After I was raped, the “friend” who raped me didn’t just leave it there. The morning after he raped me, I received a text remarking upon the “fun” time we had had. He turned up on my doorstep several times over a couple of years, and for years more he texted me on my birthday and at Christmas and New Year’s Eve. This only stopped when I cut all ties with all our mutual friends in real life and on Facebook and changed my number, and this finally ended it. It’s been three years since I last heard from him and now I’ve moved house I started to feel safer. I felt like it was finally over.
This morning. I discovered that a person I barely know, and who barely knows a thing about me nor my online usage, had been able to find my writing and Twitter, and had misunderstood and taken umbrage with something I had tweeted. I won’t go into the specifics about this, I don’t want to poke that hornet’s nest. But it has highlighted to me how vulnerable I am online. Since this happened, I haven’t been able to stop crying. It’s shown that my sense of safety was just a total illusion.
I’ve written about what the aforementioned friend did to me, the resultant Pelvic Inflammatory Disease and CIN3, the PTSD, suicide attempts and the anorexia which left me hospitalised in a psychiatric unit, this writing has appeared on both my blog and in other publications, including places like the New Statesman. Reasoning that there are seven billion people in the world I had managed to convince myself that, despite being read by many thousands of people, it would only be read, or heard, by people who don’t know me, or those whose attention I drew to it. I felt anonymised, despite my name appearing on these pieces, I had catharsis, I was sanctified. But now, this illusory world has crumbled around me.
I now have to accept that not only can he find me, but that he probably already has. In the horror film It Follows a girl catches a sexually transmitted monster. This monster follows her wherever she goes. It takes the form of those she knows, or anyone else, in order to lull her into the false sense of security which could get her caught and killed. That is the perfect analogy for how I now feel about Twitter. He could have taken any face and name. He could talk to me on a regular basis. He could enjoy reading my articles about how what he did effected my life in a massive way. He could be someone I confide in. As with the suited men in the Matrix he could jump into any identity.
Clearly I have been naïve. I allowed myself to think that I could safely write about these things because I had managed to cut all forms of communication, but of course I haven’t. In fact, I’ve left the door of my home wide open and he could walk through it at his leisure. I’m so lonely. I only see one person I’m not related to and they are my carer. Twitter and my writing has acted as both community and therapist. Now I don’t know if I can use either.
I have a target on my back whilst the Sword of Damocles hangs precariously over my head. I don’t know what to do. I let him control so much of me. After he raped me I went through a period of promiscuity, because of him. I had to have invasive examinations, because of him. I had to collapse due to the PID alone with my children, because of him. I had to have cancer in situ burnt off my cervix, because of him. My children have heard me screaming and crying, because of him. I can’t go out at night, because of him. I tried to kill myself, because of him. I starved myself to the brink of death, because of him. If I now leave my writing and social media it will be because of him. But I don’t know how to stay and let myself be vulnerable, because of him.
I am so, so sorry, that you’ve had to go through all that mess. You’re still standing (not because of him), and that alone says a lot about your strength and resilience (and not his).
Sometimes, as hard as it is, we have to master the art of letting go. Let him go – him and all his twisted, evil mess. He doesn’t deserve the power that you bestow on him every time you think or mention him.
You deserve the best just like everyone else.
Social media is great, sometimes, but it is always better to switch it all off, once in a while, and maybe get out of the house and bump into people along the way who teach us more about life – good or bad. Who knows, some of those chance meetings might just end up being lifelong friendships and great pillars to your well-being.
I wish you well, and keep doing what makes you happy – without apologies.
There really aren’t any words I can write that can be of any use in this situation but I just wanted to say what a powerful post. I’m really sorry for all the suffering you’re going through. You’ve been so brave to write about it all x
Hi, Lucy. I’m sorry you’ve been assaulted, abused and generally freaked out by bullies. Congratulations on sharing your story so widely! Really. It may not feel so great just at the minute, but it was a very healthy thing for you and we need a lot more people to understand just how terrifying & traumatising rape is. I’m trying not to write an essay here, so this may come across as more bluntly than I’d like.
It sounds as though you have something like PTSD. The scary behaviour of the internet bullies may have connected in your mind (not unreasonably) with the behaviour of your rapist, who horribly abused your trust. You’ve written here that your feelings of safety in distance having been so badly shaken, you’ve now begun to fear further attacks from the rapist. To me, it looks as though the second episode feels like a betrayal, which has re-awoken your distress at the original betrayal.
I can’t diagnose anything, neither can I guarantee that what you fear won’t happen. I think it’s probably unlikely. I can make a few suggestions, if I may? If you haven’t yet read it, try Gavin de Becker’s “The Gift of Fear”, a powerful book that helps us to understand which situations are real threats, and thus informs our instincts. Secondly, try reading some stuff about hypervigilance. And, if you aren’t seeing a therapist at the moment, consider working through this more specifically with a strong counsellor.
Internet violence against women – in word and deed – is a real problem. It must be taken far more seriously. I feel this issue needs un-linking from your fears around the rapist. I did end up writing a long post after all – sorry! I hate to think of you becoming scared to communicate, which you do so well. I hope you’ll soon be feeling more confidently pragmatic.
It is so sad to hear you are feeling so vulnerable, but please don’t let him control you any longer. He cannot touch you, and you got through so much already. He is the weak one and you are the strong one. Don’t let the fear isolate you any more than it may have done already – You have the power now. The power to stay, the power to become a stronger person, the power to take control of your life and make decisions for yourself. You have the right to be heard and we are listening!