When I was fifteen, I was raped by my first boyfriend who told me he’d gotten frustrated with waiting for me to feel ready. Due to the nature of our relationship, I had a hard time coming to terms with what it was. I knew it had been violent and I knew that I’d been restrained, my mouth covered. But I also knew that he’d said he loved me throughout and that afterwards he’d tried to wipe my tears before letting me get up. I was confused and I didn’t want it to be true. Rape was something that happened to older girls walking home late at night, assaulted by strangers. We’d learnt that at school. It wasn’t supposed to happen on a Sunday walk with someone you trusted.
Afterwards, I couldn’t say a word to him and he panicked and left. I sat for a very long time before calling a friend who tried to convince me that I was overly emotional. She sighed at the situation, saying ‘it’s difficult when you regret your first time’ but that ‘you just have to get on with it’. She didn’t mention the word rape and neither did I, I just told her I’d been scared and that I hadn’t wanted to do it, but he’d made me anyway and it had hurt.
I didn’t go to the police straight away. I was in a situation where my boyfriend actually lived in my house with me and he spent the next few days being gentle and kind. Telling me he loved me and he was so happy we’d finally shared that experience together. I knew he was twisting things but I desperately wanted to believe it. So I lived in that reality for a few days, but at night I was sick. I had nightmares, took midnight showers and vomited until there wasn’t anything left.
After two weeks, when my boyfriend went out for a rugby game, I went to the local police station. I was terrified but for the first time since it happened, I felt a little bit stronger. I walked down there without tears, prepared to tell them everything. Even though he meant so much to me, I knew it wasn’t right and I knew he would never be expecting me to tell.
Telling the police was an anti-climax. After this huge thing I’d talked myself into, they kind of took the wind out of my sails. They made me feel small again… and silly. They made me feel like a child. After requesting to speak to someone about an assault (I couldn’t firstly say sexual assault, I was young for my age), I was made to wait 45 minutes before someone said I should probably come back another day. I panicked and said that actually, it was a sexual assault I needed to report and it was urgent.
It was actually a woman behind the desk, she looked at me up and down and sighed, stating ‘it doesn’t look like you’ve been assaulted?’. I was shocked but told her it had happened two weeks ago, but I hadn’t been able to tell anyone immediately. The police woman smirked as though to say ‘yeah right’ and gestured to another police officer, a man this time. She pointed to a room and said ‘Well, you can tell your story in there’.
Even the word story and the way she said it, I already knew I wasn’t going to be believed. But it only got worse. I was questioned about me and my ‘rapist’ (I’d never used the word yet, every time he said it, it made me jump. Like he was using it to remind me of the severity of what I was saying). I was asked about our relationship together, asked ‘did you often have sex together?’ ‘why didn\’t you want to, if he was your boyfriend?’ and ‘Do you often have sex with anyone else?’. I felt like I was being painted out as promiscuous, wanting to teach a boyfriend a lesson. I was asked ‘what would your boyfriend think of you coming down here?’ and ‘are you really prepared to stand by these claims in court?’.
He left the room briefly and I panicked, I couldn’t think straight. I started wondering whether my boyfriend was right, maybe he was good and kind and maybe he didn’t deserve this. Maybe my friend had been right, maybe I had given him the impression that’s what I wanted, maybe I was just regretting my first time. Maybe even, this wasn’t what I thought it was. I’d never had sex before, I didn’t know how it should be. I didn’t know anything.
When the police officer came back in, he asked my date of birth. After working out that I was underage, a fact he hadn’t questioned previously, he visibly panicked a bit. After leaving, a different police man entered who seemed to have more authority. He told me ‘This is a serious thing you’re doing here’.
He didn’t ask me anymore questions about the assault after that, but he did tell me what would happen to my boyfriend if this went forward. He described the charges and the impact on his personal life. He asked what my boyfriend did or if he had a job. After telling him, he added in that he would be no longer able to play rugby, wouldn’t be able to get back into a school like that after serving time on a charge like this, that he’d be unlikely to find another job.
He told me that the court would pick apart any evidence or lack there of. He asked if I had bruises, I quickly rushed to show him some on my arms but they were faded fast. He smiled at me. He said roughly something like ‘If you’re lying, the court will see that immediately and you’ll be in a lot of trouble. Not to mention that damage it would do to your fella, dealing with an accusation like that’.
After this, which lasted about an hour and a half, after having glided over the actual details I’d given about the assault, to focus on the impact of me proceeding – they then asked whether I’d like to record my statement and begin the process.
I said no.
All three police officers smiled at me and the woman on the desk said ‘I think that’s a good idea’. As I was walked to the door, the senior officer patted my shoulder and said ‘good girl’ and joked that he hoped he wouldn’t be seeing me again any time soon.
I went home, mortified. Convinced I’d somehow got it wrong, must have done. Because people in positions of responsibility like that, must know best right? I felt sick and so confused about what was going on. When I got home, my boyfriend told me he was making me dinner. I asked him to stop, told him I wanted him to go, needed to be alone. We got into a fight and I revealed I’d been to the police office. He screamed at me and punched me in the stomach and across my face. Then he left.
I remember seeing blood on my face and actually being happy there was something visual, something tangible and solid so that I knew he’d definitely done something wrong this time. I also remember knowing that I wouldn’t report it, would never report any of it. Would never tell anyone about it ever again. Would try to forget about it. Would try to go back to normal.
When my boyfriend returned, we dated for another year. He spent that time twisting things in my head, to make me feel like he was the victim, like I owed him so much. Eventually he left for University and we broke up when he met someone else there.
I started off sad, then the more time that passed, started to feel sorry for her. Started to feel sick again, started to feel guilty for being so easily persuaded not to report him. It’s only now, at the age of 21 that I’ve actually told anyone. I’m starting to be more open about it, letting friends know when I’d find things hard and why – plays with trigger warnings, feminist workshops that focus on assault or abuse, going out to clubs or anywhere closed in or claustrophobic.
It took me such a long time, not to believe I was that guilty, promiscuous, silly little girl that I was made to feel I was. My rape didn’t go to court, no one was punished, there were no lawyers or people standing up for me. The police made a terrifying, horrible situation, seem like something that was my fault. And it had an irreversible effect on the way I’ve lived the past few years.