How My Rape Affected My Sex Life

Trigger warning: This article contains explicit details of sexual assault some readers might find traumatising.

It’s been 10 years since I was raped. I wish I could say all that time has made the memory fade and my mind clear. I still remember it vividly, and I live with all the hang ups that very brief period in my life gifted me with. I can’t read other people’s accounts of sexual assault or watch fictitious depictions of it in film and TV without being severely affected.

I feel like almost every woman I talk to has been sexaully assulted in one way or another. My rape is very typical, there’s nothing special or particularly interesting about it. That fact in itself should make you terrified about the kind of society we live in. I wanted to share my story because it’s been ten years, and because this shit is so fucking common it breaks my heart. I want to join the masses of women speaking out about this and letting other survivors of all genders out there know they are not alone, and it is not fucking okay.

art2

I also feel like so often we hear about the assault itself but not about the long term effects of what would be considered such a minor rape by some. I would agree that my rape was definitely not as severe as most, but that gives me no comfort. I was so young when it happened, the scars got woven into my sexuality. I can go months without ever seeing them, then out of nowhere they pop up and show their ugly shape, leaving me anxious and confused in a spiral of self doubt and hatred. So here is my story, and what came after.

I was just seventeen, my first real boyfriend has just broken up with me only a week or so after we had first had sex, which was my first ever experience of penetrative sex with someone male. I was upset, but back then I liked to be hard. I put on an aggressive front, got dressed up and went to a birthday party my friend was hosting at her house. I can’t remember what I was wearing, and that isn’t fucking important.

art5
These are lyrics from an actual Lars Frederikson and the Bastards song. I was a big Rancid fan in my teens. I didn’t see how damaging this message was.

The house was big and it was summer, mostly the party was outside in the surrounding land. There was a lot of booze and some party drugs and spliffs being passed around. No parents. There was even a hot tub. My recently ex boyfriend was there, eagerly pursuing a girl he was more in to than me. I just kept my front on and pretended to ignore it all.

A guy came and sat next to me at one point. He was a few years older than me, perhaps nineteen or twenty, and was well known as one of the local drug dealers. He chatted to me for a while, not even that flirtatiously. My can of cider was in between us. I didn’t know it at the time but he slipped something into that drink. Then he wandered off, leaving me alone.

Some time later I ended up in the hot tub in just my bra and knickers. That was my choice, I’d stripped down and got in with a female friend, feeling a lot more drunk and disinhibited than my one can of cider should have allowed. It wasn’t long before the same guy appeared next to me. My friend had gone off to search for more drinks and I was alone again. The hot water and drugs in my system were beginning to make me feel really sick and woozy. The guy suggested we go for a walk, clear my head and get away from the heat and noise. I agreed.

I ended up falling down behind a tree, out of sight of everyone. My whole body felt really heavy and all I wanted to do was sleep. I couldn’t speak without heavily slurring, I’d lost control of my facial muscles. My arms were too heavy to move. He pulled down my wet underwear and raped me. I did nothing, I couldn’t even feel my body. Eventually I blacked out.

art3

I woke up cold, so cold I was shivering. I was completely alone in the early morning light. Everything was silent, the party was clearly over. My head was pounding and I felt sick. I pulled on my underwear and cautiously looked towards the house. I didn’t know where my clothes were. I spotted my friend James smoking out by the hot tub. I said his name and he looked up, then his eyes widened. He hurried towards me as I burst into tears. “Holy shit, what happened to you?!” he said as he took off his hoody and wrapped it around me. “I let him fuck me!” I cried, my voice breaking and my body collapsing into his arms. I didn’t know how else to put it, that was what was going through my head; that I had let it happen.

James ushered me to his friend Marks’s house next door. I didn’t really think about it at the time, but looking back this was really clever and quick thinking on his part, taking me away from the after-party destruction and hangovers to a clean and quiet house filled with friendly people. Once there I borrowed some clothes from Mark and they set about fixing me up. James pulled shards of broken glass from the soles of my feet, and disinfected the wounds. They gave me cups of tea and toast. James went back next door and found my own clothes and shoes.

