A recent NHS campaign poster. You can sign a petition to have it removed, alongside over 100,000 other people, here.
When I was raped I felt embarrassed and ashamed, I was afraid no one would believe me. I felt weak, like somehow I had let this happen. I told a very close friend, one of the few people I did tell. She told me it was my fault that I had led him on somehow. She told me that because I had spent time with him alone, that meant I had automatically given consent. She then said to me: ‘Well you do dress like that’. At that moment, when she accused me of provoking my own rape by the way I was dressed, I was wearing a thick black baggy jumper, an ankle length body-con grey skirt, black tights and flat ankle boots. In fact it was the first day in two weeks that I had bothered to try to feel like a normal person. It was the first day I got myself out of bed without someone having to motivate me. It was the first day I went somewhere on my own- the place I was meeting her.
It took an awful lot of courage to tell her, to confide in her. I wasn’t prepared for her response, that as my friend, she would not only accuse me as being in the wrong but have the ability to make me feel so small and so much worse. This is exactly why people don’t speak up when they get assaulted. It’s not just the fear that random people won’t believe you or might have some backwards-thinking beliefs, but also the fear that someone close, the people whose opinions matter most to you- might just say the very things that she said to me.
I hid in my room, I hid from my friends, from my life. I thought they would judge me or worse – look at me in that way, that pitying look. Eventually I started to join the world again, slowly. I wouldn’t go into town in case I saw his friends, and when I did I frequently thought I’d caught glimpses of him and it would suddenly be very hard to breathe. I wouldn’t walk anywhere alone especially in the dark. I’d freeze when someone touched me, I’d recoil when a stranger scraped my hand on the bus.
I feared that if I told my friends they would treat me differently. I was worried that if someone at work found out that maybe I wouldn’t get as many shifts, that they would think I wasn’t fit to work. It’s been six months and I still won’t walk alone at night, I don’t like people touching me and I still won’t go on a date. If I could go back, I’d speak up sooner. I would have told that friend exactly where to stick her opinion. I’m not embarrassed or ashamed anymore.
At night, when I close my eyes I see his face and I feel stronger. I’m still here, I lived through that, I got here on my own. I am not this experience, this is just something that happened to me, an awful terrible thing- but that doesn’t define me. It doesn’t define you.
There are people out there who think rape is provoked. They are wrong. But there are also people out there who understand who are on your side. It takes a lot of courage to speak up, to speak out and you should. Don’t let this experience destroy you or your friends. You can do this. If we stop tolerating it, promoting it, judging it, saying it’s provoked- if I speak out, if you speak out, together we can end rape.
In 2013 the statistics from the MOJ UK were:
- Around 85,000 women are raped on average in England and Wales.
- On average only 22 per 100,000 of those are reported.
You are not alone.
- Elizabeth Lorelei