one year

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 

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3.  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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

Turning points 

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.

Shout out 

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.

eleven months

Eleven months ago I was raped and last night I ran Label Fashion Show.

Label is a show I founded to offer people a platform to express their individuality, and partly in response to what happened to me. Rape is primarily an act of silencing and I refuse to be silent. I cannot imagine a better way to reclaim my voice and my body, than to run a body positive fashion show.

Label was a bigger success then I ever could have imagined and I am so excited to see what happens with it over the coming years. To find out more, check out our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram or find us on Snapchat @labelshow.

Rape does not have to define you, and I have been in the extraordinarily privileged position to turn it into something positive. A huge thank you to everyone who made Label such a success, especially to the wonderful cast of models.

If you would like to get involved in Label then please message me at inbox@labelfashionshow.com and come along to next years show in St Andrews, or the body positive performance I am running on 26th August in Islington Mill in Manchester.

#labellove

ten months

Trigger warning: sexual violence.

Ten months ago I was raped and since then I have been writing this blog to reflect on what happened, both to me and those around me. I have updated my ‘progress’ once a month, partly just so I can check back in and reflect on how my feelings have changed.

Last month I wrote about how busy I am and that rush seems to have done nothing but increased. Keeping busy isn’t always a helpful strategy, and not always the best way to protect your mental health, but it has definitely helped me. It feels like so long ago that I was raped, and a memory that increasingly I draw strength rather than pain from.

I am grateful every day for the ways in which I was supported and the fact I have been able to forget. That does not mean that I no longer care, but the pain has been turned into passion I can do something useful with.

Increasingly I will turn this blog into being about something broader than my personal experiences. I will write about the same themes but from a broader perspective: feminism, LGBTQ+, intersectionality etc. I also came out recently so get ready for some articles on that subject.

What my rapist did was wrong, but it does not define him: he is still human. Perhaps more importantly, it definitely does not define me.

nine months

Trigger warning: this post reflects on the experience of sexual violence and it’s aftermath.

 

I go through phases of anger & passion and then forgetting about what happened to me nine moths ago. This is a perfectly natural cycle but can be somewhat frustrating. Yesterday was One Billion Rising and we, my feminist society, discussed sexual violence as part of the event we hosted. Then I was angry thinking about what happened to me and felt passionate that I would do everything I can to achieve justice. Today I am tired and remember that I have a million and one things to do.

Some days I think writing this blog is enough. Some days I think I should be doing so much more. Some days I worry that this blog is misdirected and may be doing no good at all.

It still helps me process the aftermath of sexual violence though and that, in my opinion, can only be a positive thing. Sadly I will probably never change the world, or at least not by myself. Small actions can keep on growing though and I can at least try to minimise the harm that I do.

Life is a constant compromise: I could write a longer and more meaningful post reflecting on sexual violence OR I could finish updating the pictures from my body positive fashion show Label. With everything else I do that choice is very real. For now, I’m going to focus on Label and hope to have more time to spend on this blog soon. I cannot do everything but I will keep trying and the cycles of passion and apathy can be a good thing. They allow me time to be crazy productive and then a space, albeit limited, to rest.

I really want to backtrack to the beginning of my experience soon. I realise I’ve still not written something completely clear on how to go about reporting rape to the police. Hopefully I will publish that within the next couple of weeks and, as always, anyone is very welcome to share their work or words with me.

eight months

Eight months ago today I was raped and in this article I will reflect on some of the short term impacts that this sexual violence had on me. 

I was raped just before leaving university for the summer holiday. In many ways this was lucky as it gave me a three month period in which to relax and deal with what had happened. Unfortunately, I was not the only one leaving for the holiday, so the police had a hard time tracking everyone down and getting the statements that they needed. This has contributed to the incredibly delayed process in gaining justice or the case being closed.

One of the most immediate affects of being raped was being completely shattered all the time. ALL the time. This was probably a combination of having just been through my exams, reporting everything to the police and processing trauma. I am someone who needs to keep busy to function at my best, but this is the only times in my life I can remember being too exhausted to do anything.

