I’ve known I need to write about rape for a long while and now with so much in the media about rape I was further prompted to write. If this is likely to trigger you for any reason then it’s best to keep out, though it’s not a horror story.
This is not a story of violent rape by a stranger, or violent rape of any sort. There was no violence at all. It is my story and it is my truth.
When I was in my late teens I went for a night out with a friend’s brother and some of his friends. I used to drink fairly heavily at that age, alcohol being normalised in a home where there were substantial alcohol issues. By the time we left to come home I was drunk and we had done a lot of flirting and a bit of kissing. He was 7 or 8 years older than me. On the way home I was drifting off to sleep in the passenger seat and realised that he had pulled into a layby and was starting to move over on top of me. He asked me if I was on the pill and I kept saying ‘no’, meaning that I didn’t want sex but I guess he just took it that I wasn’t on the pill! I remember quite distinctly deciding ‘just let him do it’. Later I looked back and couldn’t understand why I’d valued myself so little but I recognise this now as a very primal survival tactic – if we as women allow it to happen without a struggle then maybe we will survive and with minimal violence. The next day I initiated sex with him myself in what I now recognise to be a normalisation process – if I had consensual sex with him then it was by my choice and he had not violated me. So I normalised the experience and buried it in the mistakes I’ve made vault.
And I never considered it rape.
Not till an experience in more recent years, when an ex-lover declared ‘when we’re in the same room Gillian, we just want to fuck!’ No! I don’t ‘just want to fuck’! Anyone! I said ‘no’ but it wasn’t as loud or as definite as it should have been as there were others in the house who would have heard and then there would have been a scene. But again, I went into ‘it’s easier to just let him’. And I think I went through the motions of being ok with it, making all the right noises etc. I was in awareness though, and I was being ‘fucked’ by a man who had taken himself out of awareness. Afterwards I felt violated and my space felt violated. And I went into normalisation – trying desperately to show myself evidence that the guy still loved me, because then, loving me, he would never have meant to harm me.
And that was when I recognised my experience when I was 18 as rape – I was saying ‘no’ but he was not hearing. And by normalising and not acknowledging this I was telling myself that it was ok to be treated like that and telling him that it was ok to take what he thought he could take. He was not a monster or an evil man. He was simply behaving in a way that he believed was ok.
These experiences have held a rich gift when later friends and clients who have experienced rape, sometime violent, sometimes more creeping, have asked me ‘but Gillian, why would I still be friends with him after?’ or ‘Gillian, why did I keep going back?’
I am very aware that there is no blame at play here and it is not either the fault of the woman or the man, but we are both complicit in this and we are both damaged by it. But this pattern is epidemic in us, both men and women, where the truth is not declared and owned. Men know that they are not always welcome to penetrate women at times, even their beloved. And women not owning their truth at times – that they are not ready or willing to be penetrated at that time.
And coming from this space where we are unable to own our truth, how can we teach our own sons and daughters? And so the violation persists. And no one is to blame.