Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Dear Caitlin

Dear Caitlin, I loved your book ‘How to be a Woman.’  It made me feel like I could identify as a feminist, that being a feminist didn’t mean I shouldn’t shave my underarms and spout man-hating rhetoric.  I read it and I realised I could say I was a feminist and yet still enjoy painting my nails and caring about my appearance.  I read it and realised that being a feminist really meant I was being a woman.  You wrote in an engaging, self-deprecating, humourous way.  It was accessible, enjoyable and you inspired me.

When other feminists complained that you weren’t inclusive enough, that your point of view was too white-focussed, too you-focussed and that as a result you never should have claimed to be writing for all women with the book’s title, and criticised your comment about ‘not caring’ that you hadn’t been inclusive and represented the experience of women of colour or others, I kind of understood.  The need to always be aware of inclusivity and entitlement within feminism frustrates me because it makes me feel that I am always having to apologise for being myself, for having the privileges in life that I’ve had.  I am white, middle-class and have had an education.  My perspective will always be coloured by my background & experiences, but that doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t be empathetic of others’ experiences.  In a way, the furore that surrounded your comments taught me to be more self-aware, if not apologetic.

But, Caitlin, this time you’ve made me deeply sad.  Your career, the success of your book, have given you a voice, a very loud & influential voice.  And you’ve used it this time to do harm.  I don’t know whether you meant to do harm, but harm you’ve done.  What you said in the interview with Mia Freedman basically boiled down to saying that if a woman wore heels that go clickety clack, she is advertising herself to rapists – that it is her fault.  I’ve tried re-reading the interview, giving you the benefit of the doubt, trying to see some attempted humour (however misguided humour with regard to rape is), but I can’t.  It reads exactly like victim blaming. 

Caitlin, you have a voice, whether you want to have it or not, you have it.  Women listen to you.  And you just told them things that are wrong.

1.       You said that a woman can avoid rape if she doesn’t draw attention to herself with the sound of her heels – and implicit too, in the clothes that she wears.
This is false.  Women are raped in their pyjamas, in the their own home.  Women are raped in jogging trousers.  Women are raped in hijabs.  Women are raped if they’re wearing flats, or running shoes.  Women are not raped by their clothes, they are raped by rapists.
2.       By saying that, you’ve implicitly blamed women for their rape.  You’ve made women feel that, if they were wearing heels, they were the stupid ones, it was partly their fault.  You’ve made it harder for a woman to recover, not to feel shame, to not feel stupid, for something that wasn’t ever a woman’s fault.  Rape is only ever the fault of the rapist.
3.       You’ve also exacerbated the myth that women tell themselves to feel safe – that if they take certain precautions, this horrible thing won’t happen to them.  This is a lie.  The perpetuation of that myth means that society still blames victims.  The reality is that most rapes are not ‘stranger’ rapes, the majority of rapes take place inside victim’s own homes, by someone they know well. 
4.       You basically said that rape is a class thing – that rich women don’t get raped because they can afford a taxi home.  It appears I did take a taxi home, with the rapist.  I have no recollection of that journey, but he came into my home and the mode of transportation was taxi.  And of course, there have also been high profile cases of the cab driver being the rapist.  And, rich women are as at risk as anyone else of being in a relationship with an abuser, or finding out the hard way that one of their so-called friends is an abuser.  Rape is not a class thing.

Caitlin, you have a voice, a loud voice, and people listen to you.  You are lauded as a feminist.  The single-biggest issue facing women today is not unequal pay or everyday sexism.  It is not our right to shave or not shave our legs, underarms or muffs.  The single-biggest issue facing women today is that somewhere between 1 in 3 and 1 in 8 of us will be raped or sexually assaulted in our lifetime.  The single-biggest issue facing women today is that society apportions some of the blame for that rape on the women who were raped.  The single-biggest issue facing women today is that society tries to redefine rape into something lesser, to diminish the horror.  The single-biggest issue facing women today is the rape epidemic. 

Caitlin, you have a voice, a loud voice, and people listen to you.  Please, listen to me.  My voice is only a whisper, but I am begging you – use your voice wisely.  You could do so much to help change the way the world is, to say it is not right that society partially blames me for my rape, to say it is rapists who rape, to say you are sorry for the pain your comments have caused so many who are struggling to get by day by day from a trauma which still lives with them. 

Caitlin, I hope you read this through.  I hope you think on it.  Your book inspired me.  What you said was such a deep disappointment to me, has caused me so many tears of frustration because when someone like you says something like that, I fear the world will never change.  And I simply have to believe the world will one day change, because it cannot go on like this.

Thank you for reading.

[The interview between Caitlin Moran and Mia Freedman is here: http://www.mamamia.com.au/social/mia-freedman-interviews-caitlin-moran/

Monday, 10 December 2012

Rape Apologist?

So, yesterday I was accused on Twitter of making excuses for rapists.  Me.  A friend of the rapists.  Well, I know that’s not true, but it did get me thinking. 

It all started with reading these two blogs.

http://www.xojane.com/issues/nice-guys-commit-rape-too by Alyssa Royse of The Good Men Project and,

The first is an account by a SlutWalk speaker of what happened when a male friend was accused of rape.  When he told her what had transpired, she confirmed to him that, yes, he had raped the woman.  (Girl is flirtatious, drinks, ends up in bed with man; he ‘has sex’ with her while she’s sleeping.  Pretty clear-cut.  She wasn’t conscious to give consent).  The writer tries to make sense of the ‘social intercourse’ that had seemed destined to become ‘sexual intercourse’ and how a ‘nice man’ could make such a mistake.

The second blog dismisses the first as attempting to make excuses for the ‘nice man’ and is clear that the situation could only ever have been rape.

I agree.  It was rape.  The ‘nice man’, however ‘nice’ he might be in other aspects of his life, should have known that to have sex with a sleeping person who has not explicitly said ‘hey, I’d love it if whilst I’m asleep you woke me with your cock inside me, that’d be really hot’, is rape. 

But, what I said on Twitter was this:

[Original tweet linking the Feminste blog] was really shocked by that story too. Having “sex” with a sleeping person is NOT SEX!
[Me] agree. But also agree that it's a problem that so many men seem to not understand what rape is
[Twitter] a woman’s body as a thing to use. Lots of men get that, why make excuses for those who don’t?
[Me] not making excuses. But there's a lot of education to be done to stop men raping. Too many don't >
[Me] don't seem to know when they've raped. That has to stop
[Twitter] another person’s body. Not sex. Not cooperative. Never ok. Not due to lack of education.
[Me] I agree. Never ok. Was rape. But he apparently didn't know that. Hence need for education.  
[Twitter] you believe a rapist when he says he didn’t know it was rape? This must be a joke, seriously.
[Me] I am not defending a rapist. I am saying there is a societal problem in understanding what rape is

The conversation was brought to a halt only by my admitting that I wondered if the man who raped me had realised he’d done it at the time.  (As an aside, I think he must have known.  Not only was I mostly passed out comatose, but the violence was extreme (over 4 years on I can still see the remains of the bruising on my thigh) and the vaginal & anal penetration by espresso machine hub isn’t on the menu for your normal, run of the mill, drunken fumble).  But, I did spend many years wondering about it, and when I wrote about it on this blog (see, http://musingsofemilyrose.blogspot.co.uk/2012/08/triggered.html Triggered), a Twitter friend RT’d with the words, ‘this man doesn’t know he’s a rapist.’  (As a further aside, it was interesting that the other party pulled out of the conversation, and very civilly, telling me to take care and sending hugs, only when I revealed myself as rape survivor.  Does that make my opinion count for more?  It shouldn’t, I don’t think).

