Lets talk about Rape – Part 2

Both this blog, and the ‘lets talk about rape … Part 1’ were written some time ago, but were both popular blogs at the time. However when ‘Fragmentz’ ceased to exist, so did the blogs. I had been asked a few times recently to repost them and declined, however having read tonight about Judy Finnegans comments today on a chat show regarding the rape footballer Ched Evans is convicted of, and serving time in prison for it felt relevant to put them online again. 

RAPE IS RAPE IS RAPE IS RAPE. 

I’d like to challenge her, and anyone else who thinks its OK to categorise rape to come and live the life of a survivor, even for just a day or two. 

Also to the people who tell me rape culture does not exist -YES IT DOES. 

 

‘i woke up this morning … and little did i know, that by the end of the day i would be blogging about a topic i have already written about once. I always intended on writing a Part 2, and in fact had a draft already typed, but thats deleted now. I’m starting over, because this week, the word ‘rape’ has been front page of most media types due to some french bloke i’d never heard of until his arrest for allegedly raping a hotel maid, and now comments made today by the justice minister.

two things i’d like to start off by saying :

first one is: this blog is about RAPE. As i start writing, I have dont have any idea of where my writing will go, but i feel it fair to warn you of the topic nature, if you hadnt picked it up by the title, so if your sensitive to it, or it potentially could trigger you, consider yourself warned.

second thing is: i am not a profressional. I dont write for a living, i dont have any academic qualifications that give me a right to have an opinion, i’m not a ‘well known’ person who’s opinion matters to people. i’m just me. a little dot in this huge world who takes some space, and attempts to write about issues that mean the most to me. i write about my life, and the life that goes on around me. I am perhaps not going to be writing anything any different to the many blogs always written, lots today by people. i definitely not able to express words and thoughts as eloquently as the things I have read today.

if you want some background and an idea as to why i am writing about this topic, now, then please feel free to check out ‘lets talk about … rape’ – link is below.

lets talk about rape

in my previous blog i gave some definitions of the word rape. essentially it is imposing sexual intercourse on someone who does not consent. that could be a man against a man, a woman against a man, woman against a woman, and the most widely talked about variation of a man against a woman. it is really really important to acknowledge that all variations exist, and do happen, and that rape as a whole is so very under reported anyway, and so by default some of the variations, for example males being raped are even less reported, but still happen.

Last week I got embroiled into an argument on facebook. as some of you will know, getting into debates/disagreements with people on social networking sites such as FB or twitter is not a rare occurance for Fragz, although lately the occasions have become much less. Anyhow, last week, someone who is on my facebook, and an odd exception to the ‘i only have people i’ve met on my FB account’ rule, posted the most offensive thing i have ever read my friends post. I am used to people updating status’s with stuff i dont agree with, lame jokes, filthy stories about whatever, however i have never been so offended by anything as the status that said ‘i’m sorry, but woman should take responsibility for being raped, after all men are men arent they’. WHAT? When I dared to totally disagree with this line of thought, i was told i was mis hearing what was being said. I disputed that too. I was not mishearing what was being said, i was simply disagreeing. I heard what was being said. I just didnt like. I still dont. This person’s argument was that if a skantily dressed woman is raped then they should accept some esponsibility, especially if they walk around looking like prostitutes (their response, not mine!!). Their trying to condone their thoughts just seemed to make it worse, because in my view, it is not acceptable for a non sex worker to be raped, and it isnt acceptable for a sex worker to be either. end of.

I was blown away and stunned by the response this status got, and the fact i was the only person arguing a womans right to say NO, and that ‘men being men’ is NOT an acceptable reason for raping someone.

Rape is rape. Whether you are out having a drink, whether you have gone to a dance, whether your walking home at night, or in the day. Whether you spend your time on the streets, or whether you meet someone for the first time while out and get chatting. Whatever the situation, whatever happens, if you DO NOT WANT SEX and someone forces you too, in my mind that is rape.