My friends can recall whole conversations where I completely zoned out and did not process what was happening around me. Fortunately, I have the most amazing support network of people who reminded me to do basic things like eat. My energy was going into dealing with the police and coming to terms with what had happened.

Possibly the most British way of responding to anything ever, but I allowed myself a couple of weeks where I added sugar to me tea. Crazy right? Normally this is a one day slip I reserve only for when my periods are particularly bad.

It only took me a few days to start this blog. I knew I would need some kind of outlet to process what had happened and that I needed a platform of resistance, to know that I was still the strong one. Despite my amazing support network, it is impossible to tell someone everything.

For one, it felt unfair to burden the people around me with an incredibly triggering topic. For another, it is much easier to coherently express yourself when you have the time to write everything down and explain the contradictions that are inherent to any human experience.

I am glad I started this blog and am keeping it up but, as you may have noticed, I went much quieter once I had returned to university. There has been very little time to add to this or continue to process the experience of sexual violence. Normally, the events of eight months ago are just beneath the surface but, inevitably, the consequences are triggered sometimes.

I have never been especially trusting or comfortable with a lot of physical affection, (perhaps partly because I’m British~ back to the tea solution!) but these qualities have definitely become an exaggerated part of my character since being raped.

I’m not going to attempt to explain this statement or justify it but I’ve increasingly found that I normally feel more comfortable around women and most comfortable around men that I trust. This is normally within the context of being out drinking but it applies to other situations as well.

So what have been the short term impacts of being raped? Complete exhaustion, a lack of trust and a physical discomfort with people touching me. Everyone responds to sexual violence differently and I am a firm believer that there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to respond.

seven months

Seven months ago I was raped and recently I have been going back through the experience by writing about what happened to me in stages. If you read any of what I have written, I think it should be about the medical examination. It was the worst part of the experience for me and I think people need to be better informed about what it was like.

As difficult as I make the process sound, I would still highly recommend reporting rape to the police if you are able to do so. I completely understand there are many circumstances where this is not possible and I don’t think any judgement should be passed for this.

I am glad I reported everything to the police but it is equally important that I speak out about it. Rape is an act of silencing and I refuse to be silent. This blog is my space to tell my story.

six months

Trigger warning: discusses rape and the impact on me.

It’s been exactly half a year since I was raped which makes me feel like I should have something particularly profound to say on the subject. The sad reality though is that life continues, time does not really move in a linear pattern and that progress isn’t made in an upwards arc. It largely depends on my mood and the person and the day how I feel and what I say.

Am I better than I was in the immediate aftermath? Most definitely. Am I always better than the day before? Definitely not. I still find particular things very triggering, am even more acutely aware of sexual violence and am often tired by the uphill struggle of what we have to face.

The most lasting damage done was by the medical examination which personally I found deeply traumatic. The worst thing on a day to day basis is the missed phone calls. I run a lot of societies at uni and am involved in an awful lot of things, which inevitably means a lot of calls and being called. I could not possibly save every company number or contact for people who will get in touch with me.

However, every time I get a missed call I always have a mini panic/ moment of hope that it will be the police (no, they don’t always use the same number.) This is stressful because it triggers the event regardless of whether it is actually the police or not, which it almost never is. Most of my life is spent in class or meetings which means I can’t often answer the phone and there is a delay in knowing who it was. If it was the police this adds a further stress as they almost never pick up, some numbers are blocked from calling back and the police office doesn’t have an answering machine… yes, I’m serious.

This is a relatively small example but it’s just to give a sense that a person isn’t raped and then they move on, nor can you report it to the police and move on. It continues to impact day to day life. It still does six months on and it probably still will in six years time.

The positive news is that this process is not something we need to be silent about, in fact, I refuse to be. I was raped and I will survive but it sucks and people should listen to survivors stories.

five months

This article is an update on the developments of the last month, five months after having been raped. 