And perhaps the medium of 140 characters is really not enough to engage in a conversation on this. But I absolutely, totally, think that one of the only ways out of this rape epidemic where somewhere between 1 in 3 and 1 in 8 women will experience rape or sexual assault in their lifetime (dependent on which study you pick) is to educate men and society at large as to what rape is.  To be really clear, so there never is any doubt.  So that, instead of the adverts that tell us not to get into an unbooked minicab, there are adverts that spell out, in the simplest of terms, that having sex when consent isn’t enthusiastic & explicit is rape. 

She kissed me.  Now she’s asleep next to me.  That means I can have sex with her? NO! That’s rape.’ 
If I get her drunk, she won’t be able to say ‘no’.  NO! That’s rape.’ 
‘She’s wearing a really sexy outfit, that means she wants me to, right?  NO! That’s rape.’

Now, these messages may be clear to most of you already.  But, the evidence is that a lot of people simply don’t believe them, know them, or understand them.  Politicians, the media, and much of society do not appear to understand rape.  If they did, there would not be an apparent hierarchy of types of rape, from ‘bad sexual etiquette’ (George Galloway), to date rape, to marital rape, to legitimate rape (Todd Aiken), to forcible rape (pretty much any fundamentalist republican), to stranger rape (which is the minicab ad’s target).   But, rape is rape is rape.  And that’s not because of the circumstances under which the rape happened.  That’s because the impact of the rape on the victim takes no account of the circumstances in which it happened; whether the rape happened at knifepoint by a stranger in a dark alley, or in your own home by someone you knew, from a mental health point of view, the impact on the victim can be just as severe and long-standing.

I believe there are two types of rapist, but not two types of rape.  I believe there are some people out there who are sociopaths (and this isn’t to say that all sociopaths are rapists), but there are some people who intend to rape.  They choose a target, and they engineer circumstances to get what they want.  These are the people who we can try to protect against by attempting not to be in harm’s way (i.e. not walking down a dark alley alone, not getting into an unlicensed cab), but who we may not be able to avoid, no matter what we do to protect ourselves.  These people truly are monsters, although they probably don’t appear that way to the rest of the world.  Some of them probably do appear to be ‘nice guys’.

But, I don’t believe that there are that many monsters in the world.  Not enough to justify the statistics of between 1 in 3 or 1 in 8 women experiencing rape or sexual assault in their lifetime.  Either each monster is raping several hundred women, or there is another factor at play.

And I think that is the other type of rapist.  This is the rapist who if he stopped and thought about it, would realise it was rape.  The rapist who is not so much after power, but after sex.  If he questioned the rape culture around us which makes jokes out of rape ‘it’s not rape if you yell surprise first’ (!!!), or the recently pulled Virgin Mobile US ad ‘is it a necklace or chloroform?’, or the ‘it is never acceptable to wear your girlfriend/mothers/victim’s socks’ (courtesy of FHM), if he questioned his behaviour, then he would know that what he was doing was rape.  Perhaps these are the accidental rapists, who try their luck one night, who think they are entitled to sex, who cross the line without consent.  They did not perhaps set out to rape, but they did rape.  Please do not misunderstand me, I am not making excuses for them, rape is rape is rape.  And the impact on the survivor can be just as debilitating, sometimes more so, because when it appears that there are mixed signals it is hard to forgive yourself for possibly giving the wrong signal, as well as a break-down of trust.  I am not attempting to diminish the crime.  What I’m saying is, perhaps this is the type of rape that as a society we can work together on getting reduced, happening less often, becoming more rare.

When I spoke at SlutWalk this year, I said we need to have an open, honest dialogue about sex, and about enthusiastic consent.  Rape, and rapists, do deserve to be demonised.  But, it’s happening too often to just demonise the act and the perpetrator.  We have to work towards a solution, and I believe that solution lies in education – not in the education of telling women how to protect themselves, but in the education of telling men how to be certain of consent, and in the education of being really clear that when enthusiastic consent is not explicitly given, that then it is rape.

But, perhaps I’m wrong.  Perhaps I am being manipulated somehow. The Twitter conversation ended as follows (after I outed myself as a rape survivor):

[Twitter] look, I’m very sorry for that, and I wish the best for you, but men have to do their own work to…
…be good people and they are fully capable of it. Pointing the finger at lack of education is…
…great in some ways because we have a shitty system for that, but also we need to acknowledge…
…that men often manipulate perfectly in order to get away with things. I’ve been there
anyway big hugs to you and all the best. Signing off now, take care.

I remember also though, this Jezebel article from July 2012 http://jezebel.com/5929544/rapists-explain-themselves-on-reddit-and-we-should-listen?utm_campaign=socialflow_jezebel_twitter&utm_source=jezebel_twitter&utm_medium=socialflow which had rapists explaining what had happened.  It’s a difficult read, but it seemed to me then, and it seems to me now, that a properly thought-through campaign of re-education about sex & consent really could do some good in preventing many from being rapists, and preventing many from being raped.

I know that some will think I am a rape apologist.  But I know that I am not.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Smoke without Fire?

I haven’t been following the Jimmy Saville scandal too closely, but it is impossible to avoid it completely.  It seems an obvious thing to say, but paedophilia is one of the most disturbing crimes that exist, if not the most disturbing.  I was raped as an adult, with an adult’s faculties to process what happened, and it has seriously impacted my life.  Fucked up is an accurate description.  When I try to think how I would have coped with that kind of violation as a child, I am overcome with despair for those that have suffered in that way.  Which explains why I haven’t been following it too closely.

What has become clear however, is that Saville was not just a serial offender, or that times were just different ‘back then.’  What has become clear is that the allegations that were made at the time, the rumours that did exist at the time, were all systematically ignored or brushed aside by those in authority, at the BBC, and elsewhere.  It was institutionalised rape culture.

This isn’t just because of who Saville was; a top TV personality with a cult following.  We are all fooling ourselves if we think this behaviour is limited to Saville, or limited to a problem at the BBC.  It is everywhere.  When someone is popular, well-liked, no-one wants to believe they can also be evil.  The Assange case has illustrated this as well; because he has done good with WikiLeaks, his allies & supporters are too keen to deride and undermine the allegations of rape, insisting it was not rape (bad sexual etiquette), and instead is a conspiracy aimed at destroying WikiLeaks. 

We are conditioned to give the benefit of the doubt to the accused.  Innocent until proven guilty is the mantra at the heart of our justice system.  During the Justin Lee Collins trial I was horrified to see how many people were defending him, casting dispersions on the word of his ex-girlfriend, calling her a liar.  This is so common when it comes to sex crimes, when the evidence so often comes down to the only two people present.  The MumsNet #IBelieveYou campaign which went viral earlier this year was so important, and it still is.  We must must must start to believe the victim first, before the evidence, to give victims a safe environment in which to come forward. 

Rape is usually a crime perpetrated by those known to the victim.  Circles of friends, or families can be torn apart by accusations, and it is more convenient, easier, to believe the person you liked, or loved, is not also an evil monster.  Rapists can be the popular guy, the one who you think could get any girl he wanted, and probably does, most of the time.  We have to start being able to believe the worst of people, not the best.  We have to believe the accuser.  For all his lifetime Jimmy Saville’s crimes went unpunished.  We have to start to believe the old adage, no smoke without fire.   

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Conversations with Friends

This one comes with a trigger warning.

This blog has been inspired by conversations with friends.  Close friends.  Friends I love dearly.  Friends who know me, what I’ve been through, what I’m going through, who love me, who I consider allies.  But friends who don’t seem to quite get it.  Yet.  And hence this blog.

First, I had a conversation with a friend who didn’t think that it was possible to be forced to give a blow job. Because you can always bite, can’t you? So, it’s just not possible to be forced. 

Second, I had a conversation with a friend who thinks that we need to teach young girls and women to protect themselves.  Because if you don’t want your car broken into, we lock it, don’t we? If we leave our car unlocked (or our house doors open), we’re just asking for it, really, and whilst we can blame the thief, we also need to accept that we were silly to be so trusting, and not expect to be robbed.

Well, to both I say: bullshit.

