Seven days ago, I was raped. Again.
Never thought I'd be saying those words, especially not the "again" part. I bet you didn't see it coming either, did you?
Earlier this week, I wrote a raw blog post that described the whole ordeal in detail, but quickly removed it. As much as I wanted to speak out, that wasn't the way. It was a good release for me, to write it all out and helped me process, but it isn't something the world needs to see.
That processing thing is damned hard, though. I often speak -both here and in workshops - about how different every woman's experience of sexual assault is. What I never really considered was that my own experience would be so different from my first.
The basic facts are different, for a start. This time, I was in a sauna at a hotel (I was speaking on behalf of Girlguiding* at a convention) and it was a complete stranger. Not that I knew Peter well when he raped me, but I knew who he was, knew that he was a friend of a colleague at work. I never imagined that I would be attacked again, especially not by a stranger - like many women, I am very much aware that the vast majority of sexual assaults are committed by men known to the victim.
My reaction in the event was different too. I wasn't panicking or upset, I was completely detached from what was happening to me. In fact, the overwhelming thought crossing my mind was, "Ok, so this is happening. How do we move forward from this? Am I going to report it? Where am I going to get help? Do I tell D about it?"
And since? Well, straight after the fact, I just referred to it as "being seriously groped" in a text. I didn't want to use the word rape, because it didn't really seem identifiable or comparable with my previous experience. I wasn't injured, and although there was penetration, he was interrupted very quickly. It doesn't negate the rest of it, and what he did to me before that penetration, but in some ways, it feels like "attempted rape" fits better. But I'm not going to allow myself down that path of denial.
I've been physically shaking at several points during the week, and I keep bursting into tears but there's no real sadness connected. I think, in a lot of ways, I'm still in shock. Or maybe I'm just coping with this better than last time and I'm stronger than I think I am. I've been phoning the helpline for support, even if it's just because I don't quite feel like myself, and I've actually been allowing myself the time and space to feel - a far cry from my usual approach of, "don't be silly". The fact that I'm largely just numb, it's not burying the emotions, it's just that they haven't formed properly yet. But I'm prepared to address them when they do.
In a weird way, this week has shown me just how far I've come in the last couple of years. Ok, so I wasn't able to use the word 'rape' on Tuesday with D, but I told her what happened. I kept talking, I stayed with her, I didn't switch off or panic or anything else. When we first started, I would sit in the room saying nothing for whole sessions! And I've not tried to bury myself in work, in craft, I've not tried to hide, not had nightmares or flashbacks... I'm just letting me be me. I'm not giving in to the reckless urges either, which is definitely a positive - I have a tendency to go into self-destruct mode when things like this happen.
I wanted to share this at the beginning of the week. To stand up and say, "look, this has happened and it hasn't broken me!". To say, "this has happened and it's completely different to last time". To show, in a very real and personal way, that actually, different reactions are completely fine and that there is no "normal" way to behave. I wanted to stick my middle finger up at this idiot and say, "screw you. I'm still living my life."
* It has been brought to my attention that this could be seen as detrimental to Girlguiding and to the event. This is not the intention. I was speaking at the event on behalf of Girlguiding, but this attack was after "business hours" and was whilst I was relaxing, in my own time. It is not the fault of Girlguiding, nor the fault of the organisers, any more than it is my fault. It is solely the responsibility of the man who raped me, and both the event team and Girlguiding have been wonderful in offering their support.