Trigger warning: Rape
I was on a trip abroad, in Brazil, and had just broken up with a long term partner. I was in a hyper hedonistic period of my 20s, still reeling from previous sexual abuse as a teenager and I was caught in a tough cycle of drinking and putting myself in dangerous or otherwise regrettable situations and then hating myself for it. I read somewhere that people do this because traumatic experiences can make you addicted to pain and adrenaline, and while this may be true, I honestly didn’t know any other way to live. In my teenage years I didn’t learn the normal conditions for intimacy and relationships, like safety, trust or love.
The friend of a man I had met that night drove us to a house for another next drink in the early hours of the morning. The drive was beautiful; from the car we could see an amazing view of the sunrise and the local beaches, while the guys told me about great places to surf. I shoved my head out the window like a little dog to lap up the salty sea air. Trauma operates really strangely in that you can remember vividly the moments leading up to it, every detail is crystal clear. Yet your brain manages to block out your memory from the exact point at which something bad happens, making you question your own reality and sanity.
When we got to the house things moved fast. First, there was the semi-consensual sex with the man I had been flirting with. I say semi because we had all been drinking and the lines were blurred- I felt pressured but I was not forced. Had his friend not been right there in the next room I probably would have wanted to have sex with him. Perhaps I would have consented, but at that exact time I wasn’t sure, yet I just obliged. Is this consent? I doubt myself about that moment often.
When it was over, he shouted something to his friend who came into the room. I will never forget the way they looked at each other because it turned my gut.
My guy got up to leave and then I heard water running which is really the last thing I clearly remember. His friend started kissing me and forcing himself upon me. Right then and there on the same bed, in an empty room with just a plastic chair in the corner, his friend raped me. My guy just waited for it to be over while he had a shower.
I don’t really remember how long it took, but I think not so long. This is the second time in my life I have been sexually assaulted, and through the process of EMDR therapy I have learned about how efficiently your brain can flush away a memory so it cannot cause you direct pain. I can only remember seeing him coming and wanting to call for help, but no sound came out of my mouth.
I was frozen with fear, with a very strong man pinning me down. I can remember the piercing bright light through the window, the heavy heat of the morning and a ringing sound in my ears.
When it was over he got up and started speaking to me as if nothing had happened. I scraped myself off the bed and found them both in the kitchen. They were chatting as if it was a regular morning, crouched over a laptop. Back then social media was just taking off, so rape-guy asked me if I was on Facebook and I just mumbled, yes and he exclaimed “Oh cool! Add me, we should be friends!” Shaking from what had just happened, I agreed and croaked for them to take me home.
Years later, I have stayed ‘friends’ with my rapist on Facebook and I am still not sure why. Part of me wants to keep him there so I can be sure it actually happened despite my mind wanting to wipe clean the memory.
Somehow by staying ‘friends’ with him on Facebook I can hang on to the truth of what happened and validate my pain.
The other day while mindlessly looking at some stories I accidentally clicked on his and it was a selfie. I saw his face and I took a screenshot of his image so that I could zoom right in and take a good look. Yes, that’s him right there, that’s the man who raped me.
Friends will read this article and wonder why I didn’t go straight to the police. I have his full name and his social media account. The friends who ask this will be the ones who have never been raped. It would be hard enough to report a crime like this in my home country let alone in a country where laws are not designed to protect women. The question of consent is usually misjudged, especially when not in your own language, in the context of a party where alcohol was involved. However, I think we can all agree that silence and passivity are not consent. To quickly bury deep the trauma, I didn’t go to the police and I never will. For now I am holding onto my Facebook friend so that I can heal and move on in my own way.
About the Author
Lucia is a writer from London. She is also an entrepreneur running a successful business but writing is where her heart is. As somebody who has experienced sexual abuse writing has certainly helped her to heal. Her favourite topics to write about include mental health, start ups and sustainable fashion.