dusk wanderer

A poem by Heather Farley: 

You’re a wanderer of the dusk.

I’ll love you in the dark and in the light,

I hope you’ll love me in your shadows.

 

You were born to leave me,

Maybe tomorrow, maybe yesterday,

You’re not going to change.

 

I wish you would,

But I’m scared to think you might…

You’re a waltzing ghost to me,

 

I underestimated how erotic I find you,

The moment of understanding,

Awoke me finally from my nightmares,

 

Lying behind your shadow in the grey sheets,

I wonder if my smile is a memory you hold dear,

Yours made me hope I might be capable of love.

 

I’ll be immortal with you forever;

In haze of drunken memories,

You’ll stay burning on, even when I’m fragments of dark ash to you.

 

Run away in the lighting you most love,

Prove me right though I long to be wrong,

I’ll follow pictures of you into my past,

 

I’ll watch you wander away as you so frequently do,

Left alone I don’t feel guilt or torment, just empty.

Missing something I saw once in the evening’s dusk,

 

Someday I’ll stop writing about you,

Stop dreaming about you,

But not today, today I’m in love with the absence of you.

what does a relationship without consent look like?

This article is a guest post from an anonymous contributor, who asked to share their story about a relationship where consent was never understood. 

I could talk for a living, but I cannot talk about this. This wasn’t meant to be an open letter to you, but it turned out that way. This is not about you though, it is about me, and about how I am letting go of the anger and the bitterness and the feelings of inferiority.

We were in a relationship for two years, from the age of seventeen until nineteen. Through school graduations, dances, the start of university and all the ups and downs of two years. We is not a word that is comfortable to use, I no longer want to think that I acted as a unit with you. I am writing this to make myself understand, to make you understand, and to make other people understand.

My hands shake as I type, I once loved you but I hate you now. This is not a story about rape, at least not to my mind. It is a story about consent, something I did not know existed when I was seventeen.

It is not something I ever thought could happen to me; it is also something I did not realise had happened until recently, until an encounter with you made it clear. I lost my virginity to you when I was seventeen. It was at my house, in my bed, my parents were away for the afternoon. It was the first time we had been left fully alone. You had broached the subject earlier in the day, and I said no, I didn’t think so.

You pointed out I had said before that I thought maybe we could have sex in the Summer. You said it was now Summer. I said I still wasn’t sure, and you said that was fine. Later, one thing led to another and it seemed like this was happening. I felt like I could not disappoint you, that I could not let you down, even though in my head I never wanted to do anything less. But I still wasn’t sure.

I was shaking and I still remember the marks of my fingernails on your thighs; how much is hurt, how it felt like I was being ripped apart. All that was running through my head was that I did not want to do this, and how we stopped because it was so painful. You didn’t stop until my hymen was broken, you seemed to feel like you had to do that, and I was shocked at the blood. I remember thinking this did not seem right.

I will always remember you saying afterwards that if this were a different culture, and I were your bride, you would not have stopped. I remember the bitterness in your voice when you said that. I remember the colour of my face, which was white as a sheet. I remember you made me hot chocolate. I remember the sense of relief that this mystery had been solved. I remember feeling terrible, and sad and scared and taken advantage of it. I remember the reaction of my friends to the fact that one of us had finally had sex, I couldn’t tell them the truth. The closest I got was ‘lie back and think of England’.

We had sex maybe five times in two years, every time the refrain ‘please make it stop’ ran through my head. I remember the conversations about it, the coaxing the beguiling, the thinly disguised manipulation, the disappointment in your voice. I began to feel insignificant, small, I lost my sense of self. I felt trapped, I could not talk to anyone and I did not know what to do. Why did it hurt so much?

I went to doctors, I really tried. But the thing is, sex was always on your terms, it was your domain, you initiated everything. You tried to teach me things, the implication being that I was the one at fault; belittling me, patronising me, I didn’t know what to do. To you, it was all my fault. But actually, it was all your fault, you didn’t understand that this all started too early, you were too persistent.

