Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Part 3: On being a victim of rape culture

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

On being a victim of rape culture

Part 1: The day before
Part 2: Where am I?

The day after

Grief and shock overwhelmed me. Pain, both physical and emotional threatened to completely engulf me but I tried to hold onto some hope. Maybe what had happened was something I had wanted, it was just a bad, stupid, drunken one night stand. I couldn't sit down because of the pain in my coccyx. I looked in the mirror at my naked body and saw that I was bruised all over my left shoulder and on my forehead and I knew these injuries did not happen willingly.

Questions kept ringing in my head:

What happened to me last night?

Why can't I remember anything?

Why was someone having sex with me when I was out cold?

How long was he taking advantage of me before I came to?

What exactly did they do to me?

Why was my coccyx so damaged?

How did I bruise my forehead and left shoulder?

At what point in the night did he meet me? In the forecourt of my office building or somewhere on the way home between the office and my flat?

Had I been complicit or did I struggle, causing the bruising and coccyx pain?

I rang the girl who I had started the evening with. I didn't really know her at all, she had not worked in our office for long. I can't even remember her name now or what she looked like. I felt awkward talking to her on the phone. I can't remember the conversation very well which is weird but I remember the feeling it gave me. She didn't want to know about it. I felt I was making her uncomfortable when I told her that I didn't remember anything from about 10.30-11pm when we were all leaving to go home. I told her something bad had happened to me. I think I asked her if she'd seen me talking to any strangers. I didn't get any worthwhile answers from her and the conversation was over quickly.

For some reason I couldn't stand the thought of sleeping in my own room. I set myself up on one of the three large sofas in our lounge room. With my pillows, doona and the TV going, I had to lay on my side because of my coccyx that burned in agony. My flatmates offered to go to Boots the Chemist to get the morning after pill which you can buy over the counter without a prescription in the UK. I took a stack of Tylenol PM which I'd bought from the States. It was an over the counter painkiller with a sleep aid in it. I just wanted to sleep and wake up with this nightmare over.

In my head I tallied up the amount that I'd drunk the day before: 1 third of a bottle of white wine with lunch, 2 bottles of beer between 4.30-5pm, 1 whole bottle of white between the two bars, 2 vodka shots. Quite a lot but I doubted enough to make me not remember anything. I never black out. Ever.

It got me thinking: Maybe my drink had been spiked. The use of date rape drugs in the UK is a significant problem. In this article I just found from early April 2007 on the Guardian newspaper website the author states that date rape drugs are used in one in three sexual assaults in the UK. Maybe that's why I couldn't remember anything from 10.30pm through to 3.30am: someone had put something in my glass. Remember we had been sitting/standing at two tables near the entrance to the bar. It could have happened when I went to the toilet. Or when I went outside to call my dealer.

But who would have spiked my drink? My first thought was that I'd got into a minicab out of the front of my building and the man whose flat I ended up in was the driver. A version of this is still one of my theories.

Minicabs in London are 'private hire taxis'. They have to be pre-booked and are not to be flagged down in the street unlike a Black Cab. But they are always found touting their service out the front of pubs and clubs on busy nights looking for fares. Minicabs are not put under the same level of scrutiny as Black Cabs. Anyone with a car with a satellite navigation unit can look like a minicab driver.

The message is everywhere not to get into minicabs off the street. I just found this latest advice from Transport for London. It basically says do not get into a minicab unless you have booked it through the minicab office yourself. I remember adverts on the back of toilet cubicle doors in clubs with statistics about unlicensed minicabs and rates of sexual assaults against women.

Pretty much everyone I knew got in them despite the warnings. You come out of a nightclub in the small hours of the morning and all you want to do is get home. The drivers mill about at the exit to venues and call “taxi, taxi, taxi!” trying to get your business. You then negotiate your price home. It’s a flat rate, not on a metre like a black cab. If you've only got twenty quid left in your pocket who’s to debate it when the driver offers to take you across London for that price?

The not knowing what happened was driving me insane. I had to know! A very vague image came to my mind. One of me struggling. Of putting my arms up and pushing someone away. The memory is so hazy that I don't know where I am but I think it is dark and that maybe I'm outside. Maybe I'm on the ground and I'm trying to get away. I don't know. I've thought over that tiny shred of information for six years. Has it changed in that time? The mind plays tricks.

From Saturday morning through Monday I laid on the couch popping painkillers, smoking cigarette after cigarette and drank beer. I wouldn't sleep in my room. I kept the TV on for distraction. I did everything I could to avoid processing the events of Friday night but the image of his face kept popping into my head no matter what I did to try and block it out.

I don't know why I didn't just go straight to the police. I guess I felt like it was my fault. I asked for this. I got drunk and went home with some guy, passed out and he fucked me. It was my fault. I was so drunk I must have deserved it. My luck had finally run out. No longer could I brag about living dangerously without a cost.

I felt lucky I hadn't paid the ultimate price for my stupidity and irresponsibility: my life. The shame that crept over me was all consuming. What would they say at work? Did my colleagues see me with this person? What would they think of me when I asked them on Monday morning to help fill in the gaps of Friday night?

