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Dublin: 12 °C Wednesday 24 April, 2019
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The victim impact statement I never got to make

In the aftermath of the Stanford rape case, one reader sent us her story about the sexual abuse she experienced, and the lack of action taken

Anonymous
This piece contains strong language and descriptions of sexual abuse
“20 minutes of action,” is this what equates to the act of rape now? As someone who has had “2o minutes of action,” inflicted upon them I can’t find the words to describe how inside out these words have turned me.”

I was raped for the first time on 8 February 2013 and I was raped for the last time on 29 May 2013.

“You don’t know me, but you’ve been inside of me,” are the first words of Brock Turner’s victim’s statement. Turner was recently convicted of raping the woman behind a dumpster in Stanford University. The case came to prominence after he received a sentence of just six months in jail.

There is so much wrong with the case but what cut me deepest was the colossal strength located in the heart of his victim and the words of her victim impact statement.

Things were very different for me. I knew the man who raped me, as do 91% of victims according to the Rape Crisis Centres Ireland.

It’s a very hard thing to watch someone you love change into a monster.

The beginning of the abuse

After a nine month honeymoon period the abuse crept in. At first he would always be drunk and he would always be sorry.

The first instance of abuse was at a friend’s party. He wanted to leave as he had work in the morning and I expressed my wish to stay. He snapped and shouted “Why do you have to be such a cunt?”

Our relationship continued like this for several months. If I did not do something he wanted he would fly into a rage. If I did not go back to his house after nights out he would start a fight.

If I talked to anyone male unknown to him he would send me text messages from across the room saying “Once again you’ve proven yourself to be a piece of shit.”

He would even go as far as to physically lift me away from other men he felt were dancing too close to me.

Countless times he would call or text me after nights out, regardless of if he had been there or not, asking me was I seeing someone else, or to tell me I was “a piece of shit,” or a “cunt.”

He would often forget what he had already said and repeat himself. If I hung up he would call me back until I turned my phone off.

In the morning he would always be sorry and promise not to do it again.

If I confronted him about his problems he would cry and say that he was going through a rough patch, he came from a difficult background. I stupidly felt that his problems were not his fault.

The first night

In February 2013 we stayed with his parents and sisters for his 22nd birthday. We went out to a club to celebrate with his sister, her boyfriend and her friends.

During the course of the evening I received a text from a friend I had recently fallen out with. She was looking to become friends again and I said that I was considering it.

He was extremely drunk and started calling me “a horrible piece of shit,” and although he thought he was play fighting, he was quite violently pulling me and pushing me around the dance floor.

I got him to stop but he kept drinking. At one point I told him water was alcohol just to get him to drink some.

When we went outside to get some air, his sister asked me in a horrified tone, “Does he always get this bad?” I nodded and said yes.

We left about 3am as he was too drunk and took a taxi back. We got out maybe a 4 or 5 minute walk from their house, during which time he got sick on the road and on his shoes.

We got into the house and everyone got water and said goodnight.  He just would not get into bed and go to sleep. He kept pressuring me to have sex with him.

I repeatedly said no. I must have said no a minimum of 20 times over the course of a half hour period.

I repeatedly told him to go to bed and we would talk about it in the morning. I was lying down and he was standing up at the foot of the bed ranting and raving, banging drawers and throwing things.

“Why wouldn’t you want to?” “Any woman would love to have sex with me” “Any woman would be grateful to have sex with me” “What is wrong with you?” “Why are you being such a cunt?” “Why don’t you want to have sex with me?”

I protested each and every time, telling him he was too drunk. I did not want to. I told him to go to sleep. I refused at every point for a period of 30 or 40 minutes.

He was making me visibly upset. Tears rolled down my face and he could plainly see this. He asked me what I was crying for.

He continued to pester me. And then he had vaginal sex with me.

I did not move and my mind left the room.

My counsellor from the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre later told me there are three responses to trauma: Flight, fight, and freeze.

Afterwards he rolled over and went straight to sleep. I lay awake and very still.

No choice

He never outwardly punched me in the face but he used “play fighting” to demonstrate his strength and he used the threat of violence to rape me.

