*** Trigger Warning – Rape ***
There are many drunken nights and encounters with men in my past. Most are now so far in the past and so much like all the others, that they have blended into one. I stopped counting how many men I woke up with a long time ago. Most of them I could hardly even remember meeting. I know with hindsight, many of those encounters could be classed as rape. I was in no fit state to give consent, or to be a competent participant in what happened. My addiction left me vulnerable, and I often put myself in some very risky situations.
Most of these experiences left me feeling dirty, used and shameful, but I have been able to leave them in the past. There is one that is etched into my memory, albeit in snapshots rather than a cohesive narrative. It was the night I know I am lucky to have survived.
I was in a club in Soho with my friend. We had been out for a few hours, and we were both pretty drunk.
I found myself with a man I don’t remember meeting, and I somehow lost my friend.
My memories are patchy. I know at some point I lost my pants and was walking around London wearing only a long shirt and shoes. I have a vague memory of being in a parking lot, reluctantly having sex, and feeling very scared. That memory stayed with me for years, leaving me uneasy in large car parks. We seemed to walk for miles around London, eventually coming to a hotel about 2 miles away from Soho. I assume this hotel must have been used by men arriving with prostitutes. That must have been how I looked to the reception staff.
I don’t remember much of what happened that night. I do remember moments of pain and fear, and not wanting to be there. At some point, I must have fallen asleep or passed out. I remember waking up and bursting into tears with no idea where I was. In the company of a complete stranger. I didn’t really know what had happened. I was confused and scared and worried about how I would get home because I didn’t have my wallet. Frightened, I sobbed that I needed to get home to my son.
Something changed in his face when I talked about my two-year-old.
He took me out of the hotel, told me where I was and gave me money to get back to my friend’s house.
When I arrived at her house, and we talked about what had happened, we realized that I must have been drugged. She told me that she had been very worried as I was alarmingly drunk very quickly before I disappeared. The drunkenness was far beyond what she would have expected. She helped me relax and calmed me enough for me to return home.
A few days later, I was watching a TV program with a rape scene. I found myself barely able to breathe, panicking, clutching my throat and sobbing as the memories flooded back.
I wanted to report it. I wanted him to be caught before he could hurt anyone else. But I didn’t.
I couldn’t remember him clearly enough to give a description. Anyway, who would believe me? I wasn’t exactly the virtuous type. I was drunk. Back home, I was known for sleeping around and taking drugs. There was no way I would have been believed.
I’d like to think things would be different now, but I know that it isn’t the case. I am not the only woman to have had this experience. The #MeToo movement showed me it’s as hard to make yourself be believed now as it was twenty years ago.
I spent years thinking I probably deserved that night. Yes, I was drunk, as I often was. I fell into bed with too many men. I was the epitome of ‘easy’ in my desperation to feel loved.
I didn’t deserve it. I didn’t go out that night looking for sex. I certainly didn’t ask to be drugged, abducted and raped by a man I didn’t know. All I wanted was a fun night with a friend. I should have been safe and had a good time.
I know the rape wasn’t about me personally. If not me, it would have been someone else.
The experience left emotional scars in me that have never been truly healed. Twenty years later I still sometimes find myself reacting to weird triggers. But whenever I think about that night, I think, ‘Thank God I survived that.”
I have often wondered if, in talking about my son, I inadvertently saved myself from a far worse fate. I have always had the feeling that he changed his mind about something at that moment. Of course, I will never know and I am not sure I would ever want to know. But I am glad I am here to write about it.