so many memories, memories that tumble around in my head and it is hard to express them in the written word. It seems to stark to write “my uncle plied me with alcohol and then touched me” or “ on the day before my 14th birthday my uncle rubbed his penis over my half naked body after giving me a ‘massage’ – with his pregnant wife in the room next door and my younger sisters in a downstairs bedroom. I remember being scared that if anyone came into the room I’d be blamed. Or that I’d somehow be responsible if his wife lost the baby, or maybe he would do it to one of my sisters if I didn’t just let him do it. When I cried and said I was scared he would get me pregnant he stopped.
I felt so filthy and upset. I couldn’t tell anyone – he was the favourite uncle, the cool one. But I never went there again and started really acting out badly after that. He was also a scout leader. I worry for other kids but my parents made it very clear some years later when I told them about it that I wasn’t to make a big fuss and go public. I have to hope I was the only person but I doubt it.
My uncle had been the only person I felt close to. My parents were always working and serious, very tired, stressed and very career minded. They said they were always there for us, and physically they were, but I knew I couldn’t talk to them and add to their stress load.
After my uncle sexually assaulted me I think I lost my sanity for a while – tears, acting out etc. School was difficult, with many trips to the counsellor which achieved nothing. I went from being a top student bookworm type to a real mess. My relationship with boys became a toxic mess. In some way I think there was like an invisible neon sign on my forehead saying ‘victim, abuse me’.
I felt desperately lonely; my one close friend was a mess too, with a family of abusers, so although we talked about our misery together neither of us had the skills to move forward from it. I had sex with so many young men over the next few years I honestly don’t know how many. Most encounters stemmed from intense loneliness – any company, anyone who would hug me, hold me, pretend to care about me even for a short time. Many times I said yes to sex because I knew even if I said no it would be taken and I wanted to delude myself into thinking I had some form of control over the situation.
I remember when I was a young teen I was working for the BNZ and they had a solid drinking culture. Not only was I underage (the age limit was 20 then) but I also had to bus home, so I didn’t want to drink after work. I was subjected to a lot of pressure and mocking by a lot of the men there for that. Then at the Christmas party I apparently got very drunk (I’m not sure how, or even if my drink was spiked) and I have absolutely no memory of the night or how I got home. When I went into work the next day I was called into the manager’s office and fired for assaulting a co-worker. I have no memory of it and I am not a violent person, never have been. I had no marks on me to suggest I’d punched anyone. I just think they did something they shouldn’t have and wanted to get rid of the evidence. Me.
I moved as being fired ‘brought shame on the family’ and moved to another part of Auckland. Later that year, still 17 years old, I was raped. I had walked into a bar to see if a friend was there, but he wasn’t, so I was continuing on to a sport facility where another friend was. No ‘slutty clothes’, no ‘drunken behaviour’, just walking down the street before 7pm at night. I won’t put the details here but after the guy raped me he said something about ‘great sex, want to meet up again?’
He was a total stranger, he dragged me off the street, violated me in more ways than one, I was bleeding and half naked and he thought that I’d like to meet up again…seriously…I was so shocked, I ran to the sports facility and the guy I knew called the police. I sat under the counter shaking, half naked and freaked out as a bunch of male cops all descended into the area. Taking my statement made me feel even more violated as the male policeman kept correcting my language – when I was using the word ‘penis’ he would say ‘shall we put ‘cock’ instead?’ At that point I didn’t care if he said he was going to substitute the word penis with hfgdghfighg , I just wanted it all over with. Then I had the trauma of the doctor. He was a bastard, made me feel like a worthless piece of crap for having tattooes and bitten fingernails. Yes, bitten fingernails – because he couldn’t get scrapes from under my nails because I didn’t have any. Tattooes? I guess I was asking to be raped … When I went back to work people actually asked me for details, which made me feel shocked. One woman ( yes, woman) asked if I’d enjoyed it. I had to quit my job, I couldn’t cope with being there.
I really spiralled downward after that. Needless to say the rapist wasn’t caught. I got the feeling the Police didn’t try too hard, after all, I did have tattooes…
I remember going to a nightclub about a year later and having a drink spiked. I woke up the next day next to a guy. I had no idea who he was, not even a first name.
I had a lot of encounters where I would be so lonely I’d go to a pub, a guy would buy me drinks and I’d end up waking up the next day not really remembering much. I had a lot where I wasn’t so drunk. I don’t consider those as sexual assaults but they did make me feel very vulnerable and unlovable.
