Once was lost, consent not found

This post recalls an event that happened back in June 2016. I wrote it after my housemate asked me about this event, and rather than say it out loud, I wrote it down for him. The following may be distressing to read but please let me assure you that I am OK. I have had counselling and I am not looking for outrage or pity. It’s just part of my story and I have not let it define who I am.

I have slept with almost 60 men and women. I have been in threesomes, swung with other couples and been in group sex involving up to six people.

I’ve cheated, been cheated on and knowingly slept with married men. There are very few times I have felt bad or guilty about what I’ve done. Then I was raped.

I had moved to the city four days earlier. I started a new job, three hours from my home, my husband and my dogs. I knew no one except DJ.

My new boss invited me to after work drinks, at a bar just around the corner from my building. I went along, drinking with the big wigs of my new workplace. When the drinks wound up, and the managers all headed home to their families, I went back to my new apartment.

One of my roommates was there, but she was nothing if not a homebody. I wasn’t ready to call it a night. It was Friday night. I was in a new city with no friends. I wanted to make sure I could do this. I could live this life on my own.

I went out again almost immediately, to the only other drinking spot I knew, about 100m from my apartment. I had been there once with DJ, when I had come down for my job interview.

On a Friday night, it was markedly different to how it had been on a sunny Sunday afternoon. The host at the door welcomed me with a menu and asked if I was on my own.

“Yep, just me.”

“Go you!” she’d replied. She left me with a dinner and drinks menu and disappeared back to her hosting duties. I sat at a table outside. It was the middle of winter but the cold refreshed me. I had drunk three beers at the bar earlier on an empty stomach and I quickly sank several more.

I didn’t eat. I was drunk when I got to DJ’s place, conveniently just around the corner. I was there to say hi, but at his place I lined up some powder on the kitchen bench and took a big hit. I urged him to come out with me, made fun of him for being a homebody. He told me to go home. He told me I was smashed. I didn’t listen.

I went back the pub and sat at a table inside, the bar only a few metres away. I was alone and like any person on their own, used my phone as a crutch. I drank more beer. I called my best friend on the other side of the world using Facebook. She couldn’t hear me over the music.

I did another line in the bathroom and returned to my table. It must have been close to 11 when a couple approached me.

To this day, I can’t remember their faces. I can’t remember their names. But I know it was a man and woman, in town for something or other from Sydney. They were a couple and they wondered what I was doing sitting all on my own.

I told them my story, of moving away from home, trying to find myself. It was my first week here, I didn’t know anyone. Then I was kissing her. I was kissing him. We three were kissing together.

I fell off my stool and hit my head on the polished concrete floor. I laughed it off. They wanted me to go back to their hotel with them. They wanted to have a threesome.

It was my first night out on my own in the city. I was drunk. I was high. I felt amazing, in control, like I was owning this new found independence.

I don’t remember walking to the hotel. I don’t remember the elevator or walking into the room, although I had stayed at the hotel twice before – once for my interview and once when I was searching for an apartment.

I did another line, although neither of them had any, just me. I was kissing him on the bed. She was sitting in a chair watching us. I’d had enough experience of threesomes to know that she was uncomfortable, awkward. For all her assurances, I knew she wasn’t OK with what was happening. They were a couple. I was some stranger, and her boyfriend was getting naked with me on a bed in front of her.

When we started fucking, she left. I don’t remember her going. I remember her being there and then she wasn’t. I asked him if he should go after her. He said he wasn’t going anywhere.

The next four hours are a blur. At one point, I ran to the bathroom to vomit. Kneeling in front of the toilet, I remember thinking it didn’t have a bath. When I had stayed at the hotel, I had had a room with a bath.

After I vomited, I couldn’t walk. I couldn’t stand. I couldn’t even lift my head off the ground when I felt him behind me.

He was telling me to suck his dick, but I couldn’t so much as open my eyes. Over and over I tried to say “I can’t, I can’t, I can’t.”

It was my mantra. In that time and place, the only thing I could say was ‘I can’t’. I didn’t know how to make him stop. I had no strength to even support myself let alone push him off me. I don’t know how I got out of the bathroom and was laying on the floor. He was behind me, fucking me, and I couldn’t stop him. I just … couldn’t.

When I woke up, my head was pounding. I was on the bed and he was asleep next to me. I had no clothes on and I was cold. I gathered my clothes from the floor and took them into the bathroom where I dressed quickly and quietly. I found my clutch, made sure my keys and phone were inside and I left. The time on my phone showed it was 5.45am.

