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Trigger warning: these testimonies may contain triggers for survivors of sexual assault and rape.

Testimony

When I was fifteen, I went to a house party with some friends. I got horrendously drunk – we'd only started properly drinking recently as none of us had any awareness of what our limits might be. I was passing in and out, and definitely threw up at one point. At one point I went into the bathroom, and one of the guys followed me in, and started kissing me passionately. He then pushed me on the floor and started pulling off my clothes and having sex with me. I was so drunk I was passing in and out of consciousness in flashes, and was utterly passive to what was happening. Afterwards I had to take the morning after pill because he hadn't used a condom, and a lot of people from his friendship group were laughing about me and implying that I was a slut, especially because he had a fiancĂ©.

I felt deeply ashamed, and very ill – the morning after pill gave me a huge stomach pain, and frankly I felt traumatised by the experience, and spent a week off school, in my pyjamas at home, feeling small, dirty and isolated. I accepted without question that what I had done was wrong, and that I had to apologise. I wrote a blog and shared it privately with a group of friends, apologising unequivocally for 'sleeping with' someone with a fiancĂ©. I expressed my shame, and how I upset I was about it, and my friends – I think perhaps getting in part that what had happened was wrong in a different way – were actually really supportive to me although we never talked about it being anything other than a consensual mistake. I don't think we had the language or had had our 'consciousness' raised (though I hate that phrase – I mean become aware of sexual violence in society, how it is gendered, hidden, etc).

It is only years later that I am able to question what happened here. For some reason I thought this kind of thing wouldn't happen at a place like Cambridge University. But in my first year I heard lots of people talking about similar experiences after swaps – or men continually putting pressure on women to have sex with them after they've said no/pushed their hands away etc. And it's talked about as something wrong/rude/ungentlemanly/ pushy, but not as rape. But at the end of the day, we need to be clear about what is going on here, if women are going to be able to come to terms with what has happened to them, and be allowed to deal with how traumatic that is. And people desperately need to recognize that you can't reasonably believe that you have consent from someone if they are so under the influence of alcohol (or any other drug for that matter) that they are staggering about, passing in and out of consciousness or throwing up.

Testimony

In my second year I went for a night out. Not wanting to trek all the way home to an outskirts college afterwards, I phoned up a good friend to ask if I could sleep at his house in the centre of town.

We slept in the same bed, with all of our clothes on. I awoke in the night when his hands were nervously feeling all over my body. He went into my pants for a minute or so, but took his hand out again and then stopped completely. I pretended I was asleep the whole time.

In the morning, when we both woke up, he was sheepish. He said out of the blue that he had a bad night's sleep and he wouldn't allow people to sleep in his bed again. I left quite quickly after that and didn't let him know that I was awake during the night.

Testimony

What I have experienced was not clear cut rape and I don't know if it is helpful to think of it in those terms.

However, this much I know:

My first serious sexual relationship involved a lot of sex I didn't want to have. I didn't actively say NO.

My older and more experienced boyfriend persuaded me that sex was something degrading. I found it easier to just go through the motions than make a fuss. His sexually appetites were formed (or at least strongly correlated) with pornography which he pressured me into reenacting. Even 'mainstream' pornography, your standard blowjobs and anal sex, can feel highly degrading when you attempt to replicate it for the gratification of another person against your desires and better judgement. It's horrible feeling like a masterbation aid. It's horrible knowing that your degradation is part of the appeal.

My ex-boyfriend also sometimes listened to me, communicated with me, was concerned about my experience in bed and was tender and loving. We had a sweet friendship some of the time. I found him repulsive. I can't trust my own memories about what happened between us. I don't know how bad it all really was.

Since then:
I have had a long struggle to have sex in a way that is not performative. I still find it extremely difficult to say no to sex and be assertive but I am getting better. I have sometimes had sex with people in a not very respectful way (nothing that bad, but still not ideal) to prove a point to myself about the power I can have over others. I am not attracted to very many people and I don't 'let' people 'in' in a romantic context. I am pretty sure this is defensive. Being stuck in a relationship like the one described above terrifies me and I'm still not totally able to trust myself to be assertive.