The fact that these opinions come from friends, are not from Daily Mail readers, and aren’t from small-minded misogynist pricks writing on the comments section of News International articles, it makes them harder to take.  It really brings home the message that there is such a long way to go in addressing rape culture, fundamentally a very long way to go.

First, blow-jobs.  A man, bigger than you, stronger than you, sticking his cock into your mouth.  Holding your head there, jamming into you.  Your instinct is to try to breathe, but you can’t.  If biting even comes into your mind, he’s already suffocating you, what will he do if you do that to him?  The instinct is to live.  Biting didn’t come into my mind.  He’d already beaten any fight out of me, and I was ready to do anything to please him, to get him to cum, so that he might stop, so that he might leave. 

People often talk about fight or flight.  Hardly ever does anyone talk about freeze.  It can’t be rape if you didn’t do something to stop it?  Bullshit.  Freeze is a legitimate survival response, the body shuts down, the mind shuts down, it’s a way of dealing with the trauma of the violence being done.  And there is also then acquiescence.  Doing what needs to be done to get it over with.  To get out of it alive.  In cases of rape, flight is hardly ever possible; you’re already pinned down by someone bigger and stronger.  Fight might be attempted, but, again the bigger/stronger issue can mean that is short-lived.  After that, really, the only options for the body to try to stay protected is freeze and/or acquiescence.  People need to understand that.  It’s the basics.

Second, protect yourself.  All the messages in society about rape focus on what women can do to protect themselves.  The taxi-ad on the underground – if it’s not booked, it’s just a stranger’s car.  Messages in the media about drinking, about what you wear.  Well, women get raped in hijabs.  Women get raped when jogging in their tracksuits.  Watch your drink, but you never know, it might have been the barman who spiked it, and he might have spiked the glass of water you wanted so you weren’t drinking too much.  Most rapes aren’t stranger rapes, most rapes aren’t random pick-ups in bars.  Most rapists are known to the victim.  They are the husband, the lover, the friend, the colleague, someone in their close social circle.  You can lock yourself up like you lock up your car, wear polo necks, drink only soft drinks, never go out, and you cannot protect yourself from being raped. 

Messages that say you can protect yourself do two things: they give a false sense of security and make us believe that if someone is so ‘unlucky’ as to get raped, they must have done something to bring it on themselves.  And they mean that the victim goes through life believing that they were somehow to blame.  Messages that say you must do everything you can to protect against rape are the main contributor to victim blaming and rape culture.  Victim blaming means that juries don’t convict.  Victim blaming creates a stigma about rape. 

When I was raped, I blamed myself.  Because I’d been drinking.  Because I froze and stopped fighting.  Some of my so-called friends reinforced this – if I couldn’t remember everything, how could I be sure that I hadn’t consented? (um, because I hadn’t, and was not anyway in a state to consent), how could I be certain that it was rape? (um, because my body bore the marks of a really vicious beating and my mind was in turmoil), it couldn’t be rape because I hadn’t gone to the police straight away (um, because I didn’t think it would do any good – and it didn’t, as it turned out). 

Messages that say you can protect yourself reinforce the view that rape is something that if you are careful you can avoid.  These messages are very important for people to feel safe.  When rape is so prevalent, when up to 1 in 3 women will be raped or sexually assaulted in their lifetime, it is critically important for society to create myths to make people feel safe, to feel that it just won’t happen to them.  Because being in fear of being raped is not a way to live.  But, these messages will only give a false sense of security.   They won’t change the 1 in 3 statistic.  The only thing that will change the 1 in 3 statistic, and start to end the epidemic, is the message don’t rape. 

We never say don’t rape.  We even seem to have a very mixed up, uncertain view of what constitutes rape.  The joke, it’s not rape if you say surprise first, kind of sums it up.  George Galloway talking about ‘being in the sex game’, Ken Clarke saying some rapes are more serious than others.  The misunderstanding that you can’t be forced to give a blow job.  Rape is rarely neat, a stranger with a knife jumping out from behind a bush as you walk home.  Rape happens whenever someone is penetrated against their will. 

We have to teach consent.  The message needs to be ‘do you have consent’, not ‘don’t wear a short skirt because if you do, you’re fair game’.   Until the consent message is the prevalent one in society, and not the protection message, we will never change rape culture, we will never reduce rape, we will never end victim blaming, and we will never achieve justice for rape survivors.  

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Bad Romance?

Friends.  Yes, it’s lovely when they can be honest with you, and tell you what they really think.  But, sometimes, I really wish they would keep their honesty to themselves.  I know I deserve someone who wants only me, who loves me for me, who wants to be with me, for who I am, and with no-one else.  But, in the absence of that person, am I supposed to be alone?

Being alone sucks.  Being alone and single and going out with friends who are all loved up, secure, happy, feeling like a wallflower, does nothing for the self-esteem.  Being single is like being unemployed. I’ve been both.  Being unemployed makes you lose confidence in yourself, you wonder if you were ever any good at what you did, whether you could ever cut it again, whether it was all just bollocks and what you used to be good at was just bullshitting your way through, and now everyone can see right through you.  That’s why you’re not getting interviews, or the job offers.  Being single is the same.  You feel unattractive, your sexuality is drained out of you, all the insecurities about whether you were any good at sex are front and centre, you feel needy, you fear coming across as desperate, you start to get used to not being sexual, to not deserving love, to being alone.

And being alone, as I said, totally sucks.  Particularly for someone prone to internalising, prone to feeling insecure, prone to the voice in the head which says you’re not good enough to be loved, that you’re destined to stay alone forever.  There’s an easy spiral into self-hatred, into despair, into believing the voice.  And then, you are those things: needy, desperate.

So, yes, I’m not waiting around for Mr. or Ms. Fucking Perfect.  I don’t think s/he exists anyway.  I don’t believe in forever anymore.  My marriage was supposed to be forever.  Then I fell in love with someone who wasn’t ever supposed to want to be married, but he is now.  I think that human beings are meant to love more than one person, that sometimes, those people are loved concurrently, and that might be at odds with the societal norms of monogamy and Mills & Boon romances and the fairy tales of our childhoods of happy ever after, but it’s the truth of life.  Life is far from a fairy tale.  It’s messy, complex, and complicated.  Bad things happen to good people, good things happen for no reason, and chaos reigns supreme. 

So, now I love others.  And they can’t give me 24/7, and I don’t even know if they could if I could cope with that, the idea of it is suffocating, stifling, strangulation.  I want to be free to explore, to experiment, to breathe.  The people I love, the people I play with, they make me feel alive.  They make me feel sexual, sensuous, desirable.  Desperate isn’t on the agenda. 

Yes, I’m alone a lot of the time.  And even sometimes lonely.  But I have times to look forward to with people who are really special to me, who give me some of what I need, if not always what I want.  I’m not their main priority, but I am important to them.  And, like the song says, you can’t always get what you want, but if you try real hard, you might get what you need.

Well, I’m trying, real hard.  Different needs, fulfilled by different people.  You can judge me, you can say I’m ‘that woman’ and I deserve to be unhappy because I’m fucking people who aren’t supposed to be free to fuck people.  But being that woman makes me happy, and there isn’t much in my life that makes me happy.  And whilst I can, I’m going to take the happy. 

Saturday, 22 September 2012

SlutWalk Speech, 22nd September 2012

Today I spoke at SlutWalk.  This is what I said.

Last year we marched because a Toronto policeman said that to avoid being raped, we should avoid dressing like sluts.  The anger spread worldwide, and the SlutWalk movement was born.  Last year we marched and we sang and we held placards that declared that our skirts don’t rape us, rapists do; drink doesn’t rape us, rapists do.  And we have today, too.  SlutWalk helped me to accept that the vodka I drank didn’t rape me; the rapist raped me.  We have come a long way in rejecting victim blaming and putting the responsibility firmly at the feet of the rapist.

