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.

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Carnival Against Sexual Violence: June 2009: Issue 71

Thanks Marcella so much for the special mention in the June 1st issue of Carnival Against Sexual Violence.


This is a wonderful resource where the latest blog posts are gathered every month. You can submit your own post or story or check out what others have written and get involved in discussions on their sites.

http://abyss2hope.blogspot.com/2009/06/carnival-against-sexual-violence-71.html

Monday, 25 May 2009

Carnival against sexual violence - a wonderful resource!

I wanted to draw the attention of anyone who might visit here to this blog. The Carnival Against Sexual Violence is a fortnightly collection of information about blog posts in all sorts of areas, such as personal stories, creative expression (poetry, art, etc.), legal issues, media watch, raising awareness, solutions etc. In the latest round-up I've found interesting articles on the healing process after rape, the treatment of rape in song lyrics, and about the pressure on victims to sort themselves out... and I've only just started looking, so I know there will be more to find!

http://carnivalagainstsexualviolence.blogspot.com/

Thanks Marcella!

Thursday, 30 April 2009

Repeat to fade: a healing process or pathway to eternal victim?

I was raped when I was nineteen (14 years ago) you can see my below post for details. I was prone to bouts of low self esteem anyway, which I have no doubt led me to be the perfect victim in that circumstance. I wasn't forceful and I wasn't very good at defending myself. I was lost in such a confrontational situation and didn't put up much of a fight, although thanks to the comments below I know that I made it clear that I did not consent to sex and that it was rape.

I have always been an approval seeker and after the rape the compulsion to seek approval grew much stronger. The roots of my low opinion of myself were deeply entrenched from childhood. I suffered considerable bullying. I was the kind of child who took it greatly to heart. I don't want to get into the details now, but I may post about this some time in the future. What I will say is that it taught me a certain reaction to confrontation. I learned that the best way to get through such situations was the "grin and bear it" option. In order to ensure that my attackers were not aggravated into more extreme acts of bullying I learnt to just take what was being thrown at me and hope that they would get what they wanted sooner rather than later and that it would be over as fast as possible. Why fight the inevitable? I have no doubt that this made me a favoured target because I didn't fight back and more importantly I would never tell.

At the time it seemed that I chose to let myself be the victim and thus I perpetuated my own cycle of abuse. It felt like a choice at the time anyway. I felt that I was actively choosing the passive role, but that actively choosing it meant that it wasn't passive at all. Again from the comments to my post below I realise that in these types of situations I was just fooling myself by creating the illusion of having been given a choice where no choice ever existed.

A dangerous game to play, perhaps, choosing to give up control, choosing to rely on others to do the decent thing and not push the situation too far. With hindsight, yes, but at the times when people confronted me I was so disabled with panic, so downtrodden and miserable I have to say that I didn't care how they treated me as long as I survived. And I didn't much care what state I survived in. Or maybe I just couldn't bring myself to wish for anything better where it seemed to be such a fruitless wish. I embraced my fate as my own, as part of me. I was the type of person who would always be bullied and I couldn’t see how it would ever be any different. I wore the mantel of bullying like a familiar coat.

So we have a teenager already primed to be the victim, already accustomed to choosing the victim's role and to accepting it as her fate, which no doubt led to me supplicating myself in situations which wouldn’t really have become that serious if I'd been more assertive. But the role was mine, it was what I was destined for and sometimes I’m sure I made a "bully versus victim" situation develop where a stronger person would have been able to dissipate it or prevent it from happening by presenting themselves clearly as an equal. But I expected to be treated badly I expected to be used by others for their amusement.

Now the point of my posting here isn't really to talk about bullying, I'm just trying to set the scene, to establish my personality type and to show how I was already in the victim mentality. It's difficult to come back from this place of fearing for your health, your mind and sometimes even your life at the hands of others, to become a strong person, to learn to stand up for yourself, to even realise that you have a choice to be anything other than what you've become. I had a few years free from physical bullying in the later years of my school life (although still teased verbally) and I'd managed to get some confidence back. The move to university at eighteen was like a rebirth. It was a new place and a new set of people who didn't know anything about my past. They didn't have a bullying lead to follow. They hadn't yet discovered the qualities which made people hate me to the extent that they wanted to physically or mentally abuse me. Maybe this new set of people never would? Maybe I could manage to portray the person who I really wanted to be and could finally leave all that nastiness behind me? Maybe I could manage to fool them into not noticing the parts of me which prompted the bullying, the parts of me which I could never identify to be able to change, but which seemed so obvious to others?

