Due to the nature of this piece, this is an anonymous post. The views shared in this piece are that of the writer and are not necessarily held by The Hysteria Collective as an organisation. We encourage you to use the resources at the end of the article if you need any help with the issues discussed here.
CW: rape, sexual assault, sexual trauma, mental illness.
When I speak to a friend about the man who violated her, I feel sick to my stomach, my arms heavy with static, like the fuzzing of the TV screen when the game shows are over. And it’s because I know all too well the feeling of complete hopelessness and helplessness that you can’t put your finger on – because if it had been that bad, you would have reported it, right?
But the feeling I got when I finally had to tell a doctor about the root of my newly diagnosed mental illness was just nothing but speechlessness. The static went away, it was bees, bees inside my legs, arms and face, buzzing as I tried to stutter out the words. She asked me, “Have you experienced any trauma that could have caused an exacerbation of your symptoms?”
I have been raped five times in five years.
After what felt like hours of sobbing and stuttering, I managed to say those words and see the shock wash over her. Is it bad that it almost makes me proud to see the shock? She wonders how I’m still functioning, I laugh and joke about how it actually made me try harder at life.
She asks if it was the same person every time and then I have to confirm that, “No… if we are talking about times by the same people, it’s got to be 8 or 9 times.”
And not once did I consider reporting it.
At first it was because it would ruin his life. A classic, a cliché, I know, but I cared for him. Why would I do that? Well, that grew old but by the third time I was exhausted, my memory hazy and I just didn’t have it in me. I would see stats about how many men actually face conviction and grimace, knowing full well that I would probably be just another girl traumatised on the stand, forced to relive what had happened, disbelieved, ignored, challenged, hurt and even more snotty and stuttery than I was sitting in front of the doctor.
In the year up to March 2020, 99% of reported rapes in the UK were left hollow, with no action against the alleged rapist. In that same year 55,000 rapes were reported.
Now, you may say “some of those may have been false reports!” – to which I would primarily say, fuck you – and sure, say 5% of those were false, which is highly unlikely, that still means 52,250 of those are true. There are over 52,000 people reporting rape. Those lying are disrupting the judicial process, making it harder for the people actually raped, yes, but that is no excuse for this country’s disgustingly broken judicial system.
It is not the fault of the 5% of bad people lying, that the other 95% are walking the same streets as their rapist, checking round corners, unable to set foot in a certain train station or scared to go into a café or bar they once loved. I didn’t report it because I knew I would fade into another statistic of retraumatised women with an unresolved or dismissed case. Instead, I locked the door, sobbed, ran a hot shower, combed glitter out of my hair and puked. I got dressed and went back to my life. It was easier to close the door on trauma than deal with it. And now I am paying the price for that with ongoing mental health issues that I am still struggling to discuss with a professional.
There’s only so many jokes you can make about it, only so many times you can shut the door and breakdown, only so many times it can wash over you before it becomes too much and I am trying to do something to handle that and keep my life on track.
I am not writing this piece for pity or sympathy, not for “God, what a poor girl!” because to be honest, I am not special or new. I am not writing this to encourage you to report it, because my faith in this system is broken. I want to say: get help when you need it. Whether it is from a charity, a counsellor or the NHS, get help and do something sooner than I have.
If the law won’t stop people raping us, we will have to mitigate those life-destroying implications of rape and assault. We can push for education, chase after consent and legislation, sure. But, in the short-term, for people like me, self preservation will have to be the solution. This week we learned that we cannot even rely on the police, the people who are meant to protect us, who really make up a part of the institution that allows people to be raped and abused, to not rape us. For women like Sarah Everard, it tragically doesn’t stop at rape like it did for me. We need judicial reform, police reform (or maybe abolition). We need something. Because we are not safe. I am sick of being scared. Sick of waiting for it to happen again.
If you have had experiences like these, I ask that you check out some of these resources. I have found some of these really helpful, and just knowing they are there when I am ready has been invaluable
Thank you for reading this, and for hearing me. I really appreciate it.
Image courtesy of João Ferrão.