Kirsty’s Story

EMILY JACOB

ReConnected Life

Kirsty is a survivor, traveller, and collector of obscure facts.

This piece is titled: Silent All Those Years: No Longer

In my early twenties, my long-term relationship with my girlfriend ended. We’d been together for years; she was my first love. In the weeks that followed, I feel into depression. I self-harmed, I became anorexic. I struggled to leave my room for days on end.

No-one was more surprised by this reaction than me. I loved my girlfriend, but this was way too dramatic.

Luckily, my university provided a counselling service. Someone at the top of the waiting list dropped out, and I was told if I could go that afternoon, I could start seeing someone.

I saw Ruth once a week for 6 weeks. Every week we would spend 50 minutes talking about my sexuality and my relationship with my parents… And then, ten minutes before the end of the session, she would say, “there’s something you’re not telling me – do you want to tell me now?”

I couldn’t.

For the penultimate session, she decided we would rearrange the room. We pulled the cushions off the sofa, piling them on the floor and against the wall. We sat there, next to one another, our knees pulled up to our chests. I took a deep breath and told her my story.

When I was a teenager, I dated a guy for six days. He invited me home after school, telling me his parents were in – they weren’t.

He sexually assaulted me.

Afterwards, he picked up my neatly folded clothes and threw them at me: “put some clothes on. You look fucking ridiculous.”

For years, I didn’t think about what had happened; I blocked it out of my head.

Years later, a friend of mine was raped, and I had a mental breakdown. I was diagnosed with OCD and started drinking heavily. Rather than confront it, I quit my job and moved abroad to work on a holiday site, living in staff accommodation.

It was here that I was brought into contact with another predator. He saw my mental state. He saw my panic attacks and my drinking problem. And he took advantage of it. For four months, he made it his priority to keep my self-esteem low. To make me feel worthless – ugly, stupid, weak and pitiful. It wasn’t difficult, I was already a mess. As long as he could talk me down enough, he could take advantage of me whenever he wanted.

I lost count of how many times he raped me. Sometimes, I woke up to him raping me. Other times, he would say, “you’re acting like I’m doing something illegal.” It simply didn’t occur to me to get out of the situation. I felt so awful, I thought I deserved it. I asked management to move either me or him to another site, but they didn’t take me seriously.

Finally, my contract ended and I returned to the UK. I later found out that the same man had raped another member of staff after I left. When she threatened to go to the police, he beat her within an inch of her life. It was only when I heard this that I realised that what had happened to me wasn’t normal, that I didn’t deserve it. It was rape.

Sitting on a pile of cushions in my university’s counselling department, I told the story for the first time in my life. It was the first time I’d even admitted it to myself.

I was referred to Rape Crisis, and had my assessment there to start counselling.

In the interim between the two counselling services, I went to a party of a friend. We had met through my university’s LGBT Association, and I thought he was gay (a fine bit of bi-erasure from a self-professed bisexual!) – until he tried to rape me. He told me he wanted to talk to me about my recent breakup, and used a door stop to wedge the door closed, “so we wouldn’t be disturbed”. He got on top of me. I punched him in the face, ran out of the building, and went straight to the police.

The treatment by the police was worse than I ever could have imagined. Finally in a position where I could believe in myself enough to report the incident to the police, I was persuaded by police officers to drop the charges. They came into my home, took a report by hand instead of recording me, and described in minute detail how stressful it would be to have to testify against my attacker. I was told that it was “unfortunate” that I had managed to get away, as it meant that there was no physical evidence to prove my case.

My experience with the police is published, alongside many other experiences, in the book ‘To Report Or Not To Report: Survivor Testimony of the (In)Justice System. I truly hope that it can help reform the way rape and sexual assault are dealt with in the criminal justice system. For example, if interviews were recorded, police officers would have more accountability for the things they say during interviews, and there would be more awareness about the way interviews are conducted.

Beyond that, I hope that by contributing to the current discourse surrounding rape and sexual assault, I’ll be helping other people who experience it. I think that, had my assaults happened amid the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, I wouldn’t have lied to myself for as long, I never would have thought I deserved it and I would have confronted it much sooner.

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