Maya’s story: Maybe it wasn’t my fault

Maya’s story: Maybe it wasn’t my fault

It’s been 17 years since it happened and I almost feel a bit of a fraud writing this. I’ve worked with women who have undergone horrific sexual assaults and rape. That’s not me. I suppose all these years I’ve felt that I don’t really have a right to be upset about it, or to still be holding on to any sort of feeling about it. Yet I am. I’ve never forgotten it. It still flashes into my mind now and then and recently, with all of the news stories, I’ve found myself thinking about it more and more.

I’ve followed the Me Too stories and admired the women who came forward, but I’ve never felt like I had a right to be part of that. I suppose because there’s still a part of me that thinks it wasn’t that bad, it could have been worse. It was mostly my fault, I should never got myself in to that situation. Then there’s some guilt, about what happened afterwards.

I was 18 when it happened. I was in my first year of University and not in a great frame of mind. I’d spent the last few years receiving treatment for an eating disorder – and it’s just occurred to me even as I’m writing this that I’m making excuses. I’m trying to justify my decision making on that evening, but I shouldn’t have to. Or do I? Is it ever possible to stop feeling like it was pretty much your own stupidity that led to it in the first place?

Anyway, I had gone to University but still wasn’t doing that well. My entire self esteem was bound up in my body image and the opinions of others – particularly men. It boosted my confidence to have men showing an interest in me, it showed me that I was still in control. That I must be a good person if I still looked good.

I had become involved in a “relationship” with someone – I’ll call him T. It was basically a series of one night stands, when he had nothing better do and no-one else to see but I loved him. When we were on our own he was different. He called me up during the holidays, we were friends. It meant more to me than it ever did to him, he was an 18 year old guy who had found someone he could sleep with whenever he wanted. Full stop. I did it willingly every time.

On the night it happened, I had had an argument with T. He had said he wanted us to go back to being friends, that sex complicated things. I didn’t want that.I wanted him to commit. I wanted him to feel what I felt for him. I went out with my friends and got ridiculously drunk. Those were the days when the union bar served quadruple shots in one glass. I had several of those and multiple single shots, all on top of the bottle of Lambrini I had drank before we even left the Halls.

I don’t remember how I met D. I remember dancing with my friends and then my next memory is dancing with him and his friends. Initially it was fun. This guy was attractive, he was fun, we were drinking, we were having a good time. Then it got a bit uncomfortable. His friends, who I hadn’t noticed before, began to crowd round me, until I was stuck in the centre of their circle. My friends were gone and I didn’t know where they were. The atmosphere had changed. They were too close. One of them started grinding on me. I didn’t know these people. I remember realising that they all seemed much older. They all seemed much bigger. I wanted to leave.

Then suddenly D helped me escape. He took my hand and pulled me away. He smiled at me and it all felt safer. Like he’d understood it was all getting too much. We left the club and stood outside on the stairs and chatted. It was lighter, there were more people, it felt better. He was friendly. He kissed me and I didn’t object.

I don’t remember the details of the next bit. I remember seeing T. I don’t remember how it was agreed, but I was walking with D when T stopped me. He pulled me aside and told me not to leave with D. I remember laughing and telling him it was nothing to do with him. He wouldn’t explain why I shouldn’t leave. So I walked away from him. I must have collected my bag but I have no recollection of that.

We began walking. At first it was familiar. Then we began to get a bit further away from campus than I had been before. Suddenly I felt cold and I didn’t feel as drunk. I had left my coat somehow.I remember telling myself that this was stupid. That none of my friends knew where I was. That I was doing exactly what we’re always told not to do. I had just left the safety of the Union club with a guy I didn’t even know, walking to god knows where on my own. I remember feeling really stupid and I didn’t know how to stop it. I didn’t know where to go.

I suggested that we get something to eat. He said there were shops further along. I suggested a takeaway that everyone used, which I knew would be busy and which I knew was in the opposite direction to where we were going which would take us back towards campus. He said no. He was a good cook, he would make us something. I said that I needed cigarettes. I would have to go back. He said again that there was a shop opposite his flat. I said it would be closed, we needed a 24 hour one, which I knew was back the other way. He smiled, took my hand and said that he had cigarettes at his flat. He then slid my bag from his shoulder and carried it for me. He began asking about my course and chatting about his. It turned out that he was on the same course as T and knew some of my other friends. I relaxed a bit. I began to think I was over-reacting. He knew my friends. We weren’t that far way. It was ok.