There is no ‘serious’, ‘more serious’ or ‘less serious’ rape, as has been suggested by Ken Clarke, the justice minister no less today.

I am aware some people will be saying that his comments were taken out of context, some will be saying, including himself that this current media storm is ‘spin’, however, my own view is, that if he didnt feel/think what he said, then why say it? he knows the position he holds, he knows he is talking to the media, he knows what he says is going to be reported. he says he knows that rape is rape, but to be honest, does he really? someone who says rape is rape, AFTER suggesting there are more serious ‘rapes’ than others, and who is also suggesting sentences for convicted rapists are cut, doesnt seem to have a clue, does he?

I am not sure that he really understands the effects on a person, a woman, a man, a child, who is raped. the life changing, heart breaking, never going to be the same effect is has.

I’d like to invite Ken Clarke to live the life of a survivor of rape. Maybe to live the first 5 years of their life or longer after the event. To live through the pain, hurt, anger, desprair, self loathing, blame, nothingness, dirtiness, the depression, the flashbacks, the nightmares, the tears, the sleepless nights, the fear of going outside, reliving time and time again what happened. Maybe he would like to live a life with feelings, that for some never go away. For some, maybe the moving on can happen, but where the memories never leave. memories that are always there, even if not in forefront of a mind, memories that are never far away, ready to come flooding back at the click of a finger. maybe a smell, a sense, something that triggers the mind to flood back the memories.

Maybe he would then understand that rape is rape, whether it was violent or not.

I am unable to do this topic justice, really. I just get sidetracked. So I’d like to recommend, if your interested, two beautifully written articles, one by Johann Hari, and one by Laurie Pennie.

johann hari – the prejudices that allow rapists to go free

laurie penny – ken clarke comments rape

both blogs express eloquently what i wish and want to, but am unable to’

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Lets talk about rape … Part 1

Both this blog, and the ‘lets talk about rape … Part 2’ were written some time ago, but were both popular blogs at the time. However when ‘Fragmentz’ ceased to exist, so did the blogs. I had been asked a few times recently to repost them and declined, however having read tonight about Judy Finnegans comments today on a chat show regarding the rape footballer Ched Evans is convicted of, and serving time in prison for it felt relevant to put them online again.

RAPE IS RAPE IS RAPE IS RAPE.

I’d like to challenge her, and anyone else who thinks its OK to categorise rape to come and live the life of a survivor, even for just a day or two.

Also to the people who tell me rape culture does not exist -YES IT DOES.

 

‘yep, you read the title right. rape. thats what this blog is about. if it is something that just reading the word or thinking about it makes you flinch, for whatever reason, i understand if your unable to read the following post.

I just felt it fair to warn you right at the very beginning so you can make the informed decision as to whether to read on or not. I really do not wish to upset anyone, and whilst writing this blog, and rereading it for the umpteenth time I have considered and re considered whether to actually publish/post this, however I came to the conclusion that I would not be being true to myself and this blog if I didn’t.

so, on we go …

.
.
.

when I logged into my computer this morning, like every morning, the first thing I do is to check out the BBC News website, just to glance over, to check out whats going on in and around the world. One of the headlines I saw was
‘ Rapist attacked woman twice in 12 weeks in south London’. I then clicked to read the story which you can find here …

i dont know about any one else, but as I read this, and the story, all i could do was think of the woman. the victim. the person who was raped. the survivor. and even as i am writing this, right now, i am thinking of her, and sending her my silent thoughts and prayers, that she may somehow learn to live through her ordeal and somehow come to a place of peace.

throughout today, my mind kept returning to this story, and to the woman involved. thinking about what a horrific and life changing moment it is for it to happen once, but to happen twice?

then, this evening, i was watching tv, and law and order UK came on. never seen it before, but nothing else was on that i liked the look of. the story line was complex, i don’t deny that, and please dont think i am trying to make light of any of the other issues the episode this evening used, however, towards the end, rape was one that was bought in. the woman, already in prison for other offences (all fictitious) was then in court accused of murder, of someone who was raping her. there was a scene, which was almost tearjerking where the barrister trying to help her sat with her in her cell and talked to her about what some would see as the human aspect of being raped.

