When you think of a rapist, what image comes to mind? The creepy guy at the bar who spikes drinks? The dark alleyway figure walking fast behind a girl coming home late at night?
But there’s another type. The type you know. The type you share your bed with. The type you love. It’s called intimate partner rape (or intimate partner violence) and it’s a relatively under the radar topic. It is defined as, according to bandbacktogether.com, ‘a rape or sexual assault that occurs between two people who currently have – or have had – a consensual sexual relationship’. Whether you’re just dating, married, or in gay and lesbian relationships. In previously unviolent relationships, like mine. It happened to me and this is what I’ve learnt.
People would rather stay ignorant than to open up the can of worms that is rape. I myself denied it at first. When something so horrible and so huge happens to you, you’re stunned. It’s not so much a conscious decision to pretend it never happened; you just block it out without realising what you’re doing. I think it’s the mind’s way of surviving. It was only after the breakup (for other reasons) a few months later that the reality of what happened kicked in. The wool I had pulled over my eyes unravelled and it was as if I was experiencing the whole thing over again. I knew then that I had to do something about it.
But some people will sew that wool permanently over. Namely, the perpetrator’s friends and family. It’s hard not to get angry at that, but no one wants to believe that their friend/son/sibling is a rapist, even if the evidence is there. Would you? Because believing this would change everything forever, and that’s not something we are very willing to do. I know that the people who care about me and matter most believe me, and that’s all I can really ask for.
Humans are ridiculously good at creating excuses, especially for the ones they love. He didn’t mean it. It only happened once. He won’t do it again (and he never did again, but once is enough). He loves me. It’s my fault. I deserved it. I drove him to it. It took me a long time to realise that none of this was true. There is no excuse for rape. I’m not a bad person. I now know this reaction is called rationalization. I also minimized. The rape left no lasting marks. So, it wasn’t that bad, right? I also did have, at that time, genuine love for my partner. People might judge me for saying that, thinking how on earth someone could still love their partner after they raped them. I’m not attempting to make sense of it; it just is. The heart just is. I shouldn’t have to justify it anyone. You don’t automatically stop loving someone; there is no off switch.
I then engaged in ‘self soothing behaviours’; watching television, showers, smoking, self-medicating with drugs or alcohol. I won’t lie; I still do sometimes. But at the time I never connected the two. Now I’m aware and try to replace them with healthier and more beneficial options. But the urge to silence the screaming in my head is always there. I’m rarely in peace.
Next you have complete and utter self loathing. What kind of person would stay in a relationship with someone who raped them? I must be weak. What is wrong with me? But the alternative seemed too frightening- facing up to reality. Losing the life I had made with this person. Losing part of my identity.
The justice system isn’t great at this. At first, I felt optimistic. Heard. Empathised with. Supported. After the initial report, things were swift. He was arrested and given bail conditions. I was interviewed properly. But now, nearly 2 months on, things don’t look so bright. I can’t get in contact with the people who said they would always be available if I had questions and needed further support. I haven’t heard anything for a number of weeks. It is, essentially, a waiting game. Statistically, there is very little chance of this going to court. I’m just being realistic. It makes me question the point of ever having reported in the first place, but I know that my report, now on file forever, is important. Only around 15% of those who experience sexual violence choose to report to the police.That needs to change. It’s the first step.
Intimate partner rape is a unique type of hell. I’m not saying that any other rape is any less worse, but being raped by someone who you love and you believe loves you, is particularly traumatic. The person (you) they cared for so deeply (or so you thought) they chose to violate in the worst way, body and mind.
The worst part in all of this, is knowing my rapist walks free without consequences. Sometimes I see him on the university campus and I feel sick. For a day or so my appetite goes. His life, it appears at least, has not been affected by this. He is OK. I am not. This will affect my life and future relationships forever. The fact that I now know that anyone, anyone you meet in life, regardless of the relationship you have, can do something so awful to you…I don’t know how I will trust again. I, the victim, is the one that deals with the shit storm.
A lot of people won’t like that I’m writing this. It’s not fun, it’s not even that cathartic, for me to write this. But I have to get over my own discomfort so that I can speak out, not for myself, but for every woman, girl, (and man) who has gone through this. I know that my influence is not much; this blog is very small (and I haven’t posted in so long! God knows who still regularly reads it) but the thought that if someone reads this and feels not so alone, is enough. I want rape, and especially intimate partner rape, to be talked about. Without fear. Without shame. This is happening all the time and it’s underreported, and brushed under the carpet. People want rape victims to be silent. But I say- be noisy.
Here are some statistics:
- In the UK, statistics disseminated by the Rape Crisis Federation yield the information that the most common rapists are current and ex-husbands or partners (Myhill & Allen, Rape and Sexual Assault of Women: Findings from the British Crime Surveyhttp://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/rds/pdfs2/r159.pdf)rtner-rape-resources/
These figures come from An Overview of Sexual Offending in England and Wales, the first ever joint official statistics bulletin on sexual violence released by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), Office for National Statistics (ONS) and Home Office in January 2013.
- Approximately 90% of those who are raped know the perpetrator prior to the offence
- Conviction rates for rape are far lower than other crimes, with only 5.7% of reported rape cases ending in a conviction for the perpetrator. (Kelly, Lovett and Regan, A gap or a chasm? Attrition in reported rape cases, 2005)
“According to a news report on BBC One presented on 12 November 2007, there were 85,000 women raped in the UK in the previous year, equating to about 230 cases every day. The 2006–07 British Crime Survey reports that 1 in every 200 women suffered from rape in that period. It also showed that only 800 people were convicted of rape crimes that same year, meaning that less than 1 in every 100 occurrences of rape led to a conviction. According to a study in 2009 by the NSPCC on young people aged between 13–18, a third of girls and 16% of boys have experienced sexual violence and that as many as 250,000 teenage girls are suffering from abuse at any one time.12% of boys and 3% of girls reported committing sexual violence against their partners. In 2013, a Ministry of Justice report stated that only 15 per cent of victims of the most serious sexual offences reported the incident to the police.”