I dreaded each sexual encounter. I began to make excuses not to visit, not to stay over. I felt like I was failing at being a woman, I felt there was something wrong with me, I believed what you said, I was chipped away.

There was something very gendered about how we dealt with it as well. When we broke up I immediately felt relief, then sadness. Despite all the flaws of our relationship (and the good parts), I took a long time to mend and heal, to regain myself. I feel now, that this is because I was unable to fully comprehend or deal with the sexual side of our relationship. I realised it was not normal; I did not realise that this was not my fault.

I did not know what consent was. I know now, but it was a recent realisation, something that only began to dawn this year. When I was having sex with someone,  I asked to stop because it was painful and he immediately obliged. When I thanked him and said not many people would do that he seemed shocked, and said ‘What kind of people have you been getting with?’. And I mumbled, ‘not very nice people’.

You made me feel that I was in someway physically or psychologically damaged and that was why I would not sleep with you, or perform sexual acts with you. I know now you believe that I damaged you. You and your new girlfriend decided to ambush me one day to testify to that. That was painful, as she told me that I had damaged you, damaged their sex life, and all I could think was this is my problem, it is not yours.

I was so embarrassed and so angry, and I stayed so calm. Well, calm for me, I have a raging temper. So many people tell me that I am tough and strong, with you I am not strong, but that day I tried to be. I will never, ever forgive you for that day, for bringing her with you, I won’t forgive her for ganging up on another woman like that. I will never forgive you for saying I damaged your sexuality, your physicality, your self esteem, that I emasculated you. You damaged me! FUCK YOU!

Why don’t you understand that it was you who damaged yourself, by damaging me. It was a horrible experience, and I kept thinking a) don’t panic, and b) You don’t get to do this anymore, you don’t get to make me feel small.That encounter was weird, and it forever confirmed to me that you are an arsehole. It is a shame, I like your friends and family, but I do not like you.

The story of the confrontation with you and your new girlfriend was discussed with my close friends, and with my lovely mum. Everyone was aghast, they were so angry on my behalf. That is when I began to rally, and understand. When I came to terms with, and applied the correct terms, to what had happened.

When a dear, dear friend said that they couldn’t understand how you did not feel bad about your actions, why your conscience hadn’t kicked in. They pointed out what had happened was not consent. If you understood, I could forgive you, but until you do I can’t. I do not crave your love, your apology, your respect, your friendship. I have wonderful friends who have helped me so much. I would never discredit or undermine the sufferings of people who have been raped by saying I have been raped. I have not. I would not even say I was sexually assaulted, there is something of a grey area. All I know is I have been badly affected by this, something was wrong and the repercussions of it have continued to damage my relationships with people and with sex.

Some people may think I am making a fuss over nothing, that I need to check my privilege. I understand why they may think that. My unbridled anger may not be appealing to people either, but hey ho. As Charlie says in the Perks of Being a Wallflower

‘I think that if I ever have kids, and they are upset, I won’t tell them that people are starving in China or anything like that because it wouldn’t change the fact that they were upset. And even if somebody else has it much worse, that doesn’t really change the fact that you have what you have.”

One of my best friends seemed hesitant to understand, despite my repetition of ‘It’s not rape, but it’s not consent either’, that hurt, but I hope she understands now. I don’t really know what else to say. If I see you again I want to punch you in the face, but I probably wouldn’t, as it will fuel your narrative that I am emotionally unhinged.

I am doing much better, I feel good. I am strong, and I am brave. I am light years ahead of you, I am doing fine. So go fuck yourself, and at least you know you have permission to do that. But you will never read this, for those of you who have, thanks for sticking it out, it’s longer than I thought it would be. And if you understand, thank you.

her sleeping ecstasy

A poem by Heather Farley: 

I’m a fool for that sound in your midnight whispers,
A fool for your young almond eyes,

Foolish for the dark strands locked on in my lips,
For all your ideas and dreams of worlds untainted by humanity.

In my movement,
In my gaze,
In my touch,
I affect you.
I see it in flashes when you look back and say;
You fucker,
You coward…

A tenuous bridge to a world undiscovered emerges in your stares,
And I balance carefully, walking the steps to your fort’s front door,
Grasping at anything to reach your home.
Your haven.
Your rusting brick wall you sit at;
For I want to join you in your dystopian love.