the aspect of not having a choice. of not being in the wrong. of not asking for it to happen. for losing a part of something that is yours. something that you hold dear, that is yours, that gets taken away. it nearly made me cry.

i thought and thought about blogging on this topic, decided not to, then decided to, and went round in circles.
as i was deciding i looked up the definition of rape online. and found a dictionary which says this :

noun, verb, raped, rap·ing.
–noun
1.the unlawful compelling of a woman through physical force or duress to have sexual intercourse.
2.any act of sexual intercourse that is forced upon a person.
3.statutory rape.
4.an act of plunder, violent seizure, or abuse; despoliation; violation: the rape of the countryside.
5.Archaic . the act of seizing and carrying off by force.

point 3. is Statutory rape. this would appear mostly in US law and is the act of sexual intercourse with a person under the age of consent. I would like to point out, that that is something i am not writing about at present.

In fact, what i am really focussing on, as i write this blog, is the act of rape against a woman, which essentially is having sexual intercourse without her consent.
there are lots of ways this occurs, such as stranger rape, so a random attack, maybe in the street?
it could be marital rape, so within a marriage this act occurs.
it could be date rape, where drugs are used, so persons are not aware.
it could be something that happens within many boundaries.

I’d also like to highlight that rape among men happens too, there are men who are raped. its not as highlighted as woman, and maybe not so common, however that does not mean it is not a real thing happening out there.

if you want to find out more about the definitions, or what constitutes rape, or within what circumstances it can happen, do google. You can find a whole world of information out there, that might educate you, that might shock you, that might make you want to pray for people involved in this.

months ago, i wrote a blog about depression, and it was after i watched a programme about the illness in the sporting profession, and how rife it is. I wrote something on the lines of how indiscriminate depression is, as an illness, how it can find and attack all kinds and every kinds of people.

this afternoon, that was my exact thought about rape.

rape can affect anyone, and everyone, god forbid, but if could even be you, your wife, your husband, your daughter, your son, your best friend, your neighbour, your mum, your dad. who knows? it could be anyone.

as mentioned above it could be, and often is within the constraints of a marriage, but when it comes to random attacks by strangers, as well as the victim being anyone, it could also occur anywhere.

on the bus you travel home on, on the street you walk down to get to the shop, the shopping mall you buy your clothes in. it could be the train station you wait at everyday. maybe it could be at the festival you go to every year, and camp out with friends at while listening to great music ? (i was shocked to read several reports over the summer of rape occurring at a UK based music festival)

it could be outside or inside a place you feel the most safe. a hospital maybe, a church, who knows …. it could be anywhere.

i dont say the above as scare tactics. thats the last thing i would want to do to. i don’t know the statistics, but one thing that is clear is although it can happen to anyone, and anywhere, it doesn’t. the amount of people who are attacked and raped are in minority to those who are not. so pleased do not walk away from this blog being afraid of all the above places. thats not the intention (but obviously good personal awareness and safety is always wise) .

what i have been thinking about all evening, tonight, is about the victims of such attacks. the victim of a rape. how they are left feeling, how their lives are so changed by something that maybe only took a few minutes to happen. how one minute, life was ok, and you were walking to the bus to go and see someone, and the next your in a heap on a floor in the middle of an empty street, sobbing as they run away from you. one minute you had your phone in your hand, texting a friend to say how long you would be and the next minute someone is running towards you to help you up off the ground, and to call an ambulance, or the police.
how one minute life was pretty clear and defined, and the next in all the haze and commotion, you realise that your life has changed forever. because nothing will ever be the same again. ever.

