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.