Geeks Vs Loneliness: finding ways to overcome sexual assault

Trigger warning: a few words for those who have suffered the appalling crime of rape, from someone who has been through it too.

Please note. This article is one you may potentially find upsetting and distressing.

Welcome to Geeks Vs Loneliness. This is our regular spot where we talk about a mixture of issues affecting a few, some, or many of us. The hope is that we can find one or two words that’ll be of some use to you.

This week is a very, very dark subject, but one we felt we had to address: rape, and coming through it. It’s been penned by a regular reader of the site, who we’ll call Servalan for the purposes of this piece. She approached us with her story, and asked us if we though it would help others if we passed it on.

Hopefully, this is an article that very few of you need. But in case you do, we’re going to hand over to Servalan, and send our warmest wishes, virtual hugs and good thoughts in your direction…

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Trying To Overcome Rape

Rape. It’s a horrible word, isn’t it? Even the sound of it is threatening – at first I thought it might be a Viking word but the dictionary tells me it is Middle English coming from the Latin ‘rapere’, meaning ‘seize’.

That definition tells you what the problem with rape is ��� it’s about one person taking what belongs to someone else. They don’t care that the other person doesn’t want to give it to them – they just want to take it.

In the case of rape what they are taking is that person’s body but for the person on the receiving end it can feel like they are taking your whole soul. It doesn’t matter whether the person who carried out the rape is known to you, or whether they are a stranger. It doesn’t matter whether they threaten you with violence or not – sometimes just the fear of what might happen if you resist is enough to make you feel powerless. That feeling of powerlessness; of not being in control of your own body, is at the heart of why rape is so traumatic.

I was raped once about 14 years ago. I was recently separated from my husband, living in a rented house with a two-year old child to look after, feeling bereft and worried for the future. I met a man through work – let’s call him Henry, though that’s not his real name – who seemed really kind and sympathetic. He was sleeping in the spare room of his home, as his marriage was also going through a very difficult patch.

“You can trust me”, he said. “You need never feel alone – call me whenever you need someone to talk to”. We began to talk on the phone regularly, and very soon a relationship developed. I knew it was wrong because we were both still married, and I knew deep down he loved his wife, so I ended things quickly. Henry reluctantly agreed to walk away, although he said he would miss me.

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“You’re my life raft”, were his exact words.

About a week later, on a Friday night, he came round about 11pm when my son was in bed asleep. He was in a terrible state: “she’s kicked me out!”

I let him in, made him a coffee, sat on the sofa and listened. He had been having the relationship with me to get back at his wife because he suspected she was having an affair; but now she’d thrown him out of the house he just wanted her back.

I felt sorry for him but I told him he couldn’t stay the night – my son was in the house and he should go to one of his friends. It was as if he was in another place mentally – he just wasn’t listening. He said he needed my help then began to kiss me and wouldn’t stop – I was saying “no” but it was as if he was deaf.

Things began to escalate and he was holding me down – he was much stronger than me. I struggled but the grip just got tighter, and I began to panic inside. If I continued to resist, how would it end? Would he lose control entirely, really hurt me? The kind, caring man I thought I knew had been seemingly replaced by an automaton. It didn’t matter that I was saying ‘no, no’; he was keeping going, regardless, because he was in pain and just wanted the anaesthetic of sex.

I was terrified that if I screamed or shouted my son would wake up and would come downstairs, see this strange man hurting his mum, and be traumatised; so I stopped struggling, and just kept quiet, praying for it to end. He eventually left and I crawled into bed and slept a dreamless sleep, feeling utterly numb. When I woke up, I went into the bathroom, ran the shower, stood in it, washing and crying for what felt like hours. I felt like a used piece of toilet paper – something dirty, disposable and worthless. No matter how much I washed, I felt I would never feel clean. Yet my son slept on, oblivious and innocent as before, and that gave me strength to act as if nothing had happened; to get on with life.