the thing about rape, is that physically one may be able to recover quite quickly. depending on the nature of the attack. for others it may take longer. maybe physical bruising and pain takes longer to disappear and fade. but eventually they do fade, as do all physcial signs of what happens. and what your are left with is what is in your head. what is left are the memories, the thoughts, the flashbacks, the nightmares, the scin crawling moments where all you want to do is scrub your skin over and over until it bleeds or you feel clean again.

thing is, for many victims, and i dont speak for them all, in fact, maybe i dont speak for any other than one, but i guess for many, and i know for one, that actually, for them, to ever feel clean again, is the biggest of tasks.

its hard to explain that kind of thinking to someone who may not have the empathy or understanding. and thats ok, because not everyone will or does. its a big complex area. however, something kicks into your head. all you want is cleanliness, but whether you actually every achieve that again, who knows.

because the way you see it, the only way you can see it, is that something you had absolutely no choice over happens, took over, and that some of you was taken away.

you spend weeks and months trying to wipe it away, erase it but you cant. you spend days sitting in silence, with tears rolling down wishing you had done something different. wishing perhaps you hadnt walked down that same road you walked down every day. or thinking perhaps it was your fault because you dared to leave the house and walk the street you live on. you analyse what you could have done differently. what you did that made it your fault. you come up with one hundred reasons why it was your fault, even though every single one of those is wrong, and not true.

and then, because a few years before, the only way you knew how to deal with life was to cut your body, you decide that right now, its the only way again. so you find the knifes, and razors and start to carve your body up.
you also decide that maybe alcohol will change whats happen. so you drink. and drink.

and pretty damn soon, the physical scars are gone, and your left with an emotional mental heap with thoughts going round you can deal with , and cant process, and figure out.

perhaps it is the most life changing thing you will experience? maybe it is one of the most life changing experiences, because maybe, you were abused as a child anyway, and bullied as a teenager, and beaten by your siblings, and so, as an adult when this happens, maybe you shrug it off and think, well, i deserve it anyway.

maybe.

maybe not. maybe you would deal with it different. maybe you have?

somehow though, you have to keep going, keep breathing, taking each day as they come, day by day, and week by week and very quickly those days and weeks turn into months and years.

and although the pains and non visible scars dont go away, are not forgotten about, maybe you discover a way of living, that means you can move on. maybe you can learn to be at peace with yourself? and dare i say it, the person who committed this crime against you?

i dont know. maybe.

being raped tears a soul apart. being raped can break a person. being raped
rises up such a huge amount of emotions. rage. anger. pain. humiliation. embarrassment. silence.

often there is silence. a huge silence because you dont know what to say or how to say it. a huge silence because people around you dont know what to say. or how to say it.

and i guess, the reason i personally am writing this blog, is to be part of a process that is breaking the ‘silence’.

i mentioned i was writing this blog to a few a people today, i got a couple of positive reactions, and a couple of ‘oooh do you think thats a good idea’ responses.

i am aware, that some of this blog has gone into ramble mode, and i have to confess i am not too sure what my main objective of it was, as i started to write, other than to raise the topic, type it, write about it, and bring it into the blogosphere (i am sure others have done this too, so it isnt just me). i wanted to be part of the group of people breaking silence on the topic. i want people to talk about it. so it is not something others feel they have to be silent about. i want it talked about in our churches too. because right now, how churches meet the needs of survivors of abuse, and rape has alot to be desired for, if you ask me, though i acknowledge there are some good places.

i think i wanted to say out loud to whoever is reading this, that if you are a victim of rape it is not your fault. you didn’t ask for it. you didn’t want that happen. sex was not designed to be something that was taken away from you. it wasnt back then in jesus day, and it isnt now.

i have run out of writing steam, although i have more to say on this topic.
but please, if you feel you have something to say on this, please feel free to respond.

i shall be back to write about this again.

also, if this has stirred anything and you want to talk to someone, in the UK the Samaritans run a 24 hour service where you can call and find someone on the other end of the line : UK 08457 90 90 90’

7 years on …

7 years on …

Today, Sunday, is exactly 7 years on from the blackest day of my life.