I remembered the hallway immediately. I had stayed here. I knew how to get to my new apartment from here. I could walk it.

When I stepped out of the automatic sliding doors of the hotel, it was drizzling rain. It was cold and I pulled my oversized knit around myself and crossed my arms. I began to walk. It wasn’t far, but I could see the sun would be rising soon. Already, labourers were arriving at a nearby worksite, ready to start the day.

I hurried home to my apartment. I was tired. My head hurt. I was cold and shivering and I was dirty. I could feel his sweat on every part of my body. In the shower, I turned on the water as hot as I could stand and I scrubbed myself. I stayed in there until my skin was red. I stayed in there until the tears flowed. I stayed in there until I couldn’t stand anymore.

I crawled into bed. Sore. Hot. Swollen. The bruises didn’t come out until the next day but I could feel them already. I was desperately hungover and tired. I slept for 10 hours.

When I tried to wake up, something was wrong. I couldn’t keep my eyes open. My headache was gone but the fatigue was overwhelming. I knew I needed to eat but I couldn’t bring myself to get out of bed. DJ text me to ask me how my night went. I told him it was fine.

Two hours later, I pulled myself out of bed to go in search of food. I ordered pizza from the place downstairs and scoffed it in front of the TV watching movies.

Something was wrong, but I couldn’t remember what it was. I had had one-night stands. I’d slept with randoms. But something was wrong. I just couldn’t put my finger on it.

I called my best friend again, still overseas, and told her I had slept with some guy. She congratulated me on hooking up in my first week in the city. I went to bed that night feeling uneasy.

The next morning, I couldn’t get out of bed. My mind had returned from wherever it had been and my body was sore. I was crying. I had no idea what to do.

DJ text me to ask what I was up to. I told him I was still in bed. Something was wrong.

And then I text him: I think I was raped.

He came straight over and I dissolved into tears. He held me as I sat on the bed. I told him I was covered in bruises. That I couldn’t remember how I got to the hotel. That the girl had left me there. That I was on the ground telling the guy over and over ‘I can’t, I can’t, I can’t’.

When I mentioned the bruises, DJ said ‘I’m going to kill him”.

“Kill who? I don’t know his name. I can’t remember his face. I can’t remember her face.”

“There would be CCTV at the hotel. You need to tell the police.”

“No. No. I can’t. I’m such an idiot. It’s my own fault. I don’t know his name.”

For hours we talked like this; DJ telling me to go to the police and me saying I couldn’t.

I’d like to say I went to the police. That I made a full report and went to the hospital and got a rape kit and they caught the bastard. But I did none of those things.

I did go to a GP and get the full swathe of tests done. I did have a friend call into work sick for me for a week. My second week on the job, it was a great impression to make.

I did cry and lay in bed and pop Valium like lollies. I’d sleep in DJ’s bed until 3 in the afternoon and then walk home to my apartment where I’d crawl into my own bed. Each night, he would pick me up from outside my apartment and take me back to his. I’d fall asleep in his bed, his arms holding me tightly to let me know I was safe. It wasn’t sexual. It was what I needed.

I started talking in my sleep, which I never did. I would wake from a nightmare and he would wrap his arms around me, pull me in close and breathe into the back of my head until I fell asleep again.

Then my friend from home came and picked me up and drove me back to my house, the house I shared with my husband. I hadn’t told him yet. Didn’t know how to tell him on the phone.

I couldn’t stop crying when my husband got home from work, surprised to see me standing by the front door. I cried and cried until I could see his eyes were terrified and I blurted out I’d been raped.

His face … I will never forget it. But he opened his arms and I walked into them and felt safe again.

***

It’s very easy to say in these situations that what happened wasn’t my fault but it’s a far more difficult thing to believe. My psychologist defined it best for me when she drew a line through this story and told me that everything above this line was consensual and everything below was not consensual. It helped me to organise it better in my mind. It doesn’t make what happened below that line OK, but for putting myself into that situation in the first place, for drinking too much, and snorting coke and generally putting myself at risk, I needed to take responsibility for that. And I do.

However, one of my great friends often tells me that no matter what a woman drinks, or uses or wears or says, it is never an invitation for a man to rape her. And I wholeheartedly agree. But it was my choices that left me open to a situation where a man thought he had that right. Is that right? Fuck no, but unfortunately it is how some men behave.

We are warned about the dangers of rape for a reason – it’s out of our control; I could not control the actions of that man. All I am responsible for are the actions I took that night that led me to being where I was, without a friend or someone looking out for me, under the influence and vulnerable. And it is for those actions that I punished myself and continued to do so for many, many months to come.

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