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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