Was it my fault that I was sexually assaulted?
It’s hard to trust people, it’s hard to talk
The last day of school, exams are over. It’s an exciting time and we’re all keen to test the invisible boundaries of life.
I headed to a private table in the chic members’ nightclub Maddox in Mayfair. Feeling grown up, sophisticated and smug to be amongst the social elite. We were the very essence of cosmopolitan. Two men I met in the smoking area, one an ex-serviceman, asked me to go the ‘short taxi ride’ back with them. “Go on!” my friend said: “We’re not in school anymore.”
The taxi ride was not short and I found myself in an unfamiliar London suburb. They persuaded me to smoke a joint with them, and that’s what people do isn’t it? They try new things with new people, after all, we’re not in school anymore.
Within moments my perception became hazed and my vision started to blur. I got up and said I wanted to leave, asked him to call me a taxi. He said “yeah, sure”, but I never once saw him touch his phone. He edged closer to me, put his hand on my knee, asked me to go out into the garden with him. I tried to speak but no words came out. I got up and made my way to the front door but before I could open it he got in my way, blocking me with his body and sliding the lock across. He pushed me against a wall, I could feel my knees buckling. He started kissing my neck, still no words would come out of my mouth. He told me I was beautiful, told me he wouldn’t hurt me, my eyes started to shut.
A voice inside my head switched on, I couldn’t allow this to happen to me. I lifted my arm and slid the latch and fell out into the corridor. Leaving my shoes behind I got out into the street and started to walk, then run as I heard him behind me. My phone was then bombarded with texts: “Come back beautiful”, “I want to be inside you cunt”, “you’re a whore”.
It was dawn, I was dazed, I called my Dad. I dropped the call, couldn’t talk to him, he’d be so ashamed of me, wouldn’t he? A stranger saw me stumbling along in my stocking-feet and called the police. I refused to tell them what had happened, I didn’t want anyone knowing what I had done, I just wanted to go home.
When the police picked me up they drove me out of sight then asked me to get out and get a taxi claiming ‘it’s not our job to take stupid little girls like you home’. By this point I was dipping in and out of consciousness and when I got out of the car I fell to my knees and started being violently sick to the chorus of two policemen calling me ‘dirty’, ‘careless’, ‘scum’. That’s how they left me. And that’s how I remained until a black Cab scooped me up and drove me back home, to safety, free of charge.
What was worst about this ordeal was not the sexual assault by a stranger, not the shaking and vomiting, but the desertion of those whose duty it is to care. And it was all my fault.
Victims of sexual assault blame themselves. This feeling comes from a combination of social views on the subject and of their dignity being violated, stripped. One victim of sexual assault I spoke to told me “It’s my fault for ever going back to his and seeming like I was easy”. But this is not just the shame talking, this is reinforced by a culture of victim blaming, where it is assumed that when girls are ‘careless’ enough to get themselves into a situation then of course they’re going to be assaulted. But getting oneself into a situation is not a crime.
You wouldn’t blame a bank for getting robbed based on it’s contents so why blame a girl for getting sexually assaulted based on her appearance. Because of the lack of social understanding, particularly by those in a position of care, victims are afraid to come forward, ashamed to let anyone know their name, feel guilty. They feel that by speaking out they’re going to be judged, it will become public knowledge and then there’s no hiding from it.
Common words used by survivors of sexual abuse are ‘numbness’, ‘loss’, ‘fear’, ‘anger’. A feeling that a part of them will remain trapped in that room forever. And this is all combined with the knowing that the perpetrator is just walking around, completely unaffected. The attacker always has the upper hand, whether they’re a stranger, a lover or a colleague, they’re the ones on home territory and reaping the rewards of the situation.
It is hard to trust people after being sexually assaulted. This makes it hard to talk, especially to people of authority such as bosses, university security, the police. Not enough is being done to prevent sexual assault from happening and not enough is being done to help the victims beat the fear, build the trust and speak out. Without this nothing can be done.
If you, like me, have been the victim of sexual assault or harassment, I encourage you to speak out. By coming out of the dark and no longer letting yourself be defined by what happened to you; you are beating your attacker, you are accepting that it wasn’t your fault and you are reclaiming the dignity that they took from you.