7 years on from the day when my whole world was destroyed.
The day when darkness finally blew out the little flicker of light that existed.
The day when nothing was the same again. Ever.
The day when all that I had left (which was not much anyway after being abused as a child/teenager) was stolen from me.
The day when the final nail of the lid of the coffin I felt I was already living in was hammered down deeply.
The day when I was raped.

Today is 7 years on from the day when the last bit of dignity I had left got taken away.
7 years on from the day when I crumpled onto the local high street.
7 years on from strangers running out of a local shop to me, calling 999 for help as they did.
7 years on from the day when I decided, after years of fighting that evil actually really did overcome goodness.
7 years on from believing and feeling that there was absolutely nothing left.
7 years on from thinking my brokeness could never ever be fixed.

7 years on from packing my stuff and moving away from the city/community I lived in, without telling anyone why.
7 years on from closing down completely, and not allowing anyone to closely enter my space.
7 years on from the start of the spiral that would lead me back into self harming, to drinking, and suicide attempts.
7 years on from seeing my future, and the plans I had torn apart.
7 years on from, having spent several years working for a church, deciding I couldn’t believe in God any more.
7 years on from the day when I built even more walls and decided no one would ever break them down.

But here I am 7 years on.

7 years on and I’ve found friends and support online through blogging/tweeting which has been invaluable.
7 years on some of those online friends have become offline friends who I wouldn’t have survived without.
7 years on and I am able to express/vocalise about life and its pain as me, Helen, not as an anonymous identity.
7 years on and I’ve discovered faith again, and stopped fighting with God.
7 years on I’ve found a community locally that has taken me as I am which has been life giving.
7 years on and I feel accepted by them, despite them knowing my story.

7 years on and I don’t blame myself quite as much as I used to.
7 years on, and I don’t hate myself as much as I did.
7 years on I’ve stopped screaming at myself and the world.
7 years on I’ve stopped taking razors to my body and,
7 years on I have stopped trying to kill myself.
7 years on and I am glad to be alive.

7 years on and my anger is fading slowly.
7 years on and the tears upon tears that have fallen are starting to fall less often.
7 years on and the chains of torture are slowly but surely being unlocked.
7 years on and the light that got blown out has been relighted, and I can see it again.
7 years on and I am starting to dream again.
7 years on and I have hope.

7 years on and I am in the strongest place I’ve ever been in.
7 years on and I am learning to smile again.
7 years on I am learning to laugh again.
7 years on and I have learned to love again, and am learning to be loved once more.
7 years on and the fragments are less fragmented.
7 years on and I can see how much has changed.

7 years on and I will keep walking the journey of healing.
7 years on and I will keep on the path of restoration.
7 years on and I will keep on keeping on.
7 years on and I will continue facing my fears, one at a time.
7 years on and I will continue moving forwards;.
7 years on and I will look shame in the eyes, and hold my head high.

I will hold my head high because it is 7 years on and I have survived.

Dear Mr Helmer … an open letter

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

Yours Sincerely,

Helen A

 

twitter – @helen_a13

blog – http://www.helenblogs.com

‘Not guilty’ does not = innocence.

I’ve been writing this blog in my head all day. And I’ve read some really articulate articles and thoughts from some very highly intelligent people who use big words and who speak sense, and I admire them. I’m not highly intelligent and I don’t pretend to be. And so I wondered if I should even attempt to put my thoughts down in words on this topic. But I’ve nothing to lose, so here goes.

On Thursday night, for the first time I think since I’ve been online I had to log myself out in an effort to take care of myself. Not because I was in any physical harm, but because my head was about to explode with some of the stupid comments I was reading about a particular high profile sexual abuse case that has been in the media this week. The one where he was found not guilty. Another not guilty.

I’ve gotten into many conversations online with people over the last year when several of these cases have been played out in the media, because there have been a few, and I’m sure there will be more to come. But on Thursday night, I was so close to wanting to bang my head up a brick wall, and swear, and get angry with people that I logged out, took a deep breath and carried on my life, because I am better than that. I am better than being reduced down to swearing at people because they frustrate me.

