The Grey Area of Rape (content note)
If you ask someone what Rape is, it may seem like a simple question. Rape is when you sexually assault somebody. But what is sexual assault? In my mind it seems to automatically jump to a scenario of full penetration with the victim screaming for the perpetrator to get off. When I hear those hushed words of "she was raped" (a phrase which seems part of everyday vernacular these days) I can't help but have this scene flash across my mind. It's a scene I'm pretty sure the majority of us associate rape with. And it's so wrong.
Because I know first hand that is not how rape works. It CAN be a loud and violent struggle which is lost. But it can also be silent and still. It can be gentle and it can be given with 'love'. I am uncomfortable with the idea that Rape seems to have a 'Grey Area'. You can see people umming and ahhing about 'is it really rape when they are not penetrated with a penis?/ when they allowed foreplay?/ when they didn't say anything?'. Everyone seems to have a different opinion on what Rape actually entails. And I'm extremely uncomfortable about it. Let me tell you why:
When I was 15, I went on holiday with my Mum and my Step-dad. It was relaxed and fun. I was allowed to drink alcohol and of course I felt very grown up. One of their friends I liked particularly. He was funny, kind and spoke to me like an adult. One night after everyone had been drinking alcohol, including myself, I was left alone with him in the living room whilst everyone else had gone to bed. I was just watching a film and he was sitting next to me. We had spent the evening laughing and joking and by now I was very drunk. I don't know why it happened. I don't understand how this seemingly normal and kind man thought it was ok, but the next thing I knew his hand were creeping into my trousers, past my underwear and inside me.
I froze. I couldn't react, I couldn't even turn my head to look at him. All I could think was: Did I lead him on? Why does he think I want this? What should I do? Will he be angry if I tell him to stop? Question after question all placing blame on myself. This was somehow my fault. I didn't know how to tell him to stop. So I thought, if I don't do anything, if he could see I'm not reacting, that he would surely stop. But he didn't. Instead he flipped me round, pulled down my trousers, pulled my legs apart and put his head in between my legs. I wanted to be sick. I wanted to tell him to stop. Again, I was frantically thinking, how can I stop him from taking this further? So i feigned sleep. I felt him come up, and start undoing his trousers. I kept my eyes closed. I tried to appear in a deep sleep. 'Please,' I thought 'Please notice I'm not conscious'. And has he tried to force my lips into a kiss, he did notice. For some reason, in his head, me being unconscious was where his morals lay. He pulled my trousers back up and he carried me to bed.
I did not tell anyone. I was embarrassed, I definitely thought it was my own fault and a large part of me questioned if I was even Raped because I didn't actually say anything, I didn't try to force him off and he didn't penetrate me with his penis. That question still sits with me now. So many stories on the internet are circulated with comments debating whether the circumstances actually fit into their own definition of rape.
And it's because of this my 15 year-old self, still a child may I add, stayed silent. It is because of this too many women feel they cannot report their attacker. It's because we turn the Rapists in our imagination into terrible demons that we blame the victims and sympathise with the rapists when they do not fit the crazed maniac in our minds.
There were times when I thought about going to the police about what happened... But the most resounding reason (apart from me questioning the actual definition of rape) was that he was such a nice man. The man who did what he did and the man who had made me laugh were two different people. I still cannot equate the two. In my head, I could not 'ruin his life'. This nice man who had been so kind to me. He had a child, his child would hate me if I did that to him. It seems ridiculous now.
But as my sexual assault did not fit what seemed to be society's definition of rape, my rapist did not fit the character requirements. So still I remain silent, only recounting this to a faceless audience.
Why? Because this 'Grey Area of Rape' haunts me. I want to tell someone. I feel I should tell my current partner. But the 'Grey Area' is a paralysing fear that I won't be believed, that it was my fault. I don't know if I can ever move past that. I will most likely carry on as I have done, managing fairly well to keep it out of my everyday life. But I don't want that for anyone else. It's so easy to think you will know when you are being raped... that you will be able to condemn the man who did it to you. But this 'Grey Area' exists and it will keep existing so long as we view rape in the way that we do.
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