Friday, 13 June 2014

me, too. #yesallwomen

The hashtag might be old news, to some of you.  This has been sitting in my drafts folder for a long time.  But I have to publish it.  I feel like I can't sit on it, not anymore. I have to say it out loud. 

My story is not one I want my mother, father or sister to read.  My husband knows the bare facts.  Some friends know a little.  I am so nervous about posting this my heart is pounding in my throat, my ribcage, my ears.

I was 18, I was blackout drunk and I only have a vague memory of saying 'OK then' as a response to a persistent question, the content of which I don't recall.  I woke up naked at his parents' house next to him, not knowing exactly what had happened. It got back to me on the grapevine. It was the first time I ever had sex. 

It was the summer before I went to university.  What I remember is the aftermath.  Not being able to bring myself to see him again, not that he called.  I tried very hard to close my ears to the gossip about the fact that he'd managed to sleep with me, where others had failed (the state of my virginity having been, it seemed, a hot topic amongst the 17-18 year old male set at my school). 

I didn't think it was rape, technically.  After all, I'd said yes, hadn't I?  Even though I thought my drink might have been spiked because I didn't remember drinking that much (I recall two, maybe three drinks that night).  Even though I remembered so little I didn't recall throwing up throughout his house, waking his parents (who then, never having met me, having helped me vomit copiously, apparently let me stay in the same room as their son).  Anyway, if I said something, he didn't deserve the possible consequences, not when I hadn't said no, right?  If I didn't remember the actual act, how bad could it really be?

I tamped it down.  I moved to the other end of the country for university with, fortuitously, few people from my high school set.  I thought of it rarely, without shape, without feeling. 

It's only recently, thanks to the #yesallwomen hashtag, that I've actually put two and two together and realised that my 'OK then' couldn't possibly have been informed consent.  I still didn't connect the dots when I was working in the criminal law, for fuck's sake.  I think I avoided the truth because I thought it was the only way.  I mean, what were my options?  Even now, I can't imagine saying all these things out loud to my parents, to law enforcement, to my friends, his friends.  My parents, law enforcement, my friends have never for a single second lead me to believe that they would blame me, not believe me, or shame me for what happened.  I do not doubt that my family would have had my back.  But yet, it is so inculcated in me that its better not to say anything, not to have to admit to going out with boys I didn't know well, not to have to say I accepted those drinks. 

I have had a void inside me when I think about it .  I am so outraged about what happens to other women but until now, I have been unable to manage to be outraged for me.  I've never associated the sexual assault of other women with my own.  I mean, I've recorded street harassment on this blog but not the fact that I. Was. Raped.   

I saw him once on the street, about two years ago.  I'm fairly sure he noticed me.  We kept walking.  I felt cold, then hot, then shaky. 

Yes, all women.  Me, too. 

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