Sunday, April 7, 2013

Part 2: On being a victim of rape culture

Warning: This post could be triggering for people who have themselves been victims of sexual assault.

Part 1: The day before can be found here.

This is part 2 of my story about being a victim of rape and of rape culture. The recent Steubenville rape case has stirred many emotions for me both personally as a victim and also as a woman living in a society where too often victim blaming is the norm.

So often the word "misogynist" is used incorrectly in these times of quick sound bytes and political catch phrases. A man who has sex with a woman when she is unconscious is a misogynist: A hater of women. He is also a criminal.

Where am I?

I woke with a start. An overweight black man was on top of me, penetrating me. I pushed him aside. "Where am I?" I asked.

"Who are you?” I was so confused. I must have blacked out. But I never black out!

"Where am I? Who are you?" I asked again when there was no answer forthcoming.

"Aw, don't you remember?" came his reply.

"No, sorry, I don't remember anything. Where am I? Who are you? How did we meet?"

"I met you with your work friends. At the bar. Don't you remember?" He made it sound like I had insulted him. How dare I not remember!

"No I don't remember anything. Where did we meet? What is your name?" He dodged the questions and talked about something else. I can't recall what.

My brain was so fuzzy and I was having trouble piecing together my surroundings, how I got there, what had happened earlier that night. I didn't remember taking my clothes off but I was stark naked. I felt woozy but not drunk. Not hungover in the slightest. Strange. I never black out, I kept telling myself.

He had jumped off me so quickly and was standing there naked, lighting a cigarette. I asked for one. They were Lucky Strikes. Every time I see a packet of Lucky Strikes or hear them mentioned now I cringe.

When I tried to sit up I screamed. The most intense pain shot through from my tailbone and up my spine. Where the fuck am I? What happened to me? How did I get here?

I looked around the room: It was small, messy, disgusting. It stunk of semen. What had gone on here tonight? The bed didn't have a proper sheet on it. I remember the bare mattress that was pressed into the corner of the room under a window. A tall cardboard box leaned next to it as a makeshift bedside table. There lay my earrings, silver rings and watch. So neatly sitting there. That image still haunts me. It made me think I must be have been a willing and compliant participator in this scenario. But I have no recollection of taking them off. I never black out!

I looked at my watch: 3.30am. Where had the last few hours gone? How did I get here? Who was this person? Why am I at a stranger's flat? I never go back to a man's place on a one night stand. What happened to my work colleagues?

I asked to use the bathroom. I remember walking naked up a small flight of stairs. There was no toilet paper. He handed me a Chux wipe. I felt pain.

Confusion overwhelmed me. Shock I think. I couldn't do the mental battle with what was going on. I accepted it right there and stopped asking questions. Convinced myself everything was ok. This is normal. I got back in his bed naked and went back to sleep. I surrendered.

The sun came up. Laying in the foetal position with my back turned to him I felt him trying to come at me from behind. I pushed him away. Part of my mind was saying sleep Vanessa, don't wake up and face this nightmare just yet. But then it hit me: I'm not supposed to be here!

I sat up with a jerk. My body screamed in pain. "I've got to go home my flatmates are expecting me home". I was all of a sudden afraid. Something bad had happened to me. I didn't know what but it was bad. I'd been violated, injured. I had to get out of there.

Complaining about my tailbone I remember he told me to put Chinese herbs on it. So strange. I dressed quickly, grabbed my jewellery, my handbag and tried to get out of there as fast as I could.

"Can I have your number?" he asked. As if everything was normal. There was no fucking normal. Normal was over. Forever.

"Um, yeah ok". I didn't want him to see my fear. I gave him my number changing one of the digits.

He walked me out the front door. We were in a council estate across the road from Shoreditch Park. I was still confused about my surroundings but walked away with purpose so he couldn't see my vulnerability.

I walked stiffly towards the left up the main street but nothing looked familiar. I am usually pretty good with my sense of direction but I had no idea where I was. I asked a passer-by which was the way to Liverpool Street Station. I walked that way and before long I could see the familiar and comforting silhouette of the Gherkin in the distance and I knew I was heading in the right direction.

