For this post I’m going to be stepping away from my usual theme of infertility, although rest assured I’ll be back to normal after this post is done. I just need to get something off my chest. However, I should warn that this post may be uncomfortable and triggering for some people.
Yesterday morning my copy of “Doing It” by Hannah Witton arrived, a book in which Hannah covers everything sex related, from orgasms to LGBTQ+. It’s written with the aim of providing proper sex education, something that a lot of school curriculum’s deliver quite poorly. However a particular chapter stopped me dead in my tracks causing me to really think back over something I’d spent a long time brushing over, and helped me come to a realisation. That chapter… Consent. Now I’d like to think that I’m quite clued up on lots of things. I’m passionate about women’s rights, LGBTQ+ rights and inclusion, the inclusion of POC, and obviously consent. So to say it baffled me when I realised something I should’ve realised a long time ago, is a bit of an understatement.
A conversation with my sister a few years ago made me realise that I’ve been in some very unhealthy relationships – I had continuously had sex with a boyfriend because he told me I had to or he’d be “sad”, this same boyfriend would hurl abuse at me, isolated me from my friends and occasionally get physical. There was the boyfriend who emotionally manipulated me into being with him, telling me that if I ever left him he’d kill himself and then proceeded to stick his hands down my underwear despite me repeatedly telling him that I didn’t want him to, only then stopping when I burst into tears and was screaming at him. And of course how could I forget the “friend” who tried to force himself on me in a tent at the Isle of Wight festival, the same “friend” I then learned had done something very similar to a friend of ours a few months earlier. Yet none of those instances are why I started this post, although I realise that I’m now stalling.
When I was 18 years old I went on a night out with a group of friends from high school. We did the usual, went for some dinner and then worked our way through the pubs and bars in town. At the end of the night we all went to part ways when two male friends realised they had missed the last bus home and were stranded, it was then that I offered for them to crash at mine for the night and they could get the bus home in the morning. I lived 30 seconds away, I had a spare bedroom, and I’d known them for years, it was honestly no problem. We got back to mine and carried on drinking, talking, and played a couple of games of cards. After a while one friend said that they felt bad for putting me out and that they were going to walk home, and asked if the other wanted to walk with him. He declined, and said he would stay in my spare room as long as it was okay with me, and since he was my friend I agreed. I’d been to plenty of parties with this person where we’d all ended up staying at various friends houses so to me this was no different but boy was I wrong.
We stayed sat in my bedroom talking and drinking for another hour or so before he looked at me and said “I think you should kiss me” I laughed and said no, he then said it again and moved closer towards me. He then said it one last time but this time it was slower and slightly more intimidating. I asked what he was doing and he just said “shhh” and put his lips on mine. I froze, I was too confused and drunk to say anything or to even stop what was happening. He pushed me onto my bed and kept going, I just laid there in silence waiting for everything to be over. As soon as it was the only words I could muster the strength to say were “I’d like you to leave now” and as soon as he left I noticed I was bleeding but before I could clean myself up I fell into an alcohol induced sleep.
I woke up the next morning in a pool of my own blood and in a ridiculous amount of pain. However, I never did anything about it. Sure I took myself to get the morning after pill, and three weeks later I took myself for a full STI check, but I never told a soul… until yesterday. For 5 years I had never seen it as being wrong, wrongfully I had victim blamed myself. I’d told myself that I was drunk and maybe I hadn’t remembered it properly. I told myself that while I’d never said yes, I’d also never said no so it was my own fault. I told myself that a friend would never hurt me so I must’ve given him some kind of signal. So I just pushed it to the back of my mind, never really allowing myself to think about it and just accepting it as a “drunken mistake”
However, when I read Hannah’s chapter on consent, everything came flooding back and suddenly clicked into place. I realised exactly what had happened to me, that that thing I had spent years making excuses for was not my fault, and that it wasn’t a “drunken mistake”. I hadn’t consented to what was happening to me and I’d wanted it to stop. I was raped. Not only that, but by someone I knew and trusted. Someone I thought was my friend. Someone who I had known for years and thought would never have hurt me. Someone that while I’d never spoken to them again, I had watched our mutual friends be around. I suddenly realised exactly who he was, a rapist. I wasn’t sure what to do so I called my sister, she’s amazing and although she’s younger than me she’s so incredibly wise. She was the first person I ever told and I’m grateful for that, she helped me put everything into place and was so supportive.
What happened to me isn’t any less serious because I was drunk, because it was someone I knew and trusted, or because I pushed it away not realising what had actually happened to me, and over the last 24 hours I’ve realised I don’t want to be quiet about this. I’ve been so vocal about everything else so why should I keep quiet about this? It’s too late for me to do anything legally but maybe by speaking up, I can help someone else feel less alone.