I remember going to a party, I knew I shouldn’t be there as soon as I arrived, it was pretty risky when I saw the people there. I ended up having sex with a guy I thought was a friend, and people burst into the room and watched. I struggled to get him off me when they came in, it was embarrassing, but he just held me down and continued. Another guy ‘wanted a turn’ and got angry when I said no. I was so humiliated. He then beat me up, and kicked me with steel capped boots. I don’t know how I got home, but the next day I was so bruised I couldn’t walk. A couple of days later I went to the police, covered in bruises. They took my statement and went to talk to the guy but ‘no one saw anything’ so nothing happened.
I think at that time there was an expectation, almost an unspoken currency, where if a guy took you out, whether to a movie, dinner or wherever, you were expected to have sex with him. Like being a prostitute without the cash, I guess. It sure felt that way. And yet there was also, among guys, a rule of “there are girls you fuck and girls you marry”. The two were distinct groups. The good girls and the bad girls. I was in the ‘fuck’ category. I had guys say ‘well you fucked my friend, you should fuck me too’. Often I agreed because at least then it felt like I had a choice. I was very sexualised by then and had no idea how to not act that way. I felt that was all I was good for.
I got married at 22years old, and felt like I was 102. I felt tired, exhausted, wrecked. I wanted to feel safe, and the guy I married was the first person who cared enough about me to want to make me feel safe and loved and we are together 24 years later, not because we are actually a good match but because I feel safe. I still have very big boundary issues – I have not worked full-time since I got married ostensibly because of having kids and running a house, but in reality it is because the world out there terrifies me. I have major anxiety issues. I find it very hard to create boundaries and enforce rules for my kids because I hate confrontations. I don’t remember a time I haven’t had depression, and I am still socially isolated. I’ve tried to get help but funding never lasts long before you have to go in front of an ACC shrink and I don’t want to keep having to relive all this to get funding and with all the leaks from ACC I do not want my private life on display due to their incompetence. I am consumed by suicidal depression – the only thing that stops me is I don’t want to impact on my kids.
I’m 46 now and the horrible years were from 14 to 21, a small chunk of time in comparison, yet the scars from that time never heal, the memories never go away. The funny thing about it all is, people think I’m always cheerful, helpful and caring, they think I have a wonderful life, and can’t understand how I can still be affected by stuff that happened so long ago. I wish I wasn’t.
 In a culture where “boys will be boys”, where “nice girls don’t do bad things”, where “don’t make a fuss” and “what will the neighbours think” bad things happen. In a culture where “what was she wearing?” “Had she been drinking?” and “why was she out at that time of night?” are commonly asked questions of rape survivors.
I’m sitting here thinking back on the headlines of the last week or two, thinking – women have been violated in their own homes and outside of their homes, they have been violated with or without alcohol or drugs on board, they have been violated regardless of their clothing. Because none of that matters, those are not the reason we get raped.
While not all men are rapists and not all rapists are men, it is most definitely time for our men and boys to take a look at how they think. While your average man might recoil in horror at the thought of raping a woman, if you ask a few gentle leading questions about their teenage years, you might be surprised at what is uncovered. Did you ever have a girl say no, but you kept persisting until she said yes? Did you ever give a girl alcohol because you knew that was the best way to get her to say yes? I’ve heard alcohol described as “liquid pantie remover”. Did the girl feel as delighted about the experience as you did, or was she quiet and withdrawn afterwards? Did you ever pester a girl into sex and then have her burst into tears? Did you have sex with a girl you didn’t care about just because “hey she’s a slut and I’m horny, it isn’t like she matters’? You might not be dragging girls off the street and hurting them physically, but you might not always be engaging in fully consensual sex either gentlemen. Take some time to think about it. If you dare.
Because you are missing out on great relationships, fantastic women and you don’t know it.
I’m the kind of person you don’t find on Facebook or Oldfriends , the one that doesn’t go to School Reunions, who doesn’t meet up with old school friends. That time in my life was horrific and I don’t want to relive it. I don’t want to meet up with the guys who have memories of me as ‘that keen for sex’ slut. That happy memory in your wank bank is not one of my happy memories. I probably don’t even remember you, let alone remember details of what we did that night.
I know I am intelligent, there is a lot I could have done with my life. I could be running a business or have a successful career. I have started university papers at various times in my life – I finished only one of them. One time I dropped out because lectures were at a time where I’d have to be out and about after dark. My confidence is very low, I feel like I will never get anywhere unless someone takes me on, mentoring me, holding my hand (figuratively speaking) until I am able to cope.
I know that unless our culture changes there will never be a time I feel safe outside my home. At my age I guess the police will not say I am “asking for it” since I am middle-aged and married, therefore ‘respectable’, but rapists don’t stop to ask permission. I can’t go out and drink, in fact I rarely drink at all, and never ever get drunk. Not because it wouldn’t be a little bit fun to relax for a while, but because I trust no one to keep me safe.