I felt dirty and sore. A shit storm of emotion was brewing inside me. Confusion still reigned but terror started to pervade me. What the fuck happened last night? I walked along streets I'd never walked along before until I reached Old Street and I knew exactly where I was. Walking down Charlotte Road Shoreditch I passed my favourite hairdresser in the world (fuck I miss him now!). I said a shaky hello and averted my eyes as he looked on me with concern. I realised then I was holding my emotions in check but was ready to burst.

Two minutes’ walk later and I was in my flat. I stormed into my room, stripped naked and ran for the shower. It was so surreal. I let the hot steamy water stream over me while I cried and cried and cried. This isn't happening to me I thought. I'm in a B-grade telly movie about a rape victim who stupidly washes off any DNA evidence the moment she can get to the shower. It wasn't happening to me. I was watching someone else crouching in the shower crying in shame. 

I scrubbed and I scrubbed my body. I washed my hair and tore at my face to remove any smudged make up that was left over from the day before. My brain was a mess of confusion and disgust: What had I done to myself? How low had I sunk? What the fuck happened to me last night?

I couldn't focus. I got out of the shower and back to my room and sobbed. My flatmate and his girlfriend were in his room next to mine. She came into me, "are you ok Vanessa?"

"No, no I'm not. I think I've been raped."


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fitfabforty said...

You are so very brave to write your story, but it is definitely something that needs to be told especially to other young girls out there who party too hard. I myself have been a chronic binge drinker and weekend party girl from the age of 18 until about 35 when I married my husband and even now will still do the occasional bender when I get let out. Blackouts for me are normal and piecing together my life is a constant battle. I have been very very very lucky that nothing bad has happened to me.

Catherine RodieBlagg said...

You are so incredibly brave to share this story V xx

Cathy said...

This was terrifying and unnerving to read, let alone live through. So sorry that you had to go through this, but so glad that you are a survivor and able to share your story and help others xx

Claudia littlecottagebiglife said...

Wow Vanessa! I have chills and tears are running down my face. I can't say I know exactly what you went through, but I know how easily it can happen because I was drugged in a club in Buenos Aires. I was so lucky to have survived that violation without being raped. My husband found me with a group of guys carrying me out the door and stopped them just in time. I still cant remember what happened and I don't like thinking about what could have been. I think you are so brave to write it down, and I am so glad you have. People don't realise how often and easily it can happen or that it can happen anytime, anywhere, to anyone. And more importantly the fault falls squarely on the shoulders of the person who is doing the drugging, not the person who is drugged. I was out at a club dancing with my husband when someone slipped something into our drinks. I thank God when I think about it that my husband didn't finish his drink! My heart goes out to you my beautiful friend. You are an inspiration to me xxx

Jeanie said...

Oh honey - oh poor young you (and poor now you) - I don't have words, I just want to wash it all away for you too.

Grace said...

Oh, V. Your strength and courage to write with such raw detail is incredible. Your words are so powerful, I can actually feel what you were going through. What an awful, awful experience for you. Sending love and hugs x

Emily @ Have a laugh on me said...

Shit, so freaky V - I can't even imagine that. said...

Thank you Grace. Writing about it helps more than I thought it would! V. said...

Oh my god! That's terrible Claudia. So lucky your husband was with you. Drink spiking is such a disgusting way to hurt someone. So cowardly and such a violation, like you said, to take away a person's freedom like that. Thank you so much for commenting with your experience. V. said...

Thank you Catherine. It is so strangely liberating to write. I know why I've left it six years to write it though. I've needed that space although it is amazing the clarity and detail I remember! V. said...

Not remembering is the almost the worst part. To have my freedom taken away from me was definitely the scariest part. I'm glad nothing bad has happened to you. Take it easy when you do drink. :) said...

Thank you Cathy. said...

Thanks Jeanie. I am ok with it now I think. I think writing these posts has helped a huge amount. As well as getting these wonderful comments. It is the best therapy I've had in all these years! said...

Defo freaky. Just gross when you think about it.

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