But, too many people still think that rape is something we can avoid if we are sensible, don’t drink, cover ourselves up and behave like ladies.  Too many people still think there are different levels of rape: rapey-rapes, legitimate rapes, forcible rapes, stranger rapes, and that these are inherently worse than those that take place between man & wife, friends, or date-rapes.  This year, George Galloway explained that to have condom-less sex with a sleeping partner is only ‘bad sexual etiquette’ and something less than rape.  If George was the only one then we could make do with ridiculing him.  But, he is not.  Rape is rape is rape, and it is time everyone knew that.

We need a dialogue, an honest, open, dialogue.  Women believe the myths that they can avoid being raped, because otherwise the world is too scary.  But rape is happening to us every day.  Somewhere between 1 in 3 and 1 in 8 women will experience rape or sexual assault in their lifetime.  That is an epidemic. 

Men fear being accused of a rape that they didn’t do.  The media perpetuates these fears, seemingly reporting every false allegation, whereas actually it’s less common than for other crimes at about 2-4% of accusations.  And with a disastrous reported to conviction ratio, all those people who are accused, but never go to court, or to prison, like the man who raped me, can claim they were falsely accused, adding fuel to the fire of the myth that false accusations are something to be feared.

It is easy to not be a rapist.  Be certain of consent.  Enthusiastic consent.  Not coerced consent.  Not drunken consent.   The rape epidemic suggests that there is a fundamental misunderstanding of consensual sex, and the attempts by politicians, the media, and others to categorise rape differently suggests that many people seriously do believe that the line is somewhere else.

The myths about what constitutes rape prevent justice.  The CPS decided not to prosecute the man who raped me.  I found out that they decided not to prosecute because I waited to report, and didn’t do so straight away.  Most rapes go unreported, and of those that are reported, most are not immediate.  The body, and also the mind, needs time to process the trauma of what has happened.  They also didn’t prosecute because I had been drinking.  A lot.  So much that the police said I could not have been able to give consent.  But a jury might have thought I was asking for it.  The CPS don’t actually care if they think the man is guilty, only if they can get a conviction.  They want a good conviction rate.  We need to change societal norms so that everyone who is not here today and might be on a jury, knows that rape is rape is rape, and that it doesn’t matter how much someone was drinking, what someone was wearing, or how many other men she’s been happy to have sex with, when consent isn’t there, it’s rape. When juries start to convict, the CPS will start to prosecute.

We must stop the epidemic.  Because it is not about one night that went wrong for those of us left behind.  I didn’t just have a hangover the next day.  Over four years later, I still suffer from symptoms of post traumatic stress, with nightmares, insomnia, anxiety attacks and recurrent deeply depressive episodes.  Not a single day has gone by when I have not thought of it, it is with me constantly.   

The myth of rape in society silences us, and silences our pain.  Because we know, or expect, that others will judge us for being raped, will perhaps tell us we weren’t raped, it was in our heads, we stay silent.  Because mental health issues are also taboo, a sign of weakness, we are silenced again.  If people know the truth, we believe they will see the words stupid & weak emblazoned on our foreheads.

It’s not about one night.  It’s not about a man who makes a bad decision.  It’s about the days and the nights we live afterwards.   On one night, I was made a victim.  In still being here, I have made myself a survivor.  But, surviving isn’t living and I long for a future where I am living.  I dream of a future where rape is rare, where the raped are supported and where rapists are always punished.

We are many.  We are too many to be silenced.  Silence hurts us.  We must raise our voices.  Enough is enough.  

This is the link to the video.  On my tablet the sound is abysmal, on my laptop, still not great but lots better. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yZSlP9bAnHg

Thursday, 23 August 2012


*TRIGGER WARNING*  If you think you might be triggered by description of rape please do not read further.  Today, I ignored a trigger warning and paid the price.

Today my body and mind froze and I shut down.  I’ve been getting complacent, thinking the therapy was working, but actually I think it was only some of the stress at work went away.  I thought I was handling all the rape talk in the news, getting desensitised even, to all the stupid, ignorant, old white men (and their acolytes) who tried to paper over rape by declaring it wasn’t real rape.  I was indignant and angry, but not broken.  I was proving to myself that I was stronger now, I could handle this.  And then, this morning, I read Penny Red’s blog*.  I read the trigger warning, I knew I was getting into risky territory.  And I was entirely fine until the line about him sending her an email afterwards.  I literally crumbled.  I could see myself crumbling and I was powerless to stop it.

The text that the man who raped me sent me next day has always confused me.  (I know that sentence would sound better if I wrote ‘my rapist’, but I want no ownership over him, just as I don’t refer to ‘my rape’, I say ‘I was raped’, it was done to me, that is all). 

But the text always confused me.  I used to be able to remember the words exactly but some things do fade with time, and now I remember only that he called me a young lady, said he’d had fun, or words to that effect, and indicated he’d like to see me again. 

Did he not know he’d raped me?  I struggle with that.  I have no memory of getting home, did I indicate that sex was on the menu, did I help us get home?  How did he know my address? I woke to find him fucking me, Assange-like, without a condom.  In fact, I was so confused by what was happening, I think I only managed a ‘you’re not wearing a condom?’ murmur, rather than any righteous indignation at the fact he was fucking a comatose, mostly asleep, lump of flesh.  It couldn’t have been much fun for him, basically fucking a corpse?  How could he think I was a willing participant when I wasn’t ‘there’?

I started coming to my senses, pushing away at him, trying to get him to stop.  That’s when he started to use force to pin me down.  And started to beat me.  Did he think that was ok too because he knew I was kinky?  The violence took the wind out of me and I didn’t fight or struggle much after that.  I froze.  Fight, flight, freeze.  In discussions of whether rape is ‘real’ people seem to forget that freeze is just as common human reaction as fight or flight.  More common.  So, I ‘let’ him do everything else that he did to me.  He fucked my arse, he penetrated me with various things he’d found in the kitchen, including the arm to my espresso maker.  And yes, when he told me to, I sucked him off.  I was in a daze, in and out of real consciousness, just holding onto the fact that at some point he would have to be done with me, finished and he would leave. 

Did he not know that he’d raped me?  How can he have thought that I would want to see him again?  Part of me thinks he decided to rape me when I told him over dinner (it was a first date) that I didn’t fancy him but perhaps we’d be friends.  Part of me thinks the text was meant to confuse, to create some kind of ‘alibi’ for his actions because a rapist wouldn’t send a text like that.  But part of me wonders if he really thought that what he’d done was somehow acceptable behaviour.

And some of the comments made by men in the news, and by men (and women) in comments on articles about what those men have said, lead me to believe that there really is a fundamental misunderstanding by some people on what rape is.  Terms like ‘bad sexual etiquette’ are nothing but euphemisms for rape.  Rape is rape is rape.  ‘Nice’ men rape.  And other nice men feel scared that they might misread signals and be made a rapist by mistake.  I don’t believe it’s possible to rape by mistake.  I have a secret for you, it’s very obvious to a lot of people but unfortunately not to enough: if you’ve got enthusiastic consent, you’re not raping anyone.  There can be no confusion with enthusiastic consent.**

So, today my body shut down.  I literally crumpled.  I sat on the sofa crying for quite a while.  I made an effort to do some work, which lasted til lunchtime.  Then the pull of stopping, needing to stop and not ‘be’, to opt out of life, was too strong, I could feel the thick fog enveloping me like a blanket and I slept most of the afternoon.  Today being Thursday it was therapy day, and I turned up like a petulant child saying I didn’t want to be there, I was shutting it all out and being angry with having to be there, having to have left the safety of that foggy blanket.  But it helped, I guess.  I’m processing the fact I shut down, rather than staying shut down.  I don’t know when I’ll get used to the fact that I can feel fine one minute and then be triggered into a really vulnerable and scary place the next.  The world scares me, not just the rapists in it, but the ignorance of others too.  There are so many of us who are hurt by rape.  Figures vary but as many as 1 in 4 are often quoted.  And it’s not just the women (and men) who are raped that are hurting but the people who love us too, our friends, our families.  When will we our voices be heard, when will wider society understand how destructive it is?  When will it be better? When?

