I can’t share my stories, for many reasons. My stories are stories I cannot face, because the terror and the shame has not faded. My stories are stories that echo in the women around me.
So I opened up the blog in case there were people who did want to share, but who needed to be anonymous.
Here are the responses I got. These are unedited. Some are quite long. And they are fucking difficult to read. You may want to take this in bits. You may decide you’re not in a space to cope with it right now, and that’s ok. No one will blame you.
But we will still say it. We refuse to be silenced. This is the reality. This is what we live with. This is the fear. This is the pain. This is not just rape culture. This is culture. This is what we accept every time someone says “not all men” and someone else agrees.
You might be able to walk away from reading this. We can’t walk away from living it.
“I still have to see my rapist at school every day because the police haven’t finished my case nor done anything to keep Him away from me. ”
“As a teenager in France I was punched in the face by a guy at a party. Nobody thought that was out of the ordinary or wrong in any way.”
“I had a night from hell last night. My parents and I went out for dinner to a bar before a friend’s farewell party and this old drunk guy came and sat next to me (and by next to me I mean he was rarely more than a foot away from me) and was crowding, breathing on me and staring at me, kept touching my arm and shoulder and hand and calling me beautiful and telling me and my parents he loved me. I couldn’t get away. My parents did nothing despite me making it blatantly clear I was hugely uncomfortable. Then he also kept saying he likes being angry and how he’s been thrown out of lots of bars, and fuck I was terrified and every part of me was screaming at me to run. He made me hug him before we left. Literally ordered me to stand up and hug him. And then insisted on walking us to the car. I ran and locked the door behind me.
I had a panic attack as dad was driving us to the party and was crying, shaking and hyperventilating. Mum held my hand and then Dad said there was nothing anyone could do, I wasn’t in any danger (every instinct I have said I was) I just had to humour him. Well it’s lovely to know where my psychological wellbeing, sense of personal comfort and safety stands in his priorities.
I went to the party and I had fun. My friends were a great distraction and then we went back to our hotel but I didn’t sleep much because I had nightmares and small panic attacks.
In the morning I got up and started panicking. Mum and Dad kept asking what was wrong but I didn’t want to talk about it because I felt like I’d just get treated like a drama queen. We went to visit my sister who finally took me and the situation seriously and gave me a big hug and lots of supportive texts afterwards.
I cried quietly in the back seat several times on the way home. Dad noticed when Mum got out to get lunch and tried to talk to me about it. I didn’t want to talk about it to him. He got annoyed and said he couldn’t have done anything. That it might’ve ended up in a bar fight. All I could think was would he just hand me over to someone to keep the peace? It’s bad enough the situation happened but now I also feel like I can’t even trust my own father.
Mum noticed me crying and having another panic attack during lunch and came and gave me a hug and just kept telling me it’s ok it’s all over and we’ll never see him again. Maybe she won’t but I keep seeing him and feeling his hand on me and staring at me. I’m going to the counsellor tomorrow so that will help hopefully.
“I saw your tweet about sharing #YesAllWomen stories. I have tweeted several things, but there are more I wish I could say. I’m just not ready to say them publicly yet.
#YesAllWomen because people stayed friends with my rapist, and I ended up being completely ostracized.
Because I live in a culture where I’m too terrified to go to the police because I have to be afraid that they’ll either blame me or think I’m lying while exactly nothing happens to my rapist.
Because I went to an acquaintance who supposedly cares a lot about these issues, and she asked me what the circumstances were, how much alcohol was involved, if I physically fought him off, told me there was a big difference between something premeditated and something that happened in the moment, and said it was unfortunate that this was happening right now because he (my rapist) had been doing so well lately.
Because after I cried three separate times to one of my best friends about how much it upset me that he still hung out with my rapist, he still casually mentioned how he was hanging out with my rapist the other day without batting an eye.
Because another friend I told hasn’t contacted me since.
Because I can’t seem to get myself to tell my parents. Because I can’t seem to get myself to go to a therapist or a sexual assault center.
Because when I was raped, I didn’t realize I was being raped. Because the culture I live in doesn’t bother to teach anyone what the fuck consent is and what constitutes assault.
