by anonymous KCL Student and IFemSoc Member
TRIGGER WARNING: contains detailed description of sexual abuse
There’s only one moment from the entire ordeal I remember with complete clarity, it occurred almost a month after it all ended, in a nurse’s office of a sexual health clinic.
“You have to report him” She said. I didn’t expect her to say that. The entire time I had worked myself up to tell someone about what had been happening, I had never once considered the idea that I’d be asked to make what had happened public.
This May will mark the 4th year in a 5 year sentence my abuser will serve in jail. By the time I’m finished with University he’ll be free, possibly living a stone throw away from my family home as he used to. I think it was this realisation that makes me want to write something about what happened for the first time.
I met him when I was 14, online – of course – even though we lived close by, how else would a 14 year old girl meet a 21 year old man? Now I’m the same age he was when we met, I can say with certainty that you don’t meet many 14 year olds at this age. I don’t feel very grown up, at times I feel about 14, and I wonder if that’s how he felt when he met me, that he wasn’t that different to who he was then… I doubt it, neither now nor then have I ever felt compelled to do what he did. It’s a bit of a relief, a few years ago I had the abject fear that I might one day wake up a predator. That’s what they say happens, people who were once victims in turn victimise others, and for a long time I felt like there was a ticking clock over my head. One day I’m the average young adult obsessing over my weight, my friendship circles, and my job. The next I’m grooming children online. Thankfully, my experience has only made me want to help others, although that wasn’t quite the case at 15.
“I don’t want to report him” I said, stuttering with the shock. My heart was still racing from watching her read the letter I’d written that explained what I’d experienced over the past year. My file was probably already pretty full, at least 10 acquisitions of morning after pill, countless pregnancy tests, one abortion and a miscarriage. They don’t do rape kits here in Britain, not in the way they do in the states or on CSI, but you have a doctor evaluate you, I’m sure her words were in that file too.
She looked exasperated, upset. I hadn’t expected it, they always tell you that doctors and nurses have seen and heard worse than anything you could come and tell them about. My biggest fear up until that point was that she’d try to put me in therapy, I had never expected her to tell me to go public.
“You need to report him, he needs to be put away, if not for yourself, for the other girls he could do this to”. I hated them already, those girls. Those girls whose choices and mistakes that I felt I’d made over the past year, were making my life more difficult. I hated myself for what had happened, I felt nothing but contempt for anyone else that could stumble down the road that I’d found myself on.
I found myself defending him, it’d be the first time of many, “he wouldn’t, I know what he did was bad, but he wouldn’t do it to someone else. He was always so conflicted about what he did to me, like he didn’t want to be doing it, he wouldn’t be able to do it to someone else” I really believed those words at the time. She didn’t believe me, she kept telling me how bad I’d feel if I found out he had, that what I’d gone through could happen to others. I wasn’t crying, I was too scared to, but I know what I was thinking, what I couldn’t even bare to tell her: I didn’t want him to hate me. My whole life up until that point had revolved around this secret. Covering my tracks so my family and friends wouldn’t know where I was going, hiding the bruises, the split lips, the pregnancy scares, the pregnancy. I was so scared of it getting out that I’d spent an entire year in perpetual silence, isolating myself from everyone I knew until he was only person who knew anything about me. I didn’t want him to know I’d betrayed him, I’d told someone our secret.
“I can’t do it” I told her. I found out later that she’d quit a few months after, I’ve always wondered if that was my fault too.
I was 17 when it eventually hit the news. I’d finally pulled my life together, I’d got my grades for 6th form and I was planning University applications and celebrating my 2nd year anniversary with my boyfriend. “Local man jailed for 5 years for grooming a 14 year old”
“He met her online and spent months sending her explicit messages, the court hears”
“The girl was described as reclusive and particularly vulnerable to manipulation”
“When he finally met her he drove her to a field and carried out many of acts he had detailed in his messages”
“The court hears that he had a dangerous and violent view of women”
“The victim explains that he showed her pornography detailing degrading and violent themes”
“The court hopes that this will bring some closure for the victim and would like to praise her for the bravery she has shown through helping the police bring this man to justice.”
I guess the nurse was right, I should have thought about the other girls he would do this to. I don’t know her name, what she looks like, or how long it went on for. I don’t know if she thought she loved him, if he had to hit her before he could maintain an erection, or if he sabotaged her contraception. I don’t know if the one time she actually said no, he did it anyway. I don’t know if she reported him for ‘the other girls’. I just know that I didn’t.
Even at 17 I hadn’t properly managed to hate him yet, I had for the most part just blocked out that year from my memory. It disgusts me to admit that I hated her though, for betraying him, but not nearly as much as I hated myself.
It’s been 4 years and I’ve made tentative progress on forgiving myself. I’ve given up on trying to hate him, but it rises like bile now and again. During debates about pornography and the S&M community: safe, sane, consensual, doesn’t mean very much when it’s being used to normalise violence to a child. My heart skips a beat every time I hear someone throw around the word ‘jailbait’, or someone says that ‘they like them young’. I may have let that brave and vulnerable girl down, but never again. I like to think I’d be a feminist without being an abuse survivor, but it doesn’t really matter anymore, I’m part of the movement now and I’m here to stay.
This time next year he will be free, I sometimes play with the idea that I’ll come forward now, get his sentence extended. Stand up in front of him and finally stop protecting him. Make him regret hurting me as much as he probably regrets her. But I need to spend some more time forgiving myself first, I may still be ashamed, but at least I now understand that there’s no shame in being too scared to confront your abuser. Hopefully writing about my experience will help some of you though, whether you’re also a survivor, or just trying to learn more about what happens right under our noses. It’s a solid start.
Thank you for your time.