*Penny Red’s (Laurie Penny) blog is here:

**For a brilliant and very accessible piece on enthusiastic consent, click this:

Monday, 6 August 2012

This is Not a Love Story

I know you only in parts, in moments that we share.  I see glimpses of you, only.  But those glimpses, those moments, those parts of you that I know, that I see, they combine to make me love you, a love that seemingly consumes me, annihilates me and totally, utterly, finishes me. 

You’re a cheat and a liar and I’m grateful for it, for otherwise I wouldn’t know you the way I do.  You’re a brutal sadist, taking only what you want, stopping only when you want, no regard for my tears, my pain, my wish that you would stop.  And I’m grateful for it, and I give you myself to brutalise whenever you want because it makes me feel alive, to be your’s, totally possessed in those moments.  I know that sometimes you’re uncomfortable about the violence in you, but not too much, only enough for decency’s sake.  You’re a very clever sociopath, keeping that part of you hidden from everyone else, even yourself, even me, until after the dinner is eaten and the wine is drunk.  You’re a consummate charmer, with a smile that melts my heart and a touch that makes my knees quiver. 

You excite me, you flatter me, you make me feel sensuous, captivating, alive.  Those parts of you that I know, they keep me sane, and they drive me insane.  You smile at me, and I’m smitten.  You touch me, you kiss me, you hit me, you stroke me, you knock me senseless, with your nonchalance, your you-ness.  You're kind, tender, caring.  You don't have an angry bone in your body.  I love you, and I can’t help myself.  I am your’s.  Entirely.

I hate you, I despise you, I can’t stand you.  You make my skin crawl, you make me want to scratch your eyes out, like I always want to scratch your back, to mark you, the way you mark me.  You’re a cheat and a liar, and I love you.  But it’s a love that only exists in moments.  Perfect moments.  But moments, nonetheless.

Monday, 2 July 2012

Girl, Interrupted

Last night I dreamt that I was committed into a mental asylum.  This didn’t appear to strike me as a bad thing, I seemed to be having fun nosing my way around, meeting some strange creatures, taking in the sea air (we seemed to be on a gothic island structure somewhere in the middle of nowhere), and writing.  I was doing a lot of writing.  I had friends, and I had no worries, I didn’t need to be anywhere, there were no expectations of me, I felt really free, like being ill and ill enough for someone to say I had to be committed out here, that was the best thing that had ever happened to me.  I felt light, in that it was now bearable to be because I wasn’t carrying around me an awful weight on my shoulders.

And then I woke up.  And the weight was back, the expectations were back, the memories of why actually being committed to a lunatic asylum isn’t such a far-fetched thought, and if I let go just one iota of what I’m keeping in, maybe someday someone will do it to me.  And it won’t be to the magic one of my dream. 

I got ready for the day with a sense of fore-boding that I couldn’t shake off.  The silicon chip inside my head really was malfunctioning.  I didn’t feel panic, but I felt very anxious and I didn’t know why.  So, I popped one of those pills I’ve been carrying around but not using, for anxiety, to avoid the panic attacks.  A preventative measure, not because I felt panicky, but because I didn’t want to.  It felt good, I felt calmer.  But it started to wear off.  So at lunchtime, I popped another.  Focus in my afternoon meetings may have been less than desired but I mostly passed it off.  Walking around the office, that was harder, definitely had the gait and balance of a drunk person.

But decided that I liked the floaty, so I had another…. By this time, thankfully, it was really time to go home, so go home I did, floating over the pavements, feet never really making contact with the ground.  Somehow, I did get home.  And decided it was a good idea to eat some food (salami & salad night on the low carb diet), but of course, a bottle of prosecco would wash that down nicely and might complement the lorazepam chasers.
And yes, prosecco is always a good thing, never a bad.   But I’ve lost the angelic bliss I had earlier, now I feel like the sad, lonely, alcoholic who’s just looking for a new way to get high.  I want to take a knife and have a go at my arms again, but they’re healing and I don’t want to go into therapy/ see a boy, with the scars of my emo self-involved emulation on show. 

Back when I was really hurting, and not just a partially fixed up broken person, I used to get properly high a lot of the time.  I’d give almost anything to feel that kind of pure euphoria but without the tell-tale come-down just once more.  Except I know it doesn’t exist.  Proscribed anti-panic drugs plus booze.  That’s the best I can do, and watch the number of pills you pop, mistakes not required. 

One day, I imagine, I’ll wake up, go for a run, have a shower, get to work, do a day’s work, interact with people, come home, maybe even have a family waiting for me, eat with them and laugh with them.  At some point pretend we’re in the Waltons, goodnight Mr E, goodnight little E, goodnight, goodnight, sweet dreams, see you in the morning light. Normalcy will reign.  I’ll understand the rest of you, not needed to peek into the slithers of your lives to get small insights on you.  Maybe, one day, I’ll be one of you.  Again.   

Until then, this half-life isn’t so bad.  It has some amazing moments.  I get to share parts of some of you who no-one else get to see.  There are days (not many) but there are days when I do kick-ass like the old me and I know she’s not too far hidden beneath the debris.  I smile, I laugh, mostly I do a really good impression of being one of you. 

But I’m not and until then, please no judgements about how I choose to get through my days: lorazepam, prosecco and whatever else gets me through, because the biggest win is the battle I already fought; I decided today would be a day I get through.  Most of you probably just think that’s normal; one is alive, so one traverses the day and what the day gives us.  For me, I make a conscious decision, I’ll get through it, whatever it takes.  But whatever it takes sometimes means taking a little help from where I can find it. 

I did feel like flying, but it wore off.  I don’t think I should take any more pills.  Some more bubbles, then maybe just collapse in bed.  Cry a little bit for the life that I wanted but is never going to be mine.  And then, hopefully, sleep.  And this time, not about the mental asylum.  

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Bad Feminist

So, this week FemFresh has been taking a bit of a beating over it’s inappropriate advertising, which was suggesting that us women had smelly lady parts that needed cleaning so that we didn’t offend anyone with our lady smells.  And they made things worse by calling such lady parts ‘frou frou’s’ and suchlike...  Social media did its thing on twitter and most hilariously on their facebook page and the mob descended…

Of course, this also comes at a time when middle America is apparently outraged at the use of the word vagina and so calling our lady parts by the proper name is now also a political statement.  VAGINA! Yell it enthusiastically at those bad misogynistic republicans. 

Well, I’ve never called my bits frou frou, and prefer the more traditionally filthy pussy or cunt myself, but if someone wants to refer to parts of themself as a frou frou, then I shan’t argue.  And, whisper it, I actually use FemFresh.  Every day. 

I’m a sensitive soul and my pussy is no different.  Ordinary shower gels and soaps, they can cause itching.  Hot days, tight clothing, different time of the month… Sex.  Itching is uncomfortable.  FemFresh actually works and occurrences of itching significantly reduced.  So, I’m a fan.  Comments on the FemFresh site were also particularly scathing of their wet wipes type product.  Well, I was at a festival and these were being handed out by the portaloos.  Brilliant.  Every time I go to a faintly unsanitary lavatory I wish I had some with me. 

I’m tired of being told by men what I can and can’t do as a woman, how I should act, having them talk at my breasts, or brush my arse with their hand.  I’m tired of slut-shaming and victim-blaming.  I’m tired of judgements over abortion.  My vagina isn’t a political instrument.  And women have no right to make it so either.

So, I use FemFresh.  And shock, I also get a Hollywood wax every few weeks.  I don’t do it for men, I do it because I prefer it.  Being entirely smooth doesn’t make me feel like a child as often charged against the practise, it makes me feel soft, slippery, sexy.  I even quite like the idea of bleaching my anus but steer clear because I don’t need another beauty obsession and I do try not to spend my money on unnecessary things... 

