After the recent Jimmy Saville documentary aired, my mum and I talked on the phone for a long time about consent. About men who had used their familial ties and friendships with us to gain our trust and exploit it, about men who had touched us when we didn’t want to be touched and about the people who all told us “that’s men for you” and not to make a fuss.
When someone close to me was assaulted this summer, it felt like a rite of passage for her, an inevitable conversation. We were finally having the chat I’ve had with many friends. It doesn’t start with, “I’ve been assaulted” or “I’ve been raped”. It starts with, “So I was with this guy and…ok, tell me if you think this is weird” and can come years after the event. Since around 90% of rapists already know their victims, it makes it even harder for us to process their actions and call them what they are. When I realised I’d been raped, it was two years later; a light bulb moment as I read a book in the bath one night.
Like Ched Evans’ victim, I have been promiscuous. I know what positions I like and usually request them with every sexual partner I have. I too have asked men to “fuck me harder”. I’ve had sex while drunk a lot. I passed out once in a hotel room as I was making out with someone and woke up the next morning with a fuzzy head and fuzzier memories. The guy I was with had simply tucked me into bed and gone to sleep. He hadn’t invited a friend to join in or left via the fire escape. Most importantly, he recognised that I could no longer give consent. Ched Evans and those who apologise for his behaviour that night have been given a message; there are no legal consequences for taking advantage of women who not only don’t say yes, but can’t.
The first time I was sexually assaulted, I was 19 and staying with a friend when he got drunk, came into my room and tried to put his fingers inside me. I managed to fight him off and he fell into an intoxicated slumber almost immediately. I lived 80 miles away so stayed awake on his sofa all night, terrified he would come down stairs and try again. He didn’t and I left as soon as it got light. He was such a “good guy” and so well liked in our group that I was worried my friends wouldn’t take me seriously. I finally told them this summer, eight years later.
I have reported a sexual assault to the police before, a different one, committed by a previous long term partner. The police wanted to know everything you’d expect: date, location and what led up to it. They also want to know what you were wearing, what hand he used and how many fingers he managed to fit inside you. My brain had wiped these memories clean away. I’d stayed in my abusive relationship with him and that was my coping mechanism. The images were crushed down inside me, never to return. Other accusations were taken forward but the sexual assault charges were dropped.
I wish I could end this on a positive or hopeful note, but I am too furious. What a shitty week for women. I’m exhausted. I’m fed up of hearing that women are idiots who should report rape to the police by the same people who accuse us of being liars. It beggars belief that a man has been released from prison today based on sexual anecdotes from the victim’s former partners. It means none of us are safe unless we are untouched virgins. When I think of the stories they could drag up about me, I feel sick, not from shame that I don’t and shouldn’t feel but from the fact it would cross someone’s mind to do that to me, the victim.