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This article contains content about rape and sexual assault which some readers may find distressing. For support, contact Rape Crisis Centre on 1800 778888.
Beneath is a piece in the style of an open letter which documents my experience of rape and my journey of recovery which helped me find the strength to progress in my life. I hope to raise awareness on the brutal impact of rape and to reach out to anyone who has ever gone through a similar experience. You are not alone.
I have wanted to write on this experience for a long time now but amazingly I did not know what to say. What could I say to someone who I have feared for some time now? Someone whose name makes me nauseous and whose presence makes my body turn to jelly. I could barely string a coherent thought together when you were mentioned let alone write. But when I look at the girl at the centre of the Belfast case I am imbued with admiration. She found the courage and strength to stand up and draw attention to the vile behaviour that a cohort of men in this society find acceptable. For me, it inspired my thoughts and this piece of writing.
I empathised immensely with Belfast girl. Every disgusting detail of the trial from the phone messages, to the display of her underwear in court, to the attack on her sexual behaviour brought back my familiar nauseous sensation. The kind of sensation where you’re overcome with a desire to vomit and pass out at the same time. I was violated by you in a very similar way. You can dress it up whatever way you want but the fact is you violated an impaired woman and stripped away her dignity. I still vividly recall the shameful sense of violation that engulfed me as I walked to the bus the following morning. I could feel what had happened – the aching of my thighs, the discomfort in my intimate areas, raw and stinging. I was in a state of shock and although I felt those physical symptoms I couldn’t think straight. But I was aware of how dirty I felt. Dirty like the sl*t I thought I was.
You see, what you don’t realise is that you took away my choice that night. You made me feel disgustingly impure and worthless, undeserving to use my voice. But after that nothing mattered, sex meant nothing. I was used goods - you had taken away my choice so what was the difference with another individual. But really my self-view was shattered. I felt all I was useful for was sex. Someone complimenting my looks meant nothing after that. All I wanted was for someone to like me for the person I was. To experience more than being wanted physically. I began to close off and not show anyone the real me or let them in. What was the point when their need was only physical. That’s how detrimental your actions were that night.
You crushed me that night. I won’t say broke me but what happened that night will be etched on my mind until the day I die and that part of me will remain broken forever. Even if you acknowledged what you did you can never understand the agonising torture you made me endure. But at least your acknowledgement may allow me to embrace a part of myself I have hated for years.
I put my hands up because I believe that all actions have consequences and that personal responsibility is attached to all actions. I shouldn’t have left myself so vulnerable that night and I accept that. I no longer carry guilt for that now. I learned my lesson. I paid the ultimate price. Conversely, you have not begun to feel the burden of this. Your guilt will catch up on you, it always does. I sincerely hope that no woman close to you ever experiences anything like this. If they unfortunately do you may catch a glimpse of the pain you caused me and trust me you will never be able to look at yourself again.
As for the experience, it palpably creeps up on me when I least expect it. I relive it, hear it, feel it, see it. As if it wasn’t enough to feel that numb once. And, yes that is exactly how it feels. After the initial rejection is unsuccessful you will do anything you can to make this dirty deed less painful. You lie still. Or at least I did. I left my body that night. Like a spirit in the air of the bedroom watching my motionless body be molested by you. I couldn’t push your strength away on a good day let alone the state I was in that night. Your deep groans haunt me. But I could say nothing. I was screaming inside but it could not be externally expressed. But that’s what you wanted. Nothing to be said. To leave unscathed. But you can never escape this because you can never escape yourself.
I should probably hate you and wish the worst for you but I don’t. I feel nothing towards you. Life is too short for bitterness. Just as I am someone’s daughter you are someone’s son and I could not wish badness on to others because of your actions. I have relinquished the control you had over me. You have made me realise what a strong young woman I am and I am extremely proud of that. I have a spirit that despite everything will not be crushed. I have experienced an enlightened journey of self- discovery, learnt how to self soothe and to connect to my inner piece when my mind is in turmoil.
However, what truly exhilarates me is the knowledge that the power to transcend this lies within me. All I have ever wanted is for you to acknowledge what you did. As I said I can never forgive you so an apology would be meaningless and frankly insulting at this point. I may be triggered in future, it may take me time to build trust and to engage in loving relationships but you don’t have power over me anymore. What remains are thoughts and feelings and no matter how horrific, I can deal with them. I have built the strength for that. And the sense of freedom that comes with that is like ecstasy.
Your chapter in my book may linger but your hold over me is forever destroyed.