#MeToo – Sexual Assault By Helen Hill

By Helen Hill

          ** Trigger Warning **

I woke up this morning and carried out my usual morning routine of enjoying a cup of tea whilst browsing social media when I saw that #metoo was the number 1 trending topic on Twitter.

Intrigued I clicked on the hashtag to see what it was all about and it is safe to say that I was horrified when I realised that it was a hashtag to raise awareness of sexual assault.

#metoo quite literally means “I have been sexually assaulted too.” 

To see that it was in the hundreds of thousands of tweets at 7am blew my mind and also turned my stomach because as I read through the endless pages of women and girls of all ages, races and genders admitting that they had been sexually assaulted there was only one thing that I could think…. yes girls, me too.

It happened when I took my first holiday abroad without my parents, a massive group of us jetted off to Bendiorm in Spain for two weeks of fun in the sun on a club 18-30 holiday.

Although my mum and dad were a bit wary, they knew some of the lads I had grown up with were going and knew they would look after me so they permitted me to go.

The lads really did look after us girls and we always started off in the hotel bar before all going off to the bars and clubs on the strip, we stayed together all night and the lads were in the same hotel so they always made sure we got back to our room safely.

One night we were in a bar dancing when my friends strap snapped on her sandle, it was pretty early on and we were only in a bar around the corner from the hotel at this point so me and her walked back to change her shoes.

We did not think it was necessary for the lads to come with us, afterall we were 2 streets from the hotel, we were together and would be less than 5 minutes.

We knew there would be loads of people around – it was 9pm in Benidorm in August – the place was packed with tourists.

We walked back to the hotel, went to our room and she changed her shoes then we began to walk back.

When we reached the corner where the streets met we were grabbed, pushed against a wall and pinned…. both of us, by two men.

At first I think we just froze with fear, unable to believe it was happening. 

I suppose you would never think that two of you would be attacked at the same time or that there would be more than one attacker, or that it would happen somewhere so busy; it was still daylight!

I guess the unofficial plan with girls (we never discuss it and we probably should) would be that if something happened one of you would run for help…. but when you are both pinned by two men you are powerless and we were both terrified and completely at a loss as to what to do.

Then the groping started, they were trying to kiss us and grabbing at our chests, we struggled but two 5 foot 3 girls who weigh 9 stone were never going to wriggle free from the grip of grown men. As one of them put his hand up my dress and grabbed at my knickers I realised that we were in serious trouble and I had seconds to act before… well I dread to think! 

For the first time in my life I threw a punch, hitting the bloke who was attacking me square in the face and harder than I ever thought I was capable of.

He stepped back startled and his mate turned to help him (to be honest I think the attackers were both in complete shock that I had even dared throw a punch and were quite clearly not expecting it because they were now the ones frozen in shock now).

Thankfully it worked to our advantage and as they were distracted I grabbed my friends hand and we ran for our lives towards the bar and to the safety of our friends. Once we were running they did not pursue us.

I think what we failed to realise at the time was that we had been sexually assauted and just how serious what had happened to us was! 

As young girls taking our first steps in the world I think we just thought that because we had not been (God forbid) raped, that the police did not need to know.

We genuinely just thought we had been lucky we did not get raped….

LUCKY that we only got sexually assaulted. Lucky it was not worse….

The truth is, afterwards when my mind processed the events of what had happened I felt a few different emotions but the biggest and strongest feeling was doubt and I found myself questoning everything….

Was that really a sexual assault? 

Does it count? 

Was it bad enough? 

Were those men just a bit over zealous and drunk?

In my opinion, there lies the problem. 

Every time a woman is attacked in that way, plays it down like we did and doubts herself as to “whether it counts” and every time we do not report it, every time we think ourselves “lucky” and think “it could have been worse” we become part of the problem by allowing it to continue!

Those two men probably grabbed more young holiday makers that night…. myself and my friend owed it to other women to report those men for everyones safety!

We owed it to ourselves to recognise that we had been vicitms of a crime.

I am really ashamed that we failed to respond to that situation and I know my friend (who is now a police officer) is too.

