Today is the day that (hopefully) hundreds of bloggers will unite to blog against abuse. This is my post for Blogcatalog’s Blogging Against Abuse campaign.
It’s taken me a long time to decide what to write about, but in the end I decided to talk about something that has affected me personally. I decided to write about rape.
Rape has nothing to do with sex but is all about power.
When many people think about rape, they think about a woman (or man) being attacked by a stranger. However, the majority of women are raped by someone they know, whether that is a family member, friend or partner.
When I was 17 I was raped by an ex-boyfriend. Though we had split up, we still occasionally slept together; we just didn’t work in a relationship. On the night in question, he decided that ‘No’ didn’t apply to him and that he had the right to do what he wanted anyway. He couldn’t believe that I meant it when I said no or that he was doing anything wrong by continuing.
I never reported it to the police and it took me several months to even tell a friend. I didn’t feel that I would be believed. The lifestyle I led at the time would have been held against me. Unfortunately, many women do not report they have been raped and, for those that have the courage to do so, there is no guarantee that it will even reach court. In fact, research has shown that women are more likely to report domestic violence than they are rape. For many women, the fear of not being believed, or the fear of being judged, stops them. We’ve all heard the comments of “She was asking for it, look at what she was wearing” or “She accepted drinks from him, what did she expect?”.
Over time, I began to tell a few friends. I was lucky; the majority were very supportive and believed me immediately. Only two people said it was my fault, one said that I had no right to call it rape as I had been sleeping with him anyway, and the other said I had no right to deny him sex as it was ‘expected’. Bullshit. I was also lucky that only one person didn’t believe me at all, saying that I was trying to get back at him for breaking up the relationship. Though her perception was not right, I can sort of understand why she needed to view it like that. My rapist was her brother’s best friend, he was in her house a lot and I think she was scared.
I’m not saying that I knew it was not my fault straight away. I spent months feeling that it was my fault; that I should never have put myself in that situation or that I should have never said no in the first place. At first, I didn’t even know that it was still classed as rape if it was done by someone you knew. It was only through talking to friends, reading and, eventually, getting into counselling, that I saw it for what it was. All I knew at the beginning was that I hadn’t wanted it to happen.
Rape is always rape. If one party has said no, then it is not consensual. That is rape. It does not matter what relationship you have with someone, if they force themselves on you that is wrong. I have a friend who was systematically raped by her husband for many years. She eventually worked up the courage to leave him, though still does not feel able to go to the police. Mainly, because he was her husband and she does not feel that people will consider it to be rape. It was.
I have not written this as a ‘poor me’ exercise. I am trying to show that anyone can be raped, by anyone. Rape is what it is and it is never right or the victim’s fault.
If you have been raped and need some support or information, there are lots of places out there that can help. Just speak to someone, if you can’t talk to a friend then try one of the help lines below.