To be in your mind
inside your mazes,
Under your protection, your barriers and your sheets,
On paths of no direction;

Back and forth I walk in the mist,

Up and down I’ll run in your rain,

Spiral and swirl in your hurricane.

To watch the art create itself;
Like looking at a sunrise,
Watching a child growing into a woman or man,
The winter nights turn to spring mornings,
Your blockades and barracks dissolve in your mind as my kiss softens the blow,

You lying there;
breathing heavy,
Glistening in the moonlight,
for the sweat trickles down your side and glimmers on you neck,
This raw physicality,
Felt like the way nature intended beauty to be;
Uncorrupted just caressed in the company of two.

As I move and stroll across your surfaces,
Tracing your outline with my nails,
Painting your fine features with my tongue,
We make beauty implode into an arching symphony of ecstasy

My hands scratch brushstroke in your tanned skins,
While I hold you;
Hold your back off the pale sheets,
Keep close to your quivering frame,
Tenderly resting you down when I resist pulling you harder onto me.

To be the spark in the fire
Or the drop in the floods
The moon that fell asleep to let the sunshine burn alive again
To be part of you,
is in itself my elation

Never has sensuality been this safe for me,
I’ll remain a fool
A fool in your presence I’ll stumble and stutter..

But when time slows,
Nothing’s changing but were evolving,
When your eyes rest,
falling;
peacefully into your youth,
For you could just be just a girl,
when your hair is musty and you skin unraveled in blankets

I’ll watch as still life envelopes me,
Becomes the beating drum at which I’ll slow my mind to the rhythm of,
A constancy in twisted sheets and single beds

I’ll let go, and watching you,
I’ll fall carelessly to sleep,
Lying near that which I cannot cage own or possess,
Just hold until the morning sun rises again,
When I’ll fade foolishly like the moon always does at dawn..
 

my caged oasis

A poem by Heather Farley: 

I guess I just wanted to see you.
I wanted to see the falsified smile,

And hope maybe this time it was real,
This time it was in your eyes as well as your mouth.

I guess I just thought I could make it happen.
Make our lips come together,
be it our mouths or otherwise, it was no matter,
It just needed to happen.

I guess I just needed to taste the oasis of pleasure,
Feel your breathe exhale into me,
Your skin melt onto mine,

Like candle wax trickles down and moulds so perfectly onto itself.

I guess I just wanted to draw your body with my hand and paint it with my tongue,
A youthful pain apologised for my desires,
You’re beauty stabs me,
but I’ll clean up the blood spattered floor.

I guess I just wanted to save something worth nothing,
Because I see all that you are when you don’t see it in yourself.
I guess I began to intertwine two beings until there was nothing left to destroy except my own heart and sanity.
I guess I just thought I could hold onto something already caged in my mind.

 

miss munroe’s little sister

A poem by Heather Farley: 

And she wasn’t perfect, that’s what made me love her.
I wanted to save her,
I had saved all the testosterone fuelled, inconsiderate boys.
Helped solve their personal enigma; not quite Turing but I tried.
It took wave after wave after wave of emotion and desperate longing, a tied flowing in and out of my essential organs,
A relentless indecision, to realise she wasn’t shipwrecked and helpless but self-destructing.

Somewhere inside I knew I couldn’t save the purity dripping through her collapsing veins:
Veins that coursed through her as I wished I could.
To be the cocaine so quickly inhaled, so quickly inside her.
To run through all of her; her twisted mind and forever distracted eyes, and that indescribable body.
Explore her as though I was wandering, not lost, yet scared of losing myself within her.

Instead I sat back.
I admired the purity in the cracks and crevasses of pain and pleasure.
I buried myself,
I ran from my mind,
I hid from my heart.
But more than all else,
I hid from Marilyn’s understudy.

