Trigger warning: Sexual violence, Trauma, PTSD
I had just turned 16 when I was raped.
I had incredibly low self esteem as a child and teenager, my family had moved around a lot and I always felt like an outsider. I had had one very brief, naive relationship, and wasn’t really sure how to go about dating, but I was very lonely, and desperate for someone to take an interest in me in the hopes it would somehow validate my existence. A 19 year old who worked as a waiter where I also worked seemed to take an interest in me.
We didn’t have very much in common really, but he took me out for dinner and said he wanted to be my boyfriend and I agreed. We spent some time watching movies, and spending time together, and going out. He would always dictate what we did together, and sometimes when we were spending time with his friends he would ignore me totally, and I would be too shy to speak to anyone.
After about 2 months, we had done some fairly intimate stuff, kissing and groping both with clothes and without clothes. One day I was at his house and he said that we should have sex. I said “Um, okay, I guess” and so he said, “Well take off your clothes.”
I sat on the bed and started to remove my clothing. I suddenly felt quite sick inside at the thought of having sex with this man, of losing my virginity to this man, and so I stopped unbuttoning my jeans, my shirt still on, and I said, “No I don’t want to.”
He looked at me as if I had gone mad. “What do you mean? You’ve said yes already.”
He got onto the bed and pushed me into a lying position and took off my jeans. I tried to stop him physically, but he easily overpowered me. I said, “I don’t want to!”
He said, “You’ve said yes already, why are you trying to fuck with me?”
I didn’t know what to do, I just sort of lay there, while trying to slam my legs shut repeatedly. It didn’t work.
I don’t have very accurate memories of the actual incident. There was a lot of blood and pain and I cried a lot. Afterwards he told me to put my pants back on, and that I needed to sit with him while he bathed. As he was getting into the bath he wiped some of the blood off of his penis and held out his hand to me. He said, “Look, this is your virginity.”
He made me wash his back.
Afterwards he got dressed and took me home. I bathed for hours.
A few days later I sent him an sms to say that what he had done was rape and that I was going to the police. He phoned me to say that everyone in town knew I was a dirty slut, and that it wasn’t rape, it could never be rape, because I had said yes, and I didn’t mean it when I said no. He also said that if I told anyone he would tell my parents I was a disgusting whore who had wanted him to do sick things to me, had begged him to.
I was too afraid, and so I said nothing. I knew there was no physical evidence, it was all washed away. Yes, there probably was evidence of sex, but he could blame the blood and tearing on me having been a virgin so I said nothing. I couldn’t bare for everyone to look at me like I had done those things so I said nothing. I knew it would be his word against mine so I said nothing.
He told everyone where we worked that he had broken up with me because I had cheated on him. He said that he could have forgiven me if it had been a white guy, but that it had been a black guy, and that he just couldn’t forgive.
I started hearing how there were rumours going around that I was a big slut, that I had had 3 abortions, that I would give blowjobs for money. I don’t know if it was him who started it or not, but it’s a likely possibility.
I started going out and getting drunk. One night at a bar I ran into one of my classmates. I told her that I had lost my virginity, and that it hadn’t been by choice. She just shook her head and told me to stop “looking for attention.” I didn’t try to tell people after that.
I started wondering if it was really rape. If maybe he was right. I HAD said yes first. Maybe it was all my fault, maybe he had been confused, maybe I should have fought him off better, maybe I shouldn’t have been alone with him, maybe I deserved it because I was so lonely, maybe I deserved it because I had done other intimate stuff with him.
It took me three years to start calling it rape again. I told my parents. Thankfully, they believed me. They took me to a therapist and a gynae. I was diagnosed with Vaginismus and it would be an entire year into having consensual sex for the sex to stop being excruciating. The therapist wanted me to recount the incident in detail, and it gave me nightmares, so I stopped therapy.
I started taking part in the 1in9 campaign silent protest at Rhodes. I wore the Rape Survivor T shirt. I started to tell people. I started to feel like people would actually believe me now. And many people did.
My third year wearing the t-shirt, and I ran into a friend who had been in res with a girl who had gone to my school. I had barely said 5 words to her at school, or at varsity. This friend told me that this old schoolmate of mine had told her that I was lying about it, that I had never been raped, that nothing like that had ever happened to me. The same woman who said these things about me was now wearing the tape, taking part in the protest. This woman who didn’t know me at all, this hypocrite.
I promptly threw up, and went home, unable to take part in any more of the days activities.
I still have trust issues. I still cringe at rape jokes, I still fume at rape myths, I angrily reply to “trolls” who are actually rampant misogynists, I still get told I am overreacting, that I am “over emotional”, “over sensitive” and that I should just “lighten up.”
It’s been 9 years, and I still question what I might have done differently.
If you are rape survivor based in South Africa and need someone to talk to, please don’t hesitate to call the ‘Stop Gender Violence‘ helpline at 0800 150 150.
Note: Rape myths abound after virtually every case of rape or sexual violence is brought to light. These myths hurt all rape survivors – and if you ever experience sexual violence, these myths will hurt you too. The most common myth I’ve seen is the fallacy that if you don’t report to the police, it didn’t happen. These stories aim to dispel that myth.
If you would like to include your story in this conversation, please fill in the form below or email me directly at michelle[at]journoactivist.com. I will assume anonymity for all submissions unless specified otherwise.