Writing by Claudia // photograph by Zoe
Why did this have to happen? Why to me? Why now?
I wasn’t raped in the way that you see on Hollywood-ified crime shows. I was raped by someone that I consented to have sex with, that I consented to engage in a particular sexual act with, but that took it too far. I told him to stop – I said no – but he continued, and so I retreated into my body until I couldn’t take it anymore.
Engaging in sex with strangers has become a very large part of my identity lately: my sexual awakening, of sorts. As someone who has always been sexual, it feels liberating to finally be able to express myself in my body (a body that I was told to hide for so long) with people who appreciate and respect me for the sexual and human being that I am.
That is, until this night.
I am wounded, but not consistently. I forget and then I remember. Why did this have to happen to me? Why did this person, on this night, decide to not respect my boundaries? Why did he take that power away from me? Why did I let him?
I can still see him on top of me – doing things that I usually love from other men, but not from him. I remember the way he smelt, the way he aggressively caressed my body and touched me like I was nothing – like I was just his possession.
After the night was finally over, I sent a voice message to my friend living overseas. I remember describing the experience as “rapey” but didn’t bat an eyelid at the mention. The penny hadn’t dropped yet. She instantly called me to check and see if I was okay, to which I replied “yeah, I’m absolutely fine. Like, it was a bit weird but I think that’s just because I’d never done it before.” She said that as long as I was okay and that she was always there for me. I got tired, so I said goodnight to her and fell asleep on my couch.
Around 1am, I awoke to the Love Island episode I was watching and decided to put myself to bed. Not before washing my face, brushing my teeth and putting my retainers in (I just got my braces off, what a trip!).
My alarm went off around 7.30am the next morning, as it always does, but I couldn’t pull myself out of bed until much later than that. The acts that I had engaged in the night before – both voluntarily and involuntarily – had taken it out of me. I was exhausted.
The whole day, I couldn’t shake this feeling like something was off. Past the physical pain of my body, I felt entirely detached from it, yet also completely aware of myself at the same time. Everything that day felt like an effort. Work meetings seemed menial, conversations made no sense, and yet I still switched on my charming personality to hide the fact that I didn’t know who I was that day. I felt like a shadow version of myself.
And yet, the penny still hadn’t dropped.
I went out with friends that night and mentioned it to them. As I was describing it, the penny (finally) began to drop. This wasn’t a kinda rapey experience, this was rape. I had been raped.
The following day, I began to really process what it all meant. My internal monologue was running at a million miles per hour. I was okay, but I was also sure that I wasn’t. Another day, another facade for my job. And then one of my dearest friends came around for dinner. I hadn’t spent one-on-one time with her properly since she got home from a big overseas trip, so we chatted about what had been happening in her world…and I loved it. But at the back of my mind, I wanted to scream. Not at her, but to her. I needed to decompress.
She’d mentioned a couple of times how good the house smelt. And sure, I always put in effort when someone is coming around to make sure that the house looks neat enough and smells immaculate with incense and candles always burning. But there was another distinct smell that night – sage.
I burnt my sage stick and spent a decent 20 minutes tracing it through my apartment, focusing on the areas that he had burdened. My bedroom, my bathroom and the kitchen needed extra TLC, and so I gave it to them.
I brought the conversation back around to the smell – I had to let it out or I was going to explode.
“So there’s a reason the house smells that bit extra fragrant tonight,” I began. “I need to talk to you about something… and it’s fine, and I’m fine, but something happened on Sunday night…”
I then began to tell her the story. She sat close to me, she let me say it all without interruption, and then leaped over to console me while I bawled. It felt like a release to speak so candidly with someone I trust so much. But that was just the beginning.
The whole last week has been, without sounding overly cliche, a rollercoaster of emotions. I’ve had moments where I haven’t thought about it at all, but then there have been moments where it is all that I can think about.
Today was the final straw. I’d had a minor dispute with my mum over the silliest little thing a couple of days ago and desperately wanted to quash the tension between us. I love her – beyond belief, I love that woman. I just needed my mummy. I knew that I wasn’t going to tell her what had happened, but I wanted to just be okay with her. I called her to apologise, and listened as she explained to me how unreasonable I had been the day that the argument/fight/tiff/beef/hiccup – whatever you want to call it – broke out. I apologised and I cried. She told me something that I had said and I couldn’t believe it, but I had to believe her.
“I’ve just been having a rough week,” I said. “It’s no excuse, but it’s the truth…it’s been a rough week.”
I couldn’t stop crying. The tears were coming out of me without hesitation – they were forceful, painful and yet so effortless. I couldn’t stop. Her and I said our goodbyes, and then I was onto messaging my sister to let her know that I couldn’t see her tonight as we’d originally planned. I needed to stay put, I wasn’t feeling up to it. She tried to call me but I didn’t answer, put my phone on Do Not Disturb and tried (with great difficulty) to continue with my work.
About an hour or so went by and I felt that I needed to call her, so I did. She asked me if I’d made up with mum and then the tears began again – so powerful, so effortless. I was distressed. She urged me to tell her what was wrong but I couldn’t, until I could.
“Something happened,” I said. “I didn’t want to tell you because I knew you’d get upset, but something happened to me on Sunday night. I was sexually assaulted…I was raped.” She quickly turned Ultimate Big Sister mode on, proclaiming all the things that she wanted to do to hurt this person who had hurt her baby sister, but also consoling me and incessantly apologising for what had transpired.
“It’s okay,” I kept saying. “I’m okay.”
We debriefed, made an action plan and parted ways. Which leads me to now.
My temples ache, my jaw is stiff and sore from all the clenching, my head is pounding, my eyes are swollen, and my heart hurts.
Somebody raped me on Sunday. I was raped on Sunday.