I still struggle to be intimate after rape

Gemma*, 23, bravely opens up about being raped at 18, and the continuing struggle she has to be intimate even with her long-term partner.

True Stories

back of girl's head looking out over trees

"I'm learning that I'm allowed to want sex."

A few weeks before we were all going off to university, back in 2012, our friendship group decided to go to this big club for one last night out. Most people got ‘fast track’ type tickets so were let right in, but I had to queue outside on my own for about an hour. It wasn’t a great start to the night. 

I was trying to play catch up 

Of course, as soon as I was let in and found my friends, everyone was already drunk. I remember thinking I had a lot of catching up to do, so bought a lot of doubles and downed them.  

I was the most drunk I have ever been. I found a random guy to dance with and remembered that his name was Isaac*, which was the name of the guy I was sort-of seeing. In my drunk state, I thought this was a sign. I was sure that I was meant to dance with this guy. I kept drinking, we kept dancing, and I don’t remember seeing my friends at all. I was all over this guy, and he was all over me. 

The last thing I remember from the club is seeing a girl with one shoe on as I was pulled out on to the street. 

All I know is that he raped me 

I only have hazy memories of the rest of the night. As soon as the cold air hit me, I felt more drunk and less in control of anything.  

I remember being on a bench in a park, and I was naked. I had sex with someone, but I don’t know if it was the same guy in the club. Then there was another guy and I remember him saying, “Can I have some of that?” It makes me sick to my stomach. I wasn’t a person. I was just a thing, an object. I was just passed from one to the other. 

My friends found me in that park, naked on the grass. They had to dress me and get me home. We barely spoke about it. We never have done. We didn’t understand consent and rape back then. It was just a bad experience and I shouldn’t have been so drunk, we thought. Now we understand how bad it really was, and my issues with sex since are all down to that night. 

It completely ruined my confidence  

I’ve struggled to instigate sex with anyone ever since. I feel guilty if I want to have sex because I feel like it’s a dirty thing or that I don’t deserve it. I struggle to feel in control when it comes to sex because I was violated. 

I used to be such an outwardly flirty and sexual person but I still find it hard, over five years later, to say, “let’s have sex”. I’m working on it, but I’m worried I’ll be rejected or laughed at. I’ve always had bad body confidence, and this hasn’t helped. 

I feel ok having sex but I often have flashbacks. I’m not able to completely relax and enjoy myself. I’m always thinking about what I look like and what my boyfriend must be thinking. I second guess myself and his intentions, which is awful because I know he’s great. 

My boyfriend doesn’t know it happened 

I’ve been with my boyfriend for years and he still doesn’t know what happened all those years ago. It’s one of the only things I’ve never shared with him, and it’s not because I don’t trust him. It’s taken me such a long time to admit that what happened was rape, so a part of me still blames myself. I’m worried he’ll be ashamed of me, even though he’s a wonderful human being and would never! 

Even though I haven’t told him, this is the first time I’ve ever spoken about what happened which I feel is a huge step in itself. I do want to tell him one day – speaking anonymously to The Mix has definitely encouraged me to – but I’m not quite ready yet. 

I’m allowed to want sex! 

I’m a sexual person and what happened to me was rape, not sex. I need to remind myself to trust my partner and remember that he loves me, inside and out. He wants to have sex with me because of who I am, not just because he wants sex. I know he’d like me to feel more confident and take more initiative. 

Healthy sex is about communication and balance. I know I need to find my voice again. I need to be able to share my likes and dislikes, lay down my boundaries, and laugh when we fall off the bed, or whatever.  

I’m learning that sex is an experience. It can be embarrassing and funny and awkward and intense and sensual and relaxed and full-on. And all of those things are ok, as long as you’re comfortable and consenting. I’m learning that I’m allowed to want sex and I’m allowed to be in control. 

Take as much time as you need  

To anyone who’s experienced something similar, I’d tell them to take as much time as they need. What happened wasn’t their fault and they need time to feel in control again. If you want sex, that’s ok, and if you don’t, that’s ok too! Taking the weight off sex can really help. Don’t pressure yourself.  

You’ll learn to trust yourself again. Losing confidence and trust in yourself is one of the worst things about experiencing something so traumatic. I’m learning to trust myself again, especially around alcohol. The anxiety of what could happen is fading away. I’m allowed to have a drink and enjoy myself, and I’m more worried about my boob falling out my dress now more than anything else!  

*Names have been changed

Next Steps

  • Rape Crisis offers support and advice to victims of rape and sexual assault, no matter how long ago the attack was. 0808 802 99 99
  • SurvivorsUK offers advice and support to male victims of rape and sexual assault. Text on 020 3322 1860.
  • Relate is an affordable relationship and sex counselling service. 0300 100 1234
  • Do you want to understand your relationship better? Love Smart helps you work it all out.
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.
  • Need help but confused where to go locally? Download our StepFinder iPhone app to find local support services quickly.

Tags:

rape

By

Updated on 08-Feb-2018

Photo by Ravi Roshan on Unsplash