Telling – Trigger Warning

Trigger warning: explicit descriptions of rape and sexual assault

Here I am today, as you’re reading this, and trapped in time on the internet. I’m currently 24, wearing a black T-shirt that reads ‘Strong Female Lead’ and writing to unknown minds about something that happened on this day, four weeks ago.

It began on a sofa, with someone new to me. It was fun and flirtatious and easy, until he kissed me too intensely and I began to feel on edge. But I remained there, displaying a brave face to him while my thoughts bickered with themselves — a tug-of-war between how I felt and how I thought I should feel.

When he carried me to his bed, I fully believed we would have a swift kiss on top of the covers, before returning to our conversations on the sofa. Instead, I endured two hours in that room with him, analysing every little thing that happened, gathering strength, resisting him.

At first, he just wanted to be naked with me. He tried physically and verbally to get me to take my clothes off. After half an hour or so, my ‘no’s were still ignored and I was instead, by design, convinced. So I took my clothes off and drew a new line.

While I repeatedly removed his hand from where I didn’t want it to be, more of my ‘no’s — all immovable and sure of themselves — fell into the abyss unacknowledged. Eventually, his stock phrases of ‘why not’ and ‘it’s not a big deal’ started to take effect on my psyche. It had been a year since I’d last had sex, I reminded myself, perhaps I should embrace this.

From that very first kiss on the sofa, he was rough, strong, hurting me. My response was to hurt him back: I’d scratch him to make him recoil; I’d bite him to hurt him — to get him off of me. In his full-length mirror in the bathroom, I saw my naked body, red-raw from his appetite; marked and raised by his squeezing, grabbing, clawing.

He wasn’t physically or violently forcing himself onto me, so I was unaware that he was already trespassing into the realms of rape. Once his grinning attempts broke down my mental barrier for intercourse, my unenthusiastic acceptance sounded as follows: ‘If we’re going to do this, you have to wear a condom.’ Audaciously, he was reluctant even to make this compromise, but soon decided to take what he could get. While he thrusted, he reassured me that ‘this is what you wanted all along.’

After five minutes or so of each round of sexual engagement, I’d put a stop to the activities and we’d revert back to talking. We entertained lots of topics during those two hours — family, work, travel; my ‘stubbornness,’ his assertiveness. Mostly we were getting on — laughing, even.

But when conversation led to me telling him that I had the coil, and therefore wasn’t at risk of getting pregnant, his eyes lit up with the introduction of a new challenge. He went on to tell me how much better it is without a condom. That that’s what he wants. He told me he wanted to feel me without anything in the way. He told me he wants me. He has to have me. He told me he’d pull out. He promised me, again, that he would pull out.

I don’t remember how long this went on for. All I remember is him touching every inch of me, grabbing at my thighs, my waist, my neck, turning me over, moving me to see me in this light and from that angle. In the confusion of it all, paired with my ingrained need to please, I even remember thanking him for admiring me so. I didn’t realise at the time that his manner of treating me was not a compliment.

After a while, he flipped me onto my front, grabbed at my hips and pulled me into him. My energy to resist had depleted and I didn’t bother to protest again. As in other instances throughout the night, my mind told me: ‘This is happening now, try to get something out of it.’ I moaned with feigned pleasure as I tried to gain a sense of participation in what was happening.

When he let out sounds of release, then — for the first time — got off of me on his own accord, I was left numb and dumbfounded. I told him that I should be angry with him for not pulling out as he had promised. He replied, ‘Oh yeah, I suppose I did say that,’ with a vague, half-hearted assertion.

Another boy had done a similar thing to me once: he had agreed to pull out, then actively didn’t, then when I returned after leaving the room for two minutes, he had already left. When I told this to the man lying next to me, he burst out laughing and said ‘I love it, what a cheeky lad! Ejaculate and evacuate.’ Appalled, I ranted against his sentiment, unable to perceive what beliefs festered in the man beside me.

By this point, I had spent three hours in ‘fight’ mode, mentally and physically battling against him. I knew then it was time to leave. As I gathered my clothes and got dressed, he asked me through a toothy grin to stay. When I said no, he joked about kidnapping me. I felt exhausted all of a sudden, but equally alert with the need to get out of there as soon as possible. He said he’d book me a taxi in quarter of an hour; I told him to book it now. He did so, commenting on how tired I looked, then joked again about kidnapping me.

Even with confirmation that the taxi was booked, I was aware that I wasn’t out of the woods yet. I sat motionless on the sofa waiting, speaking only in concise responses. When it arrived, I calmly said goodbye and left, remaining tense with fear for the duration of the taxi-ride.

When I arrived home, I looked in the mirror to see that my lips were dark red and swollen, my neck was stamped with love bites and fingerprint-sized bruises were blossoming on my skin. I somehow managed to shut off my thoughts, to not cry, to sleep.

With encouragement from my wise and supportive sister, I reported the events to the police the next day. Despite many officers, medical professionals, friends, family members and even other survivors confirming that what I had experienced certainly was rape, it still took me three weeks to fully believe so.

A few of the many reasons I was fooled:

1. We were largely getting on, I thought, though I was sure I never wanted to see him again.

2. I had eventually said yes to each thing, except for him not pulling out. Though did I say yes, or did I just concede?

3. I did make sounds of pleasure and even said ‘harder’ at points — that must have been me consenting.

My reason for writing about this is that I wish all of us could have a deeper understanding of consent. I’ve learned so much in these last four weeks and I’m aware that my education was far too late — that instead of a need to please, I, and all of us, should have an inbuilt insistence to be respected and kept safe.

I now vow to remain an active part in this enormous conversation and to keep learning, investigating and sharing. Please, for the sake of every ‘no’ ever gone unheard or unspoken, be a part of the conversation too.

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