Originally published: 14.03.14
Last year when I blogged/wrote as ‘fragmentz’ I wrote several blogs titled ‘lets talk about rape …’ – not something I planned on writing much about again really, but here I am and I am able to talk more openly offline and more confident to write online as me, Helen.
7 years ago my life which I was already battling changed for the worse. It was a sunny day, where one moment made time freeze. One afternoon on the corner of a street where a building site was boarded up (with broken down boards). One second I was walking down a street I’d walked down many times and a few minutes later I ran into the high street, collapsing while some passers by called the emergency services. You always think – well I did – that you know what you would do in that situation. But I didn’t do what I thought I would. And that was it, in those brief moments life changed. Forever. Never ever to be the same again. How can it be?
And I became a statistic. I was already a statistic having been abused as a child/teenager. But I became another statistic, a different one this time. One of the 9% of people raped by strangers. As opposed to someone I knew/a partner/husband.
A few months ago a charity which I love dearly/respect and support tweeted a tweet which made my blood run cold. It was this –
‘Only 9% of rapes in the UK are committed by ‘strangers’ #fact‘
I responded to them with a tweet, asking them to reconsider their use of the word ‘only’. I explained how it made me, one of 9 % of people who have been raped by a stranger even more isolated that we already are – because we are a minority. They said they would be more careful in future in how they phrased things. Because if I was feeling that way, about that word and the phrasing then I could imagine other people would be too.
This afternoon I had a quick flick read down their timeline as I often do and was really really dismayed to discovered that last week they tweeted exactly the same thing.
‘Only 9% of rapes in the UK are committed by ‘strangers’ #fact‘
I totally understand that it was/is not their intention to offend/upset/isolate anyone as a few people suggested to me in reply to my frustrated tweets at them asking why they have used the word ONLY yet again. Why the need for the ‘only’?
I accept that 91% of women raped are raped by people they know/partners/husbands. And that society needs educating that it isn’t always people you you don’t know in dark alleyways (or in my case building sites in broad daylight).
BUT please please please do not diminish the experience of a group of people, who as a minority already feel fairly isolated. Being a survivor of rape full stop is isolating. Despite 1 in 4 women being victims it isn’t as widely talked about offline as it appears to be online. I love the fact that social media is seeing a rise in people speaking out and educating and raising awareness – and the rise of people talking about violence against women and wanting to see the much needed end to it. Thats all great. But offline my experience so far has been its not so easily talked about/discussed. And we need to work on that.
I wrote for years as ‘fragz’ but over the last 12 months have merged that identity and ‘Helen’ together and am more confident and able to speak face to face with people about my experiences. Online and offline. I’ve found a way to be ‘me’ and be outspoken on the issues that affect me, and be strong is using that voice – which I hope to build on (and importantly I’ve found a place to be ‘me’ on the bad days. A community of people that are helping and have helped me grow faith wise, but have also let me be ‘me’ in my weak moments. In the tears, tantrums and shouty times).
Its important that what we do online we do offline too. In talking about issues that make people feel uncomfortable. Or squirm in their seats. Or blush. Or just want to offer ‘there there’ responses to. Its important we educate. As I get stronger in myself, the more passionate and the more I seek and desire and want to be part of that process somehow. Not entirely sure how yet. But I’m working on it. Which is why I respect this charity a lot for what they do.
But we need to be mindful of how we do it, and the language we use, and what it means and says to people.
Being a statistic is tough, full stop, and for me, being reduced to an ‘only’ is painful. Isolating. More than ever.
I cannot relate to someone who has been raped by someone they know. I can’t imagine it. But I expect it has its own set of issues as does being raped by strangers.
For years the faces of these two people I had never seen in my life haunt me. I don’t know their names. Or where they lived, or their lives. Do they have a wife, a girlfriend, children? Do they work? Do they have a faith? What do they do now, do they remember me, do they think of that day, do they even care?
Do they have an illness I need to be worried about?
Do they regret what they did, or laugh about it with each other?
Do they think they they escaped justice because they were never caught, because, I, in the moment could not get myself together enough to describe them to the police. Or because I was too traumatised refused to allow any DNA to be taken.
Are they still alive? Would they have killed me if I had fought them, or would I have gotten away and not had everything I had left taken from me if I had tried?
Why didn’t I just cross the road that day? Or why didn’t I walk down a different street.
How do I forgive people I don’t know. How do I move on?
The list of questions and thoughts I have had about these two men are endless. And maybe some of them are the same questions and things people who know their perpetrators ask. I don’t know. As I said, I can’t relate to that experience.
All I can relate to is that MY perpetrators were strangers to me. And that I am part of that small minority of people who make up the 9%.
But calling us ‘only’ diminishes our experiences. Lessens it.
So, I urge you, any of you who write about this topic, this issue, whether its about the 91% who know their perps or the 9% who don’t, please don’t use ‘only’. For any of us.
My name is Helen and I am not an ‘only’.
Helen Blogs This is reasonably new having blogged under the pseudonym of ‘fragmentz’ for 5 years (which is now defunct) I write about things including my own experiences of being a survivor of child hood abuse, and rape as an adult. I’m passionate about seeing an end to violence against women and am on a journey of learning more and more about feminism as each day goes by. I also write about God and my faith. Twitter @helen_a15