So, having had a day or two to think about it here I am, attempting to write some of my thoughts, on these high profile cases, and the current ‘justice’ system when it comes to sexual abuse and rape. I say ‘justice’ in inverted comments, because actually I do not have any faith in the current ‘justice’ system that exists in this country, for people like me, survivors of sexual abuse and rape.

And I do not believe that a not guilty verdict = innocence.

It simply means that not enough evidence was gathered to prove beyond all doubt 100 % that there is guilt.

Not guilty does not = innocence.

People don’t like that. People don’t like me saying that and people argue back at me. Thats fine.

But all I know is this – that taking a case of sexual abuse or rape to court is one of the most incredibly toughest thing to do.

Which is why we see such a low rate of prosecutions in this area.

Which is why see people reporting but choosing not to proceed further with their case to the courts.

Which is why we see a staggering amount of people, victims of sexual abuse and/or rape not reporting at all.

Because what is the point?

What would it be for? To be dragged through a process where at every step of the way, they set out to undermine you and your character, your history and your life. Where at every step of the way you have to justify and account for what you were doing/where you were/why you were there/what you were wearing/whether you’re screamed or not.

Where every step of the way you are admonished for not ‘reporting sooner’ or are asked ‘why did you wait’ or told ‘your a liar’.

Where every step of the way everything you once were and still are is hauled through, picked and pulled to pieces.

To be hounded when an inevitable ‘not guilty’ verdict is returned against them because in the pressure of being quizzed and having your entire world exposed in front of a court room and jury you stuttered, or stumbled on the exact time or date, or because for a moment your mind goes blank because the trauma of what your having to relive sends your brain into a meltdown.

What exactly is the point, of people like me reporting and trying to take my abusers to court for their crimes?

The justice system and way it works is not one that works for us. For survivors. It favours the perpetrator every step of the way.

Which is why we see, for example 1 in 4 women being raped every year in the UK, and yet the statistics of these cases going to court being shockingly low.

And its why we see people like Frances Andrade committing suicide days after giving evidence in court, because she felt as if she had been violated all over again, saying to the jury ‘this feels like rape all over again’.

I don’t know if that statement means much to you – or not, but as someone who knows the feelings of re violation in different ways, I strongly identify with the pain she must have been in to say that.

Every now and then I come into contact with someone, a professional where I have to disclose my abuse. Most recently last year. And when you disclose to them about the abuse you suffered as a child, at the hands of a man in your life who was supposed to protect you they ask ‘have you ever reported it/do you want to report it/have you ever thought about taking it to court’?

A good question, and I know they have to ask. And yes I’ve thought about it. Many a times. And only ever seriously thought about it once, when a very close friend, who despite distance managed to support me through the most painful times of life suggested it as a possibility and offered to hold my hand through the entire process. I appreciate their support.

But why would I do that?

What for?

For all of above? For my evidence to not be strong enough to proof without doubt he is guilty to have a ‘guilty’ verdict returned. My word against his. I’d be torn to pieces.

No thanks.

I read something this morning that suggested that the jury in the most recent public case, where a non guilty verdict was returned just a few days ago were most likely swayed by the ‘why didn’t they report it immediately’ argument.

If you are going to use that to make your point, you have absolutely no idea of the impact and the trauma that being sexually abused/violated has on you, your life, and your mind. The mind being the most crucial as something you have absolutely no control over. I have no control over when my brain is going to freeze, or go into melt down, or flashback, or give me nightmares in my sleep. A regular occurrence.

If you use the ‘why didn’t they report’ is sooner argument then you have absolutely no idea of the fear, hatred against yourself, and shame, plus many many other feelings a survivor feels about themselves. You have no idea.

People do not report immediately for many reasons. That is not because they are lying.