Her body was that of women in corsets, waving fans elegantly on green summer lawns as men played cricket,
Complaining of the heat yet their skin glimmering in the golden mirage of sunlight.
Her torso like a painting, untarnished by media portrayal.
Miss Munroe’s younger sister; the beacon of untainted but somehow damaged hope;
Petite but strong.
Fragile but stubborn.
And above all else;
fucked up.

My little Marilyn, she, she made broken look beautiful.
She was rotting,
the world around her polluted the waters she drank.
Yet she decayed from the inside out.
I couldn’t stop the flower from dying, instead,
I watched the evolving beauty as she willowed into her inevitable fate.

I let myself fall into the pools of her dirty glamour.
Swimming in the dark waters, throwing myself into the humiliation and torture of my own mind.
I was drawn to her with every inch of my being.
The intoxicating flower, my belladonna.
The craving to touch. To feel. To be felt.

She was my assisted suicide.
My commitment to drown myself.
To slowly poison myself, with her sweet toxins of imperfection.

mental health: my story

This article has been sent to me by an extraordinary survivor who would like to share their story with you. I would like to offer a trigger warning that this post covers mental health, depression and suicide and how this survivor lives with and overcomes these:

I told them I thought I was going to kill myself. They told me they were angry at me. The summer of 2014 saw the onset of my depression and anxiety. During this period I did all I could with the help of doctors, counsellors, psychologists and psychiatrists to be well enough to attend the university. When I finally convinced my medical team to let me go to university, I was far from fighting health. But, I made it, I was where I wanted to be with the support I needed. The place of my dreams. By November I was suicidal.

Any person suffering from health issues in entitled to support on arrival to college and university in Scotland. Universities are equipped with disability support services. These services offer the option of speaking to advisors both before and during your studies to make it as constructive and supportive as possible. Some students have access to DSA a fund for disabled students to make university life more accessible. This is present in many institutions and helps those struggling to get through their studies. Furthermore, the SEE ME campaign has worked tirelessly to increase awareness of mental health in all walks of life. In particular it has focused strongly on youth and further education.

The campaign suggests that mental ill health is not a barrier to further education and there is no reason that, with the right support, an individual suffering mental health problems cannot further their learning experience. Stigma and discrimination, however, still exists throughout our universities and colleges. According to a recent anonymous study conducted by the NUS (National Union of Students) the following examples show how some students still may be stigmatised and discriminated against: fellow students stating; “You are just choosing to be unwell.” A lecturer telling you that it is, “natural nerves” or “an over-reaction”.

Unfortunately this form of prejudice and discrimination was the catalyst for my Leave of Absence. Unlike at school, where I had been private, even secretive, about my health and personal problems, I attempted to be more open. This was not a decision of ignorance, but of hope. Hope that students would be more mature and open minded than when at school. This was destroyed when, for the first time, I let people know my ‘dirty little secret;’ that I suffered from anxiety, PTSD and depression. I confided in two of my closest friends at university (and likely future flatmates) the depths of my illness and its symptoms; the lack of sleep, the self-loathing and the constant battles with panic attacks and anxiety.

At this point I shared something even more personal and hidden within my layers of compartmentalisation I was suicidal. From this point forward our friendship changed entirely. Suddenly, daily plans began to fall through. When I was going to meet them for dinner, they had already gone. Travelling was cancelled due to ‘work commitment’. Group chats fell silent. I was excluded from events and study groups because they forgot.

My deepest fears had been proven right, people will hate me if they know my illness. The sickening truth is that I am not alone. The SEE ME campaign found 9 out of 10 people who experience mental health problems have experienced stigma and discrimination in work and education. Shockingly, this statistic has come from health professionals or family members. The question therefore is, how have the government allowed this crisis to escalate to this point?

It is thought that 70% of children and adolescents who have clinical problems did not receive counselling or treatment when they needed it most.  A group of experts within the NHS and at the Department of Health wrote a report stating that; ‘radical reforms are needed’. This must come not only by government funding, but through the education of our nation seen; personally in my experience at university.

After struggling with this illness and being isolated somewhat I tried to talk to my two friends. That one raining Monday night, was going to become one of the worst of my life; they shut the door in my face and told me they were busy. I walked out of my halls, broke down and blacked out. I walked the length of St Andrews, the next point of memory being sitting in an area called ‘the Scores’ watching the rain on the blue, black water.

