I shall never know who I truly am

I am someone who was gang raped as a child in the early 1960s, but almost no one knows – it was never reported to the police. It is not a statistic, but I have lived with this and it’s effects ever since.

The boys involved were locals who knew me – they were only in their early teens.

In relation to the uninformed comments with regard to the current appalling Roast Busters case, I stress that there was no alcohol involved and that I was an innocent, chubby child wearing home made clothes. So I know that alcohol is not the cause of my gang rape and neither was my clothing or behaviour. These are red herrings. The real problem here is something else altogether, something much darker.

My main recollection is the excruciating agony, the unbearable burning pain that went on and on. Being watched while it happened that made it so much worse as did noticing the boys’ excitement as they tortured me.

I had thought that nothing could have made it all worse, but now I am grateful that they were not able to take photos or videos of what they did to me. I don’t know how I could have coped with that as well and my thoughts are with any victims who have had to live with this additional humiliation. Be strong!

At the time I did not know what the boys had done to me, I did not know there was a word for it, I thought it was something most terrible and unusual that had never happened to anyone on earth before. I had no idea it was a distorted version of what ought to be a loving connection between two adults who love each other. I had no idea it was illegal and that I could report it.

Afterwards, the boys made me promise not to tell and I did not dare to, but they did. They bragged about it at school.  The other children looked sideways at me and I was ostracised. I heard that some of the parents also knew, but said that what I had done with the boys was disgusting. I was terribly ashamed when I heard that, but no adult every spoke to me about it.

I coped, I just got through each day. I focussed on my school work and did well at that, and got a university education. I had a successful career, and I married and had children. I thought I could just forget what happened and move on, so I did not tell anyone, including my husband. But my marriage broke down because I developed a great fear of physical intimacy with him.

Finally, about 30 years after the gang rape, I did seek help and get a lot of good counselling over a period of years, and I started the long journey of healing. I am still on that journey. It is a lonely journey, as I still do not feel that I can tell most of my friends without then looking at me differently afterwards. Also, gynaecological issues possibly caused by the rape mean that I am not really able to have a sexual partner in the full sense of that word now that I am older, despite surgery.

I would like to say that my gang rape was not about sex – it was about taking away a girl’s strength from her, and giving power to the boys – and also it was a male bonding experience for the boys involved. It was about humiliating and controlling a female for male gratification. It was about not thinking of me as a human being as it was being done. I felt less than human as it was being done to me.

I shall never know who I would have been, as a sexual adult woman. Or even just as an adult. Would I have been this fearful, this anxious, as prone to depression? I shall never know.

I shall never know who I truly am, this is what was taken from me.

The enormity of that realisation makes me weep still.

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Postscript on pornography:
Although my gang rape occurred before the internet, and it is most unlikely that pornography was available to the boys involved,  I am sure that the wide availability of pornography now and the violence and misogyny in it have affected many men and this is of great concern. One of the effects of my gang rape is that I am always hyper-alert when I am out, so I notice who is around and if they are looking at me or not. And I notice that when I attract the attention of a man as I walk down the street now, he often has a different look on his face from what used to be the case – previously it was a male looking at a female, whom he saw as a human being like himself. If I noticed I was being watched, say, and looked straight at the man, he would usually look away a little sheepishly. But now there is often a disengaged or spaced out look on the man’s face, a narrowing of the eyes, and an unblinking stare as if I was on a screen – so that even when I look at the man, he will continue to stare, completely absorbed in what appears to be a sexual fantasy. He clearly does not see me, or other women, as humans he is interacting with, but rather just objects like the ones he sees on his computer screen. I find this very frightening – I am learning to dress so that my body shape is hidden as much as possible, so that I do not attract this attention.

The fight against rape will never be won until internet pornography is strictly controlled, and what is shown is based on loving touch, and what women truly do like, not on violence and control of women by men.

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