10 years ago today.

30 01 2012

I often wondered what I’d write on the ten-year anniversary of ‘that’ day.

I should warn those of a sensitive disposition, it could be triggery if you’re that way inclined.

It was Wednesday January 30th 2002, I had a fantastic job, a flat I loved, a partner of almost ten years and I was looking forward to a weeks skiing break. My life was safe, it was comfortable, I was content.

That morning I was late for work. It wasnt unusual but its only natural after the event to think, ‘if only id gone into work on time’. I was talking my dog for his morning walk. It was a beautiful sunny day. Unusually warm for the time of year. I took my normal route through a lane between two blocks of flats. It was a short lane, around 20-30 metres in length and 5m wide. It was behind a police station. I was wearing baggy denims, a mens XL hoodie and a cap. To all intents and purposes, defining my sex would have been hard for anyone at a distance. There was no reason for me to believe anything bad could happen. I had walked that way for years.

I wasnt quite halfway when I noticed someone passing the top of the lane. This wasnt unusual, it was a busy street, but something felt different, wrong even. Even before he turned into the lane, I had a bad feeling. The only way I can describe it was like an animal instinct. I knew I could not turn my back on this person and in the few seconds it took for me to see what was a few metres ahead, I had assessed the situation. I knew if I turned to go where I had come from, something awful would happen, so I decided to carry on going forwards, it left me in a safer position to do so. By now I could make out the figure and he had his erect penis poking out the top of his tracksuit bottoms. I passed the dodgy bin area and kept to the opposite side of the lane from this guy in the hope he would keep on walking. I just knew he wasnt going to.

As quick as a flash I heard this strange grunt. I cannot describe it. How I imagined cavemen to communicate prior to language. I was pinned to the wall with his hands on my chest and him trying to part my legs with his. I don’t need to go into the gruesome detail, only the police know more, but I used this short time to plan my response and I pulled the guy towards me which really confused him, I then pushed him away yelling “FUCK OFF” as loud and as aggressively as I could.

I will not then describe what I did, needless to say, it was enough for me to walk away calmly and to leave my attacker on the ground, shocked and dazed.

My useless little lapdog, hadn’t done what I expected. There was no barking or growling or biting. I held onto his stretchy lead for the duration of the attack and he wandered off to have a pee. Not sure I ever forgave him for that. Plenty of people had passed the end of the lane as this was all going on. Not one offered help or shouted to distract the attacker.

As the police station was the other side of the building facing the lane, I calmly walked straight in and reported it. As I entered the police station, I looked to where I came from. The guy was standing at the top of the road. He had followed me. As I walked into the police station, I glanced at the clock. It was 10.15 am. Two policeman charged past me to chase the attacker, who by this point was standing outside the police station. They chased him for 15 minutes and caught him at a train station a mile or 2 away, where he apologised to them for what he did to me and asked them to tell me this.

Now it was a very quick process catching him and having him charged. At my interview immediately after the attack I was offered victim support, which I refused. I was no victim. I didn’t at the time feel anything about the attack. That came later. There was a lot of testosterone in the Police station. The police were quick off the mark and determined to catch this ‘crazed sex attacker’. The male officer who interviewed me wasn’t particularly sensitive but as this was considered the immediate aftermath my story was vital at this exact time and not later when I’d had time to think about it all. I was advised to see my own doctor but the Police were on the whole unconcerned about my wellbeing.

It was the aftermath where problems began. I had to phone my bf who was still on the bus to uni to tell him to come back and phone my work to explain I wouldn’t be in. My boyfriend met me at the Police Station but he was more concerned with getting to university. My feelings for him changed that day, irrecoverably. I had been sexually assaulted and he behaved as if nothing had happened. I went straight to the doctors where I discovered bruises on my breasts and ribs. You could see where his fingers had been. It was the only thing that made me feel properly violated. I had to keep seeing these bruises as a reminder until they disappeared.

Now I queried mentioning here how I felt about the attack as I don’t want it used as ammunition against other women who have been sexually assaulted but it’s important for me to say. Everyone responds differently and women (or men) shouldnt be judged on how they react to a sex attack. The attack was over in minutes and I considered had done far worse in retaliation. I always expected to feel destroyed, inconsolable, a victim. If I’m honest, I didn’t think much of the attack at all. I didn’t feel much. I guess I was probably in shock.