As far as the bullying was concerned my wishes came true. I lived a new life. I grew in confidence and began to feel for the first time in many years that I fitted in with a group of people and didn't need to seek their approval. I didn’t need to constantly monitor myself to prevent myself from giving people any reason to pick on me. They accepted me for who I was and I was able to make mistakes, say stupid things, act without thinking and still retain their respect. I could be a normal person without fear of reprisals. It was truly wonderful. I had a new set of friends who loved my personality and I felt worthy. I began to realise what a strong person I actually was and began to see my own attractiveness.

I had a few one night stands and a couple of more serious relationships, I was a bit of a "loose" woman in the end and I know that I started to turn things the other way sometimes, using the men. I called the shots, I picked them up and I took them back to my cave. But in university-land this was acceptable and it felt like a safe environment, a false world I suppose where everyone was friends and respected each other. I admit that I was enjoying being promiscuous at this time, it didn’t feel like something I was being pressured into and I never felt that I did anything that I didn’t feel comfortable with. I tended to favour the relationship option where that would develop, rather than the one-night stand, and I remained friends with all these blokes so I know that they were healthy encounters as this new confident self.

However back in the real world where I went for end-of-term holidays things were a lot different - more edgy, more risky and violent. Taking this student attitude into the real world is what caused me to get myself into the unseen danger in the first place. It also contributed to the state of denial I was in after the rape. I convinced myself that I had been an easy lay, following on from the promiscuous attitude I’d started to adopt. It was simple enough to add this guy to the figurative notches on the bedpost and pretend it was just another night of experimental sex.

It then seemed a natural progression to thinking of my sexual behaviour after the rape in the same vein. Seeing myself as the experienced scarlet woman who had very liberal boundaries. If I had been a willing participant then I'd done some very liberal things in sexual terms (I'm not going to get into the details, but the rape situation involved things I'd never done before or since). But in this assumption I was fooling myself. The sexual encounters I had after the rape were not the same thing at all. I hadn’t been gradually building myself up to them, I hadn’t been getting more carefree in my own way and on my own terms, I was noticeably different, suddenly, looking back now. I felt I could understand how women get into prostitution and I know that if I'd been short of money I'd have seen nothing wrong with it. Something inside had died, the romance attached to sex, the intimacy, it just all seemed like people pounding (whether consensually or not) on each other for thrills, not any kind of act of love. The emotional connection had been lost, and I have to say that I've never completely reconnected it.

People don't appreciate the consequences of rape. It's not just one night of violence or coercion to be dealt with. There is an undulating aftermath. The physical consequences are easier to spot and appreciate, but these soon pass once we’ve dealt with them, although memories of their horror can still come back to bite us when we’re least expecting it.

Firstly there is the practical side of healing physical wounds. I was lucky I didn't have anything too drastic (and I'm not getting into details). I do believe that the post traumatic stress and particularly the way I kept it so tightly wound up inside of me contributed to my contraction of irritable bowel syndrome a few years later. It’s certainly connected in my brain, it’s stress related, this was a stressful event, it’s logical. This is a condition to be "managed" for the rest of my life, so I do feel like the physical effects are always with me.

Secondly there is the fear. Fear of everybody and everything. I went through being claustrphobic, then agrophobic. I was anorexic, then I was bulemic. All these things were only ever for short burts. I was so unsure of myself I couldn't even pick a phobia to get lost in. I didn't let myself dwell here too long, I chose eating and smoking as much more socially acceptable habits and which didn't indicate any deeper trauma. I smoked a lot though. I put on four stone eventually as well.

Thirdly there's the foreboding of drastic consequences. I didn't have a period for four months. It took two months to build any sort of courage to have a pregnancy test, which thankfully came out negative, but not before I'd pondered that stinker of a question - whether to keep a rapist's baby. Then I began to fear, vast painful fear, stomach-churning panic-ridden fear, that my system wasn't working because he'd infected me with something horrible. Of all the men I've ever been with he's the most likely candidate for having an S.T.D. and he took drugs. I could have contracted anything from him! Now we're talking over four months after the rape and I was still finding out the extent of the damage he'd done to me, before I could even hope to move on with my life. Added to this was my extreme secrecy - nobody knew. I had the H.I.V. test. Luckily I was ok. So the missed periods must have been stress - pure and simple. My body knew what trauma I'd been through even though my brain was still in denial. A denial which was to last nearly 14 years.