Does all this make me a bad feminist?  Maybe.  Some might definitely say so.  Many said that Slutwalk was bad feminism too, but in fact, it was probably the most successful global gathering of women coming together (with men) to stand together that I am aware of since our mothers’ burned their bras.  I'd prefer to spend my energy campaigning against the things that really matter: rape & sexual assault, domestic violence, the gender pay gap.  It irks me beyond mere irkness for example, that there are so very few women in senior leadership roles in my company, and none who report directly to the GM of Consumer.  And we work in Marketing, the supposed bastion of the female executive.

[Actually, I think on reflection that FemFresh may have a fantastic marketing department, not the terrible one they are being accused of... If all publicity is good publicity they have run one of the most successful viral social media campaigns in recent history (maybe since Threshers 'mistakenly' released that voucher).]

So, I’ll continue to keep my cunt fresh and slick and shrug my shoulders at anyone who thinks by doing so I’m betraying the sisterhood. 

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Humpty Dumpty Girl

This is very self-indulgent, very 'woe is me'.  It's how I feel today.  Normally, I write and post, no edits.  This one, I posted, then deleted the links, then wrote the flip side, and then edited it together.  It probably doesn't work.  It's painful, and I apologise to those who know me if it's too painful to read.  But I'm posting it, and I'm going to post the links because this is what rape does.  This is what living with rape is like, at least for me.  And it's important to me that people, that society, knows that it's a lasting scar, that sometimes results in days like yesterday and today.  But I still hope for better tomorrows.

You’re despicable, I loathe you, despise you.  You’re nothing, never was much even before the shit went down, never will be now, you don’t have the stuff of survival, you don’t roll with the punches, you just curl up in a ball and feel sorry for yourself.  It’s all about you, isn’t it?  Don’t you know how many others are much worse off than you?  But you can’t move on from it can you, you weak, snivelling little nothing of a girl. 

Yes, that’s right, reach for the knife, it’ll make everything better.  Slice open the flesh, watch the blood rise.  Feel the sting.  It is better now, it’ll last maybe 12 hours, and you’ll want to do it again.  Reach for the bottle, but, no, you don’t drink alone.  That’d make you an alcoholic, but you don’t really have problems, do you, stay in control, always in control, at all times.. Chocolate, that’ll do, , yes, fatso, you’re 3 stone overweight, eat, eat, eat, eat, it makes everything better.  Oh, for when there was something to snort, need that stuff again.  To feel high, to feel invincible, to feel back together. 

Tired, too tired.  Take a pill, take two.  Not three though, don’t want an accident, things aren’t in order yet, not ready for a mistake yet.  Sleep, perchance to dream.  No, no dreams.  Please, no dreams. 

Retreat from the world, cancel all your engagements.  Sleep, doze, watch TV, escape from reality.  Switch off the phone, ignore it when it rings.  When your friends worry, pretend it’s all OK, you’re OK, don’t want to worry anyone.  Want a hug, desperately want human contact, push it all away, because you don’t deserve it, you definitely don’t deserve to worry anyone. 

When will it end?  When will this cycle end?  When will the next one start?  This time it started with feeling overwhelmed, working too hard, getting too tired, too stressed.  Then, a breakdown, like one I’ve not had in a while.  Curled up in a ball, in the corner of the room, shaking, shivering, scared to death.  And then the panic attacks started.  And kept coming.  Crying in the office, waking up in fear, running, running, always running.  Maybe because you didn’t run at the time, tried to fight, but gave up, gave up really quickly didn’t you?  Coward.  Pull yourself together, it’s been four years, get over it, get over yourself.

I don’t really feel all that shit, not all the time, I don’t hate myself like that all the time.  But the internal monologue is pretty fucked up, that much is true.  I want to change the record, I want to be able to say positive affirmations to myself, and really believe them. 

I know I’m strong, I know I’m a survivor.  Because I do think that shit about myself most of the time, and yet I still keep going, finding ways to put myself back together.  I have to believe it’s just a short-term blip, that my time for happiness is coming, just around the corner, that it won’t always be like this, because if it is always like this, and it carries on like this, I honestly don’t know how many more times I can put myself back together.

It’s hard, battling a mental illness.  Depression, anxiety, panic attacks, insomnia.  And doing it alone.  Yes, I have friends, you are all awesome, when I let you be.  But I get home from work, I get up in the morning, by myself, alone.  I can go the whole weekend without talking to a soul, not even via text.  I’m lonely.  When I’m with you, I try to be happy, because it’s no fun dwelling on the painful stuff, and no-one wants to be around someone who brings them down.  And it’s exhausting, so sometimes I just choose to be alone. 

And when there’s other stuff to deal with too, it’s like there’s too much.  I’m not fit, my body aches, I’m overweight, mostly from comfort eating.  But now I have an injured knee, it probably needs surgery, and I don’t know how I’ll cope with that, just the idea of my body being invaded like that, then mending, being trapped in my flat.  I feel overwhelmed by having to get well in my head, and get well in my body, all at the same time.

Every morning, when I wake, my hands ache, like an old person.  I sleep with them clenched so tight.  I want to know how to relax, how to let go.

It’s been four years.  There are so many years ahead of me.  But it’s such a struggle, every day feels like another struggle, another battle, it’s exhausting.  How can this go on for year after year after year?  How can I find the strength?  I’m starting therapy again soon, I hope it will help me find a way out of this rut, I feel like I’ve stopped, I’ve not been making progress, I want to get better, so badly.

I want someone, but I feel damaged and broken.  And I’m scared to go looking for someone, very few men are bad like the one I was unlucky enough to have dinner with that night, I know that, but I can’t stop the fear. 

I want a baby, so badly.   I want to be a mother, to cherish someone.  I don’t think I’m well enough, I’m scared I never will be.  Because of the knee, I have to wait again to try for another few months, maybe I’ll get well in time. 

Is this my life?  Working too hard, going through cycles of depression and panic, putting myself back together, doing it all over again? 

I saw my oldest friend the other day.  Happy, married, two beautiful children.  It reminded me why I should never go to a reunion.  I just don’t do well by comparison.  I’m happy for her, so happy, but I want to be happy for me too.  Me, I just feel like a cautionary tale.  You can have it all, it can get all screwed up, so quickly, so suddenly, I know it’s what you do with it that counts, and maybe I haven’t dealt with it right, yes I wanted to self-destruct and did my best to do that for quite some time.  But the reason I didn’t self-destruct, and haven’t yet, is maybe because I am still fighting for myself, I have to hope that I will continue, and won’t give up, however much I sometimes want to.  Just to make it end. 

Anxiety, panic attacks.  Now, evidently, depression.  I want it to end.  I’ll put myself back together again.  I always seem to.  It seems to get harder, not easier, every time.  I won’t go back on the happy pills, they take too long to kick in and I hate the side-effects.  This is my prescription this time:

1.       Today I rest, and eat the two bars of chocolate I’ve been hoarding
2.       Tomorrow I get some stuff done around the flat so it doesn’t feel like I’m living in my own filth
3.       I’m going to go visit my lovely friend, pick up her newborn and feel calmer
4.       Meditation classes start when I get back
5.       Yoga classes start when I get back
6.       Date with a lovely man who always makes me smile
7.       Go running – or rather jogging, try to get fit. 
8.       Don’t work much, leave on time, or not too late anyway

I know I need to be around people, but I don’t have the strength, I’m not cutting you out because I don’t need you, it’s because I need you too much, and when I’m better I want to laugh with you.  I hate that you see me as broken, I hate that I’m damaged.  Tomorrow, I’ll be a survivor again.  Today, I just don’t have the energy.  

