If I was mugged, I would call my mum and sob down the phone until she convinced me that all my things were replaceable and it was all going to be OK.
If someone hacked into my bank account, I would call my friends and indulge in a little pity party, knowing the insurance company would make sure I wasn’t out of pocket.
If someone drove into my car, I would probably post photos of the damage with angry captions on every social media account I have, letting the world know how wronged I had been.
And of course, with any of these crimes, I would dial 999. So why didn’t I tell anyone that I was raped?
A recent poll claims that 50 per cent of women think rape victims are to blame for their attack. That’s half of those polled. Women aged between 18 and 24 are most likely to take this view. Girls, what are we saying to one another? It’s no wonder that so many women who are raped keep their terrible ordeal to themselves. Not only are others likely to think they are to blame for the assault, but often, they too think they played some part in it.
Estimates claim that up to 95,000 rapes take place every year in England and Wales. Only 15,670 of these are then reported to police, who take 2,910 of these suspected rapists to court. Shockingly, little over a 1,000 people are then convicted for the crime. Fewer than one rape victim in 30 can expect to see her or his attacker brought to justice.
Crimewatch used to terrify me. I would watch it when I was young and be utterly shocked that things like this went on. Girls walking home from parties who were dragged into bushes by men and women on the bus who were followed home and attacked. It made me always mindful when walking by myself. I would take my headphones off and continually look behind me to check no one was there. Little did I know it wasn’t the street that I should have been scared of.
We met at my friend’s 17th birthday party. Our eyes met across the shoddy little gazebo in the back garden and he left with my number. Teenage love. From then on it was cinema trips, dinner dates and bike rides with friends. A few months in, we went to another party. The drink flowed and my guard slipped. I woke up with more shame than I had ever known. Was it my own fault for drinking? Could I have said no any more? Did I lead him on? For six months I had said no. What had I done to make him think things had changed that night?
I know now I hadn’t done anything. It was him who was wrong. It is him who should feel shame. But it has taken me years to get here. And I am not alone. Although 90 per cent of rape victims said they knew the identity of their attacker, just 15 per cent went to the police, telling researchers in a recent study it was “too embarrassing”, “too trivial” or a “private/family matter”.
The most damaging thing my attack did was separate me from God. For months, probably years, I distanced myself from Him. I couldn’t stand before him knowing what had happened. What I had done. I was so determined to save myself for marriage, but now I had been raped, I’d had sex, right? What was the point in holding on to my morals now?
One of the most damaging lies we are tricked into believing is that our shame is too great to be righted by God. I know Jesus died for our sins. I know we can be washed clean. Or at least, other people can. God can do amazing things in the hearts and minds of everyone else, but surely that doesn’t apply to me?
“I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed.” Psalm 34:4-5.
I still suffer from the effects of that assault. I lost my sparkle that awful night; I lost my smile for a long, long time. I find it hard to trust those around me and I am plagued by worry. But I believe I shall one day be radiant, I believe my face will soon lose its shame.
I wish I knew then the great plans God had in store for me. I wish I knew then I would come back to Him and He would welcome me with open arms. I wish I knew then that I wasn’t alone. I hope you know the same.