That is why I am writing his blog post – in the hope that another woman will read it and if she ever finds herself in that situation she will speak up where we failed to.

As women we should be free to go about our business without fear of being groped, touched and raped.

We should not self doubt that “it might have not been a sexual assault” when someones unwanted advances require us to physicaly punch them to get them off us!

We should not play down these assaults and attacks as over zealous and drunk behaviour and we should not feel ashamed when we are a victim.

We need change and if by saying #metoo and sharing my story helps oher women to speak up I will be really pleased because the more of us that do speak up and the more society realises how widespread this problem is.

Then the harder it will be for people to keep turning a blind eye and sooner or later something will have to be done to address it and for me, I think that has to be done through education. 

Misogyny and Victim Blaming By Kelly Grehan

I’m going to start with a question: why is the starting point for hearing about crimes in which victims are typically women to ask what she did wrong?

Disagree?

How many times upon hearing about a rape do people respond with questions like:

Well why did she get in his car?

Why did she drink so much?

Why was she dressed like that?

Why did she lead him on?

Why did she not run/scream/fight back?

How many people on hearing about domestic violence respond by saying:

Why did she not leave?

Why was she was always winding him up?

Why was she smiling if she was scared?

Why did she have a baby with him?

 I could go on.

There are numerous high profile cases I could use to illustrate this- Adam Johnson, Johnny Depp Mike Tyson, Bill Cosby, Rolf Harris. Men for whom, as soon as their crimes became known excuses and victim blaming began.

Of course people can cite ‘innocent until proven guilty’ as a reason, but my experience is that there is an approach taken by a large group of people upon hearing about these offences which differs from that they would take if hearing about a car theft, robbery or fraud.  

So why is this? Is it because of the misogyny which continues to plague our society? Or is it because by distancing themselves from certain behaviours people feel they can protect themselves from being a victim of such a crime?

Or is it because there is a collective failure in our community to want to accept the scale of violence against women in our society because to do so would mean admitting an unpalatable truth and would surely mean we need to address it?

Statistics show that the number of offences against women, including domestic abuse, rape and sexual assaults, rose by almost 10% to 117,568 in 2015-16.

Although men do suffer violence from women research shows that domestic violence is a deeply gendered issue for example Metropolitan Police statistics show that male violence against women made up 85% of reported domestic violence incidents and that 5% of domestic violence incidents were perpetrated by women in heterosexual relationships.

Staggeringly four times as many women as men are killed by a current or former partner.

Two women a week are killed as a result of domestic violence in England and Wales.

With regards to sexual violence approximately 85,000 women and 12,000 men are raped in England and Wales alone every year; that’s roughly 11 rapes (of adults alone) every hour.

These figures include assaults by penetration and attempts.

So 1 in 5 women aged 16 – 59 has experienced some form of sexual violence since the age of 16.

Roughly 90% of those who are raped know the perpetrator prior to the offence.

3% of reported rapes are believed to be false.  

What we also know is that women who experience domestic, emotional and sexual violence experience guilt, denial, post traumatic stress and depression so a victim blaming culture is very damaging and can actually contribute towards reasons why women do not report or escape the situation.

I showed this blog to a friend who was a victim of long term emotional and domestic violence. This was her response:

Funny that thing about why didn’t she scream, why didn’t she fight back – I’d always thought I would fight back but logistically your size makes a big difference, fear is the biggest factor because I was too busy thinking how can I survive this and not make it worse than trying to fight. Self preservation kicks in and you try and survive. Who’s going to believe you when it’s your boyfriend and happened in your house/bedroom? You’ve got to live with him so you make it as easy as possible – enough people have said you should get out and should finish it. Now you’re embarrassed and hurt. It’s your kids birthday the next day or you’remeeting friends you can’t let down again. No one gets it so you just continue. Besides you have more placating to do and stories to cover so this doesn’t happen again.”

What I really want to do is to ask people to think about their reaction upon hearing of abuse against women and what the effects might be of that reaction.  

If you have been affected by any of these issues :

24-hour National Domestic Violence Freephone Helpline 0808 2000 247

The National Rape Crisis Helpline 0808 802 9999
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What Happened When I Reported Rape in a Relationship By The Masked Avenger

Author Anonymous

When you make the first call, you are honestly at a point where you have nothing left to give.

