Into the abyss

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I know it’s been a long time since I last wrote anything.

On 27th of December, a day after I last posted, I was informed by the police that no action will be taken against my rapist.

The complete devastation of this information has made me not to even look at a keyboard.

Until now.

For several years I didn’t tell a single soul what had happened to me, mostly because I didn’t understand what had happened to me. It didn’t fit the mould that I had been given about rape: A stranger jumps on you when you walk home alone late at night.

Did you know that 90% of sexual assaults are committed by someone who is known by the victim?

I didn’t.

I just knew that I was permanently unhappy, constantly on alert. Awaiting catastrophe.

Then one day, from a prompt unknown, I contacted a rape helpline.

Was this normal, what happened to me?, I would ask over several phone calls.

No, it was not.

That’s where the journey into the abyss began.

In the media only one narrative is given of rape: A crime takes place, it’s reported, the police investigate, the culprit is caught, prosecuted and imprisoned. Clear cut, simple. Justice is done.

Did you know that only about 30% of reported sexual assaults actually make it to court?

From the beginning I was adamant that I wasn’t going to go to the police. That’s something that is almost impossible for anyone not affected by sexual violence to understand. It defies all logic. A crime has taken place, or at least so you say. Why wouldn’t you report it?

Because rape defies all logic. It’s something so out there that you just can’t wrap your head around it. It doesn’t matter how empathetic you are. Unless it happens to you, you’ll never ever completely get it. And if it happens to you, you still won’t understand why.

This is the single most hurtful, most personal act of violence that could ever be done to anyone. It’s a murder where nobody dies. When I began counselling two years ago, I couldn’t say the word ‘rape’ without crying. It taints everything that ever was good and pure, spreads like a cancer in your cells and contaminates everything.

Opening your mouth to even say the word, let alone to a person whose job it is by definition to not to take sides i.e. cast doubt in your version of events, is not easy as it sounds.

“Why didn’t you leave him?” asked a consultant psychiatrist in my review in front of a doctor, the head nurse and a student nurse. I sit in the middle like we’re already in court. With everybody looking at me.

What does this have to do with my mental health?

“I was afraid.”

“Did he hit you?”

“No, never.”

“I think you have a problem with rejection.”

“I had a problem with being raped.”

Surprisingly he didn’t have anything to say after that.

This is the image I’d like to give to anyone who asks why a victim chooses not to report a rape.

Because this is what you have to deal with.

I had to really fight not to be diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. Not that there is anything wrong with it, it just didn’t fit me at all.

When I finally received a diagnosis of PTSD last week, I learnt that it’s often misdiagnosed as BPD.

Why didn’t she speak out earlier?

Did you say no?

Why now?

Had it really happened, you would’ve spoken out.

Are you just angry that you two broke up?

You could’ve prevented it from happening to someone else.

You’re letting him get away with it.

These aren’t things said by horrible internet trolls. These are all statements that have been said to my face.

Tell me you would’ve gone straight to the police, I dare you.

So what changed? Why did I choose to go to the police after all?

One major thing that happened was that I was invited to speak at the annual meeting of the charity that organises my counselling. I read out Mondays of bullshit in front of dozens of people. Some cried. I was given flowers. It was almost my birthday so I was given a cake. I was stopped by multiple people afterwards who told me how brave I had been.

It all just didn’t quite fit inside my head.

All of these people now know what had happened to me but none of the people who should know, know about it.

Three days after the annual meeting I picked up the phone before I had time to think what I was doing and made a report to the police.

I spoke to the dispatcher for over two hours.

What am I doing?

“You’ve done a very brave thing”, she told before we hang up.

The initial charges were one count of rape of a female over the age of 16 and one count of controlling or coercing behaviour.

What happened to me finally had a name.

Once I hung up, I went to town. I couldn’t stay still. I just kept walking.

I only had one thought in my head.

What did I do?

I did it.

I did it.

I want to stop passersby. A group of ladies having their lattes outside Costa, an old man walking a golden retriever, college kids unwrapping their lunch burgers.

I just did that.

What did I do?

I did that.

IdiditIdiditIdiditIdidthat.

When I get back into my flat I start laughing and crying at the same time for the first time in my life.

