Trigger warning: sexual violence.
One year ago today I was raped and, about a week or so later, I started this blog to help me process everything that had happened. It has been an incredibly helpful tool for allowing me to reflect, and I hope has done some good in raising awareness of the problems we still face around sexual violence.
Rape is an act of silencing, and one of the most helpful ways to combat it as a secret crime, is to talk about it. I wouldn’t advocate this for everyone, and I certainly don’t think it’s a sign of weakness to not talk about your experiences, but for some people it can really help. I have gained strength from writing this blog and letting others know that they are not alone in what they face. Tragically, most people I know have experienced some form of sexual violence and many have been raped. Rape is not rare, it just isn’t discussed.
One of the more specific reasons I started this blog was in response to the police process which, in my experience, was at least as difficult as being raped. When you give a statement to the police you have to repeat yourself over and over again while they hand write everything. It’s a torturous process and, although it’s supposed to be your statement, I felt as if I had no autonomy over it because everything I said was paraphrased, or jotted down in an approximated version of what I had said.
This blog has helped me reclaim my voice and tell my story on my own terms. Feelings change and should be validated. My perspective on what happened has shifted through the year, with the benefit of hindsight and greater reflection. I have never lied, but it is almost impossible to communicate a whole truth to somebody else, especially in the aftermath of such a traumatic experience. Over the year, this blog has enabled me to reflect on the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. This is never made possible in a courtroom.
One year on a lot has changed, what happened feels very far away and I am incredibly happy. I have been lucky over the last year and in this post I will reflect on what has happened in the past twelve months.
My five favourite articles
- My first two choices go together in many ways and reference similar themes. The first is on Intersectionality and how my multiple identities interconnect and shaped how I responded to what happened to me.
- The second is about the importance of Checking privileges in any circumstances and, for me, that included after being raped. I have many privileges that have made me luckier than many in how everything happened.
- The most difficult part of the experience for me was undoubtedly the Medical examination . Whilst this isn’t the most fun read in the world, I think it is important to know what survivor’s experience and how difficult reporting rape is made for people.
- This is possibly the most important article for me, on a feeling I never expected to experience: Shame. It shows the difference between what it is like to theorise on a subject and the lived experience of it.
- Perhaps the most formative of my articles was the First post, where I laid out my ideas for this blog and initial response to what happened.
Every month I have written an ‘update’ on what has been going on and how I feel in relation to what happened a year ago. A key turning point was definitely the article I wrote One month in, as it shows both the immediate sense of hindsight, but also the fresh impact of dealing with everything. Progress is not always made in an uphill curve, however, and Three months in was arguably a set back from me.
Whilst not every day is better than the one before, I am much better now than I was a year ago, and the article I wrote for the Ten months post, reflects a more positive outlook than anything contained in the previous ones. Reading back through all the ‘Month by month’ articles, it seems like a turning point in a renewed sense of optimism.
Possibly the biggest turning point was an article I wrote relatively recently: Face to a name. In this post I did just what it says in the title, ‘put a face to a name’ and deliberately undermined the anonymity of the blog. I wanted to be known as myself and chose not to hide what had happened.
A shout out to all the people who have written Guest posts for me. Now I have had a year to establish the blog I will start doing much more outreach to try and get people to share their perspectives on sexual violence, feminism and more. If you know me personally please feel free to send me articles any time, or tweet at me to get my attention otherwise.
The main thank you has to go to One of my best friends, who was by my side for the whole process. She wrote a series called ‘partners in survival’ early on in this blogs history, which I would highly recommend if you have time. If you’re wanting to know how to support a survivor then seriously, just follow her lead.
What I have learnt
Rape is far too common but I have a lot of faith in our ability to reduce the stigma surrounding it and support survivors. I don’t mean to negate the impact being raped had on me, it was significant, but I am still placed in a very privileged position and am incredibly grateful for the support I’ve received. To everyone out there going through something similar: stay strong and ask for help. Most people who experience this will need support to process what has happened, particularly if you choose to report.
One of the most important things I have learnt is that, as difficult as the police process is, it is not impossible. Reporting rape and speaking out about it are important tools in helping us fight for a safer world.