Dear Mr Helmer,
This morning I woke up, feeling positive. The sun was shining and I felt like I could take on the world. It didn’t last long. Because a few minutes after checking my emails I was having a quick scan of social media. Twitter mostly. That was my mistake of the day. I love twitter, a lot, and the positive aspects of it far outweigh the negatives. But it was a mistake this morning, because within 10 minutes of waking up in a bright and cheery mood that was crushed. Because the Independent had published an article by Oliver Wright, suggesting that rape be called ’non consensual sex’. He suggests a jury would feel more ‘comfortable’ convicting someone of NCS than of rape, which is what NCS is.
Then this evening I caught up with what you have been saying today. In an attempt to clarify comments you made back in 2011, you suggested that women should take ‘reasonable care’. And then you compared it with people going on holiday locking their doors.
I was gobsmacked. I thought I had misread what I was reading/what you were saying. But I hadn’t had I?
Oliver Wright really did suggest the word rape be changed to some thing people found more ‘comfortable’.
And you really did compare rape with locking a front door didn’t you?
So you can imagine how cross I was by this evening. Or maybe you can’t imagine that because you don’t know me …
Why should you?
You’re actually probably thinking to your self ‘why is this woman even bothering to address me’.
I might not be important. I might not be famous. I might not get ‘greeted like a celebrity’ wherever I go, as the Guardian reported earlier of the reception you received at an event you attended today.
I might not be someone you even care about because I probably can’t even vote for you.
To you I am probably a no one.
Dear Mr Helmer, as I write this line in this letter to you, it is almost 3 am. I have a busy day ahead, but I shall function with little sleep, because that is my reality. Why? – Because I slept well last night. I had 7 hours sleep without waking up, without a nightmare, without waking up with shakes, silently/loudly screaming and dazed. And I don’t get more than one of those ‘good sleep nights’ in a row. In fact I probably only get one of those good sleeps once/twice a week. So tonight sleep is not coming. I’m scared of closing my eyes for fear of what dreams or nightmares will taunt my mind, because they will come. They always do. And because they didn’t last night, I know tonight when I go to sleep, in they will flood. I’m pretty used to them most of the time, but sometimes fear sets in and I just don’t want to close my eyes. That is my reality.
Just last week, along side the nightmares/night terrors, which are a nightly occurrence mostly I had a flashback. My mind took me back to the trauma that I experienced almost 7 years ago. This August it will be 7 years. Since I was raped. The flash back relived every moment in my mind. And when I came out of it, I was left for the following days feeling like I had just been re violated.
This is my reality.
It is the reality of being a survivor of rape. (Yes, rape, not ‘non consensual sex’. I’m not sorry if that word makes Oliver Wright or yourself uncomfortable. I agree it’s an uncomfortable word. But trust me, it is more uncomfortable when you are the one being raped/surviving rape. That does not mean it should not be used).
It is one of the realities of being one of those women who you think should have ‘taken reasonable care’.
Life was already tough for me, having had incredibly painful and negative experiences as a child, being abused by both my biological father and brother.
But 7 years ago, it got a lot tougher. I never knew what black was, until then.
It took me to the edges of cliffs, and to the point where I would attempt suicide 8 months later because I could not cope. I could not cope with feeling filthy. Dirty. Bruised. Broken. Used. Abused. Worthless.
Every single last bit of my dignity was taken. What I had left had gone, what I was clinging on to was lost. Forever. It will never fully come back. And however far forwards I move on, a nightmare, flashback, or something else that triggers memories of that day always comes back to remind me I can never get that far away from it.
This is my reality.
One of my other realities is that I regularly read that someone, somewhere, with a platform has made some ill informed, misjudged comment about a topic they know little about, and that they use as a way to grab media attention. Maybe it’s a topic that gets lots of controversy for you and lots of attention, with lots of people talking. Maybe that’s what you want?
I wonder if you would make the same blasé comments about a woman ‘taking reasonable’ care so as to not get raped if it was your daughter, or mother, or your wife? Would you say the same thing if it was your son or your father? Would you say to them then that perhaps they should have taken more care?
If not, then why say it to us?
Dear Mr Helmer,
Each and every time I read something that suggests I should have taken better care of myself, like you have said today, it tells me that my experience was my fault. Because if I had not walked down that road, that day, or if I had chosen to cross the road, or if I had taken a different route to the one I always took, or if I had done something different then it would not have happened. You are blaming me.
But you know what? However much you blame me and tell me that I should have taken better care does not remove the fact that actually it is/was not my fault. I am not to blame. The two men who decided that they needed to exert power and control over me are to blame. The two men, who decided that they would block the end of the road I was walking down, are to blame. The two men that were much stronger than I was and who were able to silence me not only on that day but in the months and years after too, are to blame.
Women (or men) who are raped are not to blame.
The people who are raping them are to blame. Why don’t you focus on them instead of suggesting the victim should take responsibility?
Dear Mr Helmer, your comments today have proven you know little about rape, and the rape culture that prevails currently in this society. Your comments today show very little compassion and understanding towards men and women affected by rape. Your comments today prove you know nothing about the realities of our lives and the real life realities of being raped.
I respectfully suggest it is time that you educate on yourself on this issue more. There are some amazing charities and organisations out there that do amazing work on raising awareness, and who provide training that I am sure would love to engage with you and give you proper insight into rape and its effects on people.
I highly recommend Rape Crises for England and Wales, and www.everydayvictimblaming.com who you can also find on twitter at @EVB_NOW
twitter – @helen_a13
blog – http://www.helenblogs.com
Raw and powerful. Should be compulsory reading for all those who try to trivialise rape.
thanks for taking the time to read and respond Tricia!
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You have sent him a copy, haven’t you. Because you should. Then publish the reply, if any.
Thanks for reading/sharing.
I have indeed emailed this directly to Mr Helmer, and I have tweeted it to him also.
I’d love to think he might actually read it, and am open to a response. Think that hope might be displaced but who knows, he may?
Reblogged this on Making an ass of myself and commented:
This I found profound and sad.
Thanks for sharing openly, honestly and with raw emotion… I hope and pray Mr Helmer listens and changes his mind…
To click Like seems so inadequate, even wrong. For there is little to like in your post. Except your courage, your determination to perservere, and your sense of justice. Powerful stuff, Helen.
From another survivor.
thank you for taking the time to read this, and to respond. I hear what you are saying re ‘like’ but I get the intention.
I appreciate your affirmations, a lot. Thank you.
Thank you for sharing this important piece. My thoughts are with you.
Thanks for taking the time to read it Naomi.