real life

"Five years after my friend's husband and friend raped me, I can finally talk about it."

Content warning: This post details sexual assault/rape and will be will triggering for some readers. 

After some difficult years struggling with my mental health, and adjusting to becoming a young single mother, I decided to try and get out and socialise again, reconnect with people my age, and try to regain my identity and sense of self.

I decided to go to a Halloween party at a friend’s home. I wore a short skirt. I remember blaming that short skirt. I was having fun for the first time in a long time. I was confident, laughing and felt like a“normal” twenty-something woman.

Throughout the night, my friend’s husband kept touching me inappropriately. He was extremely persistent. This wasn’t the first time he had been like this, the first time I had put it down to him having too much to drink. I kept asking him to stop, but he was acting like it was a game. He eventually backed off, and I started to relax and have a few drinks with some of the other party guests.

After an hour, out of the corner of my eye I noticed one of my male acquaintances topping up my drink, and realised I felt quite drunk. “How long has this been going on for?” I wondered. I excused myself and went to the bathroom. While I was in there, a door adjoining to the bedroom flew open and I was pushed into a wall, hitting my head, and dragged into a dark room. Two men raped me. I believe they had coordinated throughout the night and it was premeditated.

I remember lying there, and I could not move my legs. Afterwards, I waited for half an hour to try and regain some stability and then stumbled out to my car. I drove home drunk. I knew I just needed to get out of there to safety. I honestly don’t know how I made it home. I took a shower, and for four years I said nothing to anyone. I believe I was in a state of shock, the trauma and fear kept me quiet for a long time.

I remember when the “me too” movement began, I felt a sense of anger, not at the men who were now being called out, but at the women. The women who were brave enough to speak out. Perhaps because I wasn’t brave enough. But those women helped me realise what had really happened to me.

I still have great difficulty looking men in the eye now when I am speaking to them. When I visit my friends, I can no longer talk happily with their husbands or feel safe when I am alone in a room with a man. I have lost a lot of the spark that made me who I used to be, sometimes I feel like I’m almost afraid of having fun. I am slowly rebuilding the joy for life I used to hold.

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In trying to draw strength from my experience, I have embraced feminism and the strong women that surround me. I realised how dysfunctional my relationship with sex has always been. I see now that almost all of my relationships with men have included me becoming intimate out of a sense of obligation, not desire, and I hope we can continue to teach our young people that sex isn’t something you have to do to please someone.

I have been able to trust a few close friends with my secret. I realised I had no reason to feel ashamed or responsible. I recently allowed a doctor to examine me for the first time since my experience. It was such a necessary step to be able to move on with my life.

I am not a victim. I am however a statistic. Sexual assaults are at an all time high. Women make up 82 per cent of recorded sexual assault victims. That figure is only the women that report their assaults. I carry the weight of knowing that my attackers are still out there.

I am still afraid sometimes, and I worry for my daughter. The devastating fact is that this didn’t happen to me out in the big bad world, it happened to me in the safety of someone’s home. This was somebody’s husband. This was somebody’s son. Boys will be what we raise them to be. We need to continue to educate the men in our lives, instead of teaching girls to be vigilant about their own safety.

The veil of secrecy surrounding sexual harassment and assault is finally being lifted. We may sometimes still feel afraid, but we are now surrounded by safe spaces and opportunities to share our stories. Times are changing.

The other day, after I began to write my story, I went to the local track near my house and started walking, then running. I ran twenty laps of that track, and while I was running I screamed, overwhelmed with a sense of freedom. Why? Because five years ago those men took something from me. Now I’m finally taking it back.

If this post brings up any issues for you, or if you just feel like you need to speak to someone, please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service. It doesn’t matter where you live, they will take your call and, if need be, refer you to a service closer to home.

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