Friends – Initial Responses

February 15, 2010 at 11:27 am (Uncategorized)

The attack I suffered is what is commonly referred to as an “acquaintance rape” as I knew the man who raped me. Since he had been in my class since I was a child we were connected socially through a huge amount of people. I quickly realised that I didn’t have the option to keep what had happened to me a secret.

On the day I was attacked I first told my brother who immediately rang my sister who, in turn told my mum and dad. I asked my brother to tell my boyfriend who was still at our home. When my brother phoned my boyfriend he tried to tell him what had happened but couldn’t get the words out. He said it was serious and that he would explain as soon as he arrived. My boyfriend told our flat mate that he had to go home because something serious had happened. When he got to town my brother and sister collected him and sat down to tell him what had happened. Then they brought him to the Special Unit. By this time I had been able to have a shower and was standing outside smoking a ciggarette. He didn’t say anything at all, just hugged me. I was so relieved, I suppose I was worried he would find me as disgusting as I felt. After a short time he had a call from our flatmate. She told us she had been told what had happened, I couldn’t understand who would have spoken to her. It turned out the mother of the man who raped me had called her and tried to persuade her to pressure me out of pressing charges. I was really shocked. I hadn’t even thought about this kind of thing happening. I had been saying to my parents “He’ll tell the truth. He’s already told his dad what he did and they would have tried to stop me from coming to the police but now I have, once the police start asking questions he’ll just tell the truth.” I told the police about his mother calling my flatmate. I was worried because I knew that the brother of the man who raped me had just come out of prison and part of his charge was assaulting the witness of his crime. I suddenly realised that I was at risk from all these people although I still felt certain that they all must know what he had done. The police told me they would go round to his house and explain to his parents that any contact of this sort would jeopordise their sons bail.

In the first days I had calls and visits from a few friends who had messages of support from some other friends. The general message was that people were “thinking of me” but didn’t want to bother me in case I didn’t want to talk. I felt empowered by those who said they were thinking of me and were proud of me for going to the police. I would advise anyone who cares for someone who has been raped to contact them with messages of support. You can do this in an unobtrusive way (email, text, facebook) but do it! Any rape victim who speaks out about their attack has a lifetime of direct and indirect accusations that they are lying. Anything you can do as a friend to counteract these messages is so important. Keep reaffirming that you believe them, that you think they are handling the situation well (even if you also have some advice you think may be helpful) and that you are proud of them. Those people who did not contact me after I was raped made a choice to leave me wondering if they thought I was lying or doing the wrong thing by reporting his crime. Some of those people have been in touch since, many of them have not. Initially I spent a lot of time worrying about what they thought. Getting angry or upset about what I guessed they were thinking. Nowadays I tend to think they are not worthy of my time. If they thought I would lie about being raped, then they never knew me. If they knew I was raped but decided to ‘keep out of it’ they are incapable of true friendship.

Some people felt it was appropriate to talk to me about the fact that the rapist, his family or friends were upset or worried. This was not helpful. I did not need to hear how he was coping with the fact that he had committed a terrible violent crime against me. I did not need to use any of my energy being concerned about his family and friends’ deluded beliefs that he was being charged with a crime he did not commit.

A week after I was raped I received an email from the girlfriend of the man who raped me. I had been worried about her. I had been told they had a lot of fights and she was often upset about their relationship. After I was raped I just assumed he had been abusing her too. When I asked close friends about her they told me not to worry about her (I appreciate that they were protecting me from hearing about her inability to believe the truth). When I saw her name in my inbox I thought I would have an email asking questions or disclosing what he had done to her. I felt desperately sorry for her. But when I opened the email it was full of hatred and vitriol. She didn’t believe he had raped me, she thought it was consensual. She said she didn’t believe it was possible for a women to be raped after she had passed out. She also said she didn’t care if the case went to court as she didn’t care about him. I forwarded the email she sent me to the police. It took an huge amount of personal restraint not to unleash all my fury on her in a lengthy response. But I’m glad I let the police handle it. They told her she should not contact me or she could be charged with intimidating a witness. She never contacted me again.