I get a call a couple of hours later. Two police officers want to come by to get a statement from me, is that possible?

I can’t believe it. Someone thinks this is so important that they need to attend to it the same day. It happened so long ago.

I tell this to the officers, a man and a woman, who sit around my kitchen table having a coffee a couple of hours later.

This is a serious crime, she says. We know how much courage it took you to report it so we don’t want you to sit with it too long.

I can’t believe it. I really can’t.

One thing sets me apart from one of the most common attributes of an assault victim. I have never cared if a person of authority doesn’t believe me. I just don’t give a fuck, because what happened to me isn’t a matter of faith. It still happened whether you believe me or not. Once what happened to me became clearer to myself, nobody has been able to take it away from me.

But regardless of all that I can’t believe that these officers are listening to me, taking notes and telling me that they believe me.

The buyer’s remorse came the next day. I cried to my friend on the phone asking her what the fuck had I done, I shouldn’t have done it.

I never did this for me. It’s too late when it comes to me. I don’t seek validation by the court system either. He’s still guilty, whether or not he’s been found as such. I know what he did. No punishment would ever be enough. We’ll never be even. Even if he was put to death, it would be too good to him. I still wouldn’t wish he was raped though, because I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. Not even him.

No. I didn’t do it for me.

I did it so I could possibly help to prevent it from happening to someone else. A rapist will always rape again. It’s not like they do it once and go on to have consensual sex for the rest of their lives. It just doesn’t happen. When someone is killed, you might claim that there were exceptional circumstances that made the act more understandable if not justified.

No such circumstances exist for rape.

I wouldn’t wish this for anyone else in the world. I wanted to warn others that this person is dangerous and likely to re-offend.

With help from the two officers we were able to determine five individual occasions where there was enough detail and evidence to charge him.

Wow, five.

That many.

But at the same time,

just five?

When I was adamant that I didn’t want to go to the police, I was afraid of starting something that I couldn’t stop. Everything was already so big. The abyss was inside my head. What would happen if I would involve other people into it?

It was real but it became even more real. Now it was written down. I had a crime reference number and named officers. I travelled to make a video statement.

Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t easy. If being raped was the worst thing that ever happened to me, reporting it was the second worst. I’m a qualified journalist. I know the level of detail required in order to prove guilt beyond reasonable doubt. And anyone who knows me, knows that I don’t shy away from things that are difficult.

Still, the level of graphic detail that I was asked still made me physically sick. Giving the video evidence broke my heart. Every single part of my body hurt.

The process took place over several months. The circle began rolling out as expected, involving more and more people but something happened that I hadn’t expected. I started to believe.

Even more, I started to hope.

So many people believed in me that I started to believe in me too.

“What do you want to achieve?” the chief inspector in charge of the case asked me.

“I want this to matter. Do you understand what I’m talking about?”

He said he did.

I couldn’t give any more. I was completely drained. There were questions I couldn’t answer. My mind just goes blank at points. I can remember him grabbing me, I can remember lying on the bed after but I don’t remember the middle. And that’s not enough.

What happened?

Did he use his fingers, his penis or his tongue?

Where?

What do you mean when you say that?

Which part of your body you’re talking about?

What makes you say you didn’t give consent when you didn’t verbally say no?

Are you sure?

You say that, but you had had consensual sex with him before, hadn’t you?

What makes this different?

What makes you say that?

What do you mean when you say that?

What makes you say that what makes you say that what makes you say that

I honestly thought I had done enough. Not enough to take him to court but to make the relevant authorities aware of this person. That’s all I ever wanted.

On 27th of December I get a call. I’m in town running errands before heading to work.

“I have news you won’t like.”

Is there a human being in the world who would’ve said ‘no, I can’t talk right now, I’m in public and I have to be at work in an hour’?

Just tell me.

No action is going to be taken.

None at all.

The reason why hurts even more.

It cannot be proven that consent was not given.

So you’re not going to even tell his local authorities that charges were made against him?

No.

So he got away with it.

No he didn’t, the officer tries to say.

Of course he did, don’t try to tell me he didn’t because he fucking did. He won. Again.

I’m in a shop and I scream and cry into the phone. I tell her to inform the person who made the decision that the next time he rapes someone it will be on their hands.