My reputation at work was already pretty bad. I often came to work hungover. I had got pretty good at hiding it but sometimes I would come to work on a Friday morning still drunk from the night before. The year round sniffle was speculated to be cocaine addiction which was of course true. And to top it off I had slept with a couple of men from our office after drunken work functions. I might as well have had "Drug Fucked Slut" tattooed across my forehead. I knew that's what they all thought of me. My work colleagues would think I'd finally got my comeuppance.

And that's exactly what I felt like: Scum of the earth who'd got what she deserved.

So began the victim blaming.

And I blamed myself for everything.


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Emma said...

this is a heart breaking story. You are brave to share it, and thank you for doing so.

Rina said...

I feel bad reading this! I hope you will feel better and thank you for being brave to share this.

cookerandalooker said...

I imagine I'm not alone, but I don't know what to say. I'm so sorry this happened to you, lovely. x

always Josefa said...

What a heart breaking story. Truly, incredibly heart breaking. Your recount is edged with pain, hurt and agony - I hope the story evolves to show resolve, clarity and no blame for yourself xx

Kelly HTandT said...

Oh V. Just read all 3 parts. Can't believe I missed one and two. You write so well, almost felt like I was feeling what you were feeling. You're amazing for getting through it, and even more amazing for sharing it. Thank you xx

Kevin said...

Again - you're so brave sharing this. I won't bother apologising for men again, as you said, there are plenty of good ones out there and I'm sure you're doing a good job of raising one yourself.

I want to save these posts for my two little girls when they (hopefully) jump on a plane and see the world

Maryandlil said...

So brave! Thank you for sharing. You are not alone. This happened to me also xx

babblingbandit.me said...

Thank you for your comment. I am so sorry that this has happened to you also. Such a horrible thing to go through. V.

babblingbandit.me said...

Thanks Kevin. Remember this stuff happens in Australia too. I had my drink spiked in a Sydney pub once. Felt weird so got a friend to pick me up as it was still early in the night. I was very, very sick and remember little. More than I did of this night in London that I've written about but still it was a very scary close call. V.

babblingbandit.me said...

Thanks Kelly. I think writing about it is really helping me organise my thoughts about the whole thing. V.

babblingbandit.me said...

Hi Josefa. Yes, I realise now that it wasn't my fault. It has taken a long time and a lot of therapy to get here though. V

babblingbandit.me said...

Thank you for reading and leaving a comment. That's enough. V.

babblingbandit.me said...

Thanks for reading Rina. V.

babblingbandit.me said...

Hello Emma. Thank you for reading. V.

babblingbandit.me said...

The worst is feeling out of control. I almost always felt a sense of control no matter how pissed I was, but this was so different. V.

Three Quarters Full said...

I can't imagine how much processing and healing you must have gone though to be able to write about it here. Thank you for sharing.

Emily @ Have a laugh on me said...

I am just about to read the other two parts, but firstly you are so strong and brave and no matter what did not deserve or ask for this. The amount of times that this could have easily been me when I was trashed and off face overseas scares me. I hope writing this down helps. Hugs x Em

Janet from Redland City Living said...

I'm so sorry that you had to go through this. I truly hope and pray that life is much better for you these days xxx

Kathryn OHalloran said...

It's so common and so many women don't even think of it as rape.

I do black out when I drink and I remember waking up in a guy's car and was like where am I, what am I doing here... I was lucky, nothing happened and I was fully clothed and he was really sweet and dropped me off where I wanted to go. It could've ended a lot worse.

I also had an experience when I was 17 and did get sexually assulted. I went to the police and went through the whole procedure. I'm not sure if it was even worth it. It's a lot of awful and he ended up with a suspended sentence. I figured though if he ever did it again, he'd have a record.

Kim Frost said...

Vanessa, such a raw and heartbreaking story. I'm so sad it's taken you all these years to know it wasn't your fault. Often bad things happen when we're in a bad place- it doesn't mean we caused them. So hopeful this has been cathartic rather than painful for you x

babblingbandit.me said...

Hey Kathryn. I'm sorry to hear you've been assaulted too. The part of my story with the cops comes next. It was just as bad as the rape itself in many ways. Totally demoralising. I'm glad you were able to get a conviction. For me, the London police questioned my every statement. Made me doubt myself and in the end I gave up and came back to Australia. V.

babblingbandit.me said...

Thank you Janet!

babblingbandit.me said...

It has helped tremendously. Thank you for commenting. The comments have made it so worthwhile to write it all down. V.

babblingbandit.me said...

Six years is a long time but I've not done an official trauma counselling strangely enough. I think writing these three posts have been the best therapy so far! V.

size8comingsoon said...

thank you for sharing. you are so inspiring in so many ways. i am also a victim of sexual abuse (childhood) and worked for a long time on healing (in my late 20's and early 30's). 9 years of regular/weekly therapy under this girls belt :) obviously, the work to heal yourself from this awful event (that you NEVER asked for) never ends but when you share things like this...you are moving in the right direction. i promise you gets easier. you are a rock star sister! keep up the amazing work!

EssentiallyJess said...

Far out you've been through some crap!
I don't really even know what to write here. You're such a strong person

Rachel @ TheKidsAreAllRight said...

Reading the comments is amazing - you are reaching so many people with your story V and it is frightening how many people have had a similar experience or had their drink spiked. I will also be sharing your story with my teenager. You're a remarkable woman. xx

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