 Friends told me she left the country but that once she started to respond to his messages, they quickly got back together. It’s always been hard to comprehend my feelings towards that woman. I do feel sorry for her because I think she is a controlled and abused woman. But I hate her, because the message she sent me reopened each of the wounds I had managed to heal in that first week. She was the first person to open my eyes to how unwilling people are to believe in rape.

My mum went to the house where I was attacked to retrieve my mobile phone. When she got their the mother of my friend offered her a cup of tea. My mum was very upset and started to tell her a bit about how I was coping. My friend’s mum then responded by complaining of how inconvenient all the police statements and forensics were. She said that she was shocked that he had ‘done what he did’. She had been out in the same bar as him before he had arrived at the party. She said there were a lot of girls there in short skirts and that might be the reason he had got ‘carried away’. My mum was disgusted and demanded she gave her my phone so she could leave. My friend’s mum tried to claim she had been misunderstood but my mum just walked out. On her way out she bumped into my friend. He looked very shocked. She gave him a hug and the two of them cried. My mum told me the details of this some time later when I was strong enough to hear it. I’m glad she waited and I’m glad she told me. It helped to know that my friend was that troubled by what had happened. Later we lost touch for a while and I knew that this was because he was struggling to come to terms with it all. I couldn’t have supported him but it helped to know that, although he was unable to support me for a time, he was also supportive of my choices.

 It also added to my insight into the public ignorance about rape and the ludicrous excuses given to ‘out of control’ men who are supposedly lured into raping women. There is no lure to rape. There are no men incapable of rape. Many men make a choice to rape women. Many men make a choice not to rape women. We should be working towards a world where every man chooses not to commit this terrible crime, where rape is considered a non-human behaviour.

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Finding Help

March 30, 2008 at 2:18 pm (Uncategorized)

When I left the Special Unit it was early evening. I had no idea how that much time had passed. By this time I just felt exhausted, I wasn’t crying or angry or feeling anything really, I was even able to make little jokes with my mum, sister and boyfriend. I want to make this clear because I have read and heard so much rubbish about being able to look at a woman and see whether she was raped or not. In more reliable sources however it is consistently agreed that women can behave very differently depending on their experiences. Many raped women suffer from shock. Shock has many suprising behaviours associated with it. It’s very easy to sit back and claim “If I was raped I would…”, I’m sure I have thought those things in the past. The reality is that such horrendous trauma creates all kinds of unexpected emotions and therefore behaviour varies massively between individuals and over time.

In the weeks following my attack I was sleeping between 12 and 18 hours a day. This was due to the fact that I was suffering from shock but, at the time, both myself and my family worried that I was very depressed. I felt I couldn’t move and when I did I was only able to move very slowly, dragging my feet and I never felt hungry.

I was so fortunate to have my family and a few friends around me in the first few days. They didn’t expect anything of me that I wasn’t capable of. I wasn’t expected to laugh when I couldn’t or to eat when I wasn’t able to and there were no expectations of me to either pour my heart out or pull myself together. I would advise anyone who is supporting a woman who has recently been raped to act in this way. I had had my autonomy taken away from me. If anyone had placed pressure on me to do or be certain things I would have felt I was being held back from reattaining my self-posession.

After several days I decided I was ready to find a counsellor. I contacted all the telephone numbers on the list that the police had provided me with (I felt I had to do this myself, although my mother offered to do it on my behlaf). Rape Crisis had no counselling available for me. They were able to offer me a crisis session which would be for one hour the next week and I would then be placed on a waiting list of several months. I tried the next number. This was (My home town’s) rape and sexual abuse counselling service. They could also offer me a one hour counselling session and told me the waiting list was 4 months long. I tried the third number, which did not even ring. I tried that several times. I tried the fourth number on the list and was answered with “Good Afternoon, Suicide Survivors Helpline”. I could barely speak but told them how I had got their number. They apologised and couldn’t believe the police had given me that number. I felt as though my death had been pre-empted and gave up making calls for that day.