Now I know I had two choices that night; to be punched and kicked and raped, or to be raped. There was no other option.

This happened multiple times, with and without alcohol being present. The last time I was raped he was stone cold sober. I still remember the vile weight of his drool in my hair and his body pressed on mine.

I ended the relationship with the man that raped me four days later. I told myself I didn’t want to be “one of those women,” – someone who stayed with someone who treated them badly, someone you feel sorry for.

Because I’d buried the trauma of being repeatedly raped, I still couldn’t recognise that I already was one of those women.

Trauma

It wasn’t until May of 2014 that I started showing signs of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, a condition which will affect over 50% of rape victims.

Flashbacks of the event came to me in dreams. I was also experiencing sleep paralysis and depression.

I’d get the bus home from college and sometimes forget to get off at my stop because I’d get so angry at him. My chest felt like it would explode it was beating so hard.

I knew something bad had happened but I still couldn’t name it.

On two occasions on nights out I’d let slip a few details of what happened, but when friends tried to bring it up I’d freeze up and change the subject.

The nightmares, flashbacks, sleep paralysis, depression and anger built inside me.

On May 30th I called the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre and spoke with a very kind woman for 10 minutes and 8 seconds.

She solidified what I already knew deep down – I’d been raped.

We talked a little longer and she placed me on the waiting list to talk to a counsellor.

“It’s a long waiting list but we’ll give you a call when a slot becomes available. In the meantime if you need to talk to someone just call this number.”

It didn’t feel real. It still doesn’t feel real. It felt like the plot to a movie or someone else’s bad memories.

That night I sat cross-legged on my best friend’s bed and told her what had happened.

It was then she told me my ex-boyfriend confided in a mutual friend that he’d raped an unconscious woman at a party.

I am still haunted by this. I still have these impossible flashbacks of him raping this faceless woman. I do not know her name but I feel all of her pain. I felt guilty for a long time thinking that if I’d come forward sooner maybe I could have stopped it.

The truth is I am not responsible for what happened to her. I am not responsible for what happened to me. There is only one person responsible for rape and that is the rapist.

Lack of justice

In an effort to stop him doing this to another person I went to the Garda station and made a statement, going into detail for the very first time what had been done to me.

The Garda that took my statement showed me a lot of kindness. When I cried he told me it was okay, he looked me in the eye and said “I believe you.”

Even though I was shown kindness, I was also warned that this wouldn’t go anywhere. There was no physical evidence.

“Not enough evidence,” is degradation, revictimisation and oppression. What it really means is the state won’t take a case they feel they might lose. It’s just too costly.

We do not have a justice system in this county.

Another friend confronted my ex-boyfriend. He admitted everything. He admitted to raping the two of us. This friend confirmed in a statement my ex-boyfriend’s admission of guilt.

My ex must have been spooked because he immediately fled the country to stay with family in England, but not before admitting what he did to another friend, describing himself as “a very bad man.”

My friends and I had to make multiple statements to the Garda. He was contacted by the police and requested to fly back to be interviewed. Requested.

One statement was all he had to make. Just one. One statement in which he denied that whole thing.

I really thought he’d admit it. I was devastated.

He had repeatedly raped me, raped another girl, admitted everything to multiple people but he was only questioned once and then let go. Consequence free. No arrest.

A file was sent to the DPP but I was told not to hold my breath.

“I just don’t want to be here”

That summer was spent clinging to life. Holding on by a thread. I got chubby. I felt like I’d eaten a toddler and my body felt foreign.

The most crushing moment was when I realised I’d think about what happened every day for the rest of my life. That felt like I’d been handed a life sentence.

There were plenty of nights I’d sit on my hands so I wouldn’t do anything stupid while tears rolled silently down my face. I thought “I just don’t want to be here.”

Friends would talk to me but I couldn’t tell you what about. I was zoned out, thinking of different lines or shapes I could carve into my body.

I never did though. I didn’t want to surrender the outside of my body to him too.

My doctor placed me on antidepressants. He said my mind was in crisis mode and these would lift me up.

Lexapro, a common SSRI, saved my life. The staggering depression lifted and I could feel myself smile again.