My parents drove up and asked an old school friend to try to find me. The only thoughts running through my head were ‘I have nothing to live for.’ ‘I could keep walking towards the water and either way the world keeps on turning.’ My parents and friend found me soaked to the skin, frozen and exhausted at midnight. I still couldn’t cry or speak, I was frozen mentally too.

For some reason all I wanted was to resolve the issues with those who had shunned me. My logic being that if I fixed this with them, I would be able to move on with addressing my more important health issues. When I arrived at their flat, they told me they were angry for not answering my phone to them or responding when they knew that I had answered calls from my parents. I explained the trauma of what I had just experienced. I told them the truth, the horrible disgusting truth, that to this day knots my stomach to say.

For the first time I was actually doing to ‘do it’ I was going to kill myself; its all I wanted. They told me, they were mad with me. They couldn’t live with someone with this illness because they didn’t want to be anyone’s carer. It was not fair on them, it made them uncomfortable they had other important things to worry about on a Monday night like preparing for tutorials that week. I can understand being scared, worried or concerned for someone. Furthermore, it must have been an extremely difficult position to be in for them.

However, their response of dismissal and anger is something I would not wish on my worst enemy. Prior to that Monday they had confided in me, and relied on me just as much, if not more, than I had them. I began to try and explain rationalise and justify my ‘behaviour’ to two people who did not want to hear it. On a night that was one of the most horrific and terrifying of my life I was being interrogated and judged for my decisions. I had hit rock bottom, my life had become utterly worthless and I couldn’t pretend anymore.

In that moment when I tried to articulate a feeling I have yet to hear in words as it is so painful and complex. That they told me that they didn’t think I was ill or depressed; I was making it up for attention. I didn’t exhibit the ‘real signs’ of depression. I was exaggerating and they didn’t want anything to do with it. I was lying to them and it was pathetic.

After pointless attempts to explain and let them see the pain, the hurt and the confusion of this illness I couldn’t do it anymore. I left, apologising to them for it all. As ever the top universities in the country are leading the way to breaking barriers for those treated unjustly and leaping forward liberally and intellectually. Yet for those suffering mental illness, the prejudice is clearly present. There needs to be a more fundamental change.

From both external and personal experience it is evident that when it comes to mental health we are nowhere close to the ideals of the journalists and activists. The romanticised notion that society can be changed if we start from the ground up is not being implemented let alone achieved. I am happy to say I have returned to university to study the course I have always wanted and have met some amazing friends and receive brilliant support on my return.

No longer is trying to get out of bed get dressed get through the day without hurting myself or drink myself to sleep is my only goal each day. That in itself is one of my greatest achievements. I hope too that sharing this will be an achievement for me. Nobody should have to hide illness or anything that is hurting them. It’s okay to have depression and need help. It’s okay to struggle with anorexia and access support. It’s okay to have PTSD and have flashbacks. It’s okay have panic attacks or crave self harm. It’s okay to think suicidal thoughts or hallucinate. It can and will get better if we begin to support people in the right ways.

What is not okay is to treat it as less than physical health or not take people seriously when they talk about it. I am lucky to be alive and I feel proud every time I see the morning sun because I’ve made it another day. I relapse and it is scary but I have people who love me and who I love back. I have things to live for. Everyone has something and someone to live for, you just need to find out what or who it is.

Discrimination destroys too many lives and it needs to end. I hope at least one person will read this and realise how serious mental health is or maybe feel a little less alone in their illness and less scared to open up or seek help in any form. This is my story, but it will continue everyday

sexual assaults stopped studying

This article was sent to me a few days ago by a fellow survivor who asked me to anonymously post their experience of sexual assault: 
 
I was taken advantage of twice in freshers on separate occasions when I was still a fresher myself. Two men walked me home and seriously sexually assaulted me and one of them also forced me to manually stimulate him. I was absolutely smashed and far too drunk to consent and too drunk to stop them but I was able to say immediately when we got to my room “I don’t want to have sex with you” which I meant as anything sexual.
I was then taken of advantage of again on a night out when I had a whole bottle of wine and my friends left me with this guy and his friend. He walked me to his house and once again I said “I don’t want to have sex with you” before he seriously sexually assaulted me and I told him “you are hurting me” which was my way of telling him to stop, but he wouldn’t so I moved his hand away.
I didn’t report it to the police because I thought I would be blamed for what happened because I was drunk.

