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.

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