I decided then that I would never die by my own hand.

Counselling

After three months on the waiting list for counselling with the Rape Crisis Centre, an appointment became available.

Much of the first appointment was consumed by simple fact giving or explaining the counselling process. The Rape Crisis Centre is so underfunded that appointments are only available every few weeks.

I barely opened my mouth during the next appointment. I was still very much too traumatised to talk openly about what happened, much less with a stranger.

My counsellor explained that the charity prefer if you make a donation for every session, if you can afford it, as you’ll be more inclined to make it worth your while if you’re paying.

I made slow progress. While the Rape Crisis Centre provide vital support, an hour long appointment every 3 weeks was just not enough.

“My world stopped”

I entered my final year of my degree and tried to live a normal life but my grades were slipping. I had panic attacks over assignments and couldn’t even start them. I found it hard to talk to people.

The impending decision of the DPP had been hanging over me since July with no communication in the meantime. Maybe they’d forgotten about me. Maybe my file had slipped through the cracks.

In November I received the dreaded call. I was told the DPP wouldn’t be going ahead with my case.

My world stopped. I gave up. I didn’t get up for a week. I didn’t go to college. I deleted all social media accounts. I didn’t see the point in anything anymore.

I tried to drop out of college but I was told I wouldn’t be able to get my money back.

It was unbearable to think that the most private details of how my body had been violated were sitting in a file in someone’s office. I wanted it back. I wanted everything back. My life. I wanted to press rewind. Press delete. Anything.

Coming back

My college provided a counsellor who broke down my problems into smaller more manageable problems, and I came back after Christmas with a focus I hadn’t seen in a long time.

That semester’s assignments were tackled as well as those from the previous semester. I threw myself into writing and emerged with a First.

However my interpersonal skills had dissolved. Many days went by when I’d only speak to my mother or my dog.

Through my college I was selected for an interview with a national newspaper. They wanted me on board as an intern for the summer.

This was what I’d worked so hard for. This was the dream and everything seemed to be going so well.

I moved out of my family home and hoped a new start would mean a new me.

Although my depression had subsided it had been cruelly replaced by crippling anxiety. I couldn’t follow some basic tasks. I didn’t talk to my co-workers. Sometimes it took me over an hour to make a phone call. The irony of a journalist afraid to talk to people still makes me giggle.

Food became uninteresting and unnecessary. I lost two stone over three months without exercising.

I finished up my three month internship with the newspaper feeling like I’d failed.

I returned home, surrounded by familiar faces.

I drew battle lines with my anxiety and started eight weeks of cognitive behavioural therapy sessions. I was sick of it ruining any budding friendships or job opportunities.

Looking back

There are days when it still grips me but for the most part I am in control. I am determined not to be defined by my experiences. But they will always be a huge part of my identity, there’s no way around that.

It’s incredibly humbling that somehow, the woman at the centre of the Stanford case even managed to show her rapist humanity.

I wish I could do the same. I’ve planned out so many expeditions of revenge in my head; Scenarios where I show up at his door, tell him exactly what he’s done to me and tie him to a chair. I’ve thought about posting bullets to his house, writing to all of his neighbours, his sisters, his mother and his father.

None of this is constructive and doesn’t adhere with who I am.

I have been to the brink and peered inside myself. I can wholly say now I love who I am.

The last six months have been a journey of acceptance. I am no longer fighting to reject what happened. Instead I feel concrete and full of fire.

This is a victim impact statement but it is not directed at my rapist who will never read these words. It is directed at anyone who has experienced abuse or rape.

I’ve hated not knowing Turner’s victim’s name as it feels wrong to refer to her as his property. She is courageous, amazing, big, bright and shiny. She is a lighthouse.

Lighthouses don’t go running all over an island looking for boats to save; they just stand there shining. Although I can’t save every boat, I hope that by speaking today, you absorbed a small amount of light, a small knowing that you can’t be silenced.

To those that have had their day in court and to those who were denied theirs, to those who reported their experiences and to those who live in silence, I feel forever connected to you and I will forever hold you in my heart.

The author has asked to remain anonymous.

The Rape Crisis Centre Helpline: 1800 77 88 88

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