When you don’t realise rape is rape.

A victim of rape who didn’t report the rape to the police will usually have the question asked of them: “Why didn’t you go to the police/authorities/hospital?” This question is more often that not asked in a very judgemental fashion. “But you have a responsibility! What if that person rapes again?”

There are many reasons why a rape is not reported. I don’t intend to touch on most of them here, save for the one which has been playing on my mind the most lately. Sometimes, you don’t realise that you have in fact been raped. Sometimes it takes days, months, even years. This sounds ludicrous I’m sure. “How can you not realise you’ve been raped? Surely if you weren’t screaming rape at the top of your lungs, it wasn’t rape at all?”

I beg to differ. Most people perceive rape as being an event where a person, usually a woman, but not always, is attacked by a stranger, perhaps dragged off the street and forced to have sexual intercourse against their will. They assume that there must always be strong physical evidence of the attack, proof credible enough to march to the police and say, behold! I am a rape victim and I have all the evidence you need to pursue a successful prosecution.

I promise you, this assumption is incorrect the vast majority of the time. It happens of course, don’t get me wrong. But more often than not, the victim will know their rapist. Their judgement is clouded by matters of responsibility. There is often alcohol and/or drugs involved, often you will have invited the person into your home and very often it is your partner who is committing the rape.

The first time I was raped, I was 15 years old. My slightly off the rails friend had invited me to her friends house for some ‘safe’ underage drinking. The friend was a 31 year old man. Let’s call him ‘Bryan’. I trusted this man by proxy. My friend trusted him enough to invite the two of us to his home where we would be in a potentially vulnerable position, so I assumed, naively, that this trust was well placed. After two very weak alcoholic drinks, I woke hours later to find both me and my friend completely naked in this man’s bed. He was inside me at the time. I was very confused and asked him to stop and let me go home. He merely covered my mouth with his hand and carried on.

On this occasion, it took me about six months to realise that what had happened was rape. At the time I was so confused and ashamed by what had happened, and so scared that my very unstable father would find out that I’d had sex that I just tried to forget about it. I felt ashamed that I had somehow led this man on. It took some time for me to realise that I had very likely been drugged, and that more importantly, if someone isn’t capable of giving consent that no consent can be assumed. Added to that our respective ages, and that i asked him to stop and was ignored, there can be no doubt that I had been raped. But immediately afterward, the thought just didn’t occur to me.

The second man who raped me was my partner at the time. I was 16 when we got together. I had just left home. I was homeless, terrified and absolutely penniless. He swooped in like a white knight, or so it would seem. He of course saw the perfect opportunity to control a very vulnerable young girl. He repeatedly raped me through our relationship. The first time we had sex, I woke up to him pushing inside me unnanounced. He seemed to enjoy it much more if I was unwilling. He was so manipulative though that he truly made me believe that in denying him I was failing our relationship and that it was me in the wrong. He raped me anally with no warning and no lubrication and when I objected he accused me of making him feel bad for having the confidence to try something new in the bedroom. He would hold me down and violate me with foreign objects and laugh it off as a harmless joke. The worst part was that for a long time, I believed him. It took me years to realise that he had raped me through our entire relationship.

The third and I pray final man who raped me was a man I met at the beginning of the year. We had spoken a lot online and bumped into each other by chance on a night out. I was going through a period of crippling depression at the time and my confidence was at an all time low. He fed me drink after drink and persuaded me to take him home with me. The sex started as consensual, though I was certainly pressured. It very quickly became violent. He beat me black and blue and deliberately used me in a way that caused me pain. I was terrified. I asked him to be gentle and stop a few times and just got more pain as a result so in the end I kept my mouth shut and prayed that it would be over soon. It wasn’t. He stayed all night and the next day. I was so scared after the first time that I didn’t raise an objection.

You can call me naive, you can call me foolish. I’m sure you can find a myriad of ways in which you can place the blame on me. But each time, a choice was made to take something from me. The choice was never mine.