I hope that none of you have known the pain, terror, shame and hatred that come with a sexual assault. However a sad statistic states that in 2014 20% of women and 9% of men between the ages of sixteen and fifty nine have. And those are the ones that have been brave enough to come forward and report it.
This week Chrissie Hynde of the band The Pretenders has been in the press after her autobiography came out. She has written about her own rape in the 1970’s. Telegraph Chrissie Hynde, in her book she claims that her assault was her fault, she was too drunk, dressed too provocatively and basically asking for it. My heart goes out to her that she is finding the easiest way to cope with such an awful experience happening to her is to shoulder the blame.
I am worried that other victims of assault may read this and feel as if they must take on responsibility for what happened to them. I would like to say now that I couldn’t disagree more with her sentiments. The dictionary tell us that rape is
Your choice of footwear should have no bearing on this. When I get ready for a night out I am not choosing my outfit based on how effectively I can run away from an attacker. If this happens then night clubs would all start to look at lot more like the gym.
No means no, regardless of your shoes. Even if you are into rape fantasy sex and you have a safe word of pencil case, then pencil case means no. If you say no and someone doesn’t stop, they are a criminal. Your body is yours to do with as you choose. If another person decides to remove your choice then that is NOT OK.
I was sixteen years old when I was raped. It was by someone I knew and loved. I was wearing army boots that were two sizes too big and required five pairs of thick socks to make them fit, army combat trousers in a huge baggy size and a t-shirt. So not provocatively. I could have run away in those boots, but when someone much bigger than you punches you in the face and knocks you to the floor it is very hard to run away.
Although this attack happened nearly twenty years ago and I know that he does not even live in the UK anymore, I still have moments where I think I see him and I am gripped with terror. I know that I said no. I know that what happened was not my fault. Even if I had been wearing high heels and a short skirt, it still would not have been my fault. if I had looked at the press then and had to read that it was my fault as my broken nose was healing and my heart was broken I don’t know what that would have done to me emotionally.
I was super messed up as it was. My mum was dying of a terminal illness, she asked me not to tell my dad or go to the police as she was dying. I respected her wishes and I wish this this day that I had been braver and gone and spoken out. My mother confided in me that when she was seventeen her boyfriend had done a similar thing to her. She said that she had prayed and that God would have sorted it out and that I should do the same.
I had met my assailant at church. He was the same age as me. He had been getting increasingly more frustrated that my attention was being turned from him onto my mum. He had panic attacks (I have no idea if they were real or forced) when I would talk about my mum too much or say that I couldn’t come out as I wanted to spend time with her. On the night that he attacked me he said that he thought he was possessed by a demon, that he could see blood coming out of the taps and running down the walls, I was already really afraid before he started his vicious attack on me.
Eight months after the attack my mum died. A week before that I had to leave home as I was accused by my parents of bringing evil spirits into their house that were preventing my mum from being healed of her cancer by God. My faith in God was deader than the dodo and my faith in men even worse than that.
I was messed up. I would date a boy until he said that he had feelings for me and then I would dump them, because when boys love you it is awful. It took me a long time to come to terms with the fact that none of what happened was my fault. I am good. I deserve to be loved and treated with respect. If I say no, it means no. As strong as I am now, as much as my faith in men has been repaired, that day will never entirely leave me. It will always be a scar on my life, when I am vulnerable it will rear its ugly head and fill me with fear and doubt and self loathing.
So as much as my heart goes out to Chrissie Hynde that she too knows these feelings, and as much as I respect that everyone needs a way to cope with events like these, if you are a person who has suffered a similar experience, let me tell you now, IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT.
Do not waste your time carrying blame around, it will only damage you further. You are just as good as everyone else and deserve exactly the same safe and respectful treatment as anyone else does. Whatever we all need to do, to be able to hold our heads high and walk out of our front door is a good thing that we should be doing, but telling ourselves that a pair of trainers and an ugly outfit is going to keep us safe is a nonsense that should not be perpetuated.