Later I received a call from Victim Support, which is a support service for all victims of crime. They receive their information from the police. They are volunteers who contact victims of crime shortly after it is reported. I called them on several occasions to ask questions, mostly about the court date and practical issues. I wanted to speak to a qualified and experienced sexual assault counsellor about the rape itself though.

I couldn’t find counselling anywhere and started to feel desperate. I felt like I wouldn’t be able to cope when the reality of what had happened came crashing down. I was aware of feeling numb and felt that this could not last for long. I turned to my parents for help to find a counsellor as they both work in the public sector and my mum was given the number of a psycho-therapist who one of her colleagues used. I was able to arrange a session with her the next week but it was at a cost of £50 per hour. I was told by the police that I could claim money back for the counselling from Criminal Injuries Compensation.

I felt angry that I had been forced into a situation where I had to borrow money from my parents to get the care I needed and that this meant I would probably need to claim compensation for the attack to pay them back. I felt that I was cheating, paying for help when most women could not afford such a luxury. But I also felt that I couldn’t cope without help and couldn’t imagine how any raped woman could cope without it. It’s hard enough to ask for help without facing such an unfair dilemma of survival vs principles.

The government consistently fails to support rape victims adequately. For years funding of rape crisis centres has been cut so that there are now very few areas that benefit from their services and, where they do exist, resources are so tight that waiting lists mean they are rendered almost redundant to women who need help fast. I will shortly be listing links of organisations you can contact to find out more about the UK failure to support raped women and ways you can help as well as a list of some of the support services available in the UK.

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Apologies!

February 29, 2008 at 3:11 pm (Uncategorized)

I would just like to apologise for the long break in my writing. I only felt I could write about the things I have once I had got my head around them in some way. I suppose I just wasn’t ready to continue but I plan to continue this week, and hope that anyone who stumbles across this and finds it useful/interesting will continue to check for updates in the not-too-distant-future.

Thanks for your patience.

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The Special Unit

May 23, 2007 at 11:14 am (Uncategorized)

When we arrived at the special unit a woman welcomed me and told me who she was and what would happen. My sister and parents arrived shortly afterwards and the two original police officers gave me their contact details, urged me to call them with any questions and explained they would then be leaving. I sat in a warm room with sofas and my parents and sister soon joined me. There seemed to be a lot of waiting around but I now think this was due to the fact that I was still too inebriated to consent to a medical examination.

When it came to seeing the doctor I was allowed to bring anyone with me but I chose to go alone. The woman who I had first spoken to chaperoned. She introduced me to the doctor, showed me around the room, showed me the instruments that would be used and what they were for. I then sat with the doctor who asked me to explain the attack. He asked questions like how much I had had to drink and whether there had been a struggle between us. When I explained that I couldn’t remember the moment I fell asleep he explained that it was highly unlikely any drug that may have been used would show in any tests because modern ‘date rape’ drugs aren’t detectable immediately after they have been used. At that time I thought he had been sharing the wine with us so I didn’t think he could have drugged me.

The doctor then asked me to step behind a curtain and take off all my clothes while the female chaperone put them into evidence bags. The doctor asked me to stand while he looked for any marks or bruises on my body, then I lay on the examination table. He took a sample of my head hair and of my pubic hair then took swabs from my mouth and my vagina and he talked me through each stage. The examination wasn’t easy, it was very emotional but it wasn’t physically painful.

After the examination I was allowed to have a shower. They had a small bathroom in the building and my mum came with me. It was just like the cliche for me, I couldn’t stop cleaning myself and I really felt there was a constant smell of men’s body odour on me. After a while my mum suggested I come out of the shower and I put on some fresh clothes.