And the effects go on in many other ways. They are still with me now. I’m still finding out how and I'm gradually dealing with the issues.

Regardless of whether I admitted it to myself or those around me, I was now the victim of sexual violence as well as physical and mental bullying in my life. Sexual violence brings something new to the equation. It causes a different type of trauma. It's easier to see physical violence as a wrong act being committed against you. Violence is wrong, hitting is wrong, pushing is wrong, calling people names is wrong, belittling people in public is wrong. Sex is not wrong in itself. It's easy to convince yourself that you chose to have that sex after all, that you chose to be a man who you didn't fancy. Then the brain starts constructing a false truth around it. Why would I have chosen to have sex with a man I found repulsive? Why would I choose to have unprotected sex like an idiot? Maybe it was because I was so desperate for sex that I didn't look after myself? Maybe I was so much of a whore that I didn't respect myself or the people who I slept with? Maybe I didn't value sex as any kind of intimate act, but that it was lust only - an itch to be scratched… etc. etc.

So the real damage isn't the trama which is caused by remembering a situation where you were forced into sex, the damage is done by these false memories constructed to relieve the mind from the horror of coercion and/or violence. It reflects what I said about the bullying, that I looked for a way to remember it as having been an active choice on my part. I suspect that a lot of people who suffer various kinds of abuse fabricate these false realities to make themselves feel like they have some control. I convinced myself I chose to be used, I chose to take part in sex that I didn't really want. That's the cancerous little seed which gets planted and which starts to grow and destroy all self-respect and you lose the ability to see yourself as a person who deserves to be respected by others.

You start on the lowest rung, you start from a pit, a cavernous hole in which you are barely better than an animal. With no more rights to sexual pleasure than an animal has, instead you feel like you are just a functional vessel with no rights to your own pleasure and to own your body. You start from the point of thinking that every bloke is better than you, that they deserve to ask what they want of you, that everybody else's opinions are more important, that you are worth nothing and you deserve nothing. With me this was very much kept below the surface. And on top I was all bravado. I'd had a three in a bed (again see the post below) and I'd had an adventure, I was enjoying my new freedom at university and I was just having some fun. I would see a bloke I wanted to be with and I would make it happen. This is the false truth I constructed for myself so I didn't have to deal with the more painful reality.

This is where we get to the title of this post. I know now that I mostly didn't pick the blokes I wanted and I didn't work some kind of magic, didn't charm them or have some "je n'est ce qois" which the other girls didn't have. What was different about me was that I didn't say no to anyone. I would pick up the vibe that a bloke was interested in me and without conscious thought I would decide that I was going to pursue that man and I was going to have that man, regardless of whether I actually fancied him or not. I would act in whatever way would make him approve of me and I would offer him everything on a plate, but all the time convinced in myself that I was in control. When alone with them in private I would allow them to steer the course of things, but I would convince myself that I was in the seat of control and that I was getting all the attention, I was the one using them. When things got to a certain stage, though, I would make myself as passive as I needed to be to be more passive than them. To somehow re-enact the rape scenario.

Now the difference between these blokes and the rapist was simple. They weren't rapists! They didn't want to push a girl into having sex against her consent or against her will. They wanted to have consensual sex with a girl who fancied them. What I realise now that I wanted from them was to use them in a deeply misguided healing process. Because I refused to acknowledge that I had been forced into sex I couldn't start the healing process that I should have embarked upon. I should have got some counselling or I should have talked to my friends. I should at least have allowed myself to feel, in my darkest moments, the reality of my experiences. But instead I was trapped there, unable to move on. I was trapped in a prison of my own making. I'd walked in and closed the door behind me. It was all my fault. Somehow that translated in the end into me believing that it was ALL my fault – the ill-chosen sex (not acknowledged as rape), my odd reactions to it, the fact that I no longer respected myself and the men I was going with. I blamed myself for all of it, so I couldn’t see myself ever as a victim of circumstance. I was so far away from "victim" in my own head.

