I was 19. Two girlfriends of mine went with me to a party where I was to meet my boyfriend, who I’d been going out with for maybe 2-3 months. There weren’t very many people there but there was quite a bit of alcohol and great music (U2) and I got pissed really quickly. After a while my friends went home, probably assuming my boyfriend would look after me. My head was spinning so I went into a bedroom to have a lie down. I either passed out or went to sleep, and a bit later I came to or woke up to find my boyfriend fucking me. I was so out of it I didn’t have the strength or co-ordination to try to stop him. It was like a bad dream. I do remember the bed was comfortable and I was lying on a sheepskin. Small mercies. I really don’t remember much after that except that my boyfriend probably took me home, and that we broke up not long after that.
I did an excellent job of sealing the incident into a locked box in my mind for several years, although I remember crying when having sex with another boyfriend about 3 years later and saying “I think I must have been raped before.” I had various short-term  relationships and not much sexual satisfaction, self-love or confidence. Then I met a guy when I was travelling and we were really attracted to each other but I said I wasn’t ready for a sexual relationship. He was fantastic and said it was absolutely no problem. We travelled together for 6 months as intimate companions and we cuddled but he never pressured me for sex – I was in control of my body and it was such a revelation and turning point.
I learnt self-defence and went to an assertiveness course, both of which were great, but probably not much use if you’re quite drunk.
It wasn’t until 9 years after the rape that I actually realised it was rape, when talking with a friend about our various experiences. She said “It sounds like what happened to you was rape. You didn’t consent. He went ahead. Therefore it’s rape.” I blamed myself for a long time because I was drunk. If I hadn’t been drunk it wouldn’t have happened, I reasoned. Naming it as rape and realising it was his responsibility, not mine, was a big step towards healing for me. I went to a couple of different counsellors but the best support and advice came from friends. I never bothered to go to the police because it was a few years back and I reasoned that it would be his word against mine.
The rapist still lives in the same town as me, and a while ago I saw him at a mutual friend’s barbecue. We politely said hello and made small talk. He’s married with children and seems like a normal nice guy. I wonder if he even realises he raped me. I have thought about contacting him to talk about it but I haven’t come to a point where I feel safe enough to do this or like it would be the best thing for me.
I’ve had a few incidents where I’ve reacted badly to watching rape scenes in movies, like a pretty dubious scene in The Piano which I thought about walking out on. Another time watching the video of Lady Chatterley’s Lover with friends I had to leave the room. They were surprised but stopped playing the video and were sympathetic to me.
Then more recently I met a random guy, an older maths teacher, at a cafe and somehow he persuaded me to go back to his flat with him. He wanted to massage me and I let him, but when I realised he had a hard-on I jumped up and said this wasn’t what I wanted and I was leaving. But I didn’t know the town or how to get back to where I was staying. He gave me a lift back but he was constantly pleading with me to hang out with him for the day. I thought I was older and wiser by now, and I did get away this time, but I was pretty shaken by the incident, like I had been psychically violated. I got the feeling this guy had done this kind of thing before. I even berated myself for not picking up on the warning signs, and for continuing to be nice to him rather than allow myself to get angry. I felt a bit ashamed of myself that I hadn’t been more assertive, and the incident was upsetting in that it made me realise that I could still be vulnerable to being preyed on.
The most healing things have been to love myself, to forgive myself, and to accept the love and support of my partner and friends.