times he drags me from my seat and outside under the pretext of wanting to talk to me privately. Sometimes I end up punching him to the floor, sometimes he punches me, one time I ran away and rang my friends when I'd lost him. That's if he doesn't catch up with me, which sometimes ends up with me battering him, angry like a wild banshee, or other times I return to my friends later bloody and upset, unable to tell them what had happened, unable to face the reality of the fact that he'd caught me and attacked me again.

Another time he tells me he's just come out of prison, sometimes this is for murdering his girlfriend or at least beating her up, other times it's because someone else has succesfully brought a rape claim against him. I struggle with the emotions this conjures up whilst also struggling to work out how to react to him and preserve myself against this man who is clearly more violent than I ever had any idea he was at the time when he was my aggressor.

More recently (ever since my first post here) it has been changing subtly since I've come to accept that my truth is legitimate. Every so often a new option appears which is more brave on my part. Last week I dreamt that I ignored him and he came over to the table and he said very publicly "Don't you remember me?" and I say No and then he says "So you don't remember people you sleep with?" which is clearly designed for him to get control of the situation and make it difficult for me to get the truth across to my friends. It's a controlling move, but I recognise it as such and I'm very proud of my reply:"Yes P*** of course I recognised you, I just didn't want to talk to you or acknowledge you. Yes, I remember fondly all the people who I've chosen to sleep with, however you gave me no choice all those years ago so I don't count you as one of those people."

How liberating this version is!! I wouldn't mind if that version was the one which stayed, although as yet I don't know what he did next...


WHAT I THINK IT ALL MEANS:

My first post on this blog showed the uncertainty I've had all these years that mine was a clear case of rape. I felt unsure that I'd done enough to make it clear to him that I did not consent. Or at least I worried that other people would doubt me. The option of him turning up, although frightening, seems to me to be a way of getting resolution. A way of forcing myself to face it all and decide on one definitive version.

The fact that it's new friends and work friends I think means that I want to reconcile the newest version of myself with the secret parts of myself that I'm always too wary to show. To free myself, the individual self, with people who didn't know me then so have no way of doubting my truth.

The fact that it is in a public place with people I trust is telling of the fact that I need support for my assertions and I need reliable witnesses. I don't want them to protect me, I want them to see him as a clear aggressor too. I want to lose my doubts by knowing that there are witnesses. This is also why it's important that he seems the same person and why the aggressive options are so prevalent. I dream of it being made plain to me that he was wrong, that he overstepped the mark. I need simplicity.

I need to know what an outside observer would have made of him because I don't believe my own version.

Deep down I've always known that my truth was right, as far as I was concerned I didn't consent to sex with him. But I've often excused his actions by reasoning that maybe he didn't realise it or that he didn't hear me or he didn't think it was a possibility that I'd say no, because of the fact that he thought I was going to say yes, that it was expected.
If other people observe the dynamic between us then I can understand whether he is aggressive and whether it was intentional on his part, whether he seems like the sort of bloke who wouldn't care about consent - capable of rape.

I think I've lived with the fear of him having another chance to impose his truth on to the situation. To keep having control over me beyond the one night. I need some resolution, a chance to lay all this to rest. Secretly I want to see him again just so that I can fill in the gaps of my story and close the book, regardless of what the conclusion will be. More than that though I want to meet him in a safe environment where I can get the control back.

These two desires are never going to happen though, so I'm stuck going round this endless loop until I find a way to accept my truth and lay it all to rest for good.