I’m currently reading ‘Asking For It,’ by Louise O’Neill. Its been a long time since I read a book with this subject matter (rape and subsequent suicidal thoughts). I cant remember what made me pick this book on my Kindle, I’d read about it somewhere. The book sees our protagonist, Emma, raped after a party where she took drugs and drank a lot. She is 18, and the setting is Ireland. The consequence to the rape is her repetitive thoughts of shame, self blaming and self hate. And the small Irish town divided between her and the boys involved, as well as the subsequent trial. The author has captured her jumbled and repitive thoughts extremely well, as well as the protagonist observing her family falling apart and blaming herself. Her inability to use the word rape and her suicide attempts. With this level of insight, I can only assume the author did extensive research, or was a victim herself. I have never read such an accurate portrayal of life after rape in the guise of a story.
Anyway, this blog post isn’t a book review. I have only referred to the book as a premise. I always find myself thinking about the way things should have been dealt with after my rape. I can list the ideals in number and often do mentally. This book reminds me of my contrast list of wishes if you like, and I can identify where it all went wrong. So for the first time ever, I will write my list here. My main objective is to bring it out into the open. A document of things that should have been done, and if its useful to anyone else, than that is a bonus.
1, My friend at the time wasn’t equipped to recognise what happened, so I don’t blame her for that but she did have the knowledge to take me to a clinic – that’s a relief or else I may very well of had a child, as I certainly didn’t know about these thngs.The clinic should have discussed things with me in detail, recognised my state of shock and if I refused a medical exam (it wasn’t given at the time), given me the options available at a later date. As I was under age, the proper authorities should have been notified, at least then I would have stood a chance of bringing charges forward sooner.
2, my parents should have confronted me about my behaviour. Clearly something serious had happened (they later confessed in my last stint in the UK that they ‘had a feeling’ and my bed wetting and night terrors could have been helped.
3, my first suicide attempt. No one really talked to me about it or addressed the issues. Although family counselling was ‘forced’ on us – which my parents were none to happy about. I should have had a safe place to communicate, but I felt like an inconvenience.
4, I was never talked to about rape, sexual violence or STIs, why?? Even I couldn’t identify what had happened was wrong. I just had a ‘sense’ of it not being right. Why wasn’t this mentioned?
5, moving forward, to the medical involvement, when I sought help. Why wasn’t my testing reported to the police? I was referred to an in-house counsellor that told me on my first visit she could understand why I was so upset, she likened my virginity to the time she lost a necklace that her Mother had given her and tried to hug me.
6, The signs were everywhere. My behaviours at school, self harming, nightmares, constant UTIs, why didn’t anyone address these issues?
7, the things I needed to hear:
it wasn’t your fault, I believe you, you have been raped and you need medical attention, you may not want the police involved but now, but if you want to later it would be easier, you didn’t ask for it, you need a specialist counsellor – I will take you, it’s up to you whether you continue seeing her or not, you are grieving – take all the time you need, you will get through this, you’re not alone.
8, the police investigation came years later when we went back to the UK. I wish there had been better practices in place, and more experienced officers. I felt like I had to micromanage the whole thing. Ultimately it led to a breakdown.
There is no right or perfect response to rape. I could have had all of the above and still felt the terrible despair and self loathing. But its identifying what could have helped that gives to discussion, that leads to openness and better support for people who need it.
I am scarred irreparably by the act and the subsequent lack of care. 2 decades on and I’m still fighting the aftermath. The only solace I find is that my life isn’t a book that has ended. I am still writing the chapters, and I hope that as my own protagonist in my book, I find the peace I so desperately need.