We got to his flat and went in. It was small. I came from Halls where there were hundreds of people and security. It turns out that D only shared with his cousin, who was still out. We went in to his room. He showed me where to sit on the bed (there were no chairs) and he placed my bag in the far corner of the room behind some weights. He told me to take my shoes off. I didn’t want to. It all felt strange. But he got more forceful about it, demanded I take my shoes off. He even started trying to unbuckle them. When I took them off, he put them in the corner of the room too. He began showing off with his weights. He told me how strong he was. He told me how much he did in a day. It was uncomfortable but I couldn’t even tell you now why that was. It was as if he was performing. It was intimidating. It was as if I’d suddenly realised he could totally overpower me. It was as if he wanted me to know that. He didn’t say that though. It”s an odd thing to try to explain.

I wanted to leave. I also realised that I did not want to have sex with him. But why else was I here? Of course that’s why he brought me here. Of course he was going to think that’s what I wanted. Why had I gone with him? What was I supposed to do? He came over to the bed and began kissing and touching me. I moved away from him and said that I was really sorry but that I needed to go home. He didn’t get angry but he just got more forceful. He said I wasn’t leaving. My phone started ringing in my bag. He told me not to answer it and stood in front of me. I explained it would be my friends wondering where I was and that they’d just keep ringing unless I answered. He reached into my bag and turned it off.

I began to panic that I wasn’t going to get out. He wasn’t going to let me leave. I asked if I could go to the toilet. I had the crazy idea that I would just run. But he came with me. He sat outside the toilet door. I started to cry in the toilet. There was literally no escape. I didn’t even have my shoes. He started banging on the door and told me to hurry up. When I opened the door, he walked me back to his bedroom.

We sat on his bed and he began kissing me again and forced me to lie down. He lay on top of me and began grinding against me. He unbuttoned my trousers and started pulling them down. I don’t remember if I said no or what it was that I said to him, that bit’s not clear but he stopped, stripped and lay next to me on the bed. He told me again that I wasn’t leaving and that I was just a cocktease. I couldn’t refuse now that I had come to his house. He started to get angry and then pulled my trousers off. He lay on top of me again and then he forced me to touch him.

I really don’t remember much of what happened after that. I’ve blanked it from my memory. Or it’s possible that I was genuinely so drunk that I don’t remember bits of it. He didn’t rape me. I don’t remember if I masturbated him until he orgasmed. I don’t remember if he touched me again. What I do remember is that he wouldn’t let me leave. I lay awake for the rest of the night, wedged against the wall so that I couldn’t move without him knowing about it. I couldn’t look at him. I didn’t speak to him. I don’t even know if he was awake and watching me. I closed my eyes and pretended to be asleep. I began to think that surely when it was daylight he would have to let me go. But what if he didn’t let me go? What if he was worried about what I would say? Then again, what could I say? He hadn’t raped me. What had I expected to happen? What had I expected him to think was going to happen?

I must have been there for hours. As soon as I heard the shop across the road opening and saw the daylight I sat up. He grabbed my arm and sat upright too. He told me again that I wasn’t leaving. I told him that we had lectures. That I needed to go. I needed to get changed. He just kept saying that I wasn’t leaving. I didn’t understand why.

Then someone arrived at his flat. They let themselves in and walked into the kitchen. D did not seem happy with this. He grunted that it was his cousin. Told me not to dare to move and stomped out in his underwear. They began to argue. They were talking in another language so I had no idea what they were arguing about but they were shouting at each other and someone was banging things around. I found my trousers under the bed and pulled them on without even doing them up. I ran across the room and grabbed my bag and shoes and I ran like my life depended on it to the front door. I heard him coming out of the kitchen just as I got out of the door and I ran across the road and into the shop opposite. The shop assistant looked totally confused and shocked. I must have looked a complete state. Last night’s make-up all smeared from crying. My hair all over the place. My trousers not done up and barefoot, carrying my shoes in my hand. I heard him shouting in the street and just ducked and hid at the end of a row of a shelves at the front of the shop. I could see her looking at me but I didn’t know what to say to her. I just knew I had to hide. D opened the door to the shop, took a couple of steps in , looked around and then left again. All I could say a few moments later was “is he gone?” and she nodded. I then left the shop. I didn’t tell her anything more and she didn’t ask me anything more. Would I have wanted her to ask more? Maybe. Maybe I would have. Do I blame her for not trying to help me? No.

