*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: