There's no right way to get through your teenage years. It was, for me at least, a time where any form of individuality that differentiated you from your peers was hugely discouraged; every girl in my year group carried their school books in a Jane Norman bag, wore their hair with a slick side fringe and spent their week-nights on MSN Messenger blocking and unblocking ~hOt bOyS~. The more of these generic traits you could take on board, the cooler you were. New Look starter thong? Cool. Thick, orange Maybelline Dream Matte Mousse around your jaw line? Cool. A fit year 11 boy to flirt with on your LG Chocolate? Really, really cool.
So, it kind of threw a spanner in the works when at the age of 15, I fell crazily in teenage love with my next-door-neighbour. Female next-door-neighbour. It was kind of fine with me, it was kind of fine with my friends, it wasn’t so fine with her because she was straight so I lusted from afar (or at least the distance between my house and hers) and that's how it stayed for a while. I was dating a regulation hottie (male) because that was what was expected of me, and I lost my virginity to him three months after my fifteenth birthday. I cried, but it was what all my friends were doing and it was all I knew.
When he and I broke up a year later, I started to be a bit more open that I was gay, but I found that it actually encouraged guys to like me rather than deterred them (something that still completely confounds me now but you learn to live with). In the small town where I lived, I was the only lesbian I knew, so with a catalogue of absolutely zero girls I could spark a relationship with, I continued to loosely date guys. We never did anything more than drive to a McDonald’s car park and make-out and I could tolerate it enough to keep myself involved with my friends' lives. I was popular with the boys we hung out with because I was pretty and laid-back and could handle quite a lot of cheap alcohol.
There was always one guy, let's call him Matt, who systematically made his way around our friendship group, paying particular attention to one of us at a time, giving us lifts in his beaten up car and sharing his love with the lucky girl of the moment on Bebo. This was pretty fine with all of us and I can't remember there ever being an argument about it. A new shopping complex had opened nearby and to be honest we just wanted a Nando's and knew that he could provide. And it was when it was my turn to go to Nando's with him that he raped me.
It seems so obvious. I mean, when people ask how you know if it’s love, they're told “You know when you know.” So if you can figure out whether a mixture of chemicals in your brain are genuine love chemicals or just silly old lust chemicals, then surely you would know that when a man holds you down in the back of his car and fucks you while you beg him to stop that you have been raped, right? Wrong.
As we left the shopping complex that night, he told me that he was really interested in receiving a blow job whilst driving. I wanted to be cool, I wanted to be sexy and I wanted him to like me, so I did it. I had never done it before and I have never done it again since, but I gave it a go and I was willing. There was no pressure.
Eventually, he pulled over into a train station car park and asked me to get into the back. I said no, and specifically added that I wasn't going to have sex with him. We carried on kissing, he began touching me, and I was kind of fine with that. He asked me to get into the back of the car again and again I refused, but, when he asked for the third time, I agreed on the condition that we were not having sex. I was 16 and that was going to be one of the biggest mistakes of my life.
As he started having sex with me, I was pleading with him to stop and continuously screaming that I didn't want this, and then I just stopped. I closed my eyes and tried to close all of the rest of my senses and just willed for it to end. It was over quickly. He drove me home.
As I lay in my bed that night, there was one thought going through my head: how was I going to tell my friend that I had had sex with her ex-boyfriend? I had completely broken the revised version of girl-code that we had for this boy. The one thing that didn't cross my mind was that I had been raped, because I had gone into everything else willingly. As far as I was concerned, I had no right to pick and choose what I was and wasn't okay with, and I led him on by allowing him to do some things but not others.
What followed was six years of disgust, shame and unease at what had happened. My friends, for a while at least, continued to socialise with him on a daily basis and I excluded myself because I couldn’t bear to be around him. I couldn’t bear to see him laughing, joking and drinking care-free when I was wracked with guilt at what had happened. I had betrayed myself. I blamed myself immensely and I felt like whenever I saw him or heard of him, he was taunting me. His eyes would tell me that I wanted it and I asked for it. Whenever his name was mentioned by my friends it was always in a positive way and I just wanted to scream that he was a monster and that I hated him but I couldn't figure out why I felt this way when I was so sure that this was on me.
This all changed when his wife gave birth to a baby. Of course, I found out on Facebook, and when I saw that baby's face I broke down in tears. This baby had been born to a rapist and no one knew but me. I didn't even know if he knew what he had done. It was really difficult to accept that he was getting on with his life as though nothing had happened when I was eternally trapped in the mind of a young girl desperately saying no. I told my now-girlfriend in so many words – I can't and probably will never say the actual words “I was raped” out loud – but she understood and gently encouraged me to report it. But it was six years ago. No one can corroborate the story. No one saw, no one heard, it would just be my word against his.
"I was never raped in these scenarios that they tell you you're going to get raped in. I was in my own home. I let a friend come and stay and I woke up to find my Southern hospitality was being greatly taken advantage of. I woke up, and he was inside me. For 10 years I thought it was my fault. I didn’t fight back. I found out recently through my studies of neuroscience that my body completely shut down and wouldn’t let me fight back because I thought that was the only way to cope with abuse."
Reading this helped me to realise it isn't so black and white. It helped to realise that no matter what, if you don't want to continue what you're doing at any point then you are fully entitled to stop. It is absolutely vital that girls and women know that if at any point you don’t want this anymore, then you have every right to say so.
I'm still not ready to completely let go of what happened and open up about it honestly – I’m writing this anonymously. But I’m hoping that one day I can come to terms with the fact that he is still out there living his life, and get on with living mine.
Rape Crisis offers information and support for anyone who has experienced sexual violence of any kind. www.rapecrisis.com