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I didn’t tell anyone for ages, convinced that it was all my fault. I’d been ‘asking for trouble’ by getting involved with Henry in the first place, and I felt somehow, deep down, I deserved the assault. At the same time, I blamed myself for not resisting more – for giving way and caving in, letting it happen. I despised my own weakness. Like many of us, I had always thought if I were attacked I would fight back. Thoughts of suicide plagued my mind. It seemed the only way to protect my son long term from having an ‘unfit mother’ (I must stress that there was underlying low self-esteem from childhood already so the rape was not to blame for that, but it just exacerbated things for a time.)

It wasn’t until about three or four years later, when I was having a drink with friends, that I opened up and told someone what had happened. I fully expected them to agree that it was all my fault, and that I should have done more to resist.

They didn’t.

They were shocked and appalled on my behalf. They were also very angry. I suddenly saw the situation from an outsider’s point of view. Although Henry was suffering – and obviously distraught concerning his wife – he didn’t need to do what he had done. My friends pointed out that my lack of violent resistance came from fear – fear for my son, and fear for myself. It didn’t mean that I had colluded with the attacker; that my passivity meant consent. I had made it clear I wanted him to stop and to leave – and he had ignored this.

They wanted me to go to the police but I felt I couldn’t. It would be my word against his – any evidence having long since gone. He had done what he did in a moment of extreme pain – I couldn’t believe he was a serial offender so I felt the risk to other women was, hopefully, low. I have never reported him and that is the only thing which still troubles me – did I do the right thing? I can only hope if there are any other ‘victims’ out there they will forgive me.

I moved away shortly after the incident, and found a new life, a new start.

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A few years ago I began to have counselling and to realise that I wasn’t a used up piece of toilet roll. I am a unique, precious human being. What my attacker did was wrong, regardless of what preceded it. The previous relationship was consensual – the rape was not. The saying ‘no means no’ should be etched onto every person’s heart. Whatever’s gone before – if someone doesn’t want to give, no one should take by force. Rape is not unique to any gender or sexuality, and no one has a monopoly on the moral high ground.

Despite the counselling there are still mental scars. One of the biggest ongoing impacts of what happened is that I tend to keep a fairly low profile online and prefer to use pseudonyms rather than my own name, as I don’t wish Henry to begin ‘stalking’ me, but there is no evidence he’s done so in the past, and I have no reason to think he will start now. It’s just an extra layer of wariness in my mentality now, I guess. As I love Servalan (played by Jacqueline Pearce) I take pleasure in using her as my avatar – again, I hope she will forgive that!

My son is now 16, and no longer an innocent two year old, and in the course of talking about relationships I did open up and tell him my history. He said he feels angry on my behalf with Henry but I am not, not any longer. I have chosen to forgive him, which basically means I don’t want revenge any more. Forgiveness is not something he deserves but something I needed to do, for my own peace of mind. Forgiveness does not negate the need for punishment, either. If it happened again, I would certainly consider going to the police – it is everyone’s right to do so.

I wish now, looking back, that I had asked for help sooner. These days you can talk to the Rape and Sexual Abuse Support Centre. They have a freephone number where you can talk to fellow survivors of abuse. I spent years in the darkness of self-hatred and suicidal feelings when I didn’t need to. So, if you’re in the darkness – reach out and find the light. Talk to someone else. You are not alone – and you don’t deserve what happened to you – no one does.

The Rape and Sexual Assault Support Centre can be found here.

Counselling can also be available via your GP – see here for more information – but be warned there may be waiting lists, so it is good to seek help sooner rather than later.

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If you want to, you can also call the Police (telephone 999 in the UK.) Rape is a crime, and punishable as such, and the sooner you report it the better in terms of collecting DNA evidence and such like. But that is, of course, your choice.

Above all, I don’t want this article to sound like a ‘pity party’.

I don’t think of myself as a ‘victim’ of rape – I think of myself as ‘me’. A person – a human being; someone who loves reading Ian Rankin novels, watching Star Wars films and is far too excited that The Walking Dead is returning in February (woo hoo!)

No one can take that away without my consent. I don’t like the word ‘victim’ full stop – it can make people feel powerless, and actually we all have power. Power to be strong again; to feel normal again; to be ourselves.

To take control back in our lives.

To live, laugh and love.

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Whatever your own situation I wish you every happiness and good health, both mental and physical. Thank you for reading.