In this unhealthy loop I continued to choose, over and over again, to become involved with men in a way that I wouldn't really have wanted to if I'd allowed myself to really think about it. I'm not saying I didn't fancy them, well some of them I did very much, but I allowed myself to be carried on whatever desire they were wanting to pursue, regardless of what I wanted from them. I would have sex with them on the first night, I would allow things to go further than I would ever have steered them if I'd been in charge. I allowed them to take charge and supplicated myself. I remember one particular one-night stand. This one sticks out in my memory because I remember vividly wishing that he would force me into sex. I remember lying prostrate in a luring position, whilst pretending to have fallen asleep, hoping and nigh-on praying that he would try to force things, that he would take control and that I could be passive in the whole event. I remember wishing that he'd rape me. But he didn't, and I was disappointed. I remember this now looking back. I also remember that at this moment I had absolutely no self respect after acknowledging these intentions to myself. Instead of healing myself all I was doing was reinforcing my fabrications and all the prejudices which I’d placed onto my own head. I was "asking for it", I must have been - I was so sexually depraved that I wanted to be raped. This is what I began to believe at the time. This was extremely destructive, it made me unable to see anything wrong in the rape and the preceding assault. I was left unable to lay any blame on anyone other than myself.

So this brings me on to the premise of this piece. "Repeat to fade" is the phrase I decided fits this scenario. The act of trying to heal myself by designing the same traumatic situation again and again, but with safer perpetrators. Looking back these blokes were not the pushy types. I'd pushed them, I'd picked them up, I was the pushy one. Then I would change and hope that they would take over being in control and this would somehow allow me to re-enact the rape in "safe" circumstances. I’m not quite sure whether I was hoping to be able to break the cycle by eventually taking control over one of these blokes, or whether I was reliving the scene over and over again to dull its effects after accepting that it was just the way things were going to be. I’m no psychologist. I think the hope was that eventually I would heal myself. That the balance would start to swing towards the middle, that in my own time I would be able to take back the control and that each scenario would bring me one step closer to being a sexual equal again.

This might have worked eventually. One bloke might have been just the right personality type to question me or to get me to admit things. I was close on some occasions to breaking and telling all. I don't know really, I'd be interested to know whether this is a common reaction, whether it's the sort of approach which has been known to work - reliving trauma to reduce its effects and basically going round and round in the same loop until it breaks, until a scenario presents itself which allows the victim to break it. Now I mention "victim" here because now I realise that was precisely what I was. I wasn't in control as I thought I was, but I wasn't the victim of these non-rapists either. I was trying to project the scenario onto scenes where it wouldn't fit and I was failing to ever recognise or blame the real culprit, the man who did the act in the first place.

Unfortunately one time the scenario did fit and it fitted all too well. This is what brings me to the question in the title. Did I just set myself up to be the eternal victim? Eventually one of the random guys I was using in my healing loop turned out to be one of those vultures who prays on vulnerable women to control them. He caught me in his snare good and proper. Although I didn't know how vulnerable I really was, he could smell it and I became a victim of a new variety. He was able to control me mentally because I was hooked on his bad treatment of me. This wasn't just a one night stand to use in my healing loop, as we were in a relationship and I had bad treatment available on tap. This relationship was intense, we lived in the same house, and I put up with so much that a confident woman, who was not devoid of self-esteem, would never have allowed to happen. He fooled around with other girls, blatantly, I remember knowing what was going on at the time, he wasn't fooling me, he didn't need to hide his infidelity from me because I was so low that I didn't think I deserved his respect. He got the best of the relationship in all ways. I was devoted to him, obsessed by him, I let sex happen whenever and however he wanted and I allowed him to bring girls back to his room and often would visit him after they'd left and spend the night with him. Other times he would crawl up to my room and into bed with me and I would comfort him if things hadn't gone well.

Something snapped one day though, which I'm sure often happens with people who are in denial. Reality slaps you hard in the face one day and revelation strikes. Mine came when he left me in his room and his screensaver eventually clicked on. It was porn. He didn't think anything of porn just randomly popping up for me to see, it wasn't even as if it was hidden away. The thought that it was such a throw away thing to him jarred against the raw parts inside, which still hadn't healed from the rape. It screamed at me that I was with a man who didn't respect any women, not just that he didn't respect me. This was the kick I needed to get myself out of the loop and I soon extricated myself from the relationship and eventually orchestrated his move from the house, at which time I got my control back.

