Strength Courage & Wisdom (Content Note: Rape)
I weep as I write this, not for me, but for others who are raped and have not yet found within themselves the strength courage and wisdom to put it aside and not let it define who they are.
I was raped in a smart London hotel room, while my baby son watched. The rapist, having attacked me in the lift and taken my room key from my bag, made sure he stayed between me and the baby.
I was compliant.
Physically I was not badly injured, tho I did have a perfect set of finger prints around my windpipe from when he first pounced.
I didn't know this man, I was in London (a rare treat) to meet my husband who was returning from working overseas.
I endured his presence. I waited until next morning when he finally left. I didn't scream or call out- I had no idea if other rooms were occupied; I had neither heard nor seen other guests since checking in. I didn't want either my son or myself to be in any more danger.
He left- I phoned room service. Something I didn't say alerted the staff, the duty manager, a porter and someone else appeared. They called police. I was a bit reluctant- I didn't think I would be believed.
I spent the day, not shopping and sight-seeing as planned, but in West End Central police station. I was examined, questioned, further questioned...and finally free to meet my husbands plane.
I recall an officer asked me what my husbands reaction would be- and I confidently answered that he would want to kill the man who had done this to me.
I was wrong.
My husband immediately noticed the bruising - so like "love-bites" and asked what I had been doing.
Me: "I was raped."
Him: "How did you provoke that?"
It seems odd. Until that moment I thought we were happy, had a good marriage- even tho I was still very young, in my early 20's.
He got back on the next flight and I never saw him again.
I went home. I wept, I raged. I drank to much. I found out who my friends were. I felt guilty for the part of me that saw my son and thought "if only he hadn't been there, I could have prevented this, fought back..."
I told my mother I had been raped, and hand on heart, her reply was "That can't have been very nice for you."
I told my sister, and was treated to a lecture on why women "ask for it."
I was in bits. A mess. Drinking too much, struggling to cope, sacked from my job for non-attendance, short of money- I got a lodger to help pay the bills- and she, I am ashamed to admit, did far more of the care of my son than I.
It didn't get any better when the police told me that they had caught the man responsible.
I was told I had to appear in court. Not just any court- The Old Bailey. I had to go back to London. Stay in another hotel…and I was petrified that I would not be believed. That my life collapsing around me was my own fault.
The police told me they could “fiddle my expenses” so that my lodger could come with me…and another friend said she would take my son for the expected 5 day trial. (Mother was too busy.)
The night before we left for the trial, my lodgers boyfriend came round- funny, caring, and he achieved the impossible…He made me laugh. I was freaking out, petrified that I wouldn’t be believed…that I would break down…that I couldn’t do this. I recall the conversation as if it were yesterday. He said he would come to the court with me, sit in the public gallery, and if he thought I were about to lose it, he promised he would stand up and say to the judge “Hey mate, how do you get your hair like that, do you gel it?”
He told me if I could laugh about it, I could do it…
The inside of the Old Bailey is very imposing, such majesty- I had only ever heard of it from stuff on the TV. I don’t think any member of my family had ever seen the inside of any courtroom…but here was I.
The rapist faced several charges. I was not the only woman he raped.
The prosecuting barrister came to speak to me, told me that he was to plead guilty to other charges, would be sentenced, and my case- which he denied, would “lie on file.”
That was it. My way out. I didn’t have to stand in the court and be called a liar by the defence barrister- who even I had heard of…
I thought briefly of those whose support had got me this far- of a judge being asked about his hair care…and refused.
I wanted him convicting of what he did to me. That deserves more than to be an “also done” on a file that never sees the light of day…
The barrister went back, told the court I would proceed, and guess what?
THE BASTARD CAVED IN AND PLEADED GUILTY TO ALL CHARGES!!!
I didn’t have to give evidence. He got eight years.
I decided there and then the next eight years were going to be as good for me as they were bad for him.
I don’t pretend it was easy- or not to start with. I was determined he was not going to “ruin my life”.
God I hate that phrase.
He could only ruin it if I let him.
Concentrate on the positives. My friends were a joy, they lent me their strength when I was lacking. They refused to let me wallow. Tough love, when I needed a kick up the arse, and endless shoulders to weep on when I needed.
I survived. I grew stronger. I refuse to let this man ruin the rest of my life. I refuse to let being raped define who I am. It happened. I survived. I grew stronger. I learned what love and friendship and compassion really mean…and I am a better person for it.
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