When I was sexually assaulted, I lost my friends
They said it made things awkward and caused too much drama
One year ago, Hannah* had her drink spiked at a friend’s house party by a man who tried to rape her. After telling her house mates what happened, they quickly became uncomfortable and didn’t know how to act around her. A few weeks later, they said they didn’t want to live with her anymore because of the drama. Here is her story.
In my second year at university, I had my drink spiked while I was at a house party. The guy who did it, took me to his house a few doors down, and tried to have sex with me. I said no. He didn’t stop, but, due to his own drunkeness he didn’t get very far before I was up and out on the street, my tights torn and me in a crying mess within a few minutes.
This isn’t a story about that, because sadly, that isn’t an uncommon story for people at university. According to the Telegraph, one in three women experience sexual abuse during their time at university. I am an example of this statistic.
What I want to share with the world however, is what happened when I got back to my student house. I lived just further down the same road, but left without my clutch and keys because I’d put them down back at the party. I hammered on the door and the door bell, sobbing for one of the five boys I lived with to let me in. When they did I sat at the bottom of the stairs and cried and told them what happened. I was drunk, scared and a mess. They barely said anything, looked at each other and ended up turning the football back up. One of them was sent up to check on me five minutes later, he was obviously uncomfortable and jumped at the chance of me saying that I was okay so they didn’t need to worry. I went and had a long hot shower and curled up in bed. I actually couldn’t face going out for the next few days. My boyfriend brought me shopping and my friends texted me asking what had happened the night before, but the honest truth was that I couldn’t remember all of it.
I asked the boys I lived with to fill me in on what I had said when I got home, why my clothes were ripped and if I had been ill in the night. Their answer was that they didn’t know. I’d come home in a mess and didn’t have my keys, cried something about a guy forcing himself onto me and then disappeared upstairs. None of them checked in with me in the days afterwards.
Moving on a few weeks, everyone was talking about sorting out our third year houses and who would be living with who. They told me they didn’t want to live with me again. They said they felt too uncomfortable after what had happened the night my drink got spiked. They thought it was unfair I told them, they didn’t know what to do, and it made everything in the house awkward.
Because of something I didn’t have any control of, and because I had come home upset and hurt, they saw me as causing too much trouble. They didn’t want to live with a girl again because we were too much drama. For a while, I blamed myself for this. I was still struggling to remember what happened, working out if it was all my fault and wishing, when I had come home I had quietly gone upstairs and not told them. But I know I did nothing wrong.
Expecting a kind word, hug, or at least some form of care from the people you live with us not hard to ask for. If you saw someone crying and hurt on the street, you would ask if they needed help. This did not happen in my own home. Not because we didn’t get on as friends, but because the boys found it awkward and uncomfortable. And because I shared with them the truth about the rape culture that exists at our universities, they didn’t want to live with me again the next year. They couldn’t face the truth.
This highlights to me exactly what is wrong with our society. By doing this, not offering me any support and choosing not to care and pretend it didn’t happen, they supported rape culture. It intrigues me to wonder what would have happened if it had been one of them who had their drink spiked and the same, would any of them empathise more with it being another boy.
Nearly a year on, I have finally reached a point where I realise that I am not sorry for making them feel uncomfortable. I’m disappointed I spent the rest of the year feeling guilty and uncomfortable myself. I should not feel bad about bringing a genuine problem of sexual abuse to their attention. As much as I respect and still enjoy their company, I believe they should be the ones feeling guilty about making me keep quiet and feel isolated. While I would hope they wouldn’t ever do anything like that themselves to anyone, I realise now they were condoning sexual abuse and the culture around it. They didn’t listen, help and they turned it into a taboo subject, which I spent a year feeling guilty about.
If you have a friend, housemate or even just acquaintance tell you about something as awful as this, please do not turn them away because it makes you feel uncomfortable. I know that if it had been the other way around, I would have done everything they needed me to for support. I would have listened, made tea and gone to the police/hospital if they wanted to. I would do anything to support anyone who was a victim like I was. While you may find listening to something horrible hard, please remember that they are the ones actually experiencing it, and that they are being extremely brave by talking about it.
I’m not living with those boys anymore, I still see them socially though. Anyone reading this, please don’t turn away someone who needs you. It is time to break this taboo and start helping those effected by sexual abuse. Listen to them, do not turn your back and pretend it isn’t happening.