I emerged from this relationship a much stronger person and my next sexual encounter was not a one-night stand but turned out to be a long-term relationship on equal terms. I still have a lot of problems associated with the rape and I'm only just discovering how much it has affected me, but somehow at least I broke this victim loop.

So I'll try to conclude in terms of the original question. I do find it difficult because I think I'm still blind to a lot of the truth in this situation and I've been in denial so long that it's difficult to unfurl it all. Anyway I think I was on the pathway to eternal victim. If I hadn't plunged so deeply into the role, that I was so far into the passive realm to ignore its passive nature, then I might never have been free of it. I might have carried on sleeping around and carried on with the one-night stands, and I probably would have still been stuck there now.



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Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Rape or just "bad sex"?: the myth about consent

Firstly I have no idea if I'm treading on someone else's theories or observances here, so please let me know if I am. What I wanted to highlight was the problem inherent in distinguishing between bad sex and rape. By bad sex I mean the sort of encounter that doesn't work out as planned or is not enjoyable or is deeply regrettable for one reason or another, but to which the parties consented, however unbelievable it may seem in the morning.

I'm limiting my discussion to the rape of a woman by a man, because this is my experience. I don't want to get out of the realms of my experience as I don't want to speak untruths.

There has been talk of various feminist theories about sex inherently being an act of violence from leading figures in the field such as Katherine McKinnon. Although the contention that she stated "All sex is rape" is actually false - she never said any such thing. I don't want to be labelled a feminist, causing people to switch off from my writings so early in proceedings, but I wanted to highlight the fact that consensual penetrative heterosexual sex is phallocentric in its very nature. The physical element of the crime of rape is always present in as far as rape is the hijacking of the natural act of penetrative sex, which is then turned into a crime by the unwelcome addition of violence or some level of coercion. It's proving that the sex act has crossed that line which is the essential element of the offence.

Some people see rape as an assault or an attack. This clear thinking is easier if the situation involved violence, which can be plainly seen on the victim. It's fortunate, at least in the terms of prosecution, when the situation is so clear cut. The definition of rape used to be against the "will" of the victim, meaning that to prove that they did not consent they really needed to prove that they had put up some kind of fight. Luckily the law was changed with the Sexual Offences Act 2003 and now a victim does not need to prove this, although as I was saying above a decent struggle leads to a clearer-cut case. The problems start when the only thing tipping the balance between bad sex or rape is consent.

There are several elements here which make the offence of rape unique and which make it very difficult to assess whether, and to prove that, a crime has actually been committed.

Rape is a serious assault. Other assaults of a similar gravity don't have the same element of consent attached to them. There is no get-out clause for the perpetrator. The question is whether they did the act, and if so, whether they actively intended to do the act, basically the physical and mental elements need to be proved. This isn't enough to prove rape though. Yes the man in question could be found to have had sex with the victim and he could be found to have intended to have sex with the victim. All this means is that two people had sex. This is where rape has to go beyond the requirements for other offences, where it has to be asked whether the victim consented. The crux of the whole thing is that question of consent, putting the burden onto the victim to disprove the defendant's contention that consent was given.

Now I want to talk about "consent", from the point of view of a woman who has been raped. I'm not trying to represent all situations. I was raped nearly 15 years ago, when it was still permissible to question the victim on their sexual history to discredit them. I had a very tenuous history with my attacker. I had been sexually active with his girlfriend on an earlier occasion and she had asked me if I would sleep with her and her boyfriend at the same time. I think even before a court had heard whether I'd answered "yes" or "no" to that proposition they would have heard enough for me to be labelled as a harlot or scarlet woman who was likely to have consented. Suffice to say I'd not said yes or no to this question, I'd said I'd like to meet him and I'd decide then. I met him and I hated the look of him instantly. I did not fancy him and I did not want to sleep with him. Unfortunately this was on a night of a big party - New Year's Eve - and the type of situation with 18 year-olds where there would be a lot of people coupled off by the end of the night and it was almost expected that a girl would be "up for it". I have no idea as to whether he had been told (by the girlfriend) that I had already said yes, but really it's not good enough to take a third party's word as to consent, so I'm not prepared to let him have that excuse.