After I was dressed and I went outside for a ciggarette, my sister and brother arrived with my boyfriend. I was really frightened about how he would take it. I suppose I felt ashamed that someone had done that to me. I felt like I would look and smell different to him and that, even though he is the strongest and most loyal man to me, he might not be able to look at me knowing about what had happened. No words were said at all and, without hesitation, my boyfriend put his arms around me and held me. He has held me up ever since.

We were allowed to leave to get some food before my full interview. Two female police officers led me to a room. They explained there was a video camera which would film the interview and two investigative police officers watching the interview on a screen in the next room. For this part I had to be without my family. One of the officers asked most of the questions, the second officer asked me any questions she felt were necessary to clarify and the investigative police officers were given the opportunity to pass on any questions to the female officer that they felt necessary.

I had a lot of concerns about what I would be asked during the interview so I have listed below what I have learned about that from my experience:

  • They should not ask you about your sexual history like who/how many people you have slept with etc.
  • They asked me about my relationship to the rapist and whether there had ever been any sexual contact between us, other than the rape. (There had not)
  • They asked me about times and duration of events. I struggled to remember these because I was drunk but they urged me to estimate times.
  • They asked me to explain my relationship (not sexual) to everyone involved in the incident.
  • They asked me how much I had had to drink and whether I had knowingly taken any narchotics. They explained that I would not be in any legal trouble if I had. (I was drunk but had not taken any drugs)
  • They also asked if that was a normal amount of alcohol for me to drink and at each stage asked “how drunk” I was feeling. (I found it hard to put increments on my inebriation)
  • They asked how I felt about the rapist to gauge, I believe, whether there was any particular like or dislike for eachother. 
  • They never asked me about my job or lifestyle to gauge what sort of person I was.
  • They asked what physical contact myself and the rapist had had immediately before the rape.

After the interview I was introduced to the investigative police officers who gave me their contact details and said they would keep in touch. I explained to them that the brother of the rapist had just come out of prison. I was told that this was for assault and then intimidating the witness after he reported it to the police. In the time I had been there I had also heard from friends that the mother of the rapist had been calling my friends asking them to stop me from giving evidence. The police told me that they would go to the rapist’s family house to tell them that if they did this again they would be charged with intimidating a witness.

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The Police Station

May 18, 2007 at 11:40 am (Uncategorized)

We drove to the police station near my parents home. My sister and brother wanted to phone my parents but I said no because I was worried about how they would take it. My Dad was to have a heart operation the next week and I thought, if I could keep it between us until after that he would be healthier and able to take the news.

The station was unmanned so we had to wait for the police to come to interview me about what had happened. I spoke to one female officer and a male officer with my sister in the room, they didn’t take a statement or record what I was saying at that point. Only the female officer asked me questions. They were very pleasant and calm. They let me take breaks to smoke and gave me water to sober up. They asked questions to prompt me on because my thoughts were scattered but they never questioned me in a way that insinuated what happened to me was fabricated. They were visibly shocked and sympathetic when I told them my attacker had returned to the house with his father.

  Afterwards, myself and my sister went outside to smoke a ciggarette and she told me that she wasn’t able to handle the situation without mum and dad. I agreed. Meanwhile my brother called my boyfriend who was about to go to work. He told him he had to travel back to our hometown, that I needed him.

The police I had earlier spoken to told me that we would have to go to a special unit for victims of rape and that they would drive me there. I went with them and my brother whilst my sister drove to my parents house to tell them what was happening.

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After The Rape

May 16, 2007 at 7:41 pm (Uncategorized)

Looking back, having spoken to a therapist, I know I was in shock. It was the strangest feeling of calm and silence and I felt I floated up the two staircases to Jim’s room.

