I was raped when I was 19. He was my best friend since I was 13. He, my then boyfriend and I were inseparable. I knew his entire family and he knew mine. We had all the same friends in this coastline small town. I trusted him with my life.
That is why I never told anyone what happened. Yes, I thought no one would believe me. I lived it and could not believe it myself. How could others? It happened to me and I was still trying to find alternative explanations.
Something that appears so innocent at first changes in the light of accusation. I was alone with him on a beach at night. We were drinking alcohol. I was wearing a summer dress. I was upset because my boyfriend, our best friend, moved away to another country.
Maybe I did lead him on. Maybe he did not hear me crying and begging him to stop. Maybe I should have fought harder, maybe I should have screamed. He said he had loved me all those years. Maybe he could not control himself; maybe he did not mean it. Maybe I am overreacting. Maybe it is my fault.
But deep in your mind, you cannot shake it off what really happened. I did not want it, he did not care. But while now I can confidently say it was rape, back then I could not.
Rape was supposed to be something that sick perverted strangers do to girls in back alleys when they leave a party drunk, alone, wearing something slutty. I was not at a party. I was drinking but I was not drunk. It was not a stranger. How could it be rape?
Turns out that over 80% of rape are done by people victims know and trust. Like it happened to me. But this is not mentioned when people talk about rape. When people compare being raped to being robbed they do not say it was your best friend, at your house, stealing your phone from your purse in front of you and laughing about it. That is not how it is supposed to happen. And like me, most of these victims will never go to the police.
There is this idea that everyone should be able to recognize a rapist. No one knows how, but there might be clues in the walk and talk. Women do not rape. Real men do not rape. Only creeps. And you should know a creep when you see it. Otherwise, there is something wrong with you.
In a way, it is easier when it is a stranger. Because you know a crime happened. But my rape did not fit my idea of rape. My rapist did not fit my idea of a rapist. No one would believe me.
To seek justice would be humiliating. Everyone would know. His family would ask me why I was doing this to their son. Our friends would try to look away and justify the situation. It would make them uncomfortable because they too would have to face they also do not know how a rapist looks like. People would resent me for this.
I was afraid going to the police would destroy my life. Little did I know it would destroy it anyway.
I moved away from my hometown. I do not visit my family much. If I do, always inside. I say I am too tired to go out or to the beach. I do not speak with my friends anymore. I do not show up to parties, reunions, birthdays, weddings. After a while, people stop asking. When my ex-boyfriend returned we did not meet. He does not know I wanted to get back together too. But I could never afford bumping into him.
I changed my phone number, I avoid social media, I look over my shoulder whenever I am outside. I am paranoid. I am depressed. I am afraid all the time.
Because I know what is like to be powerless. I know what is like to try to leave and be pushed back. I know what is to have your no ignored; your tears freeze in the cold act. He never looked me in the eye. I know what is like to be wrong about someone you trust. I know how hard it is to face it.
It terrifies me to think he might have done it again. Most rapists will. And to every victim that does not come forward, others will follow the line. Others that will be as afraid and as shocked as I.
Every time someone says he does not look like a rapist, another victim avoids justice. Every time a campaign claims rape can be prevented by not drinking and leaving the club with a friend, more victims pile up. Every time we spread the wrong message about rape, another rapist gets free.
The best way to prevent more rape from happening is by taking rapists away from the streets. You can only do that if victims go to the police, and if the police and justice can do their jobs. But we will never, while the misinformation and disbelief continue. While we cannot believe it or understand it ourselves. Today only about 6 per cent of rapists will ever go to jail and it is our fault.
Our ignorance and lack of empathy is not preventing rape. It is facilitating it. And it will happen again, and again, and again. I hope that it will not happen to you. Trust me; you will not see it coming. And it will make you wish you were better prepared. That the people around you were better prepared. That the police and the justice system were better prepared.
We need to change the way we talk about rape.