For me there was no fear left when I reported my ex, I was nearly killed at his hands over an 18 month period so many times that I felt like it didn’t matter if he did kill me because he had tried to so many times that if he had as a result of me reporting him then at least I had tried to be free. 

For many out there in a relationship with an abuser the grooming lasts a long time , you can be belittled and made to believe it’s not rape. I did not consider I was being raped until the night I was attacked and fled to a friends house and then only when the police said they had charged him with rape did it even enter my mind. He made me believe I was frigid, a tease, or that I wanted it or even that I was in a relationship with him so I was obliged to have sex with him even if I was asleep or saying no. 

He was bailed but they managed to get him remanded.  It was so surreal,  I was now fitting in the box of a victim and I didn’t want to be that. I was emotionless, I could not cry for the want of trying. I could not face being undressed, I suffered vivid nightmares and flash backs … Years on they have settled but it still haunts me. 

The police I must praise for their hard work and support was brilliant although I know for some victims this is not the case.

I did have a victim support worker early on but for some reason they stopped contacting me and I wasn’t in a good place to reach out for support. 

Victim blaming is rife with rape. 

Even when it’s not rape in a relationship it goes on: 

Were you drunk ?

Were you dressed provocatively? 

Were you walking home alone in the dark? 

For rape in a relationship the questions are more direct: 

WHY DIDNT YOU LEAVE?

WHY DIDNT YOU RUN? 

WHY DIDNT YOU TELL SOMEONE? 

WHY DIDNT YOU FIGHT BACK? 

It should not be this way. To be brave enough to report rape is not easy and leaving an abuser is the riskiest time for the victim. I have only used the word victim because that is what you are classed as by the police. A victim of rape.
The jury sided with him despite a lot of evidence as defence was attacking me. The case lasted over two weeks . I didn’t go to the verdict because I was so exhausted . For the rest of the hearing I stayed at a friends house.

After the verdict the DC in charge of the case called me and told me he was acquitted. I crumbled to the floor. It was over, I gave everything I had to give and I had no fight in me. I wasn’t eating or sleeping or looking after myself days and the nights all merged into one. 
There was zero after care or support from any services. This is completely lacking, it was like all of a sudden it had ended and there was nothing more to do. Life for everyone moved on but really my life stopped that last day I spent in the court room wondering over and over again what I could have said or done differently.

I do not take on victim shaming. I have grown strong, through sheer grit and determination. I refuse to be a victim, but I’m not a survivor either. What happened to me happens to so many. The ‘rapes reported’ statistics have increased dramatically with the high profile celebrity cases of rape and grooming.

Conviction rates for rape are far lower than other crimes, with only 5.7% of reported rape cases ending in a conviction for the perpetrator. So is it any wonder that people don’t report rape seeing that statistic its so disgraceful. 

A jury has to be 99.9% sure of guilt or they have to aquit.

How many rapists are walking the streets?  It’s not the fault of the police.  The ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ ruling to sentencing means a jury has to be pretty certain it happened or they have to let them go. 

In 2015-16, police recorded 23,851 reports of adults being raped – nearly all of them women – compared with 10,160 in 2011-12. However rape convictions are still far lower then you would expect in recent years as low as just u dear 6% of reported rape cases ending in a conviction. 

There is nobody to blame but the ‘justice system’ and the rapists. 
We need to stand up to make a change for the people who come forward saying they have been raped. Better support and after care, not necessarily from the police,  but support services are crucial. Just having someone to talk to and be open with about how you are feeling about court and after the trial has finished, no matter the outcome could help people greatly in moving forwards. 

If you or someone you know has been raped and not reported it please seek the support to do so, although my trial ended with an acquittal I do not regret it

Slowly I am moving forward and I hope one day to be a part of the end to victim shaming for all.

If you or anyone you know has been affected by rape please and would like to find your nearest rape crisis centre please visit: https://rapecrisis.org.uk/centres.php
* Statistics provided by the Office of National Statistics