After a period of miscommunication with the police, two officers called round to my flat to give me an update on what was happening. The perpetrator is not being prosecuted, nor is the case being dropped. They are sending the case to court to ascertain whether or not it should go to court…

If it is decided that it should then the exact same file goes to the exact same place but with a different title on it. So right now the balance of justice hangs in a title for me. A lot of the time I hope the case is dropped and this can be done with but I have flashes of bravery when I’m determined to see it through to the end.

One of the police officers who called round is the guy apparently in charge of my case so it was nice to finally meet him. I appreciated his honesty in many ways; although some warning would have been nice so I didn’t have to first meet him when in a onesie with my hair in a top knot.

He told me quite frankly that the case had been sent to court a couple of weeks ago but he had been on holiday and hadn’t found time to tell me. He is a human too with his own life, family and priorities so I appreciated the bluntness in acknowledging a delay in communication. He also told me that he had no idea how long it would take to hear back from the court. Admittedly it’s stressful to wait but it’s much better than when I was informed I would be told things within a couple of weeks and heard nothing for a couple of months.

It’s slow progress but, from my perspective, the chances of it going to court are slim to none. In a way that is a relief but I am glad that I did the right thing and I know I’m strong enough for the court process if that is what happens.

four months

Four months ago I was raped and it still affects my life in many ways, as many memories and experiences also do.

I am now having consensual sex for the first time ever so that is exciting. It is getting easier each time, although I am still envious of the apparent ease of the male orgasm. I don’t care how much better a female orgasm is meant to be, damn are we made to wait for it. (Insert importance of masturbation, body positivity, sexual exploration…!)

My day to day life often revolves around sex and consent. I have been running consent workshops at my university and have been thrilled at the response. SHAG week is also coming up at my uni and I am collaborating an event as Coordinator of the Feminist Society and Editor for ‘Love, Sex &Relationships’ at my student paper.

I love all this work but it is often triggering and my thoughts, and support if I can give it, go out to all those dealing with sexual violence in some form. Change is happening but way too slowly.

The police investigation drags on in a slow, sporadic way that I have no control over.

I was convinced to have counselling, I’ve had one session and it was nice to talk things over but my friends are equally supportive and constructive so I feel bad for taking up much needed time when so many students need support. However, it’s better to talk to a professional because I know how painfully tiring it can be to support many friends with poor mental health.

My apologies for the fact this reads like a broken up diary entry! I only have ten minutes before a meeting, (which is more than I have managed in the past couple of weeks) but I will try to update this blog properly soon.

If anyone would like to write anything on sexual violence, consent, feminism or issues around these themes then please comment or this get in contact.

Strength to survivors!

I

three months

I was raped three months ago and I was doing really well until recently but the last few days have brought everything crashing back into my life.

One of my closest friends, who went through the process of reporting everything to the police with me, gave her report today. It is one of those bizarre ironies of life that she would happen to give her statement exactly three months after I was raped. I feel guilty that she has to go through everything again and that I am not able to be with her because it would be seen as biased. She leaves for her job tomorrow and this is obviously not the parting either of us would have chosen.

No one enjoys being talked about behind their back and it’s scary to know your closest friends are having to talk about your sex life with police officers. The process has put everyone involved under great pressure and has created tensions in our relationships with one another.

I have been feeling the stress particularly recently because an acquaintance called to give me some further information about the case. Unfortunately, I am not able to write about this openly at the moment but basically it has been a massive trigger back to everything that happened to me and I don’t know what’s going on. I don’t know exactly when the case will be closed. I don’t know if more information is about to be added to the case. I don’t know how long I will have to wait for people to make decisions about whether I may or may not ultimately get justice.

Once the case is completed by the police (and I don’t know when that will be) there are three options. The case may be closed, it might be sent to court or it might be sent to a clerk who will determine whether or not it should go to court. I don’t know when that decision will be taken, how long it will take to make or what the consequences of those decisions are. I’m almost at a point where I don’t care what happens because whatever happens it will be fairly awful, I just want to know what’s going to happen.

I want justice but I don’t want to have to go through a court case.