He was handsome, athletic and popular. I was flattered when he took an interest in me. We were both 19, at university together and met up with a group of friends for a social event.
I’ll admit, I was not paying attention to the amount of alcohol I was drinking that day. (I was also trying to get over the break up of my first boyfriend.) But letting go and just having fun felt good and I thought I could forget about my ex by flirting and enjoying *Chris’ interest. That was until I suddenly found myself in a position where he was taking things too far and I didn’t know how to get out of the situation.
It was over very quickly. At least, I think it was. I don’t remember much, except that I had an out of body experience and was looking down on us. He had pinned me down and I was crying. I could not move, could not even call out for help.
That experience changed me completely. Even though I knew I had said no, I was confused about why I could not push him away. Even though I knew he raped me, I thought I would be blamed. I just didn’t understand why I did not call for help. I told only a handful of friends and they, thankfully, pushed him out of our circle of friends. I started avoiding social events and pulled away from my friends that I had enjoyed spending time with. When I told my ex what had happened, I could not manage to tell him that I had been raped. To this day, nearly 20 years later, he still thinks I just got drunk and had concensual sex with this boy and that incident drove a wedge in between us that could never be removed and that pain is almost worse than the actual rape.
My attitude towards sex changed. I had always believed it was something special that only happens when you are in love. But I found myself being so scared that my will would be taken from me again, that I became promiscuous. I thought I would rather give it away than have it taken away from me so I started using sex to control the men that I met. I was clearly in denial and actually thought I was free, in control and happy.
But at night, when I was alone, I still craved to be loved, to be cared for and to be protected.
Ten years after the incident, my life changed completely. I finally found ways to forgive myself and accept that it had not been my fault. I also met my husband and for the first time, there was a man who was not interested in my body or just having a good time. He was very religious and was still a virgin on our wedding night.
Today I am 37 years old. I have a loving, faithful husband that knows all about my past and does not judge me for it. We have two beautiful boys and I am blessed in every way.
It is not easy though. Having control taken away from me, I am now very controlling and experience anxiety when I am in an unfamiliar situation. Making love to my husband also has its challenges as certain things trigger flashbacks to that evening. Thankfully, he is very understanding and I also have a therapist friend that helps me when I feel overwhelmed.
I later found out that Chris was part of a group of boys that drugged girls’ by putting something in their drinks and realised that this was why I was unable to push him off or call for help. He died in an accident a few years after the rape.
Reading other women’s struggles and realising that there are many other mums in Dubai that are coping with pain and turmoil has given me the courage to share my story and I sincerely hope that if you have ever been raped or you find yourself in a situation where you are feeling lost, scared and confused, I can share with you some of the things that have helped me find peace.
Be kind to yourself
Even if you were drinking too much, had a short skirt on or was flirting with him, no means no. It was not your fault.
Talk about it
Tell your closest friend, your mother or a therapist. Talking about it helped me contexualise some of the things that happened and how I acted and felt about it. Even writing this is helping me now.
Don’t make the same mistake I did and keep quiet. You could save someone else from being raped or violated.
Being raped will change you forever. But use that knowlege to your advantage. Read up about the effects of being raped and know what to expect. Empower yourself.
This is still a difficult one for me and I think that when I can truly say I have forgiven him, I will be able to put it behind me completely.
I am not a rape victim. I am a rape survivor.
Written by a British mum who wishes to remain anonymous.
Article first appeared on British Mums.