My disgust was more at my treatment, by the authorities, after the attack. The friendly community bobby delivered my first citation. I had to ask what was going on and he wasnt keen on letting me know. All he told me was that the attacker was unlikely to be in the area again as he wasnt that local, that he was a ‘simpleton’ who went to a ‘special school’ nearby and that I may see him on a bus going into town and if I did *I* was to get off the bus. I was due to give evidence in court a couple of months later. The attackers name and date of birth were there for me to see. He was just 16 and giving him a name humanised him. It made him a person not just a monster. I don’t remember what his name was but I do remember thinking he had a nice name.

At this time my health deteriorated. I became withdrawn, couldn’t sleep and lost about 3 1/2 stone in the space of a fortnight. I’d never been a witness in court and as the date approached I worried about the process. Then one day two police officers turned up to my work demanding I meet them at the reception. They issued a second citation with the exact same information as the first. When I tried to explain I had already received one, they told me it was a polite reminder to turn up to court or else I’d face charges. They wanted to ensure I was going to be there at all costs. Their attitude was as if I was the guilty party, certainly not the person who was attacked. I was thoroughly humiliated as colleagues wanted to know why they were there and what I was due in court for. I wasnt ashamed of being attacked but I was ashamed of how I was made to feel afterwards because of it.

The day of the trial arrived. I hadn’t slept for five days or nights. I was like a zombie, more scared of standing up and telling people what happened while my mum was listening in the public gallery than anything else. In many respects she took the attack harder than I did. The day of the trial was the only time my then boyfriend displayed any emotion at what happened, as he once got angry about it. It didn’t last long.

My mum phoned the court to confirm where it was to be heard, whereupon she was told there was no case with that number that day. She was given another number to call. They wouldnt speak to her so I had to phone the Police to find out what was going on. They told me after numerous phone calls that he had pled guilty at a preliminary diet a fortnight previously, and sentencing was in two weeks. That was it. That was the last I heard of the attack or attacker. I had no idea what a preliminary diet was.

I have no idea what happened to him. I do not know if he was even punished or if he was let off because he had a learning disability. I don’t know if he was placed on the sex offenders register or made to undergo sex education. I don’t know how his mother felt at her sons behaviour or if he regretted his actions.

In work, I had been helping my boss source data for a report she was writing on sex education in special educational needs schools. They didn’t provide sex ed at the school he attended. This knowledge affected me more than the attack did. This young man had obvious urges but had never been taught relationship etiquette or what was right or wrong regarding sex. I was angry. Not at him but at society. It’s hard for people to understand the way I thought about it and at the time I honestly felt he was probably as much a victim as I was meant to be.

Needless to say my relationship didn’t last long beyond this point. He didn’t understand much about how I felt and I find it hard to explain to this day. I probably care more now than i did then and I often wonder how much of that is being told how i should have felt about it.. The magnitude of it all didn’t hit me until I saw comedienne Sarah Millican a few years later making a rape joke. Everyone laughed. Then it hit me. It was almost 5 years later. I didn’t laugh.

On this very day ten years ago my life changed beyond all recognition. I wont go into what happened in the intervening years. It’s irrelevant now. I’ve learned, I’ve grown. I’m a far stronger person for it now. I had always had ‘safety’ issues going places on my own and while the attack itself didn’t really bother me that much at the time, it, combined with another incident a short while later, left me with a real fear of being unsafe. That will never go away. I’m not scared of being attacked again, I know I can handle myself. It’s the unpredictability that gets to me.

An ironic side story, I attended counselling for a short while after the attack for something unrelated but often discussed my lack of feeling safe. My counsellor said to me, and I will never forget this, “statistically, the chances of you being attacked again are so remote, you shouldnt even have to think about it.” The very next day a couple of junkies tried, what can only be described as carjacking us, at knife point, in the city centre. They opened the passenger door, where I sat and I again did the unexpected by pushing the door instead of pulling. As they stumbled I closed and locked all doors so they slashed the tyre and wandered off waving the knife at us. Again plenty of witnesses, but noone stopped. Police were equally as unhelpful taking 2 hours to turn up, hauling us in the back of their van in full view of everyone then doing nothing about it, despite positive ids.

This was the point agoraphobia took hold.






One response

12 02 2012

Jeez, had no idea. Really glad you posted this. Interesting that somehow they consider the issue “dealt with” if the person pleads guilty, and that’s somehow meant to be enough for you.

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