In the last few weeks, there have been two articles by deaf women talking about rape. Emily Howlett wrote about the lack of awareness, generally and in the deaf community, of rape and sexual assault, the need to talk about the ‘r’ word and gave some very depressing statistics. Ni Gallant wrote a response from the point of view of a deaf teenager, and looked at the lack of accessible sex education for young deaf adults. Both articles are worth a read, and you should read them before you read this.
Both talked about the difficulty of speaking out, especially for victims. This is true.
Even typing this, my hands started to shake. When I was ten years old, I was sexually assaulted by a young man that I knew.
I didn’t report it. No-one saw it, and I didn’t really understand it or know the right words. All I can remember feeling is a lot of wrongness and confusion, and a body response whenever I saw this young man around, my heart beat faster, I felt sick and I started to sweat.
It’s difficult to talk about rape or sexual assault when even talking about it makes you want to stop. I admire those who are brave enough talk about it publicly, and even go to court. Some more statistics, conviction rates of cases that go to court are 58%, but when you include all of the reports, that conviction rate drops to 12%. This means that many people choose not to go to court.
I never talked about it because I didn’t have friends at school, I didn’t even understand what happened except it was wrong. Though I told my parents I didn’t like him anymore, I didn’t really say why. I didn’t tell any adults because I thought that every adult I talked to was talking to all the other adults.
Ni Gallant talked about the lack of social access to information. I went to a mainstream school where I was left out of a lot of things. I didn’t talk about sex with friends until I left school. While I had known what had happened to me was wrong, it wasn’t until later that I realised how very, very wrong.
I wondered if I had done something to cause it. I let myself be alone with him. But I’d been alone with him before, and nothing had happened. He was just supposed to be showing me a computer game.
I went through a bad time in my early twenties, and this was on my mind at the time. He was long gone, but it didn’t matter. In the end, I decided to see a counsellor. I was crying in minutes. It was the first time I’d ever talked about it, the whole thing, looked at it, how wrong he was, how it was totally not my fault and really properly talked about it. It helped a lot, and helped me to move on. These days I don’t think about it very much, though I still feel anger and disgust when I do.
This is why I think that it’s really important that victims of sexual assault and rape should see a counsellor even if they don’t want to report it, because it gives them the chance to look at what happened with a trained person whose only job is to listen and not judge.
I can’t say this man’s name, because he’s never been charged with anything. Maybe I could still take him to court. I’m not sure what the time limit is. I haven’t thought about it much for a very long time, but then I read those posts. The last thing I want to do is go through court and drag it all up. I don’t want to be interviewed. I don’t want to go through every bit of what happened. I don’t want a defence lawyer putting doubt on my memories. There’s a lot of things I don’t want. But I also don’t want him to get near anyone else. I tell myself that his creepiness will scare people away, but maybe it’s only me who could see the creepiness. I don’t know. I don’t want to talk about it.
That’s the thing. A lot of victims don’t want to talk about it. I don’t want to talk about it; if you read this and think you have guessed who I am, I don’t want to talk about it. I won’t mind a hug, but I don’t want to talk about it.
I have asked myself a lot why I have written this and why I will send it to the Limping Chicken when I don’t want to talk about it so much. The answer is that I hope it will help other people out there. And because Emily Howlett and Ni Gallant are right, there needs to be more awareness of these issues.
Sometimes I think people really don’t get how hard it is for victims to talk about it, I know I just want to forget it happened. Confusion, disgust and shame can stay for many years, eating away. It’s a total abuse of trust. Worse, sometimes victims are blamed for what happens to them. I was 10 years old. But in other cases adult victims are sometimes accused of ‘asking for it’ because they were wearing a short skirt or drunk or flirting or walking by.
No-one asks to be raped or sexually assaulted. No-one asks to feel powerless and dirty. Ever.
Another mistake is that it’s only women who can be victims. Men and boys can be victims too.
A last thing – rape jokes. They’re really not funny.
Rape Crisis: http://www.rapecrisis.org.uk/
Deaf Hope UK: http://www.signhealth.org.uk/index.php?pageID=152
Myths about rape conviction rates – The Guardian: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/mar/19/myths-about-rape-conviction-rates