I looked at the bed made up for me on the floor. I went to the toilet, I needed to wipe myself. Then I floated back to Jim’s room and I got into the bed after closing his door. As I started to pull the sheet over me I think I must have been sobbing because, although I couldn’t hear it, I woke Jim up. I had just wanted to sleep and hoped the whole thing might disappear but I am so glad now that my friend sat up in bed and asked me what was wrong.

I went over and sat on the end of his bed and said something. At first when I tried to remember I thought I’d said that John had raped me but, now that I’ve heard about Jim’s statement and thought over it I think I recall saying something like “I woke up and John was on top of me”. After saying that I began to cry and Jim held me to his chest.

Again I can’t estimate the times and all of these memories are strangely blurry. At some point Jim’s mum came to the room. I repeated what I had said to Jim and she told me I had been raped. I cried onto her and Jim again. In the meantime Jim had received several calls to his mobile from my attacker, he didn’t answer. Jim’s mum asked me who I’d like her to call and I asked her to call my brother. That call was received around 8am and he called a taxi to come to the house.

Then the doorbell rang. I thought it might be my brother but it seemed so soon. Elaine went downstairs and came back up to the room soon after. She was quite shaken and said that the rapist and his father had come to the house and she had let them in because she didn’t know what to do. They wanted to speak to me but Elaine sent Jim down to get rid of them. When he came back he said that he had told them to go, that my brother was on his way and would be very angry if he saw them. They left.

My brother walked in and started to cry when he saw me. I don’t remember seeing him cry any other time. He called my sister and asked her to come. When she arrived she got my things together and told me we were going to the police straight away. I knew that was the right thing to do and have never once regretted that decision.

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Waking Up

May 16, 2007 at 7:35 pm (Uncategorized)

I don’t think I’d ever appreciated what waking up is. I’d never tried to remember it from start to finish, I’d never been asked how many seconds it took for me to become conscious. How does a person put a time frame on the space when they’re 50% conscious? How would a person order their memories, feelings and thoughts about a space of time when they’re 10% conscious. I can only do my jumbled best as I did later that day.

I think the first sensation I had was the narrow chair arm digging into the nape of my neck. I couldn’t understand how I’d got into this position and could feel something pressing down on me, on my upper body. I remember associating it with the feeling of my boyfriend climbing over me to go to the loo when I’m asleep. But he wasn’t moving away. I put my hand up in front of me to feel a hairless chest. I realised it was a man, but it wasn’t my boyfriend. Around the time I opened my eyes I realised that there was something in my vagina that the person on top of me was thrusting into me.

It was dimly lit in the room, perhaps just one lamp on in the opposite corner but I could see the sillohuette of his hair. It was John. I could see his face with his eyes half closed and his movement up and down. I pushed his chest hard away from me but he carried on, I did it again and he continued without saying a word just opening his eyes. The third time I pushed him very hard and he got out of me and kneeled back.

I jumped up and pulled my trousers on that were on the floor, leaving my pants to go to the door. On the way I pulled my dress and my top up which had evidently been pulled down to expose my chest, it felt sore. 

It feels strange to think it was such a quiet incident. The only words spoken were by my attacker. In a calm low voice he said “I suppose you’re going to go and make a fuss about this” I turned round to see him sitting up looking over to me with slight disgust but there was no fear whatsoever in his appearance or tone. I always thought if I was touched in a way I didn’t like I would scream and shout, hit and bite my way out of the situation. That I would want to cause pain to the person who had done it to me. But it wasn’t like that at all. I just wanted to be far away from him, and to touch him as little as possible to get out of the situation.

 I closed the door firmly behind me.

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The After Party

May 16, 2007 at 7:32 pm (Uncategorized)

Towards the end of the party I was feeling really drunk. The same bottle was being passed around but we weren’t managing to drink much. All of a sudden my brother just seemed to fall asleep sitting up, it seemed strange because he can usually take more alcohol than me and we were drinking the same. We called him a taxi, he thought of staying but needed his contact lens solution. I decided to stay because all my stuff was there and there was a bed made up. I hadn’t seen Jim for ages and hoped to spend the next day with him.