There is an adage in the criminal law of assault that "you take your victim as you find them". This means that an intentional blow to the head to a person with a weak skull, which kills them, cannot be defended on the basis of the weak skull. If you intend to cause the harm then you should take the consequence. Why should rape be any different? If your victim is a girl who's drunk and vulnerable and who is less likely to scream "no" and who is more easily intimidated, that shouldn't be the victim's fault. As a timid girl, who was unsure what was going on until it was already happening and who had been drinking, I found myself exactly in that position. The position of being a weak victim, a weak witness to my own fate. In a simple conflict between his version of events and mine I was the weak party.

Two things happened that night. He assaulted me in a bathroom, barging in when I was on my way out and pushing me in and repeatedly removing my clothes, as fast as I was putting them back on again. I wasn't asked whether I wanted sex. It was assumed. He could well have had some steamy sex scene from the movies in his mind whilst this was going on for all I knew. I thought to myself maybe he'd just got the wrong end of the stick and he'd soon realise his mistake when he saw my actions were trying to prevent the sex happening. But I was not firm enough in my defence against him. I just tried to be quicker than him, tried to make sure that he never got the clear chance to penetrate me before I'd pulled my clothes back on again. And this did work as someone wanted the toilet, it all got interrupted, and I presumed I'd diffused the situation and in my drunken state thought that he'd realise that he'd got the wrong impression. Crisis over with no conflict?

I was niave to think it would stop there, but niavity of the victim should not be a defence to a crime. People who walk through dark alleyways or the kids who always go into the basement in horror films are still subjected to a crime when they get assaulted or killed.The fact that they were being niave in not knowing the danger isn't a defence. A crime committed is a crime regardless of whether the victim could have avoided it, and in some ways we're getting into the wonderful power of hindsight anyway.

Later the same night I was in a vulnerable position, being very drunk and alone with his girlfriend. I couldn't say whether they'd planned it, I couldn't say what had happened between him and her and what discussions they had. I can't know for sure whether she "lined me up" or whether she was just a different kind of victim in all of this. I'd like to think I hadn't met a mini Rose and Fred West, but anything is possible I suppose. That thought chills me to the bone, so I'm not going to dwell on it! So before I knew what was going on I was no longer just with her, but he was there too. And yes, you are presuming right, I was engaging in sexual activity with her. Again I can only point out my niavety and the tendency for kids of 18 to experiment. The situation in itself would have given the defence a field day, I suspect, so I don't suppose my situation is a very good example. I don't have a strong, open-and-shut case, I'd have had difficulty proving that he'd raped me, but that's not what I'm wanting to achieve here. A conviction wouldn't have made much difference to me, but what I do want to do is to share my thoughts about what really happens between the perpetrator and the victim.

I was on the back foot. I was already involved with his girlfriend and I was in a vulnerable position, easy for him to take control. That being precisely what he did. I was penetrated before I had a chance to say yes or no, even if I had been asked. At this point, maybe he could have argued that I'd not expressly told him off for his advances in the bathroom so he'd assumed that I would have consented to sex, but consent isn't a flag which you hoist above the house for the night, it's something which needs to be ascertained every step of the way and which can be taken away as quickly as it can be given, so again this assumption shouldn't be a good enough defence.

Again not being totally sure as to what had been agreed between them I can't say whether she just went away because her role was done, but I assumed at this point that when the girlfriend left the room suddenly that she'd got jealous or upset at seeing him with me and had stormed off. I was then on my own and already involved in sex, which I didn't want and to which I hadn't consented. I at this point asked him to stop. Several times. I tried to get away up the bed. But he didn't stop and I was sort of wedged up against the headboard after my earlier efforts at escape, with no room for maneouvre whilst he was steering from the inside. I was pinned, also with his weight on top of me and caged at either side by his arms.

