It’s been an insanely intense week, for better and worse.
A week ago today, I was sexually assaulted whilst abroad.
It still feels like it was somehow my fault.
It happened pretty fast. A male stranger, of around my age, asked for a hug. The environment I was in meant this was by no means an unusual request, so I didn’t hesitate. I said yes. At the last second realised he was watching my pocket, and I thought…crap he’s after my phone. Not wanting to offend him by suddenly stepping away from the incoming hug, I put my hands in my pockets to protect my phone. He hugged me in a professional, distanced manner, but when my hands were securely in my pockets, suddenly the hug became a very tight restraint. He pulled me against him, his arms wrapped painfully tightly around me. I didn’t panic – it was broad daylight in a fairly public space, I just didn’t feel comfortable. He proceeded to kiss my cheeks, which again I didn’t enjoy, but I guessed was a cultural thing, so I just tensed and took it. After him kissing each cheek twice, he did it again, this time leaving his mouth there for longer, and at this point I decided that was quite enough, and tried wriggling away – I couldn’t push him, as my arms were trapped inside my pockets…
Then he tried kissing me fully on the mouth. I yelled ‘no’ and pulled my head back, away from him, now really struggling against his arms but he was strong. In moving my head, my neck was now exposed, so he proceeded to kiss and bite me on my neck. I kept wriggling, telling him no, to get off me, but in the end he forced my head into a position where I couldn’t escape him kissing my mouth. He forced his tongue in. I gagged, I bit his tongue, which he didn’t like, and weakened his grip around me, meaning I could wriggle out and push him away, and storm off.
I know my past has made it very difficult for me to know when someone has crossed a line in this area. My body has never been mine. I don’t know when I’m supposed to scream for help and when I’m supposed to just go with it. I know rape is wrong but at what point does something start being a sexual assault? Was the kissing in itself that? I really don’t know.
I thought that’d be the end of it, but he re-appeared, seconds later, next to me now. I kept walking and ignored him, but he wrapped his arm around my waist, and I became aware of something hard being pressed into my thigh. With a sickening lurch I realised it was his erection. He pulled me against him, making walking difficult, just pushing himself into me. He was wearing trousers, not jeans, soft material stuff so it meant his erection was very easy to push into me 😦 At this stage, I shut down briefly. My old coping strategy of go silent and go with it kicked in. I just went into paralysis. I thought of screaming – there were people around, some very close by, but I just fell silent. I willed myself to scream but my body had gone rigid. I managed to keep walking, and just focused on walking.
He told me he loved me, he really liked me, he wanted sex with me. Asked me if I wanted sex, I re-found my voice and firmly told him no, no, no, over and over again. He grabbed my hand and tried to get me to touch him, but I snatched my hand away and yelled at him. Yelled no. He then reached over and grabbed me, excruciatingly hard, between my legs, preventing me from walking. It was disturbingly painful. I now have a zip-line bruise there 😦 It made me gasp out, in pain, it was such an aggressive and forceful grab. Then he pushed me against a fence, pressing his erection against my again, fiddling with my jeans, telling me over and over he loved me and don’t I want to have sex with him. People around – I’m not kidding you, people were there. I was at this stage crying, yelling, trying to push him off me, yelling and yelling no, no, no, stop it, get off me, over and over. I’d tried ringing for help when we were walking and that hadn’t put him off in the slightest. I was frightened nothing would.
I managed to push him off me and get past him. I was in wellies – running wasn’t an option, I wouldn’t get very far, and at this point I thought I might need energy for fighting, if I’m honest. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know the name of the road I was on, I was in a foreign country, and was just panicking blindly. He appeared again, feigning disappointment, holding my chin to look at his erection, insisting on a selfie on his phone of him kissing my cheek. Again and again he asked me, demanded, pushed himself against me. He moved behind me and pulled me backwards against him, pressing his erection now into the top of my thigh from behind. Fiddling again with my jeans and trying to push me nearer the fence.
It sounds absurd…but at the start of all this, I’d been praying ‘please don’t rape me, please don’t rape me…’ but after 15 minutes? I almost willed him to. Not because I wanted to be raped. But because it felt an inevitable outcome – it was clear what he wanted and it was only me pushing him off me that was preventing it. I reached a point of despair where I believed it was going to happen whatever I did, and was feeling so upset and traumatised that he might as well have done it anyway, it had already been so violating, and I thought that the only way to get him to go away would be if he got what he wanted. I felt sick with myself for feeling any of this. Disgusted.
Again he asked me, and finally I snapped at him, finally I found some courage and snapped at him that I’d call the police and he’d be arrested. He then tried convincing me he was 16 and therefore untouchable by police – neither fact true. He backed away and I thought it was over. My friend answered the phone and I cried to her, she asked where he was…I turned around and realised he was following me, with his mate (who had stood and watched the whole thing, smirking). Now I felt really frightened. He wasn’t going to go away unless he raped me.
My friend told me to hang up, take their photo, and call her back. I did. I was frightened to hang up, to lose the contact again, but I knew she was right. As it was, it was this which intimidated them into going away. They covered their faces as I held my phone and pointed it at them, following me. Then they finally, finally vanished. I later found out he tried it on someone else within a matter of minutes….
I can’t describe the state I was in. For about 5 seconds I thought I was okay. I wasn’t raped right? Was it that serious? But then the tears began. I sobbed, hysterically, incoherently, 3 friends came to find me, got me help, took me to the police. I just kept crying. I just could not stop crying. Then shock hit, the tears wore off, I stared into space, dazed, shaking, half hearing words people were saying to me…I just felt dirty, ashamed. In some bizarre way felt I’d betrayed my partner, despite having been clear to the person who assaulted me that I did not want any of it. He asked for a hug, I gave him my compassion. He abused me with it.
It was terrifying, and I feel ridiculous writing that because I’ve survived worse. I sat in the police station and all I could taste was his tongue, I kept feeling his erection against my leg, his hands on my jeans.
The week that’s followed….gradually easier. I can now talk about it without crying. Monday, Tuesday…tears, almost non-stop. My eyes felt so sore. I tried not to think about what happened but it kept coming back to me. People couldn’t hug me without me having a panic attack – suddenly the physical sensation of a hug felt claustrophobic, I felt trapped, and I couldn’t handle it. I spent many hours in bed crying, other hours sat on the sofa and staring into space, crying or just dazed. I was exhausted, constantly. And just filled with this deep sense of shame, guilt…disgust…being dirty…I kept scrubbing at my body in the shower, kept scrubbing my tongue with my toothbrush, obsessively, several times a day, just trying to get the taste away. I’ve had crazy nightmares.
He kept commenting on my hair, on it being blonde, as if that was somehow my consent. I have since dyed my hair. It’s no longer blonde.
It has brought so much up for me. I feel like there must be something wrong with me. I have been hurt so many times by people 😥 I feel depressed, utterly depressed, and still ashamed.
In the most bizarre sense, I’m grateful for my past, because it’s meant I have resilience. It’s meant I can look at this event and know I’m crashed at the moment, but picking up, I’m much better than I was on Monday or Tuesday, where I just could not even attempt speaking about it without crying. I know I can survive this. I have survived everything else.
I just wish I didn’t have to 😥 😥
My partner and friends have been the most incredible support, and professionals are helping me too. In the midst of more pain and and trauma…I have witnessed people’s love at its most wonderful. It is that I’m holding onto.
I will survive this…