I went in the bathroom to get clean. This part is really grim. I was on my period and I had been wearing a tampon. The tampon had been forced right up inside me and was mashed up and pushed against my cervix. There was no retrieval cord in sight. I knew I had to get it out, and I was too embarrassed to mention it to the two male friends outside. My vagina was very sore and it took me a long and painful time of squatting and reaching with my fingers before I could finally remove it. What came out was a bloodied mess, mashed out of any shape resembling a tampon. It was then I threw up.

I had a shower to wash the grime away. I had a massive bruise that covered most of my lower back and my inner thighs were covered in little bruises. It was immensely painful. I left with James and walked around a mile to another friends house, this time a close female friend called Martha. I showered again and she put olbas oil on my bruises.

art7

The next few weeks were very typical for a sexual assault survivor. I showered a lot, almost to the point of obsession. I hid my bruises from my family and pretended everything was okay. I still think today it would break their hearts to know what had happened to me. So I didn’t let them know. I didn’t let anyone know.

A few hurtful things happened. One was months later, the brother of my rapist ended up at a small gathering  I had gone to with a friend who was dating the host. He sat down next to me and said “I hear you fucked my brother”. Just casually, not threatening or mean really. My heart stopped and dread filled my stomach. I have no idea why he decided to say that to me. I can’t remember how I responded. I know I felt young and stupid and scared, and I soon moved away from him. A second thing that happened was I found out my rapist had been telling people I was a shit lay. The friend who has hosted the party spread this piece of information to another friend of mine who told me. This probably affected me more than I like to think it did.

art6

After a sexual assault it is common to withdraw from the world, and to have a fear of any sexual contact. My approach was a little different, although not uncommon. I started having sex with some men I was friends with, including my ex boyfriend. They all felt safe and not at all threatening to me, but none of them wanted anything more than sex and friendship from me. I didn’t particularly look for love with them. I felt like sex was all I was good for, and I didn’t deserve any romantic connections. I also felt I had to prove I wasn’t bad at sex, which meant I was always focused on the pleasure of my male partner. I never orgasmed, not even once, but I probably faked a few. However, this wasn’t simply trauma induced reckless behaviour. I was always safe, I used condoms every time, got the morning after pill (Plan B) after a couple of mishaps, and went for several STD check ups.

A year later I had my first serious relationship. I had moved away from everyone who knew me and I was at university. For the first time in my life a guy liked me and he didn’t want to fuck me right away (believe me I tried). This triggered a lot of insecurity in me, but slowly I felt more secure, noticing that he genuinely cared for me. My confidence gradually grew, but my insecurities were everywhere. When he eventually broke up with me I was utterly crushed.

art8

Martha was one of the very few people in my life who I have actually told the full story to. I didn’t say straight away, it kind of all came out piecemeal over the years. Years later, when we were around 24 or so, we were at a music festival together, and we ran into the brother of the guy who raped me. He was pretty high on MDMA and Martha had a chat with him. She found out my from him that the rapist was also at the festival. She let me know. I went into a fit of rage. You’d think I’d be frightened or depressed, but overwhelmingly all I felt was an intense anger. If I’d have seen him I’d have tried to kill him, that’s how fucking pissed off I was.

Anyway, this got us talking again, Martha and I, and she said for the first time that we probably should have gone to the police. We were both so young, we didn’t really understand the severity of what had happened.  I didn’t even really know I’d been raped; that revelation came later. It did not even cross my mind to report it to the police, all I was worried about was protecting my loved ones from knowing I’d been through such horror. I was ashamed and I didn’t think most people would believe me.

