It’s sexual abuse awareness week. Something I can relate to deeply and something that still haunts and affects me to this day. I feel there is a strong stereotype when it comes to rape and sexual assault/abuse. The stereotype that it only occurs by being jumped by a stranger in a back alley. That the woman attacked was intoxicated beyond belief and “wearing next to nothing”. Now not only do I find every single one of these stereotypes disgusting – but I am also living proof they are not true.
I can tell you right now what I was wearing the night I was raped. Hoodie, jeans and trainers. Couldn’t be more covered if I tried – not that wearing less matters, I am a firm believer that no woman should EVER be subjected to rape, regardless of clothing.
My abuser was my boyfriend at the time – far from the stranger in an alley assumption. He was also emotionally abusing and gaslighting me (a form of psychological manipulation), which led me to discover the meaning of the term “narcissist”. His behaviour towards me was narcissist abuse. Though I spent years afterwards believing I was the problem and drove him away, due to his calculating manipulation.
Me in 2012 before the rape.
Here’s how it began – we met on a night out and caught each other’s eyes. He approached me. We talked. We laughed. He told me how he was in the area – he lived 3 hours away – visiting his mum as he had recently lost his dad (this turned out to be one of many lies as it goes). Sick, I know. Even now it turns my stomach to know someone would make this up – but turns out the fake sob story was his way of reeling me in.
Weeks passed and it went well, seemingly. We became physically intimate. I couldn’t quite believe my luck to find someone who genuinely seemed interested in me. I turned a blind eye to him sneaking off making phone calls and sudden changes of plans to not see me when he was due to visit on a weekend.
Time passed and I started to doubt him and felt he was keeping something from me. So I took it upon me to question him. To say he flew off the handle is somewhat an understatement.
“It’s all in your head”
“My ex was a crazy bitch. I didn’t have you down as that sort of woman”.
Just an example of the put-downs I faced. So I ignored my doubts and that gut feeling that was churning inside me. When you’re subjected to constant jibes such as these, you question yourself. You believe you are crazy. You feel you have truly lost your mind.
A narcissist can take someone outgoing, fun and confident – much like myself – and whittle them down until there is nothing left. Only a shell of their former self.
By the time he had reduced me to nothing, he had full power and control over me. This led to one evening, after an argument because of the umpteenth phone call where he’d stormed off for half an hour, swearing down the phone.. I needed answers. I had questions. I knew there was something not adding up and a reason for the phone calls and shiftiness.
That night – the night of the rape – it was the same old story. He sweet-talked me into believing it was in my imagination. There was no one else for him but me. In a few months time, he was going to move to my town and make a life with me and settle down. My mind was at peace. For now. But my body needed rest, I had an early start for work the next day. He wasn’t taking no for an answer. There we were, parked up in his car. He kissed me which I didn’t mind. “I have work early tomorrow, can you drop me home”. My plea fell on deaf ears. Next thing that’s when I hear him –
“Get in the back”.
Something in his voice tells me objecting to him isn’t an option. All I want to do is run. But I comply and get in the back. I let him force me down and take my trousers off and tell me to relax. Because “I’m not going to hurt you”. I let him press his full weight on me so I can barely breathe. I’m frightened and I want to scream on the inside and I don’t want this – but I lay still and freeze. The words he said next will stay with me forever.
“You are going to take my f*cking dick right now”.
I stay silent. It’s over soon after and he drops me home. I felt numb. I was a changed woman after that night.
A few weeks after, in true narcissist form, he ups and leaves without warning. Last I heard was a phone call from him stating he “needed help” for his depression (another lie as I found out). It was easy for him to drop me. Trouble was, by that point, despite the rape and gaslighting I was emotionally too attached. I believed I couldn’t live without him. No one else would want me surely?
To him though? I was nothing. I meant nothing. And that still hurts like fucking hell. I was brainwashed to the point where I hadn’t registered the rape as counting for anything. Far as I was concerned, I had been in a relationship with him. It didn’t feel like it counted. That may seem ridiculous to some, but as I said the ways a narcissist can brainwash you is unreal.
Me in 2017 going through a breakdown following the birth trauma.
I am still recovering from my trauma years on, physically and emotionally. I found out through my answers ex-girlfriend he was leading a double life – he had four kids and a wife back home which explained all the phone calls and tension. His dad was in fact still alive and the depression story was an excuse to drop all contact there and then. My instincts were right. It’s affected my trust in men despite now being married with 3 children. After bottling my emotions up, I suffered a breakdown in 2017 following a traumatic and violating delivery of the birth of my third child which took me right back. It’s prevented me going through normal procedures, my biggest obstacle being a smear test.
Which leads me to bring awareness of a wonderful organisation called the My Body Back project. With their guidance and counselling, last year I was able to have a dignified and non-triggering smear. It may be nothing to most women, but for any women who have been through rape, it’s everything. It’s all too easy to judge and assume a woman who doesn’t attend a smear is “embarrassed”. There’s more to it than that. Fear of being triggered and traumatised again. All we need is empathy and understanding and compassion. I firmly believe that if more women were aware of my body back, more women would attend smears. Fact.
Me at the end of last year, feeling happier in myself and finding myself again.
I hope my story reaches out and banishes sexual abuse stereotypes and touches other survivors, particularly the ones afraid to attend a smear test. Please look up my body back project on social media. You are never alone. If I can do it, so can anyone I am going to close this article with a poem I wrote on my experience of rape.
It happened to me
Rape. It happened to me.
It wasn’t meant to be.
See at first, he was loving and kind
Someone like him I never thought I’d find.
Showering me with constant affection
Only with me he’d spend all his time
It felt too good to be true that he was mine.
Weeks, months went by
The mask began to slip
Everything I would say or do, he’d flip.
Treading on eggshells, so not to upset him
His temper was lethal, like nothing I’d seen before
Soon I learned he was evil to the core.
Rape. It happened to me
You see, my so-called boyfriend?
Loving, kind, caring, with me to the end.
Was in fact controlling, consuming, brainwashing me
Full of mind games, poison and twisting words
The one who “loved” me did nothing but hurt,
Hurt me, and in my state all I could see
That the problem that caused this was in fact me.
Rape. It happened to me.
A love that was not what I thought
I still need convincing it wasn’t my fault.
Be it a date, husband or like me a boyfriend
Rape IS rape, right to the end.
by April Turner