My friend raped me when I was drunk and vulnerable. It took me a few months to finally acknowledge to myself that it was rape, and that I was now a rape survivor.
The mental leap I had to do to get to that point was jarring and disturbing. I developed chronic insomnia in the lead up to finally accepting that it was rape.I arrived at work at around 6 to 7 am every day, stayed there until I started getting weird looks from the subs at about 11pm, went home where I spent endless hours researching sexual violence on the internet, slept for an hour, head to gym at 5am, went back to work by 6 to 7 am. Every day for weeks, until I got into my first online campaign against sexual violence. It was the #mooreandme campaign started by American feminist writer Sady Doyle to combat rape apologist and myth comments made by Michael Moore and Keith Olberman. The kind of virtual solidarity I found in that space made me feel I could write about what happened to me, albeit anonymously.
A few days later I decided I needed to tell someone. My mom was the first person I told. Her response? She told me I mustn’t tell anyone, because then everyone would see me as a victim. She said it would hinder future job offers, as employers wouldn’t be able to take me seriously. She said it wasn’t worth reporting the rape to police, because I didn’t have any evidence. It took me some years and therapy to forgive her for trying to silence me, but it seems she was right about reporting the rape to the police. People just don’t believe me when I talk about what happened to me. Actually, scratch that. The vast majority of people who believe me are perfect strangers. Then there are those people who were both my friends and that of my rapist.
I started naming my rapist in private conversations with mutual friends last year for the first time. One of the friends told me he believed me, and was so angry he wanted to punch out my rapist. A few days later we met for dinner, and while we were getting drinks at the bar, who should saunter up? You guessed it – my rapist. I would have hoped my friend would choose that moment to stand by me in solidarity, but instead he opted to hug my rapist right in front of me. I said I was going to pee, and when I got to the bathroom I crumbled in a panicked heap. Eventually I pulled my shit together, but didn’t want to ‘make a scene’, so I had dinner with my friend anyway. He didn’t notice the panic or the streaky make-up from my episode in the bathroom – either I’m really good at covering up, or he knew he fucked up but opted not to ‘make a scene’.
The second friend I told after a night out drinking. I was completely wasted, but drove him home nonetheless. (I wasn’t exactly known for my responsible decisions while this was all happening.) I burst into tears, screamed and shouted and pounded the steering wheel until I had bruises on the sides of my hands. I told him that I had been raped, and who raped me. I can’t remember his response; I just remember what happened a few months later.
We were at my favourite haunt, where myself and several of my friends from my reckless and irresponsible phase hung out. We drank, smoked all manner of things, and generally made bad decisions. And one night when I was drunk and a particularly nasty one, who should walk into my bar? I think you’re getting better at this.
The alcohol and the exhaustion from the continuing chronic insomnia finally caught up to me, and I had to find a corner and sit on my hands to stop myself from glassing my rapist. I think I was quite the sight, but very few people in our group of broken vagabonds noticed, other than friend #2. Friend #2 was having a fat chat with my rapist and had just exchanged a joke when I snapped. When I got up, jaw clenched, vodka-and-passion-fruit glass in hand, friend #2 ran towards, grabbed me and pulled me into a corner. I told him of my bloodthirsty plan, but not before I screamed at him to let me go and that he was a liar and a betrayer for speaking, never mind joking, with my rapist. His response?
“I’ve known the guy for nine years. You can’t just expect me to write him off if you haven’t even confronted him about raping you,” he said. “Either you lay a charge with the police or you confront him. You can’t expect me to just walk away from him.”
My bad for thinking that friends believe friends when they saw they have been raped, and who raped them. Also, who knew it was more difficult for someone to boot out a rapist than it is for a rape survivor to face hers?
Now, it’s been a couple of years since my rape, and I know for a fact that he has raped other women. People frequently try to emotionally blackmail me for not reporting him, knowing that he continues to rape. So I considered finally opening a case against him. I consulted with sexual violence experts, with police friends of mine. All said the same thing: “Your life will be made a living hell, and for what? It’s three years later, and you don’t have a shred of evidence other than your word against his.”
“No one is going to believe you. Why would you put yourself through that?”
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.