I then ran barefoot up a lane at the side of the shop and realised that this took me out at the back of our campus, so I hadn’t been that far away at all. I had just been disorientated. On the way back to halls I lost count of the number of looks and tuts I got from fellow students on their way to breakfast or to the library or whatever – all presumably horrified at the terrible state I had got myself in to. I wanted to say, this terrible thing has just happened to me and I’m terrified. Please someone help me. But I couldn’t. I couldn’t because the looks on their faces only reflected what I was thinking myself, that it was my own fault. That I had been a stupid little girl who had no one to blame but herself for what had happened. And for what? Really because I’d been so pathetic about my argument with T that I’d wanted to make him jealous. That’s what it had all really been about and if I hadn’t been so childish in the first place then none of it would have happened. So it pretty much served me right.

To make matters worse, T and his friends were leaving Halls for a tutorial as I arrived there. His mates all sniggered at me and one of them, who called me this on a regular basis anyway, shouted “Slut”. T locked eyes with me. He would have known I’d been crying. He said “(Friends name) is looking for you. She’s been calling me all night”. Do I blame him for not asking if I needed help? No. Because it was my own fault.In hindsight, I think T had his own opinon of D. I think he had been trying to warn me when he told me not to leave with him, but I was too drunk and intent on making him jealous, that I didn’t even notice. I think he didn’t push it because D was standing right there and also because it probably isn’t considered very macho to be the one standing up disagreeing with other people’s attitudes towards women.

I turned my phone on when I got to my room and called my best friend. Soon after, my two closest friends arrived at my room. They had assumed initially that I had spent the night with T and it was only when he had finally answered his phone that morning and assured them that I was not there, that they had begun to worry, especially when he told them that he had seen me leave with D. I told them what had happened and they had very different reactions. One of them immediately said that I should contact the police. The other called me a “silly girl” and told me I had nothing to report as he hadn’t actually raped me and what did I think he was going to expect of me when I went to his flat? She then warned me about drinking too much. That echoed what I already thought of myself and the situation. I didn’t report it, not even to the university. I told my other friend, who had suggested reporting it, that people already called me a slut and the police would think exactly the same. Besides, I wasn’t even really sure whether he done anything illegal. He hadn’t raped me.

I tried to forget about it. It became my shameful secret. Not his. Mine. T did try to ask me about, but I was too embarrassed to talk to him about it because the whole thing had happened after my argument with him. So I didn’t tell him. Maybe two/three months later though, something happened that made me feel guilty about not reporting it. A student was raped on campus. It made the news and everyone was talking about it. But it was the location of the rape that really unnerved me. The girl had been raped in the lane that I had ran up when I escaped from the shop. The lane directly opposite D’s flat. The description was pretty vague, but it could have been him. Tied in with the location, I felt pretty certain that I should be passing it on. But again when I talked to my friends about it, they weren’t so sure. They pointed out that he hadn’t raped me, so this was different. That there were other flats there too. That it didn’t mean that it was someone in the flats opposite, it could have been anyone from anywhere, it’s just a dark lane. That the description could have been anyone. That I would have to go over my story and it would be embarrassing. That what happened to me was nothing like what happened to her. It was almost as if they felt I was trying to jump on her bandwagon and they were reminding me that my event wasn’t as traumatic as hers. I accept that. But I knew there were similarities. I didn’t go to the police. Or the university. I don’t know what happened to the girl and I’ve always felt guilty that I could have supported her maybe. My story maybe could have been evidence or given some clues. That’s something I find hard to live with.

As for him, he went on with his life as far I can tell. I never saw him again, but then that’s because I stopped going to the student union. I stopped going anywhere unless I was surrounded by a big group of friends at all times. My self-esteem and confidence plummeted even further. I didn’t trust myself to make decisions. I was ashamed of myself. I entered in to an abusive relationship with another guy for the rest of my time at university and only just scraped through at the end. Maybe two years after my incident, at a random flat party one evening, I heard D’s name mentioned. It was an unusual name and this guy was on the same course so it was definitely him. The general theme of the conversation was that in the previous two years he seemed to have continued to get himself a bit of a reputation as a “sleaze” – which some of the people at the party were laughing about. I didn’t join in the conversation. I couldn’t bring myself to laugh at it somehow.



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