“Over a decade ago now, I was in a relationship with a man who was 6 or 7 years older than me. During the relationship he was very controlling and possessive, always checking my phone and not liking me to leave the house without him. I even had to change all the male sounding names in my phone to female so he wouldn’t throw a fit any time I got a text message from a male friend. Being very young and inexperienced, I didn’t realise that this was not actually healthy relationship behaviour. It never quite crossed the line into what I (at the time) would class as abusive, until one night I arrived home later than expected from after-work drinks because I had stopped at the service station to have our heater’s gas tank filled. He was furious and accused me of cheating on him with one of my workmates. Our argument escalated and he pinned me to the bed by my throat and threatened that he would ‘smash my face in so bad my mother wouldn’t recognise me’ if I did ever cheat on him. I locked myself in the bathroom that night and slept on the floor – but it wasn’t until weeks later that I had the courage to move out.
After we broke up he continued to harass me with phone calls and text messages. My father (who knew nothing about the incident I described) took me to the local police station to see if we could have a protection order put in place to prevent him from contacting me, but the officer advised there wasn’t much they could do unless he’d physically harmed me. When my father asked if he’d ever hurt me like that I lied and said no because I was ashamed to let him think I was the kind of girl who would let that happen to me. Even now it’s not a story I share. My identity relies on the perception that I am a strong, intelligent, fiercely independent woman and I worry that if anyone knew I was a victim of abuse they would think less of me.”
“Everyone who knows me sees me as tough. And smart. And confident. I grew up on an isolated farm, where I learned that as a female, I had less value as a member of my family than my brothers. So I tried to act like a boy; I talked like one, I dressed like one, and one of my proudest moments was when I fell and smashed my knee square on a rock and didn’t cry. Because if you cry, you’re weak. If you’re weak, you get left behind.I grew up joining in the sneering at feminists. It’s just whinging, when they could just work harder to earn what they want, right? And all the man hating…it’s not like all men are like that.Not all men.It was by chance I met the guy. We got chatting, and we got on well. In a friendly way only, tho. He was old enough to be my father. In the end, he offered to mentor me in a particular area he was very skilled in. I jumped at the chance. It was something I’d missed out on to my brothers when I was younger, and extremely difficult to learn any other way.I felt my friends judging me, when I excitedly told them. I just rolled my eyes.Because not all men are like that.
We met up, and it was fine. I learned heaps, and I was so grateful. There was one point where he propositioned me after a couple of drinks, but I laughed at him and told him to fuck off. And he did, no worries. See? Nothing I can’t handle.
So the next time I wasn’t worried. We had a few drinks, as usual. But I had a few days off work, I relaxed too much and had too much to drink. I can’t remember too much, but I do remember lying on the floor, and then he lay down and started grabbing me. I rolled over and grabbed the hearth so he couldn’t roll me back over, my other arm protecting my chest, all the time telling him “Stop it” and “Don’t”.
I remember him getting really angry. “Why not?” “You’ve been giving me all the signals” “Fine, you can get out then. Good luck walking home.” He stormed off. I dragged myself to the bathroom, because I was so drunk I couldn’t walk, and puked my guts out for ages. I dragged myself back out and started to try text a friend that I needed help, but then quickly deleted it. I was being over dramatic. I’m fine now, right?
I curled up on the couch to go to sleep, and then he came back out again and laid on top of me. I started to protest again, I just wanted to sleep. But I just didn’t have it in me to fight anymore. I didn’t fight, for fucks sake.
I don’t just feel ashamed, and guilty, and idiotic. I’m fucking furious. At him, at how I got to that point. But most of all, at myself. Even though I thought I would know better, I can’t help it.
I just grew up stubbornly believing that not all men were like that, and I took that chance.
And no, I’d never report it. Because I was once a juror on a sex assault case.”
“It was the last night of the Festival. I’d had an amazing month full of partying, plays, comedy, drinking and amazing angus-beef burgers from the Medieval Garden by the Gilded Balloon. I worked off Nicholson Street, at a production company with some of the coolest people I’ve ever met. I’d done well that month. Worked hard, played harder and I was really sad to be leaving Edinburgh. It had been an absolute blast.
My flat was on the other side of town, across Princes’ Street, about a twenty minute walk from work. I’d had a bit to drink that night – hanging out with comedians often gets you quite drunk. I was wearing a knee length, black dress with cherry red Doc Marten’s and a wooly jumper that was scratchy against my skin. The dress had sequins on it. My legs were bare even though Edinburgh summer isn’t exactly balmy.
I left the Artist Bar at Pleasance about 4am to walk home. I assured everyone I would be fine and said I was going to get a taxi. Unfortunately, everyone else had the same bloody idea and I gave up and decided to walk. It wasn’t that far and everywhere I was walking was well-lit and there were plenty of people about.
