Content warning: this post deals with rape and sexual assault.
I was raped. That is not a sentence I thought I would say out loud, and definitely not write for the whole world to read, but there you have it, I was raped. Recently, the reasons why I decided to become more involved in the feminist movement have been on my mind more than ever. There are hundreds of reasons to get involved in the movement but often, for lots of people, it is the personal experiences they’ve had that fuel them to get active. For me this was definitely the case. I was interested and involved in feminism before, but after my experiences, I knew feminism couldn’t just be a hobby on the side.
People too often think of rape as something that happens in a back alley by some big scary stranger, when in actuality, the majority are committed by someone the victim knows. I was in my bed in my first year halls when I woke up covered in blood. I didn’t think about it much at the time. All I wanted was for it to go away. Shower, clean the sheets, pretend nothing has happened. Shower, clean the sheets, pretend nothing has happened. That was all that I allowed to go through my head. I bundled up all the bedsheets and threw them straight out. By the time my flatmates were up, it was as though I was just getting out of my bed after going out the night before.
One of my school friends had come to see me and I’d been looking forward to it for ages. Naturally playing a two-person game of ring of fire seemed like a good idea, and so we cracked on flipping the cards and taking our drinks. My friend got a forfeit, which meant we excitedly ran down to the courtyard where, as you do in first year, we made friends with the first people we bumped into and joined them in their block for a party. The drink was flowing, everyone was dancing on the tables and having a cracking time. As the hours ticked by we soon decided that, as great as our night had been, sleep was needed. My friend and I parted ways in the courtyard, and off to bed I wandered.
I don’t really know what happened next. I went to sleep and I woke up to a man in my room. I don’t really know anything about him except he had dark clothing and dark hair, but the next thing I can be sure of is that I woke up covered in blood. The question of what a victim was wearing is always irrelevant, but if you’ve ever thought a woman can be at fault as a result of her clothing choices, then you can feel silly because I had been in my not-at-all-sexy pyjamas.
When recently my friend told me of her experience, they told me that what happened to them was their fault, as they had given up saying no. It was not her fault. It is never the victim’s fault. If and when you say no, you mean no, and no one should ever keep pushing until you give up or can no longer fight it. It was this that more than ever made me realise how important it is to talk to about these things, if and when we are able to. She told me that I would have never let it happen to me, that I am a strong person – but it did happen to me, and it can happen to anyone.
Proper sexual education is vitally important. It won’t eradicate these crimes but it can go a long way in changing the culture that makes them seem more acceptable. People need to understand and talk about consent. Yes means yes, no means no, and if you’re unsure then just ask. People need to be able to understand and talk about sex. People should be able to talk about sex in a way that goes beyond just a drinking game. While this is the worst of my experiences, sadly it’s not he only time I have experienced sexual assault at University, and I couldn’t even count the number of times I have been sexually harassed in a night club.
I know there are lots of friends in my circle who have had similar experiences, or have been domestically abused. Sadly it is not a rare thing. We need to start tackling rape culture and changing the way our society views these crimes. Think about why the people you know haven’t spoken out, and make sure you’re ready to listen when they are ready to talk.
I will never understand how anyone can say feminism is irrelevant when in 2013 there were 10,000 recorded rapes of adults in the UK. Emotionally distressing crimes such as rape are known to be widely unreported. Many of these reported cases are later dropped and one in five women are victims of sexual offences.
Feminism is still just as important as ever. Get involved in local feminist movements, take part in campaigns and most importantly, talk to people about these issues. We need a societal shift if we want to end rape and lad culture and that’s not just going to happen by itself. When you make rape jokes, when you blame victims and when you do all the things that perpetuate rape culture, just remember, it is your friends and the people all around you that you are hurting.
If you think you have been affected by any of the issues covered in this post, Rape Crisis Scotland provides a free and confidential helpline service.
Phone free any day between 6pm and midnight on 08088 01 03 02. Or, if you are deaf or hard of hearing, on minicom number 0141 353 3091