Thursday, 25 April 2013

No ALWAYS means NO.

Tonight, well tonight, I was going to blog about bras.

Then I read this.

I urge you to read it. It's the story of a girl who has chosen to name her rapist - when her college administration refused to do anything about what happened to her. She took a stand, when others did not. I admire her bravery. She spoke out. Something I never did.

After I read it, I couldn't write something pithy and frothy about bras. Then I simply had to write this...

My rapist's name was Luke.

'Lovely Luke with the green eyes,' they all said - all the swooning girls at Uni who hung on his every word. He had long carefully managed dark locks that juggled around his head when he spoke, in his soft seaside town twang. I met him in the first term of my final year at Uni, predictably at the fresher's ball. Somewhere around Euston, in a darkened dry ice filled outdoor area, he was the only one left dancing on a deserted floor, from his group of friends. He swung those curls from side to side as he inched ever nearer to me, until I realised I had a new dancing partner.

I think I gave him my number. We barely talked over the loud throbbing music - maybe he bought me a beer. I don't remember. He wasn't memorable for his blinding personality, his clever turn of phrase, or his seductive charm. No I remembered him for other, darker reasons.

He must have called, because we went on a date. My first with a college boy. I'd only had a couple in my whole two and a bit years there - no one interested me - my heart still belonged to the boy I fell in love with at 17... the boy I lost my virginity with. I'd only had one other boyfriend since that first love - a summer romance that had been doomed from the start... So I wasn't versed in dating: what you wore, drank, said, did. I was still the hick from Belfast, despite having lived in London for those 2 years - I still got confused by the tube map.

We met in Covent Garden - the tragic tourist spot for those with no imagination. It was so crowded that I remember thinking he'd never see me. He did. He led me to an underground bar called Freud's that I assumed was cool and sophisticated because, well, he said it was. He wore leather braids on his wrists; jangling chains round his neck. Some awful denim shirt that he tucked into his denim jeans. I was nervous - I babbled. He thought I looked like some actress from the telly and kept asking me to repeat words and then would laugh at my accent. Like some ridiculous puppet I played his game - repeated those words, drank up his laughter, so pleased this handsome boy was impressed by me.

He suggested we go to his place - a shared student flat he said was on the Bakerloo Line. At that time I was in some godawful flatshare in Seven Sisters - above a kebab shop - and was secretly scared of the walk home from the tube. On my student grant, a taxi was out of the question; normally I always stayed at friends' houses if we all went out - such was my fear of walking home on my own. So his suggestion - and I know this sounds odd - felt safe.

The tube stopped at Queens Park - which confused me. I'd thought he said he lived a couple of stops from there - which would have been Harlsden - but no, he meant Harrow - which was right at the end of the line. No more tubes were running and before I knew it, I was in a mini cab... I don't remember when he first kissed me. He told me I had 'sexy' breath - and then kissed me more.

I know I wasn't drunk. I wasn't totally sober - but I wasn't hammered. Looking back, I sometimes wish I had been. This happened in October 1993 - almost 20 years ago. The details of his room escape me - save that his mattress was on the floor, and dotted around were pictures of him and some bikini clad babe on a camping trip.

Just like Tucker's experience - we began kissing - and with sudden speed and deftness, he had my clothes off. I remember gripping my underwear, trying desperately to hold onto it - as if it was my own little security blanket. But it was going to be fine, because we talked about it - about 'not' having sex. I said that I didn't want to, and was it ok of we just you know, fooled around a bit - but no sex. By that I meant NO penetration. All I had done was kiss him... I hadn't touched his body, taken off his clothes, nothing. He agreed.

Then he didn't. Then he began tugging at my underwear - kissing me harder, becoming more aroused. I remember saying no. I said no. I tried. He kept kissing me. I jammed my legs together. Inside, I knew that he had flatmates. I could have screamed out. Run out. But I felt foolish. I was there, in his bed. Almost naked. What would I say, where would I go?

He used his knee to flatten one of my legs against the bed - then leant his full weight on me. He was stronger than he looked. Then, he was inside me. I just lay there, in shock. Thinking 'but I said no. We agreed.' He was talking - saying something about he knew I wanted to, really. I felt so stupid. How could I expect to get naked and then say NO. Was I one of those prick teasers? Did I mean yes? I didn't... I know I didn't.