Until the system is changed, until the processes that are currently in place change and until changes are made in the training and understanding of sexual crimes so at the very first point of contact a survivor is believed as opposed to the default position being they are lying is changed, then we will continue seeing not guilty after after not guilty in both high profile cases and non high profile ones.

I truly admire anyone who chooses to go down the path of prosecution against their perpetrators in the vain hope they find justice.

I’m sorry it lets you down. Time after time. After time.

I believe you.

#ibelieveyou #ibelievethem #ibelievehim #ibelieverher

 

#rapecultureiswhen you inadvertently contribute to it.

Ever read a tweet that makes you want to shout, scream, cry or punch something/someone quite hard because it has made you THAT angry? Yeah … me too.

But what do you do when that tweet is one you yourself have published?

All of the above, and then apologise. Which is what I did and am doing now.

On Wednesday I delved into reading the latest hashtag that was doing the rounds on my timeline – an incredibly powerful and painful one to read but incredibly important too. It was ‘#rapecultureiswhen’ … started by @ZerlinaMaxwell

I had seen it the day before, but struggling with some serious health issues, and having had a seriously bad day sickness wise I was not strong enough to read it then. But by Wednesday I was. And I did. And I wanted to contribute to it. To the hashtag.

As someone who has been raped. As someone who knows. As a women who lives within a society that enables a rape culture to exist. And as someone who tries to speak out against male violence against women and the myths and perceptions that exist regarding it.

So, I contributed. I tweeted. And then as soon as I had hit publish I realised. Realised that the very tweet I had sent out, wanting to highlight and speak out about what rape culture is was actually participating in it.

Screen Shot 2014-03-28 at 19.55.06

I tweeted just two of the many ill informed things that I’ve had said to me over the years, since I’ve started talking much more openly about my experience. But then I felt I needed to add something to the end of it. I felt the need to add on ‘I had on jeans and a hoody’.

Why did I feel it necessary? I guess I wanted to try and speak out against the perception that it is women in short skirts or scantily clad clothing that are raped. That it is not only women in high heels, or revealing clothing. That I was raped and I was wearing jeans and a hoody.

But, as soon as I tweeted it I regretted it. Because why am I even discussing what I was wearing? Why was I ‘trying’ to speak out against perceptions of different types of dress making a difference to whether women are raped or not. Why was I making it about clothing? When it quite simply is not?

LETS BE CLEAR HERE – RAPE IS NOT ABOUT WHAT YOU WERE WEARING.

So immediately after the first tweet, I sent this …

Screen Shot 2014-03-28 at 19.55.22

#RAPECULTUREISWHEN – in trying to speak out against it, you inadvertently find yourself speaking INTO it because the views and thoughts that allow it to continue are so ingrained in our culture and society that its hard not to be affected, sometime, somehow, someway.

If you don’t know what rape culture is, I have demonstrated it perfectly for you. And it is worth checking out the ‘rapecultureiswhen’ hashtag.

I am horrified, gutted, angry and sad with myself for actually contributing to that culture in my effort to speak out against it.

And I am deeply sorry.

 

 

Lets talk about rape (again) and being one of ‘only 9%’.

Last year when I blogged/wrote as ‘fragmentz’ I wrote several blogs titled ‘lets talk about rape …’ – not something I planned on writing much about again really, but here I am and I am able to talk more openly offline and more confident to write online as me, Helen.

7 years ago my life which I was already battling changed for the worse. It was a sunny day, where one moment made time freeze. One afternoon on the corner of a street where a building site was boarded up (with broken down boards). One second I was walking down a street I’d walked down many times and a few minutes later I ran into the high street, collapsing while some passers by called the emergency services. You always think – well I did – that you know what you would do in that situation. But I didn’t do what I thought I would. And that was it, in those brief moments life changed. Forever. Never ever to be the same again. How can it be?

And I became a statistic. I was already a statistic having been abused as a child/teenager. But I became another statistic, a different one this time. One of the 9% of people raped by strangers. As opposed to someone I knew/a partner/husband.