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Dear Luke

I am writing this in response to a comment by someone calling themselves Luke on a blog written by London Feminist entitled ‘Rape Culture in up to 140 characters’, a storify of the responses to the Ched Evans verdict.  Ched Evans is a footballer, and so the case received much publicity and column inches.
In the words of London Feminist, the context of the prosecution was that the victim had gone with Evans' team-mate Clayton McDonald to a hotel, after they met at a nightclub.  McDonald then sent Evans a text saying he'd "got a bird" and Evans showed up with two other men, one of whom filmed the sex.  The woman woke up unable to recall what had happened, thinking her drink had been spiked, and complained that she had not consented to sex at all.  The jury acquitted McDonald, with whom the victim had apparently gone to the hotel willingly, but convicted Evans.  He has been given a five year sentence.

Luke wrote on May 08 at 19.12

Any evidence that there was definitely no consent? Or can she just not recall? In my eyes, what they did was wrong whether there was consent or not but I guess when we live in a society that heartily embraces drunkenness and fornication (and both at the same time, even better!) then are we really surprised when situations like this arise? I think the root of the problem lies way beneath blaming her or him. Should she have gotten into such a drunken mess, should he have had sex with her even when she was drunk? Both seem culpable. Her irresponsibility when drinking alcohol has consequences, she’s an adult, she should know this. No, that doesn’t mean she deserved to get raped, it simply means she should have seen the possible consequences. Of course, in the eyes of the law, and rightfully so, if she didn’t give consent then he is legally speaking a rapist, but there is a bigger picture than just what the law says. If she was in such a state that she couldn’t remember who she had sex with then does who she has sex with REALLY matter much to her?

Luke is not alone in thinking this.  In a 2010 survey 64 per cent of respondents said they thought a person should take responsibility for being raped if they drank to excess/blackout. 

This matters to me.  I was raped.  I had been drinking.  I had been drinking a lot.  Like the girl raped by Ched Evans, I also believed I might have been drugged, although I will never now know for sure.  Certainly, the way I blacked out and remember what happened in flashbacks is not the way my memory works other times I’ve been drinking a lot.  I thought for a long time that it mattered if I had been drugged, because if I had been drugged, then it definitely wasn’t my fault and it was premeditated on his part.  First, it took me a long while to forgive myself for being so ‘stupid’, for putting myself at risk and trusting that the guy I was meeting on the blind date was just there for a meal and to get to know each other.  But then, I realised, and the SlutWalk movement has been very instrumental in helping me to realise, that there was nothing for me to forgive myself for.  My drunkenness didn’t rape me, the man raped me.  I have been out with men before, and since, where I’ve been drinking.  I’ve had men come home with me when I’ve been drinking.  Those men haven’t raped me; when I’ve told them to stop, they’ve stopped.  The difference is not the drinking.  The difference is those men weren’t rapists, the man who raped me, he’s a rapist and that’s why I was raped.

Luke, the person who is raped is NEVER culpable.  Drunkenness does not constitute consent, and if the person you are with is drifting in and out of consciousness, seems disoriented about where they are, or who you are, you can be absolutely, certainly, without a shadow of a doubt, assured that they do NOT consent.  Luke, the possible consequences of getting into a drunken mess, as you so eloquently put it, should not include rape.  The only possible consequences of getting into a drunken mess should be a stinking hangover the next day.

Luke, you are right, the root of the problem isn’t just a ‘her fault, his fault’ dynamic, it is more complex than that.  The root of the problem is you, and the 64% of society at large, that buys into this rape culture, that keeps victims silent, that refuses to condemn rapists for the scum they are, that comes up with rape apology after rape apology after rape apology. 

Luke, you ask a question at the end of your post.  You ask, does it really matter that much to her if she can’t remember?  Yes, Luke, it really matters.  However much her conscious mind remembers, her subconscious remembers far more.  In fact, her subconscious is trying to protect her conscious mind by not revealing all the details.  But she will remember, in her nightmares, with ongoing post-traumatic stress symptoms, which will suddenly appear to terrify at any moment.  Luke, it’s now over 4 years since I was raped, and I still suffer from nightmares, from PTSD, from the inability to deal with stress.  It affects me every day.  Luke, it matters.  For rapists, it might have been one night.  For the victim, it means trying to survive, every day, and many days, even years later, feeling that the attempts are futile.

It upsets me beyond words that 64% of society believes I was partly to blame for being raped.  I want to feel that I’m not alone.  If you stand with me, let me know that you’re not one of the 64%, let me know you’re not Luke, and if you were once one of the 64%, please let me know you’ve changed your mind, give me hope that it won’t always be this way, that rape culture will end, one day.  

#ImNotLuke #ImNotThe64%

Thank you for reading. 

Saturday, 5 May 2012


This week was momentous actually.  It was the week I said, I need help.  It was the week I said, actually, rape is having an impact on my everyday, it isn’t working for me to paper over and smile over the cracks.  It was the week I told my bosses that I was struggling with stress, and why.

I can’t take that back now.  Now, when they look at me, they will know.  What does that mean they’ll think of me, how they’ll judge me?  Will they think I’m weak, that I was stupid, that I must have done something to ‘ask for it’?  Will they be worried that they can’t give me the next exciting project to lead, because I won’t be able to ‘handle’ the stress?  Will they think, but it happened four years ago, surely you’re over it?  Will they think I’m not up to the job?  Now, you see, they have so many reasons not to judge me only on my performance, but to qualify that judgement with excuses for me having a bad day, when I might only be having an ordinarily bad day, or reasons why a mediocre effort is regarded as better because I’m under more pressure, when actually it might just have been mediocre.  One of my bosses, we’ll call him Big Boss, he’s worked with me for several months now, he knows me, he knows the quality of my work, and the effort & hours I’ll put in to make it great, and the pride I take in doing a good job.  The other boss, we’ll call him New Boss, he just met me this week.  What a way to make an impression. 

But I’m not weak.  And that’s why I told them.  I get up every day (most days anyhow) and I still choose every day to function in this world.  Knowing what I do about this world, I still choose to be part of it, and that might seem like an overly dramatic statement, but honestly, many days I think I’m mad to be doing it.  I’m one of the strongest people I know.  But I’m not special.  Too many of us struggle with the same feelings, every day.

I’m not weak, I’m taking control, and that’s why I told them.  The volume of work I was doing, the hours I was putting in, were causing me to feel out of control.  Feeling out of control was causing my brain to go into panic, I couldn’t think clearly.  Getting through the day, I was coming home and literally, literally, curling up in tears.  When the tears were becoming a regular feature at work, that’s when I knew I had to do something, to say enough. 

But everyone works hard, the hours I was working, evenings, weekends, other people are working them too.  I had to tell them to explain why I needed to take action, and take a break.  I had to tell them that I need to look after my mental health, that it’s a fragile thing, that I’ve worked hard to regain it, and I can’t lose it again.  And I had to get their understanding of why I might need time off during the working day sometimes, because I’m on the wait list at the local rape crisis centre to go back to therapy, have some counselling.  Because I do need some help and sometimes, saying you’re ‘fine’ just doesn’t quite cover it. 

I don’t want special treatment, I’m not special.  But even if I’m the only one doing it, I have to treat myself with special care & attention.  I don’t know what will happen next week, and ongoing.  I don’t know if they will treat me differently, I know I’ll be sensitive to it.  But I do know I actually trust them not to, to be understanding, to do the right thing, as bosses, and as human beings.  I work with good people.

There was a time I didn’t.  At a previous job, I told my boss.  She’d been a friend.  Yet she used it against me.  She didn’t get away with it, they had to give me some excellent terms when I left, but it took me a long time to trust anyone in a professional capacity again.   It was a big step this week, a huge step.  I’m relieved I took it.  And even if I'm wrong, even if it all goes wrong, and my trust is misplaced, I'm still glad I took the step.  Because I did it for me, I took back control and I put myself first.  

Sunday, 22 April 2012


This blog has been inspired by two things that I separately realised recently that have coalesced to cause me to need to write.  When I need to write, it’s to get something out that’s been on my mind, that I need to be done with, to get out, which by getting out, gives me some peace.  Unfortunately both are about work.  But also not about work.

