Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Blog to Raise Awareness of Sexual Violence

I was 18 when I was raped. He was my first serious boyfriend and the man I lost my virginity to, a couple of months before hand. It took me a long time to realise (or admit to myself) what had happened that night. I was shaken up, certainly. I kept thinking to myself that it *felt* like I'd been raped, but didn't go that extra step to concluding that that was because that was exactly what had happened to me. It seems really stupid now, looking back, but I think back then it was the only thing that kept me going. I was a strong person and rape didn't happen to people like me.

The first conclusion I came to was that it was my fault that this had happened to me. Everyone had told me how nice my boyfriend was, and how they wished they had a boyfriend like him, which meant that it couldn't have been something that he'd done wrong. It was my fault - I'd made him do it. I hadn't loved him enough (or at all), I'd made him feel stupid because I was more intelligent than him. It took me two weeks to dump him - two fucking weeks. When I think about it, I feel so angry - that feeling of blame and responsibility has stayed with me. Most of the time I am able to see that I did not ask to be raped, did not force him to rape me - that he is the bad one, not me. But then, at my lowest, the doubts creep in and in a strange way it feels as though he is winning.

The worst part of it is not being completely clear about what happened. My memories of that night are really fragmented - I remember strange things like the feeling of the door handle and the smell of the car seats, but I have difficulty remembering whether or not I fought it, or whether I just gave in and lay there passive. Sometimes I think it would be easier if I could remember, but at the same time, I'm frightened that if I do, it won't be the way I want it to be.

I hate the fact that I wasn't brave. I hate the fact that I didn't manage to stop what was happening to me. Of course, I don't really know what I could have done - get out the car, abandoned in unknown countryside in the dark? Force him to become really violent? - but I'm really fucked off that I didn't manage to do it. That's one of the things that makes me the most angry - why should it matter? I should never have had to have been brave. Saying no to sex should have been enough. There should never have been a situation in which I was forced to make those kind of decisions.

I also hate the fact that I'm not brave now. I read the stories other people write, and they seem so courageous - often they stand up to the person that did it, despite everything. I don't feel I could ever do that. I want to be strong and stand up for my feminist principles, but the idea of even seeing him again terrifies me. I sat in the same classroom with him for the next six or seven months and I didn't tell anyone - not my friends, nor my parents. My current boyfriend is the first person I've told (more than 3 years after the event) and he tries to reassure me that I'm the strongest and bravest person he knows. I try to, but I don't believe him. There is still a part of me - the 18 year old part, who doesn't feel brave at all.

I guess most of all, I'm soul-consumingly angry. I'm angry that he got away with it, that he did it as though it was his right to do it. I'm angry that I blamed myself, that occasionally I still do blame myself. I'm angry that it has shaped my life so much in the way I think about sex and relationships. I'm angry that he still has some power of me. This should never have happened to me. I don't want to live with the fact that I was raped. I don't want to carry this around inside of me. But I do carry it round and I do live with it, so I try to do it as best I can and I tell myself that if it happened now, it'd be different. Hopefully, I'll never have to find out if that is true.


Sage said...

I agree with your boyfriend. You are brave. You're brave enough to tell the world about it. Standing up to an abuser is sometimes too risky to be wise. Try not to compare your experience to others. We're all muddling through it in our own ways. You did what you did, and now you're helping other people by writing about it.

Thank you.

Laurelin said...

You sound immensely brave to me, Heloise. Well done for sharing your story. Hugs xxx