A few months ago a charity which I love dearly/respect and support tweeted a tweet which made my blood run cold. It was this –

‘Only 9% of rapes in the UK are committed by ‘strangers’ #fact

I responded to them with a tweet, asking them to reconsider their use of the word ‘only’. I explained how it made me, one of  9 % of people who have been raped by a stranger even more isolated that we already are – because we are a minority. They said they would be more careful in future in how they phrased things. Because if I was feeling that way, about that word and the phrasing then I could imagine other people would be too.

This afternoon I had a quick flick read down their timeline as I often do and was really really dismayed to discovered that last week they tweeted exactly the same thing.

‘Only 9% of rapes in the UK are committed by ‘strangers’ #fact

I totally understand that it was/is not their intention to offend/upset/isolate anyone as a few people suggested to me in reply to my frustrated tweets at them asking why they have used the word ONLY yet again. Why the need for the ‘only’?

I accept that 91% of women raped are raped by people they know/partners/husbands. And that society needs educating that it isn’t always people you you don’t know in dark alleyways (or in my case building sites in broad daylight).

BUT please please please do not diminish the experience of a group of people, who as a minority already feel fairly isolated. Being a survivor of rape full stop is isolating. Despite 1 in 4 women being victims it isn’t as widely talked about offline as it appears to be online. I love the fact that social media is seeing a rise in people speaking out and educating and raising awareness – and the rise of people talking about violence against women and wanting to see the much needed end to it. Thats all great. But offline my experience so far has been its not so easily talked about/discussed. And we need to work on that.

I wrote for years as ‘fragz’ but over the last 12 months have merged that identity and ‘Helen’ together and am more confident and able to speak face to face with people about my experiences. Online and offline. I’ve found a way to be ‘me’ and be outspoken on the issues that affect me, and be strong is using that voice – which I hope to build on (and importantly I’ve found a place to be ‘me’ on the bad days. A community of people that are helping and have helped me grow faith wise, but have also let me be ‘me’ in my weak moments. In the tears, tantrums and shouty times).

Its important that what we do online we do offline too. In talking about issues that make people feel uncomfortable. Or squirm in their seats. Or blush. Or just want to offer ‘there there’ responses to. Its important we educate. As I get stronger in myself, the more passionate and the more I seek and desire and want to be part of that process somehow. Not entirely sure how yet. But I’m working on it. Which is why I respect this charity a lot for what they do.

But we need to be mindful of how we do it, and the language we use, and what it means and says to people.

Being a statistic is tough, full stop, and for me, being reduced to an ‘only’ is painful. Isolating. More than ever.

I cannot relate to someone who has been raped by someone they know. I can’t imagine it. But I expect it has its own set of issues as does being raped by strangers.

For years the faces of these two people I had never seen in my life haunt me. I don’t know their names. Or where they lived, or their lives. Do they have a wife, a girlfriend, children? Do they work? Do they have a faith? What do they do now, do they remember me, do they think of that day, do they even care?

Do they have an illness I need to be worried about?

Do they regret what they did, or laugh about it with each other?

Do they think they they escaped justice because they were never caught, because, I, in the moment could not get myself together enough to describe them to the police. Or because I was too traumatised refused to allow any DNA to be taken.

Are they still alive? Would they have killed me if I had fought them, or would I have gotten away and not had everything I had left taken from me if I had tried?

Why didn’t I just cross the road that day? Or why didn’t I walk down a different street.

How do I forgive people I don’t know. How do I move on?

The list of questions and thoughts I have had about these two men are endless. And maybe some of them are the same questions and things people who know their perpetrators ask. I don’t know. As I said, I can’t relate to that experience.

All I can relate to is that MY perpetrators were strangers to me. And that I am part of that small minority of people who make up the 9%.

But calling us ‘only’ diminishes our experiences. Lessens it.

So, I urge you, any of you who write about this topic, this issue, whether its about the 91% who know their perps or the 9% who don’t, please don’t use ‘only’. For any of us.

My name is Helen and I am not an ‘only’.