Roast Busters were not doing anything new. I had my own experience of rape culture as a teenager in New Zealand in the 1980s. I found out years later that from my very first kiss at my first teenage party (three 14 year old girls and ten 16 year old boys) I was being deliberately manipulated by certain boys into compromising situations where I would be too drunk to be able to give or withhold consent. For the next couple of years I was part of a (white, middle class) social group where rape was normal and acknowledged behaviour, and I even knew of a woman who would get young girls drunk for her boyfriend and his friends to rape. Despite (or because of) this environment, and my own desire to be seen as sexually sophisticated, I never thought of myself as raped and certainly never complained.
Only as an adult looking back did hindsight suggest those sexual experiences hadn’t always been by my choice. More difficult to bear is my memory of witnessing another young girl being gang raped while I stood by. I was so off my face, so scared and so confused that I only understood what I had seen days later but I still cannot forgive myself for not having done something to help her. Even after years of counselling, my dominant feelings about that period are not anger towards the men, but guilt and shame for my own tolerance of their behaviour.
The long term legacy of my awful adolescence includes herpes, and single parenting the (beloved) child of my teenage pregnancy. It is also the reason why, three decades later I have still never had a long-term relationship, stay celibate for years at a time and am unable to trust men; especially anyone whom I suspect is attracted to me. I do not trust myself or my own sexual feelings either. And I rarely drink alcohol and never in public or around men.
I hope that all the girls who have been used by the Roast Busters (or any of the many other predatory males still out of the public eye) can find healing and recovery in the wake of the appropriately outraged reaction of so many people to this story.
To live with those kind of memories as a secret shame is a festering wound.