4 months after being raped I am still struggling to find closure. Here’s my advice for those feeling the same.
In October, an ex of mine had sex with me without my consent. Afterwards, when I approached them explaining how violated I felt, they told me I was wrong and accused me of trying to ‘ruin’ them. Despite having a black belt they created a narrative of being afraid of me that relied on misogynoir and painting me as an angry black woman. After launching a uni investigation that was mishandled at every turn and incredibly traumatic for me, I was told that there wasn’t enough evidence to go further. My rapist then used this outcome to tell people I was lying, outing personal and sensitive information to friends. Despite the fact that I had actually gone out of my way to protect their reputation, and encourage their friends to support them, nothing I did stopped them from believing I was lying.
Let’s just say that like many people, I was eager to leave 2020 in the past.
Trauma doesn’t like to stay put through even though I had a mediation session with them, I never felt that they really took my trauma seriously or acknowledged what they did. I realised that I had to look for my own closure. When it came to the new year, let’s just say that like people, I was eager to 2020 in the past. Before I could do that, I had to do something I had never done before: Forgive myself.
As a black woman, I often feel the urge to try and fix things, and there have been many studies on how black women especially are seen as other people’s therapist and ‘mammy’. After the investigation ended so badly, I wanted to make a complaint. I thought the procedure would be easy enough but it turned out to only be a process that ended in more trauma. I am still not sure how to deal with all this. But I did find freedom in writing. By sharing my story, I could let go of all the negative emotions within me. In my search for closure, I learned something: I had nothing to be ashamed of. When I really sat down and forgave myself for thinking otherwise, things became a lot easier.
The investigation and complaint process took a whole lot out of me, at times I wouldn’t be able to open my email inbox without a panic attack. Despite my entire brain screaming at me to take a break, I kept going. I felt I had no choice. What about the next victim that came for help? I couldn’t let them go through what I did. I had to realise that as humans we have a limited compacity for healing, and a lot of times we need to use that capability for ourselves. I didn't don't have to suffer in order to save others. I didn’t have to suffer at all. Period.
I realised that I had to look for my own closure.
The first time I was on a date after my assault, I kept getting flashbacks, and as lovely as the girl was, I cried myself to sleep that night. I have often had moments of heavy dissociation because it seems so impossible that an event that traumatised me so much could be seen as a consensual encounter with the person with me that night. Sometimes I feel so angry and bitter, and this was one of those nights. I was crying myself to sleep, trying to remember all the therapeutic tools I had been taught to top spiralling deeper into sadness, and yet my rapist denies that anything non-consensual happened. How could I ever move on from that?
One thing that triggered me, in particular, was the word ‘enthusiastic’. In the mediation session, I asked for, I explained that this word was especially horrible as I was afraid and dissociating during my assault — anything but an enthusiastic person at the time. Yet, weeks later I would be told by friends that my rapist had messaged them saying I had ‘enthusiastically participated’ in my assault. I remember sitting in bed afterwards thinking: ‘this can’t be my life’. I had laid myself as bare as I could in my meditation session and explained that I didn’t consent and how horrible the word ‘enthusiastic made me feel: As if I was to blame for my own assault. Maybe I wasn’t assaulted? I attempted to gaslight myself into believing that as it was easier to believe in than the unending cruelty my rapist kept hitting me with. Despite their instance that I was not a rape victim, I was certainly being treated like one. I certainly had the trauma of one.
She said to me: “Welcome to the Rape Club!”
The only question I had left was: what now? A friend of mine has been in an abusive relationship and recently told me that after her partner told her they were upset with her ‘false allegations of domestic violence. I was utterly speechless. How could her former partner deny something which had so obviously happened? I don’t know why, but it was that moment that made me realise that I had to find my own peace. Abusers will deny their abuse until their last breath. After all, who wants to be the villain in their own story? Survivors have to find their own closure more times than not. It is important that we take the time to forgive ourselves for the shame we took on our abuser's behalf. This is not our shame to bear, and I highly recommend letting go of it. We are not the ones who should hide in the shadows, afraid to be judged. They are.
After I told one of my friends about my assault, she said to me: “Welcome to the Rape Club!”. She was trying to cheer me up after I spent a while speaking about how horrid everything felt. It worked. I laughed hysterically. She’s right, unfortunately. There may as well be a secret club for Surviours. A sacred place where we can share our stories in hushed voices. This seems to be the only space we are given. Not anymore. I’m over it and you should be too. We deserve better. So I encourage you to share your story too, in whatever medium you feel comfortable with. No more whispers. It’s time to leave shame where it belongs: with our abusers.
This article is inspired by my series titled ‘Sexual predators on Campus’. The full series is avaliable on my medium page and you can find all three articles down in the links below!
© 2021 Luwa Adebanjo
MG Singh from UAE on February 21, 2021:
it was horrifying reading your article. its the same all over the world and I hope things improve.