I had my headphones in and was cruising along listening to Rolling Stones. It’s funny what your brain remembers at these points. It was in the middle of “Can’t Always Get What You Want” that I noticed someone was following me. I crossed the road and turned the music off on my phone. They crossed over with me. I got my keys out of my bag and put them between my fingers and faked a phone call to my sister. They were still following me.
I turned down the street that I lived on. I know they’re there. I start to run to my house. Not being quiet, but thinking “christ, stop overreacting”. They ran too.
He caught me when I was about 5 doors away from my house. It was a guy. He towered over me (and I’m not exactly short). There was a park nearby and he dragged me to it. I screamed. A lot. I’ve got a loud voice. He was a man I’d met at the bar a few times. We’d chatted quite a bit. I must have led him on.
I was in the park sobbing when the sun started to come up. I picked myself up and trembled my way home. I was meant to be moving out of the house that day. I had a long, hot shower and cried. I threw away all the clothes I was wearing. Except the cherry red Doc’s. They were AUD$3 and I couldn’t bear to throw them away. I cleaned the blood off my keys that I had grated down his face and I cried as I flushed them down the toilet. I got a bus back to work with all my stuff to say goodbye and never told anyone what had happened.
I still believe, years later, that I was asking for it because I was wearing a skirt. Because I’d drunk quite a bit that night. Because I had led this man on. My manner used to be flirtatious and that’s MY fault. I don’t flirt a lot anymore.
I came back to New Zealand about a week after it happened. I had a massive mental breakdown that resulted in me losing my job in the industry I loved, I lost a boyfriend, I lost countless friends. My sister didn’t talk to me for ages afterwards. She never knew (and still doesn’t) but my breakdown caused so much hurt.
As an intelligent, rational (sometimes) woman, I know this isn’t my fault. I KNOW that he is to blame. He alone is the person who did this to me.
But I feel so much shame. I’m ashamed I didn’t get a taxi home, I’m ashamed I didn’t run faster, I’m ashamed I didn’t report it. I’m ashamed I’m still afraid.
I’m ashamed I know what it’s like to go to the doctor and get an STI check and get treatment because a guy raped you without a condom on. I know what it’s like to be terrified of your boyfriend because he’s pressuring you in to doing something you don’t want to do and not listening when you say no. I know what it’s like to carry keys between your hand and laugh at yourself because they didn’t make any difference last time.
Three years later and I still get into doomed relationships because I don’t deserve someone good. I carry a torch with me everywhere I go. I don’t walk anywhere alone at night if I can help it. I get taxi’s home and fake a limp so that the driver won’t think I’m just being afraid. I don’t let people stand behind me, ever. It causes some problems at work. I don’t stand in front of tall men that I don’t know – they have to be beside me. I hate running outside. I drink too much. I worry about my friends when they’re walking home alone. I don’t like talking to strangers and I hate it when a strange man smiles at me. I need to know how to get out, wherever I am.
Being afraid is so much part of who I am now that I don’t even know how to go back to being that fearless, dumb person that I was. I don’t know how to get over it. I’ve had therapy, I’ve tried everything I can to think of. Nothing really helps.
There’ll be men out there who read this and feel terrible for being male. That’s not the point. There’ll be men out there who will read this and think “I’m an ally, I support her and I want to help”. I’m sorry, but you have no idea what you’re talking about.
I genuinely don’t know what I expect from telling this story. I know there’ll be people out there who think “well, I’ve never raped anyone so I’m ok”. Well done, do you want a fucking medal?
I’d like you to think. About the fact you never had to do self-defense classes. About the fact you’re not afraid to walk home alone at night. About the fact you’ll happily get drunk and go out at night. About the fact you’ll turn a blind eye to that guy who makes your girlfriend feel uncomfortable. About the times you’ve awkwardly hit on your female friends. About the fact you’ve touched people for too long. About the sex jokes. About the fact you make such inappropriate comments on social media and it makes so many people uncomfortable. About the fact you ignore your daughter when she starts avoiding being near someone you like a lot. About the fact you allow your son to put up pictures of women on their wall. About the fact you think it’s ok to ogle a woman because “she’s wearing a revealing top, she must want people to look”. About the fact you flirt with your waiter and get her to pick things up in order to ogle her more. About the fact you touch without asking. About the fact you think some women are “rabid uber-feminists”. About the fact you think all of these things are just a woman on a rant. I’m not. I’m angry. I’m angry at all men. Every single one. Because you will never understand the fear.
It’s all men. And it’s not ok.”