I never spoke to James about it again. What made things extra weird was James was friends with my rapist, he bought drugs from him regularly and they got on well. I believed James thought what had happened to me that night was that I willingly took something I shouldn’t have, or drank too much, then had consensual sex which I later regretted. This is what I assume most people at the party thought (particularly after the “shit lay” remark), and I was too frightened and ashamed to put up a fight to change their minds. I found out later from Martha that James had warned his own girlfriend not to go near the guy who raped me. This suggests he did understand what had happened to me and was trying to protect her.

art9
I felt toxic

I won’t go through all the relationships I’ve had and all the times I’ve been triggered and the feeling that I am worth nothing sneaks back in. Most of the time I don’t feel that way, I’ve learnt to encourage my partners to give me sexual pleasure and to not only think about their needs. Sex toys helped a lot. I’ve learnt to be more comfortable and confident in my body (my changed attitude on body hair contributed a lot to this). I am truly sex positive and my recent sexual experiences bring so much joy to my life. Yet the demons are still with me, and it only takes a few misguided words to make me withdraw in to myself. I have a fear of certain kinds of men and of getting into taxis by myself.

So, it’s been ten years and I’ve put it all down on paper and released it to the Gods of the internet. Maybe now I’ll let it go. I doubt it though. What I realistically hope for is to continue growing in confidence and to be able to shut down the spiral of self loathing when I’m first triggered. I’m getting better at this.

I offer my support to all other survivors: you are not alone. I want you all to look to the men and boys in your life and try your best to educate them. Teach them to respect all genders equally, and that they have no right to sex or anyone’s body. More than ever we need to educate all people on sexual consent and truly tackle rape culture. Don’t ever blame a victim or question their honesty. Don’t ever use rape for the subject of a joke, even “ironically”. All that does is help to trivialise and normalise it. I wish I had solutions or strategies to offer that would be helpful. I don’t. All I can hope for is we teach our children so that each generation will be better than the last until all sex is consensual.

 

** The images included throughout this piece are my own personal artwork. I drew them in my sketch book in the year following my sexual assault. I didn’t think they meant anything at the time, but now I think it was a way for me to process what had happened. Each time I started a sketch without any image in my mind about what the drawing would be, I just put my pencil to the paper and then the drawing just developed from my subconscious. These drawings are 10 years old and severely faded, and I never really had an talent as an artist, so please don’t judge me as such. I thought they’d be a fitting accompaniment for this particular piece though.

8 thoughts on “How My Rape Affected My Sex Life

  1. Thank you for this post.

    It’s important that we talk about it and I hope that sharing your story has helped you. You seem to be doing well, that’s great 🙂

    It helps me to know that there are many other people in my situation, and that some of them are doing well or have gotten better. I see myself in the paragraph describing what you’ve learnt and how you’ve grown out of this. It’s the most positive paragraph of your text and it’s the one I relate the most to. Thanks for making me realize that.

    I love your drawings, each of them is carrying a deep meaning, thanks for sharing them.

    Like

    1. Thanks for taking the time to write a comment.

      It’s a strange feeling because it’s nice when someone can relate to something I’ve written, but for this one it’s also sad because it means something awful happened to them too. It’s important to know you’re not alone, which was one of the reasons why I wrote it.

      I’m glad to hear you saw yourself reflected in the positive aspects. I feel like all we can do is keep challenging the demons until they no longer haunt us.

      When I look back I can see how my confidence has really grown over the last 3 or 4 years in particular. This makes me excited for what’s to come in my life. I hope you feel the same.

      Thanks for saying you liked my drawings! That was sweet of you.

      Like

  2. ‘Liking’ this post felt bizarre, but it was a like of support and thanks. I have not experienced a rape personally, but I know many women both in real life and online friends who have and every time I hear or read their accounts my heart breaks! I feel like I have no words to offer that are adequate after reading something so intensely personal. All I know is that I have a small male human to help mold and teach, so maybe the best I can do is promise I will educate him as best I can so he goes forth into the world as a decent, safe and respectful man. Much Love ❤️

    Like

    1. Thanks for taking the time to comment. I think education and speaking out is the most important thing in the long term. I wish I’d had more courage to speak out at the time. I’m sure you’ll do an excellent job of raising a respectful son.

      Like

  3. Ugh, what a horrid experience to live through. Your writing also makes it so vivid and real, it actually made me feel very viscerally ill just to read. I’m glad that you managed to overcome a lot of that lingering trauma and work through it in your own fashion, despite not getting help at the time. However, as you said, we only realise what actually happened with perspective ❤

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s