I have had to fight to find my own sexual language and work out what I desire. I have been very careful for the last few years to only have sex with nice, respectful people so that I can begin to create new, positive sexual
memories and habits. I now know what I like and know that it is very different from what this ex-boyfriend forced on me. I have had some wonderful, loving, generous, honest sex. I have stopped blaming myself
I think my next step will be to talk to my ex to let him know the effect he had on me and could have on other partners if he behaves in a similar way. And to forgive him

Consent is a complicated thing. No one deserves sex they don't really want. I want to send so much love to all the survivors. We're stronger than we think. x

Testimony

He was my boyfriend when I was 17. I don't think he ever intended to hurt me; he'd just never take no for an answer. Mostly he focussed on pressuring or forcing me to do things that he'd read would be pleasurable for me. So I thought I was lucky, that I should be grateful that I to had a boyfriend who wanted me to come, even if I didn't want to go that far. But looking back, I think he wanted to control my sexuality. He was the first person I slept with, and I think he got off on being the one to 'teach' me. But also I think it just never occurred to him that he should pay more attention to my thoughts and wishes as a human, rather than porn and magazines that taught him how to play with the toy of my body, and how he could get it to come.

It was only later, years afterwards that I realised that it's not ok to dothings to someone even after she's said no several times and moved his hands away and closed her legs. Well, no, I knew that already; it was only later that I was able to apply that to my experiences. It was only recently that I realised this is probably why I'm always so anxious in bed, even though I now have a partner who respects me and my wishes. I wish I had the courage to tell him that it wasn't ok, and how much it has hurt me. I wish I could talk to his current girlfriend let her know that she deserves better.

Testimony

Writing down the details is too difficult. Three years on and I think about it every day. I also wonder whether I am 'allowed' to think of it as rape-rape, and blame myself, but I've also had sex I regret and I know that that is a different experience. The rape apologism in the papers makes me feel sick.

Testimony

I don't want to talk about the rape. I don't think that that is helpful to anyone, and it seems voyeuristic. I do, however, want to write down what happened afterwards - it is cathartic I think.

I was raped in 2010, Lent term of my first year at Cambridge, walking back to college late at night. I took him to court and won - but the most harrowing aspect of having been raped was not the attack itself, but the experiences I had afterwards, both in court and with 'friends'. I told very few people but I can't count amount of the times I was asked 'what were you wearing', 'were you drunk'. Blame culture is despicable and prevalent in even those who think themselves to be well adjusted on such matters.

Some male 'friends' even spread rumours I was using the attack to get closer to the guy I was seeing at the time (now my boyfriend, at the time their friend) - I have since reasoned that they merely felt threatened that I was getting close to their friend and 'taking him away'. Pathetic. Women, though were the worst. They were the main perpetrators of queries as to what I was wearing at the time, whether I'd led the man on, whether I was drunk. One even said I was lucky that the rape was so violent and by a stranger so that it was more clean cut in court. My best friend at Uni soon distanced herself from me after I had a very rough second year, dealing with depression and panic attacks that prevented me from going out as much as I did in first year. We don't speak now, something I regret.

All this said, it has given me a new perspective on friendship, and in the long run more confidence as I recognise my self-worth and am not grubbing around after people who don't really care or have a hugely-inflated sense of self. I truly feel I am past most of the issues , and am in a loving relationship, achieving my aspirations as a writer, with a strong core of friends who I trust and who have seen me at my lowest and pulled me back up. The one major hangover has been my relationship with my father. We were very close before the attack but I did not allow him to help at all through the court process, and I think that he felt very helpless. I turned more to my boyfriend for support. I wish I had let my dad in more, because now there is something of a barrier between us. I find it hard to connect with him now.

At times I wanted to die. I took an overdose once, but panicked and went to the hospital. At the time this made me feel like even more of a failure than I already did, but it was a real blessing. No matter how bleak it seemed, it did get better, and that is a lesson I can take with me through my life. I refused to be a victim, and one less rapist is on the street. All in all, I'm proud of myself, and grateful for the support and love I have around me, albeit shocked by the treatment I received from some of the trusted few I shared my story with.

If you have been raped, don't let anyone tell you you are a bad person, that it was your fault, that you are less of a woman (or man) because of it. When you stop thinking of yourself as a rape 'victim' and more as a 'survivor', you realise that one day, you will wake up and the pain, sadness, anger will have melted and you will feel whole again.

And it'll happen sooner than you expected.

Testimony

Like most women, I have had many experiences that now see as sexual assault, but that at the time I considered normal. Many times I have had sex that was non-consensual, that I did not explicitly refuse because I was scared or I felt like it was somehow my job to put up with it. I found that the best thing to do in these circumstances was to go limp and think about other things. I have been sexually assaulted, grabbed and harassed in the street, like every other woman I know.

Testimony

When I was a travelling 19yrold, I had sex I did not want to have. I am still hesitant about labelling the experience rape. I had intended to consent, wanting to get a first PIV experience, but as this man became more visible to me as I became less high, I hated him, and withdrew from my body. My memory is minimal, of pain and revulsion and shame. Oh, and the bastard hadn't wanted to use a condom. I told him of course there was no bloody way he wasn't used one - which was more implicit 'if you do use a condom you can' consent than I felt I could go back on easily.

