This is got to be one if not the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life.
We have recently done the naked photoshoot for the charity and every single woman had their own reasons to do it and my reason is what this blog is about, it’s me taking back my body, owning it and opening up about what happened to me.
I will warn you that what you are about to read could be hard, it was hard for me to write and work out how to word it but it comes from a place of me being ready to tell my story through different things happening in my life and realising finally that it wasn’t my fault, I really hope this helps others.
I firstly want to say I have such an amazing support network with my mum who has been there for me through everything, my grandad and when she was here my nan.
But what you are reading is how my family have also found out my story, Before I posted this my mum got the blog emailed to her because I didn’t know how I could physically get the words to come out of my mouth to tell her.
So, it was April 2008, I was 21 and had been spilt up from my ex for about 8 weeks, I’d lost weight and I was happy as I felt the weight of my relationship had been lifted from me, which I’ve previously blogged about. I was out with friends at a nightclub in Coventry, some of whom went home so I stayed out with some of my lad mates and their friends. This was a normal thing for me to do, I’d known them for a while and even though I had only met some of their friends that night we were having a great time and they were all lovely.
It came to the end of the night and I decided I was walking home as I was living at my grandparents who only lived a few moments away. One of the lads said he would walk me back to make sure I was safe, we said bye to everyone else and walked back. When we got back to mine the lad said his phone had died and asked if he could use my phone to ring a taxi. My phone had also died so I invited him in to use the house phone. Whilst he was ringing his taxi I ran upstairs quickly, went to the toilet and put my mobile phone on charge. As I turned around, he was standing there which made me jump as I didn’t hear him coming up the stairs, he said he rang a taxi and wanted to say bye. I told him I was coming back down but as I went to go he walked over to me and kissed me. I told him I wasn’t comfortable, I apologised because I didn’t like him like that, and I was sorry if I led him on in anyway.
It all happened so quickly and the next thing I knew I was on the bed with his hand on my throat and the other undoing his trousers, all I was trying to-do was to get him to stop. I’m not going to go into detail but what felt like a lifetime was only about 5-10 minutes, I tried to fight but I was worried he was going to hurt me more than what he already was. When he had finished, he stood up, buttoned up his trousers and said, “no one will believe you, I’ll say that you wanted it and liked it rough.”
Now what happened next is probably what put me off telling anyone, I rang one of my lad mates that I had been out with earlier that night who said he was going to come and see me straight away. Within about 5 minutes there was a huge banging on the door, but my friend hadn’t come, what he had done was ring my ex who was now banging my grandparent’s door down because he knew what had happened. I let him in as I was scared he was going to damage the house. (They were on holiday if you wondered where they were). He was screaming and shouting at me, he was drunk, I can’t tell you to this day what he was trying to achieve at that point, but a neighbour had rung the police. They then appeared at my grandparents’ house and was carting him off to the cells. I rung my other friend who was friends with the lad that had raped me, and he came around. All I wanted to do was shower and get out of the clothes I was wearing. He was a great friend, he came and sat by the bathroom door talking to me while I just sat with the water trickling over me. He was trying to get me to go to the police, he helped me out the bath wrapped a towel around me and hugged me while I just stood there sobbing, he reassured me it wasn’t my fault.
He left once id fell asleep and had made me a bed up on the floor as I just couldn’t face sleeping in the bed where it happened. He changed the sheets put all my things in a pile and without thinking put them in the wash. The next day I felt emotionally numb, it took 3 days for him to talk me into going to the police and even though I was still swollen down there and I still had bruising I got told, as there was no witnesses and I would have washed all the DNA from my body the likely hood of anything happening to this person was slim because it was my word against his.
Going to that station took a lot for me. I felt guilty thinking, did I lead him on or was it because I’d lost weight, I was confident and I felt it. Could that be part of why It happened to me? Which from counselling has made me realise that some of my issues with food is down to this and not wanting to look that way again in case it happens again (silly I know). But when I left I felt worthless and like I didn’t matter, like i was just going to be a load of paperwork and hassle to that officer, no one would believe me so why would I tell my family because it was my word against his.
It’s took me 12 years to get to this point today and I’ve cried over how much I know this Is going to hurt my mum. I normally tell her too much as we are that close, but things always got in the way like my nan passing and seeing how much hurt that caused in the family, I didn’t want to add to that.
It’s took me so long to consider what I was going to share about my story, taking into consideration some of the ages of the ‘This is me’ students who will be reading this and not wanting to affect them or go into too much detail. I wanted to make sure other people know that you can get through it.
I also had to consider who I’m telling, I mean I don’t know how many people read my blogs or how far they reach, there’s the chance that I’m putting myself so far out there and making myself vulnerable for people to not be supportive.
Another thing that crossed my mind is that it’s been 12 years and I wondered if I should just leave it and not say anything, but then do I want to live without telling the closet person to me such a big stepping stone of my life, and the fact that someone might read this and think that has helped me.
But ‘how’ is what has played on my mind the most. What I’ve had to remind myself is that, this is my story and I had to be the one who was comfortable with how it is told. And the reason I have chosen to do it like this isn’t because I couldn’t tell my mum face to face because I know she’ll support me 100% and she would of back then too. But it’s because I always feel better after writing a blog and thought it might make it easier for people to read so they could digest it in their own time. Sometimes telling someone face to face can make them feel awkward or not know how to react and I wouldn’t want that.
- There are 1 in 4 women and 1 in 30 men that are raped
- 90% of those who are raped know the perpetrator prior to the offence
- In the last 4 years in England and Wales 57,882 rape claims were dealt with by the police.
- In 2018-2019 only 1,925 were convicted this means it’s around 3.3%
If you’ve been raped you need to get yourself to a safe place. It’s up to you what you do next, it’s your story but from personal experience I would advise you to go to the police or contact someone straight away and keep any evidence.
Here are some places you can contact
- a voluntary organisation, such as Women’s Aid, Victim Support, The Survivors Trust or Survivors UK (for male victims of sexual assault)
- the free, 24-hour National Domestic Violence Helpline on 0808 2000 247
- the Rape Crisis national freephone helpline on 0808 802 9999 (12-2.30pm and 7-9.30pm every day of the year)
On this note I am Harriett Whelan and I’m a rape survivor not a victim.