Everyday Victim Blaming

challenging institutional disbelief around domestic & sexual violence and abuse

K’s Story – Through The Eyes of a Friend (Graphic Content)

This submission was sent in by email, and the details have been anonymised.  It contains graphic content, including details of vaginal rape, anal rape, use of weapons and a suspected suicide.  If you need help with any issues raised in this submission, please access our Get Support page here.

This is a story I have never told fully before. I think I am the only person still alive who knows the full story. It is time to tell it. I have thought about writing about it on my own blog but for a variety of reasons I don't think it's appropriate. It will be anonymous. The person who these things happened to is no longer with us and, as I can't ask her permission, it would be wrong to use her name. I shall refer to her simply as K.

K was a friend of mine; as beautiful a friend as you could wish to have. By which I mean she was a wonderful, kind warm person. But yes, she was physically beautiful too. She turned heads. I was friends with her sister, who I shall call S, before I was friends with K. We so nearly didn't ever become friends because of an early misunderstanding. S's group of friends interlinked with some of mine because I shared a house with people who worked in the same place as her. S wasn't shy at expressing her feelings, she'd taken me to task previously about a crass comment I'd made. We had a short heated discussion and that was that. Some weeks later S and I cleared it all up and laughed about, became friends and in turn I got to know K better.

There is one thing I need to tell because it became significant later. At the time I became friendly with the two of them I was going through what was a very difficult emotional time. I was very badly disturbed by the break up of a relationship that I had felt had been the love of my life. It had not ended well and I was struggling to get it out of my system. One of the ways I did this was to be uncharacteristically promiscuous. So I had a bit of a "reputation". One evening I was in a pub having a drink with S after bumping into her coming out of the tube station. She suddenly reached across, grabbed my crutch and said "If you ever sleep with my sister and add her to your little list I will cut these off". We laughed about it, discussed it more sensibly and I made a promise to not ever sleep with K.  In any case I didn't feel it was something K would want to do as she didn't see me in that way. It has been a feature of my life that my closest friends are women and K was one of them. She worked abroad in Paris much of the time and I would visit her.

There came a time when she was back in England staying at S’s house. Coincidentally S happened to be abroad at this time. One evening I phoned to leave a message for S. I don’t know exactly what it was but somehow I knew that something was wrong for K. Nothing she directly said, just a sense I had. Other people had spoken to her but didn’t get the same sense. I drove round to the house but got no answer so I called her from outside. She answered and after some hesitation she told me to come in. I could tell she was crying. When she opened the door my first thought was that she had been mugged. Her face was heavily bruised and also cut. I was to learn that what had actually happened was far worse. I stayed with her for the next 3 days, during that time neither of us left the house. I didn’t leave her until S returned home to take over. Those three days and nights were an ordeal for me. I can’t even begin to imagine how awful they were for K. What had happened to her came out in bits and pieces over that time. She alternated between saying nothing to talking quite rapidly about what had happened. At times she would just sit holding herself and at others she would cling onto me as if her life depended on it. She cried much of the time and at times they were racking sobs.

She had just been in the wrong place at the wrong time. She had been grabbed by what turned out to be four men who bundled her into a van. They drove her and then parked up and then she went through the most horrible ordeal. They raped her vaginally and anally. They forced her to have oral sex with them. They urinated on her whilst verbally abusing her. They also used inanimate objects to penetrate her and deliberately broke some of these. They also hit her. She told me that they were also using drugs whilst this was going on. One of the most painful things she said to me during that first night was “I was so scared that they were going to kill me and now I just wish they had.” I asked her at one point if I could call the police or take her to a police station to report it. She was absolutely adamant and emphatic that we shouldn’t do this. She appeared very frightened at the prospect. Some weeks later she told me that she just couldn’t have done it and knew it right from the beginning. She couldn’t face the ordeal of describing it to strangers etc. She also said she could not face the possibility of a trial where her integrity and honesty would be questioned. I feel that is a horrible part of how the legal system is. She had been through the most awful ordeal and yet she was the one frightened of what the legal system would do to her. During the latter part of that first night and into the morning she told me I would need to look at her injuries to deal with them as they were hurting. Some of them were fairly simple injuries from being hit that in a physical sense I could deal with quite easily. Some of them were much more horrific and personal and quite frightening for both of us. I asked her if she would prefer me to contact a woman to deal with these. She said not as it would involve yet another person and in any case she trusted me. I also tried to persuade her to let me take her to casualty but again she was distressed at the idea. I won’t describe everything but one of the things I had to do was remove broken glass from intimate areas with tweezers. So it continued. A cycle of being with her, comforting her and dealing with bleeding at various points.