The partygoers all filtered out leaving myself, John, Jim and Peter. I sat next to John on a sofa facing the window whilst Jim and his brother sat on a sofa facing the fireplace. Peter said he was going to bed after a few minutes and Jim took a final sip of the wine and agreed he was going up too. I was starting to feel really tired and thought about heading to bed too. Then I made the worst decision of my life.

I looked at the bottle of wine, and I looked at John. I wanted to finish the wine and….this is a very hard thing to write, I felt sorry for him. He had been a pain all night, all his life and I thought this must be how things end for him. Everyone walking away, leaving him alone thinking about his social incapabilities.

I now think that was completely wrong. I believe he doesn’t think he does anything wrong, that people like him and he deserves to have what he wants. I feel that something in his life has lead him to lose his conscience and act only for himself.

Suddenly everything was very blurry. We were still sitting on that sofa and I remember trying to hold a conversation about films. I spoke about a director I like, he hadn’t seen any of his films and I struggled to stay awake let alone maintain conversation. Then that’s it.

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The Party

May 16, 2007 at 7:30 pm (Uncategorized)

ALL NAMES ARE CHANGED. 

It was the end of last year when I went home to visit my mum and dad in sheffield for one night. When I got there my brother told me that two of our mates Jim and Peter would be having a party at their mum’s place for Peter’s 19th birthday the next night. Myself, my brother, Jim and Peter are all friends and, since my boyfriend would be working that night I decided to stay another night rather than going back to my empty flat.

After my brother, myself and Peter went out for some food we called in at a local pub for 3 or 4 pints before heading up to the party. On the way we bought an 8 pack of bottled lager between us.

The party was lively but civilised and spread across 3 rooms. People were drinking and some were smoking weed outside. Our little group of 4 was sticking together, Peter is younger than us and his friends were mostly people we’d never met. Then, just before the toast, the mum of the house, Elaine, returned who I knew well. She had been at a party for a friend’s birthday and returned with a man who I knew, a childhood friend of the older brother and former classmate of myself, John. I caught up with Louise and after that spoke to John, asking him where his girlfriend was. He explained she was unwell which I felt was a shame as, although she was not a friend of mine, I felt that he tended to act less anti-social when he was with her.

The night went on and when the beer me and my brother brought was gone we went in search of more booze. By this point I was feeling quite drunk and, though myself and my brother had stuck together, we were beginning to mingle with the group more. In the end we resorted to pinching a bottle of wine from the cellar and drank it straight from the bottle.

John, in the meantime had been irritating people, firing party poppers in people’s faces and starting pointless arguments with the younger men there. In order to distract him from trouble causing myself and my brother (neither of whom were fans of John’s) decided to share our wine with him and go to the next room along with Jim and Peter. The bottle was passed between the five of us and we generally stayed in the front room listening to music and joking around. 

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Intention Statement

May 16, 2007 at 7:25 pm (Uncategorized)

I was the victim of rape in 2006. I reported the incident to the police and the case went to court 3 months later.

At various times I felt very worried about what was going to happen. I always felt lonely. Although I was surrounded by wonderful family and friends who would ask me what I needed at every stage, I wanted to hear an account from someone who had been through something similar. I was able to get advice from the police officers, from victim support, from the witness liasion service, from a counsellor, a GP and from loved ones but some things I wanted to know seemed to slip between the cracks and I felt I was being passed from pillar to post on some queries.

I know that each rape is quite different and that each case is probably handled in different ways, but I hope that this example can be useful to any victim who feels lost or for anybody who wishes to know more about the British system at present.

I should take this opportunity to give my deep and sincere thanks to the police who handled my case, to my wonderful boyfriend who made me survive, my mum, dad, brother and sister, my extended family, those friends who understood and listened, North West Feminists, My counsellor, my GP, and everyone who fights everyday to change the system for the better.

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