TO BECOME A SURVIVOR YOU MUST FIRST BE A VICTIM
Over recent years, the term ‘rape victim’ has been switched to the more positive term of ‘rape survivor’.
However, to become a survivor, you must sadly first be a victim.
Twenty-three years ago, on a beautiful summer’s morning, my husband raped me. It was an act of rage and control as I had disobeyed him by getting my hair coloured and then stayed at a friend’s house following a party. In the moments when my face was being pushed into the pillow and I was experiencing severe pain, I begged him to stop time and time again, but he was determined to finish what he had set out to do. It wasn’t rape as you may imagine it, but back then sodomy was not categorised as ‘rape’ and raping your spouse was not an offence in the eyes of the law.
Like many other victims of rape, I put on a brave face and carried on my daily life as if nothing had happened, whilst inside I was in turmoil, as well as physically injured – I bled for seven weeks after the assault. Nobody had any idea. It stayed that way until I was ready and strong enough to say the words out loud and face the consequences, which took me several weeks. The first person I told was my poor mum, followed by close family and friends. That’s when it all came out, and he admitted to friends that he had raped me (one conversation being on a recorded line).
Having been informed by our family lawyer that the attack was not against the law, it was many months before I anonymously contacted Crime-Stoppers. They told me I should report it to my local station. Several more months passed before I did this. I feared they wouldn’t believe me and as I hadn’t reported it the day it happened (my husband begged me not to) there was no medical evidence, and I thought too much time had passed for them to take me seriously.
As it turned out, the domestic crime unit was excellent and treated me with care and respect. My assigned officers supported me all the way to the trial. Being a coward, my husband pleaded ‘Not Guilty’ and didn’t even have to take the stand. Whereas a mutual friend was cross-examined and I was grilled for nearly 2 hours. The verdict being that due to lack of medical evidence and on technicalities (such as when he admitted it to friends, he had used the term ‘rape’ not ‘sodomy’) it got thrown out.
After putting myself, family and friends through an ordeal that lasted around 2-3 years, he was acquitted, and I was left to pick up the pieces of my life. I now had to face people who saw me as a liar and a wife who had turned her husband into the police for something that should have remained private. Some even thought that I should have accepted it as part of marriage!
It’s odd that the rape ruined my life but saved me from a marriage that would probably have become more violent if he hadn’t left. However, the law and judicial system almost killed me.
I came close to taking my own life. Thankfully, I didn’t and, having sought professional help, I managed to continue my life as a survivor of rape. I’m not going to pretend that life is rosy now I’ve re-classified myself as a survivor. I have been left scarred and don’t feel comfortable around men who may show any hint of wanting more than a friendship.
The most important thing I learned from my ordeal is that talking about it to someone you trust is a vital part of coping and coming to terms with it.
The ‘Me too’ movement and JAAR have raised awareness of rape and empowered victims to come forward as survivors; and, at last, the sexual assault law has been updated (although only two years ago).
I’ll never forget what happened and I’m still not fully healed, but there is life after rape, and I haven’t let it stop me living my life in a way that makes me happy.