I have been told recently that whilst S didn’t tell people the details of what happened with me and K during that time she described me as heroic. I don’t even begin to relate to that really. I was just the person who was there and did what needed to be done. I’d hope anybody would do the same. I was also told that K would never let another man touch her after that, she would even shirk from social kisses. Yet she would often hold my hand in public and private and hug me.

As anyone would expect she was in a very bad place for a couple of months afterwards but eventually she seemed to recover and return to some normality. Then many months later, and seemingly out of the blue, she suddenly went downhill and became very ill with PTSD. I didn’t see her when she was having the worst of her times with this but apparently they were pretty awful. She talked frequently about suicide. Then one night, whilst she was staying in a place she had near the sea she went out in a boat and somehow went over the side and drowned. There was no note and it was not recorded as suicide but that seemed to be the only explanation.

Obviously that was hard for all her friends. S was devastated of course. I have always struggled emotionally with many elements of it and this has got increasingly bad over the years. A few weeks before she died she asked me to have sex with her. She said this was because she thought it would help her to get over the trauma somehow. I said no. There were many reasons for this. There was that promise to S for one thing. I was also in a relationship. Above all I didn’t believe that it would help her to get through it. I didn’t explain all this to her and I think she ma have just seen it as a refusal for other reasons. She had said that she regarded herself as dirty and violated and perhaps my refusal seemed to her in her distressed state to confirm that. I hate myself for not taking the time to explain more fully. I also blame myself for not persuading her more emphatically to go to hospital. If she had got the right medical and more importantly psychological help early on then maybe she would never have gone down that painful route of PTSD. S said that she thinks I kept her alive for longer than she would otherwise have done. I try to see that but in the back of my mind I can’t.

Some time later I was discussing what happened in abstract way with a friend. A friend of a friend was eavesdropping and suddenly said “What was she wearing?” I was temporarily speechless but eventually said “I can’t actually remember but it’s relevant in any way”. To which she said “She must have been giving out some type of signal or vibe” I lost the plot for a while. I’m not an aggressive person and don’t see aggression as a way to deal with problems. But that time I lost it. Shouting and swearing at him and apparently I had to be held back from hitting him. So he may not have known all the details but what a totally crass thing to say. Since then, in a similar situation, someone said that as she didn’t report it if those men attack someone else then it’s her fault. No it most certainly isn’t. It is the fault of the men. No debate.

I have always believed, and obviously even more now, that rape is a hideous crime. So many of the women I know seem to have been raped whether it be attacks by strangers, dates or longer term relationships who will not take no for an answer or waking up from being drunk to find someone has had sex with them. I used to think it was unfortunate that this had happened to so many women I knew. Now I think it’s a statistical norm. We all know lots of women who have been raped. It is a truly awful indictment of our society.

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2 thoughts on “K’s Story – Through The Eyes of a Friend (Graphic Content)

  • Catherine says:

    Thank you for sharing your story. I’m so sorry for the loss of your friend and I hope writing this has afforded you some peace.
    It’s sounds like you were a wonderful friend to K and did as much, and more, than a friend could do.
    Much support to you x

    • Tom says:

      Thank you for reading Catherine and for your lovely comment.
      I hope I helped her. But I can never quite shake off the feeling that I got it wrong.