The problem is that at the time I put everything into a “semi-consensual” box and didn’t think of it as assault although I accepted I had been taken advantage of. I also thought that this behaviour was normal and okay which is perhaps why I kept getting revictimised.

I was so traumatised by the events that happened that I got depressed, had a nervous breakdown when I accepted what had happened and couldn’t go back for my second year as planned because I got suicidal because of the assaults when I tried to go back.

partners in survival: 3

One of my friends was with me every step of the way through reporting rape, here is her perspective of what she took from the events:

So what do I take away?

Well overall I am left thoroughly down heartened.  Student services did not offer all the support I had hoped for. The police system was bureaucratic, cold and invasive. There was a need to make the case as solid as possible, in other words, give up as much privacy as possible, in order for it to believed.

I appreciate that the police system has measures in place and for some elements of the process to change would require a complete overhaul of legislation, but I strongly believe there needs to be a change of perceptions.

Consent. Is. Necessary. Not sometimes, not just when it’s the first time, not just at the start of a sexual encounter, but always. If consent is withdrawn, if the words no, or stop, or any indication of discomfort is displayed, then if the act goes forward, that act is sexual abuse and should be taken very, very seriously.

Just because someone is well-spoken and calm does not mean they are emotionless, or should be expected to deal with the horrible police system alone. Just because a person has no visible bruises and consented to someone spending the night at their house doesn’t mean the act where withdrawal of consent was ignored isn’t valid.

Anyone, of any gender, should be able to come to their support systems or to the police and should be able to say they have been sexually assaulted and be taken seriously. They should be equipped by student services to deal with what is a long and difficult process with the police. More information should be widespread about what to do if you think you have been sexually assaulted. Things like, save underwear, don’t wash bed sheets, don’t take a bath, etc. should be well known, so that the process with the police is easier.

I realise this is rather long and rather heavy, but this whole experience has really shaken me. The false perceptions, the lack of smiles, the lack of a “I’m really sorry this has happened and we are going to do everything we can to help you.” which I expected as a standard, and the difficulty of the process have all overwhelmed me.

I am so proud of my friend for everything she has dealt with and I hope that things get better.

partners in survival: 2

One of my friends was with me every step of the way through reporting rape, here is her perspective of going to the police:

Then began a laborious 48 hours. She was interviewed by two policewomen who asked for personal details and the specifics of the incident, from date and time, her address, to what she was wearing and the telephone numbers of people out with her that night. It felt cold and impersonal and, had she not asked, it was possible the entire interview could have gone by without us evening knowing their names.

We were told that this information would be passed on and that we should return to student services at 5pm where my friend would give the formal statement.

At 5pm however she got a call and was told that in fact we had to go to a police station because she had agreed to a medical examination – which she hadn’t. An error of communication of course, she quickly corrected the person and they assured her it couldn’t happen without her consent, but a distressing error to have occurred none the less.

So at 6pm we were picked up and taken to the police station where the medical examination was to take place. Again, they checked consent, and she had to sign a document saying that she agreed to everything. This is good practice but I had issue with the whole situation.

If a rape was to happen and within few hours they were to take a medical swap of the vulva, it is likely that some of the DNA will be useful. But this incident had occurred 4 days ago and she had since taken multiple baths. It seemed highly unlikely that anything of value would remain and yet the case presented to her was: submit for a highly invasive medical examination (in front of a male doctor and another woman) or you won’t get justice.

It’s a choice, they check consent and she could have said no. But what kind of choice is that?

 

Hello, we’ve never met and you are here at 9pm because you were penetrated without your consent, but if you really want to prove that you were penetrated without your consent we need you to strip and then be penetrated. If you say no, you won’t get justice.

