I apologised to my rapist. It took me five years to write that sentence and will take me many more years to understand why. What happened that night in August 2011 has haunted my dreams, damaged my friendships and obliterated my trust in men.
I relive that night and the aftermath frequently. I know my rapist. He was a close friend. He’s the husband of one of my best friends. Before today we were the only two people who know what happened that night.
My background with Mr X was complicated. We had known each other for over a decade and shared a few drunken kisses when we were both single. We had a flirty, tactile friendship but as soon as he was in a relationship a line was drawn. When Mr X got married I saw him more as a brother than some dude I used to fancy. I was such close friends with Mr and Mrs X; attending parties, music festivals and even spending Christmases together.
On that fateful day a group of friends were staying in a house for a party during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. We had a barbecue in the afternoon, were attending a comedy show in the evening with an afterparty back at the house, which belonged to Mr X’s parents. I made the mistake of getting very drunk early on in the day. By the time the show started I could barely stand and was a slurring mess. I blacked out for most of the night and could only piece together chunks of information later by looking through pictures on my friends phone. My friend took me back to the house and I passed out on the bed fully clothed.
The next memory was the most vivid. I woke up to find Mr X on top of me. There’s nothing quite like someone having unsolicited sex with you to rouse you from a blackout. I froze. It was pitch black but I could smell him, I could feel him breathing in my ear. My head said “this is a dream” as my body lay lifeless on the bed. In what seemed like a couple of minutes it was over. I hadn’t uttered a single noise, I didn’t struggle. I was struck dumb. As soon as he got off me I scrambled off the bed, gathered my clothes from the floor (I woke up naked from the waist down) and ran to the bathroom. I was violently sick then went in a shower to scrub the smell of him away. I dressed, found a blanket and curled up in a ball on the sofa. I wanted to go home but didn’t have my house keys and wasn’t willing to rouse my parents at 4am to unlock the door.
Later that morning the party goers stirred and talk turned to the events of the night before. My drunken antics were the main talking point. I fell over a lot. I was so wasted I was heckling the comedian (no recollection). I was sitting on Mr X’s knee telling him how much I loved him (and repeated this with other friends of both sexes). My stomach was in knots. What the hell happened? Was it all a horrible dream? I was calling a taxi to take me home when I heard the kitchen door open and Mr X strode in. He looked at me and winked. That wink still makes me sick.
I got home and my mind was in overdrive. If I tell people will anyone believe me? Is it my fault for flirting with him? Will his marriage break up? Was I so drunk I asked him to shag me? I had a hundred questions but the only answer I could come up with was I did this. It was my fault. I was to blame. I made this happen. Almost immediately I exonerated him. I saw Mr and Mrs X at a family function the following week and when we were alone I said sorry. To him. I believed that I’d caused this. He just nodded and looked worried, knowing I could tell anyone what happened at any time. But I never did. It became my secret shame.
After that night I stopped going out, stopped drinking as much, stopped hanging out with my good friends. I couldn’t handle being reminded of what happened. If any one of those friends had come to me and told me they’d been attacked I would have marched them to the nearest police station. I would have told them to speak to a professional. I spoke to someone at Victim Support and I know the chance of being sexually assaulted by someone you know is sadly familiar. The majority of victims don’t speak out. I was ashamed that I didn’t stop it while it was happening, that I didn’t report it, that I didn’t speak out. I was convinced it was all my fault, that I wasn’t a victim at all. That I would be perceived as some homewrecking slut who pursued a married man. The secret grew like an ugly tumour inside of me, it made me push people away who couldn’t understand why I chose to isolate myself.
I now know it wasn’t my fault. I was unconscious so didn’t consent to anything. I was drunk and flirtatious but I didn’t ask to be violated. He didn’t mistake me for his wife, she wasn’t in the house. That wink told me he thought it was a bit of fun. As someone who had to track down a chemist for emergency contraception on that Sunday and who has flashbacks that wake her up in a cold sweat I can confirm there was nothing fun about it.
If you or anyone you know has been a victim of assault the following organisations offer advice and support:
RAINN – Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network
There are a number of local organisations and support groups, a simple Google search should help you find one in your area.