I curled on my side and lay awake the whole night. I was bruised and sore. In the morning he tried to kiss me and I shut my lips tightly. Embarrassed, I dressed and raced out the door. I had to get home - and pack... I was off to Cambridge for a school friend's 21st birthday. There, in the comfort of two female friends, I wept.

He rang. And yes, I saw him again. That is the strangest part of my story. Again, like Tucker - I needed to rationalise what happened in my brain. Lovely Luke with the green eyes, who everyone adored - he couldn't be a rapist, could he? No... it was my fault. Had to be. And - I quote Tucker here directly as this word for word, is how I felt:  the part of me that wanted sex to be a meaningful experience had "repurposed" my rape into an act of love.

I never had sex with him again. On this I am clear. He came to a house party my Uni flatmates threw - I determined to make this normal. Make it something more than what it had been. I decided I had behaved wrongly - that I hadn't done what you should do on dates - and I was sure, in my own space, in my own room, I could make it right. I had my period - he slept next to me. He didn't try and have sex with me.

We spoke once more on the phone and then about 6 months later I saw him at a party. He was dancing with every girl in the room and flirting as if his life depended on it. Lovely Luke with the green eyes. Every girls' dream.

My periods stopped, due to stress and I ended up at the doctors, filled with anxiety. But it wasn't until three years later that I accepted what happened to me. I had been drinking - far too much vodka, not enough mixer. I was with another boy - a kind boy. Someone who knew me well - was above all my friend. We'd started to sleep together and something he did - some small inane gesture took me right back. In the darkness, it all flooded back and with it my fear. He held me in his arms as I sobbed and sobbed. He told me that was what happened was wrong. That it wasn't my fault. IT WASN'T MY FAULT. I said no. NO.

The worst part about my story was telling it to others - and many had a similar tale to tell - of blurry nights and protestations and 'I tried to say no' and the fear... the ridiculousness of it all - because we don't go on dates with rapists do we???

I am in awe of Tucker and any woman like her. Who is brave enough to name and shame. To refuse to accept what happened to her - no matter how hard we try and blame ourselves.

Luke - and I don't know his second name - was my rapist. For that is what it was. No means no, no matter when we say it, what we are wearing at the time - even if we are in your bed. No is no. Plain and simple.




A said...

Don't know what to write but had to say something. So sorry this happened to you, definitely NOT your fault. Very brave of you to write about it. Hugs. X

Peter said...

Amazing post CM. In awe of your courage. This happens to too many women and it is a disgrace. the more people like you who have the courage to talk about it, the more women will report it when it happens. Thank you.

Monica said...

Don't know what to say either other than you so eloquently wrote about something so horrible... So sorry that happened to you. Sorry it was someone you dated so you felt you had to blame yourself. I hope writing it was cathartic somehow. Very courageous to write but maybe you're saving someone else from suffering the same predicament. No means no, NO MATTER WHAT.

Anonymous said...

I have heard this story many times now. I do not say that to diminish your horrible experience so please do not take it that way. I am very impressed with the courage to write about it and I hope that young girls will read it and see how easily they can find themselves in a very vulnerable situation. HIS ACTIONS WERE NOT YOUR FAULT!!!!!! but there are some precautions that girls should take to help keep them safer. I think posts like this are extremely helpful and the more it is talked about the better. I have many female friends that have only told me about what has happened to them and out of respect for their privacy I have remained quite about it. I suspect that is the case with the majority of these cases. Young girls need to understand just how many really bad "good guys" are out there. I have a 5 year old daughter and I am terrified. Absolutely TERRIFIED because I almost know something like this is going to happen to her.

Anonymous said...

Well done CM for being brave enough to write this. I think of the countless times I have been in a similar situation and said 'no' and that 'no' has been respected (as it ALWAYS should be), when it could so easily have gone the other way...but for the grace of god we go...He is a criminal. He has broken the law and it's such a shame he cannot be punished as he should be, because the law in these situations works so strongly against women. I hope one day our daughters are in a world where women are free to explore their sexuality within the boundaries they are comfortable with - to be alone in a sexual situation with a man and know they are safe. Hugs to you.

katy Regan said...

Wow. So, so powerful. I think, sadly, this post will strike a lot of chords. Amazing courageous of you to write this, CM. So horrendous it happened at all though.