It will still be on our records, she tries.

It doesn’t fucking matter.

This won’t be the last time I will be writing about this but I want to tell you a brief version of what happened because this is the only form of voice I have been left with.

I wasn’t able to save myself. I wasn’t able to save someone else because that right was taken away from me.

Because somebody somewhere thought that what happened to me was not bad enough that it was worth the resources to make the relevant authorities aware.

That’s all I wanted.

Still, nobody can stop me from telling my story to inform others. I’m not directly accusing anyone. I won’t tell you his name.

I am the seventy percent who never makes it to court.

To anyone who asks why didn’t you report it, I want to give the following image:

He cries at my feet as I lie on the bed, looking at the ceiling.

“Did I just rape you?” he asks.

It cannot be proven that consent was not given.

This is why.

This is why.

This is why.

12 comments

  1. This is why I will never report. I don’t need to be scrunitised and dissected all over again. This is why vigilante justice exists – because the system is broken beyond repair and it won’t be fixed in our lifetimes.
    Thank you for the piece. I found it entirely too relatable.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for writing this. I had no idea you’d gone to the police about this, what a brave and powerful thing to do. I’m so sorry they let you down. I wish it was a surprise, that it was and exception and not the norm. Hopefully your diagnosis can help you a bit towards healing but I can’t imagine the frustration of taking such a huge step and then having justice taken away. You are immeasurably strong and I’m proud to know you xx

    Liked by 2 people

  3. This is so powerful. To hear your story it helps to understand at least a little bit more. Although I can never understand completely as I have not been there. I thank you for having the courage to share this and increase awareness.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. **hugs**
    Yes, the system is so incredibly broken, that it becomes a “he said, she said” kind of thing, unless, of course, you want to video your every moment in life… And even then there will be judges who won’t believe it. Who feel that any female is fair game – or any child for that matter. All we can do at this point is be open – as terrifying as it is. Make the reports. Get angry. Keep pushing until laws and standards change – and raise our children to respect consent.
    I hate that you went through this. I’ve run the numbers in my head, something close to 90% of the women I know have been assaulted or harassed. This must end.
    I’m proud of you – for calling the police, for getting therapy, for letting them know that yeah, this will happen again and you want it on file that this dirtbag is out and about spreading his venom. I’m proud of you for writing this. We need to know that we are not alone. This took strength and courage and self care to do. **more hugs**

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Sorry, but if you didn’t have a recording him asking ”did I just rape you”, well then its really fucking hard to prove WITHOUT DOUBT that consent was not given. Just a word against a word. Sucks, but thats how it has to be so that people wouldnt be put to jail when they are possibly innocent (Im not saying that he is. But how would the court know it if no evidence was left?)

    Like

      • Didnt mean that you were wrong. I agree that the system sucks and the situations are horrible for rape and abuse victims. But its the least shitty system of all possible shitty systems. I was trying to say that dont feel like whole world is against you because of this, or that the system wants to crush you and shame rape victims. Its not that. People just cannot be sent to jail on a word. Sucks when it happens to be someone who really did commit a crime and they are not getting a sentence because lack of evidence… but would suck too if someone could just ruin a persons whole life by accusing them of something that they did not to. Again, I believe you and I am not saying that your rapist did not rape you. But it just has to be like this so that the system would be as fair as possible. Shitty, but no better alternatives.

        Like

      • I get what you’re trying to say, but you don’t know the case as I haven’t mentioned all the details, you don’t know me and you definitely don’t know anything about proving guilt beyond reasonable doubt, as in your world murders would only be solved if the murderer would walk to the police station with a body and a signed confession in tow. Every case is different and you can’t make statements such as yours about something as vast as crime. Otherwise we’d be living in an alternate reality where everyone records one another like a psychopath. I trust that you don’t merely want to offend me but to point out how you’re right and how I’m wrong. If you even read my post (which I doubt that you even did) was that I didn’t want a trial, I wanted to make relevant authorities aware of the charges I had made against him for their records. In which point in this scenario is an innocent man going to jail? I’m not going to use any more time entertaining your completele ignorance, read the post you’re intending to criticise next time.

        Liked by 1 person

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