So what options are left to the woman in this situation? Do you kick him somehow? Scream at him? rip his eyes out? If you're that sort of brave woman who gives these things a go then maybe. But really if you're that brave sort of person you'd have already put up that fight by this stage, and maybe you'd have never ended up here in the first place? Alternatively you could have lost and you could be a worse position right now. It's hard to imagine what worse position there is when you're being raped, but you kind of know that anything's possible because only a few hours before you wouldn't ever have imagined this happening to you either. You lose all ability to think that things will turn out ok. Lines have been crossed, lines which you thought were always clearly marked out. You have no idea what else could happen and you get to the point where you don't want to find out. When you share these experiences with people after the event then you know how much danger you were in, but you don't know at the time - this is the same for all victims of any violent or aggressive act. It's not unreasonable for a victim to do nothing in their defence. How can you ever be sure you're going to do the right thing?

Now here's the dirty little secret, and the point which I wanted to desperately to get round to, so I hope that I make my point well. Here goes. As far as my experience is concerned I did consent... in the end! What happened to me was not a complete sexual act which was against my consent all the way through until its bitter end. This would have been too harrowing an experience to let myself go through (I suppose I'm talking about 20 minutes here). Being tensed up and desperate for flight would have made it excrutiating. It would have been more painful than it already was. Plus the more I could do to help him get his satisfaction the quicker it would be over. So I disengaged my brain and I gave in. I gave up. And I'm making a huge leap here, an assumption, when I suggest that there is a point where every victim accepts their fate. A point where the compulsion is no longer to avoid the situation happening but to try to mitigate its effects as much as possible. The issue becomes survival and protection. You even start helping him. I helped him find the places he wanted and to do the things he wanted. I acquiesced because I no longer had any other choice.

The fact that I consented in this way, the fact that I used my own hands to guide his penis into place when he lost his rythm, the fact that I arched and helped him do what he wanted - all these things added up to me finding it impossible for many years to accept that I really was raped. I hope you can appreciate where doubt can creep in? You've only got your own version of events. It's hard to accept that someone would want to violate you so you try to find other explanations to make the experience less horrific. You were perhaps partially to blame, the old "leading on" scenario etc, although I've tried to answer how this should not be a defence already in this piece. It's not black and white and I know from my own experience how destructive it is living in the grey place in between.

Maybe you're all judging me now? I'd genuinely be interested to know in your comments. What would you have said if you were in the jury?

Maybe a victim who'd studied the law or knew how the judges applied the tests used to assess whether the defendant had a reasonable defence would know exactly how the issue of consent works in the law? But the victim will know exactly that moment when her spirit was broken and when she consented to what was happening, and she may start to doubt, as I have done. Some will survive this and remain steadfast, others will drift into the realms of "bad sex" and won't ever come back. No other offence can be dismissed like this. No other types of victims will be able to talk themselves out of being a victim. You're not going to suddenly say that you just offered your purse to the mugger, or that you invited the burglars in. But doubt sets in to the rape victim's mind and only the strongest ones will survive this long enough to pursue justice.

I'm not sure that the definitions need changing. I think huge improvements have been made with the removal of the defence of "a genuine though unreasonably mistaken belief as to consent" by the 2003 Act and the requirements now for the defendant to prove that there was consent. If interpreted correctly and vigorously then the law in this area should work. The problem to my mind is that young girls need to be aware precisely of their rights and what they should be able to expect from the men who proposition them. They should be asked clearly whether they consent and they should be aware that they can retract that consent at any time. Ultimately though they need to be reassured that if they finally consent to the rape, finally accept that it is happening and play along, that they are not consenting to sex - the distinction needs to be made clear.


Comments welcome...I want to make sure I've understood all the issues here, so if you have any objections to what I've written or anything further to add in support then please let me know.

Acknowledgments:

http://www.rapecrisis.org.uk/law/definitionofrape.html

What exactly am I doing with this blog?

The title of this page sounds a bit cryptic.

Basically I'm a woman learning a lot of truths and I wanted to share them. It's probably a hideous notion - everyone's trying to say something clever and to stand out from the crowd aren't they? There are blogs everywhere right?

I've come to realise that for every event in life there are as many truths as there were people involved. There is no one truth, except the one truth which we have to live with ourselves. So all I wanted to do here was to present some of my versions of what's really happening in life from what I've managed to experience of it and see if anyone wants to help me make sense out of it. Feel free to comment and to email etc if I'm talking complete rubbish or if you agree with any of my contentions (when I get round to posting them).

Anyway if you want to send me anything to put on here please email me and I'll gladly add anything which I think is a good piece (whether or not I agree with it personally) if it's providing some kind of truth about the world...