I have thought long and hard about writing this, and at the moment of writing, I’m still not certain I shall press the publish button. I’m writing my story now in support of all my fellow rape and sexual abuse survivors (I hate the word victim) who have bravely joined the “Me too” campaign. If famous women whose faces are well known can have the guts to tell their stories and be ridiculed by some men who won’t admit there is a problem then I as an unknown, and therefore risking nothing, should add my voice. It isn’t only rich and powerful men who rape and abuse, ordinary men do it too, even as in my case, a neighbour.
It was many years ago that I was raped and for a good 25 years I did not admit, even to myself, that I’d been raped, even now I find it very hard to write/say the R word in connection with myself. It was only when I was in the middle of PTSD therapy for something totally unconnected (or so it seemed to me) that I found myself blurting out the story to my counsellor. I told her that I thought I may have been raped, unwilling to really accept that non-consensual without violence is still rape. The sense of relief when she confirmed that what I had experienced was indeed rape, was enormous.
My beloved husband had been dead a mere seven or eight months when it happened, I was a zombie at this time, functioning (barely) only for the children then 12 and 6 years old. A neighbour arrived at the front door and announced that he had always fancied me. He seemed to think this sufficient reason to take advantage of me. I had been numb since the previous October – the 31st to be precise. I didn’t fight him, I didn’t encourage him and I didn’t respond. He had his way, got up and left. I carried on being numb and accepted the experience as just another really shitty event in a horrendous time of my life.
Eventually I became stronger, but still didn’t acknowledge what had happened as being rape, I rarely thought about it. Since then I’ve been groped at work by a colleague, he saw it as funny. On another occasion a friend’s husband came into my bedroom when I was staying with him and his wife overnight, and wanted to get into bed with me, he did take no for an answer but my friendship with the couple was over. Another guy I was seeing ran a lit cigarette lighter up and down my underarm, enough for me to feel the heat, because I apparently made him “feel inadequate”. He never got another date. He like many other men see women as helpless and inferior and react badly when faced with strong, capable women. If we complain about sexual abuse in any form we are belittled as troublemakers at best and liars at worst. And why didn’t I complain about my abusers? At the time of the rape I was too numb and vulnerable, at the time of the groped breasts I was too stunned and anyway 20 years ago one didn’t complain.
Is it really so surprising that now the only men in my life I completely trust are all blood relations with the added exception of S, R’s husband. I also have to add that I’ve have no problems since I’ve started my peripatetic lifestyle and would like to thank the chaps who’ve helped me on occasion during my travels, I do realise that the majority of you are good guys.
The main point I want to make to any men who might be reminded of their own misdeeds. What you did may only have lasted seconds or minutes but the consequences of your misdeeds alter your victims lives and they may never trust or feel safe again.
The main point I want to make to everyone is that any form of unwanted sexual attention is wrong. If it happens to you report it and get counselling. You did nothing wrong.
Statue of an Andalucian woman wearing the C16th cobijada.
I took this picture in Vejer yesterday and it was the trigger for this post. For me, the woman hemmed in by the tree and the fences and wearing the cobijada is symbolic of women’s suppression.
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