The morning after I stayed with the bloke, walking to a waterfall as planned. I stayed another night in his room and he slept on the floor. As he had offered the previous night. I conceptualised the experience as awful sex, that I would have withdrawn consent if it hadn't been for foreign language, and put it away in my mind. Had another one night sex with a far more interesting and nicer man who I'd enjoyed getting to know for a few days - in the hopes of raising the average experience and overwriting the first incident. And other than to my boyfriend back home I didn't speak to anyone of either of these for a year and a half.

That specific pain during sex,even at a low level, gives a response in me that I did not at first identify as a flashback, just an inexplicable inability on my part to communicate and resolve a tiny physical issue. Eventually there was a time, after I had begun to unpick the link, and had referred to the incident above in conversation with some woman friends, when I was able to communicate that something was going wrong for me and to tell the story, as I understood it, to my boyfriend. After a bit of an emotional and physical shaking crying lockdown.

When I was with another lover, a gentle and kind one who just happened to have a larger penis, I still had those emotional strings attached to pain, but was able to communicate to stop and explain adequately. It's got better.

I wonder whether I should be using a rape testimony box for this - whether the space should be left for more rapey rape. But I know that I would encourage myself to. That the emotion of shame associated with having had bad sex I didn't want without having tried to say 'no' is one which gets better for knowing that it is common. Especially recognising disassociating as a common psychological response.

I suspect it is the sort of incident that classifying as rape would boost rape statistics significantly. Too broad a classification of rape can potentially be used by rape denialists to argue that most rape is ambiguous/grey. But there is a lack of vocabulary and concepts to condemn the not-quite-rapist. To explain that they are guilty of something
different than being bad at sex. Or rather, that a 100% fail in communication during sex is tantamount to rape. Anyway, enough bloody semantics, let's support each other against rape culture as well as rape until everyone has got an idea of why explicit consent is needed.

Testimony

Even posting anonymously on here is difficult. I was sexually assaulted by a guy from my college in my first term of my first year. I am almost certain I was not the only one.

Testimony

I don't want to talk about the rape. I don't think that that is helpful to anyone, and it seems voyeuristic. I do, however, want to write down what happened afterwards - it is cathartic I think.

I was raped in 2010, Lent term of my first year at Cambridge, walking back to college late at night. I took him to court and won - but the most harrowing aspect of having been raped was not the attack itself, but the experiences I had afterwards, both in court and with 'friends'. I told very few people but I can't count amount of the times I was asked 'what were you wearing', 'were you drunk'. Blame culture is despicable and prevalent in even those who think themselves to be well adjusted on such matters.

Some male 'friends' even spread rumours I was using the attack to get closer to the guy I was seeing at the time (now my boyfriend, at the time their friend) - I have since reasoned that they merely felt threatened that I was getting close to their friend and 'taking him away'. Pathetic. Women, though were the worst. They were the main perpetrators of queries as to what I was wearing at the time, whether I'd led the man on, whether I was drunk. One even said I was lucky that the rape was so violent and by a stranger so that it was more clean cut in court. My best friend at Uni soon distanced herself from me after I had a very rough second year, dealing with depression and panic attacks that prevented me from going out as much as I did in first year. We don't speak now, something I regret.

All this said, it has given me a new perspective on friendship, and in the long run more confidence as I recognise my self-worth and am not grubbing around after people who don't really care or have a hugely-inflated sense of self. I truly feel I am past most of the issues , and am in a loving relationship, achieving my aspirations as a writer, with a strong core of friends who I trust and who have seen me at my lowest and pulled me back up. The one major hangover has been my relationship with my father. We were very close before the attack but I did not allow him to help at all through the court process, and I think that he felt very helpless. I turned more to
my boyfriend for support. I wish I had let my dad in more, because now there is something of a barrier between us. I find it hard to connect with him now.

At times I wanted to die. I took an overdose once, but panicked and went to the hospital. At the time this made me feel like even more of a failure than I already did, but it was a real blessing. No matter how bleak it
seemed, it did get better, and that is a lesson I can take with me through my life. I refused to be a victim, and one less rapist is on the street. All in all, I'm proud of myself, and grateful for the support and love I have around me, albeit shocked by the treatment I received from some of the trusted few I shared my story with.

If you have been raped, don't let anyone tell you you are a bad person, that it was your fault, that you are less of a woman (or man) because of it. When you stop thinking of yourself as a rape 'victim' and more as a 'survivor', you realise that one day, you will wake up and the pain, sadness, anger will have melted and you will feel whole again.

And it'll happen sooner than you expected.