Control is important to me, it always has been.  I’ve always referred to myself as a control freak, writing my lists and ensuring that the outcomes of endeavours were always as I set out for them to be.  It made me a conscientious student and worker, it gave me a feeling of comfort, knowing that I was succeeding, knowing I was in charge of that, in control of my destiny. 

I play around with control, to an extent, in my private life.  It’s a relief, sometimes, to let go, to totally acquiesce control to someone else, within certain agreed parameters, for a moment in time – and this is the critical thing - on my terms.  It takes a certain special type of person, of relationship, of trust, that we’ve built up over time between us, for me to give over that control.  But when I can, it’s a beautiful thing.  And brings so much peace.  The world becomes still, calm, tranquil.

Aside from those few times, not being in control has always made me feel stress.  It always has, whether at school, at work, at home, wherever.  The need to be in control, and the effects of not being in control, they haven’t really changed. Except, that now, when I feel stress I feel out of control, to the extent that I feel panic.  Lately at work, I have been feeling the kind of stress where I feel panicked.  And when everyday, day to day, stress tips into panic, that’s a problem. 

I’ve already connected the need not to feel stress to ensuring that I don’t suffer post-traumatic nightmares which then result in insomnia (because I am afraid of falling asleep in case I get the nightmares), which then result in tiredness, leading to inability to stave off depression on a downward spiral I always struggle to break free of.  But, this week, I had a ‘doh’ lightbulb moment.  I am feeling panicked because I am somehow connecting the feelings of being out of control to how I felt when that control was wrested from me against my will.  Simply put, any stress is causing me to feel panicked because my brain is taking me back to the rape.  It might just be work, it might be entirely safe, but my brain at its basest level isn’t making the distinction and isn’t processing that the two are very different.

This makes me extremely angry.  The rape has effectively, if only for a period, I hope this will get better, made me unable to do my job to the best of my ability.  Back when it was only about a year afterwards, I lost my job, because of the rape.  My boss at the time said it was because the rape had made me lose my resilience, and she couldn’t rely on me anymore.  I successfully negotiated better leaving terms because she had no right to discriminate against me based on what had happened to me, but I’ve often wondered if she was right.  I’m not as resilient.  Not at the stuff that matters at work, like coping with a normal amount of stress. 

[I think in life terms, I’m incredibly resilient.  I continue to live, to get up each day, and when I fall, to put myself back together.  But that’s not what other people see.  Professionally, that’s not what matters, it’s not what people see].

The other thing that happened is that a friend mentioned that it was my choice to work this weekend.  I’ve been very much resenting work, that this week I’d vowed to myself that I would get my life back in balance – and I couldn’t achieve it.  I didn’t think it was my choice to work this weekend, I felt very much that the work needed doing, that if I didn’t do it, I would feel the stress again – and I realised this morning, that I was getting stressed about getting stressed…  Winding myself up into having to work in an attempt to avoid being stressed later. 

So, I’ve done a little work, but not a lot.  I know that tomorrow I will feel out of control, I will feel stressed, I will feel panicked.  I hope I’ll catch myself in time, before the panic sets in, and remind myself that it’s just work and it’s not the place where I was 4 years ago. 

But I am starting to wonder if perhaps I shouldn’t go back to therapy, not to talk about rape, but to talk about stress, and control, and how I manage both.  Therapy of course scares me, because the point of therapy is to wrest control…  And the danger of therapy is that it brings everything back so much closer to the surface and makes maintaining the illusion of sanity that much harder to negotiate everyday.  So, I’m not saying I’m going to do it tomorrow.  I’ve learnt over the last few years that some therapy works, some doesn’t and the right person is very important, more so than the type of therapy.  But I promise you, I’ll give it some thought and I’ll find the right person.  It may have been 4 years, but there’s a long way to go.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Four Years Ago

It was four years ago.  Why do I have to remember the date?  It’s like a fearful milestone looming, I get worked up in advance, anticipating something horrible.  It’s only a date, another day.  And it’s not like it’s the only day in the year when I remember, I wish it were.  If I ever get to the point when I only remember on the anniversary of it happening, that will be so wonderful.  But, it’s something that I think of every day.  Every day.  Every. Day.  Sometimes I wake up and it’s my first thought of the day.  Sometimes, it’s been in my dreams, my nightmares.  Sometimes, I’m lucky, and I won’t remember until I’m on the train to work, or even in a meeting.  I really don’t think, in all the 4 years, the 1,461 days since it happened, I don’t think I’ve ever got past lunchtime without thinking about it.  So, why does the anniversary matter so much?  Why does the date it happened still have so much power?

Some people say, don’t mark it, don’t make it into a big deal.  But those are the lucky people who don’t know.  Other people, the unlucky ones who do know, they understand.  It’s a big deal because it’s impossible for it not to be.  This year I decided to let it be what it wanted to be, and not try to be anything else.  Previous years, I have tried to ignore it, to keep going.  And the pressure of that, of being around people, being part of the world, it’s taken its toll.  Two years ago, I took a lot of drugs and drank a lot, just to get through the night.  Last year I got so worked up in advance, felt numb during the day and compensated by spending most of the summer months coping by cutting.  Last year there were other factors too, but this year I am not allowing myself to break – I’ve felt broken so many times, that I am simply so tired of putting myself back together.  So, I’m giving myself today, this week if needs be, and then I will be OK again.  I hope.

And I have been thinking about why it’s important, anyway, to mark the date.  If a loved one dies, you remember.  You pause, you remember the person who you lost, what they meant to you, and you honour them.  The rape changed me.  I am unrecognisable to myself in so many ways now that I was then.  Of course, some of that is just the passing of time, of being 4 years older.  But it isn’t just me that changed.  The world changed too.  There was me before the rape.  There was a different world before the rape.  I think back on the girl then and I try to remember her, to find again some of that spirit, that positivity, that pure belief that I used to have that everything was going to be alright in the end.  I won’t say part of me died.  But I did change.  There’s a picture of me hanging above my bed, it was taken about 6 months before.   I keep her there, not because I’m narcissistic and I like having a half-naked picture of myself hanging above my bed (although I do), I keep her there because she’s a stranger to me now, she’s smiling with such promise, such saucy innocence, I like to remember that she used to be me, I used to be her.

Today I’m not cutting, I’m not doing drugs.  I’m eating probably more than is healthy and there’s a litre of chocolate milk that isn’t going to last much longer, and I might open a bottle of wine tonight.  But, the point is, I’m doing better this year, I’ve been doing better.  A friend (who unfortunately knows) tells me that one day there will be a day when I won’t think of it, and I know I’m getting better.  I’ve survived for four years.  1,461 days have passed and I am still here.  It’s not an exaggeration to say there were times when that didn’t seem likely.   Some days are harder than others, I need to learn how to manage stress better because stress of any kind seems to be a trigger for nightmares, insomnia, panic attacks.  But I’m getting better at coping during those times, learning how to take the time out to heal myself, and those times are getting fewer and further between. 

Slowly, one day at a time, sometimes a step forward and two steps back, but overall, a forward trajectory, slowly, I am getting stronger, I am learning to cope.  I’m rebuilding.  And quite honestly, when I’m done, you won’t be clicking on a link to some blog written through tears, you’ll hear my voice, loud and clear, shouting it from the rooftops.  Rape happens and it shouldn’t.  The fact it is taboo to talk about it stinks.  The fact that I am fearful of people at work knowing, in case they judge me, and think it was my fault, or that I am weak.  When it wasn’t my fault, because rape can only ever be the rapist’s fault.  And I’m not weak, because I am still here.  But, I’m a hypocrite, and rape makes me angry and I want to yell and scream about it, personally force society and everyone in it to readdress their misconceptions about rape and rape victims, but I don’t.  I stay quiet, in the real world, where it matters.  When I am done rebuilding, I won’t be quiet.  And you will hear me.