I repeat: What kind of a choice is that?

This was the ongoing theme over the course of the next four hours.

We sat in a room opposite the police officer as my friend talked through what felt like her entire life story. Answering questions which had been asked twice already that day, repeating herself over and over. And all the time it was: I know this is invasive of your privacy but can you tell me (insert word/prase), or can you give me (insert word/hrase) or you won’t get justice. Her friends phone numbers, her underwear, her facebook messages all to get justice and closure. Justice which she justly (and legally) deserves!

Another thing that struck me was how it was all written down by hand by the police officer, sometime with my friend having to repeat herself four or five times before a sentence was taken down. Her deliberately worded sentences were paraphrased or cut short.

It’s one thing to have to describe the exact position the guy had placed her in but to have to repeat it three or four times, to a woman you barely know at gone midnight, is another entirely. And all the time was the knowledge that this was a legally binding document and if this statement wasn’t completely water-tight, there would be no chance for justice.

It shocked me too that student services, although we had been told that they would be there for the process, were nowhere to be seen. My friend is intelligent, well-spoken, articulate, and, as a feminist, she knows her rights and she had a friend with her – she was very well equipped to take on this challenge. For someone less equipped, someone alone, who didn’t know their rights, who didn’t have the knowledge of the law of consent, or who was more emotionally or physically compromised, the process would be unspeakably hard.

partners in survival: 1

One of my friends was with me every step of the way through reporting rape, here is her perspective: 

 

It began with my friend sending me a message:

“Hey, can I see you as soon as possible?”

Knowing her as I do I hurried over to her house within the hour, knowing something must have happened.

 

She told me in brief detail that she thought she had been sexually assaulted. She was calm, not visibly shaken, but unsure. We talked it over, not in explicit detail, but over why or why not this could be sexual assault. We were both calm and level headed; we both knew our rights and that a line had been crossed by the perpetrator: the line of consent.

 

I was certain after our conversation this was a case of sexual assault and, although my friend was reluctant to use the word, possibly even rape.I encouraged my friend to go to student services – which we did. I felt sure(ish?) that they would have a system in place to deal with this sort of event. Cases of one student taking advantage of another must occur from time to time – surely, they must have system in place to provide her with support, and assure her that the act which had occurred was unjust and make every effort to help her find closure and justice?

 

They gave her an appointment the same day but the result of the short, 15 minute, meeting was…”Sorry, there’s nothing we can do.” She could go to the police and have someone from student services with her for that (although, this turned out later to not be the case) but they strongly advised against it.

This to me was shocking. Unfortunately, I can theorise where this response is drawn from. It wasn’t a case of “violent sexual assault”. It occurred in someone’s home, with someone she knew, and someone she has previously kissed once at a party. Someone she had talked to over social media and someone in her circle of friends. They had both been drinking (although not a lot) and had been out together.There was no dragging her down a dark alleyway at two in the morning, no dropping drugs into her drink, no physical abuse.

 

Additionally, the nature of the incident and the emotional abuse that had taken place alongside it had, of course, had an impact. It meant that it took a few days for her to fully accept that what had happened was abuse. But never-the-less there was an issue of consent.

 

She had set boundaries, and he had crossed them. She had said stop, and he hadn’t paid attention. She had stressed repeatedly where her line was for the sexual encounter and he had ignored that.

She had made it clear that the opening of her front door did not equal the opening of her legs for his penis and he had abused that totally.

 

But it felt to me that because of all this, because she wasn’t sitting there covered in bruises and crying, with a story that wasn’t as violent and as “thrilling” as we often see rape portrayed in television and movies, that she wasn’t taken seriously. My friend faced a choice. Do nothing, and let the perpetrator walk away thinking he had done nothing wrong, or take it to the police – and face time consuming, invasive, emotionally exhausting, and probably, ultimately unsuccessful process, which could mean her parents would have to get involved, she would have to travel back to town during her holidays and that she must give up much of her privacy.

 

I will be forever proud and amazed by her bravery to choose the latter.