In the last four months, since my perpetrator sexually assaulted me, I have felt every feeling attached to the cycle of loss: denial, numbness, sadness, anger and acceptance.
I believe I lost who I was in those moments that he violated my consent and my sense of innocence around sex. I hope this may return again someday. There is still a period of time that my mind does not want to remember and so I cannot account for three hours of that evening. I have tried to have sex since that incident, and it hasn’t ended well so I know I’m not ready yet. I still do not feel safe walking the streets of London. When the doorbell buzzes or the phone rings or when someone creeps up on me to tap me on my shoulder from behind, I still jump out of my skin. I look at my niece, nephews and friends with new babies and fear the world they are born into. I know I cannot protect them from the evil in the world. Their parents and I can try to instil a sense of their boundaries and how to protect themselves, but we can’t wrap them in bubble-wrap as we may want to.
The police did not act in my best interest in the circumstance, they did not record the incident properly or offer me direct access to a Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC).
Had they done so then the perpetrator may not be walking the streets of London as a free man. I can see why those before me withdrawal from giving a full statement to the police. I sat from 11.30am to 4.30pm providing my statement, I was only offered water, I could only leave the interview room for brief moments, and no lunch break was offered. I came away feeling discombobulated and that I had done something wrong. I was also in shock as the CID man shared with me the health status of the perpetrator. Whilst still in shock, I had to think about going to the clinic to ensure I did not have Hepatitis A or C, thankfully I don’t. After being with the police I went to my parent’s place and could see the pain in their eyes as I told them a summary of what happened. My parents are quite conservative so do not understand the modern view of consent around sex. This is a difficult conversation to have when your parents are now in their 70’s. My father wanted to protect the family, I wanted my parents just to hold me and let me know that the pain would go away. My sister, as ever, offered me her warm and open heart.
Family, friends and colleagues have been there in the distance but there is a loneliness about this painful journey.
We are talking about consent all the time in our modern world. In early September I attended Connected by Humanity’s event on the theme of forgiveness where I spoke for the first time publicly around consent. At Connected by Humanity people spoke about forgiveness around all different themes. Underlying most of the themes were participants speaking from deep within their hearts and through the window of their felt compassion about forgiveness. I truly believe that this event let me know what I needed to work on. I can offer my perpetrator compassion, but I cannot forgive him for the thirteen hours he put me through.
I am in a place of needing to forgive myself, as Victor Frankl in Man’s Search for Meaning says, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedom’s – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way”. The theme of consent raises anger in me, and the anger has taught me that the first thing I needed to do is to start forgiving myself.
To let go of my anger I am choosing not to be silent as, for me, silence would only feed any shame or guilt that comes in waves. I could let the anger distort the way I see the world around me. I don’t want to be angry with the world. When thinking of forgiveness, I know that I should not be holding on to any shame or guilt. I know that these feelings should belong to the perpetrator. I hope that the police are signposting the perpetrator into appropriate mental health support.
I can look at the police through compassionate eyes, but something for me has been repeated and maybe why I chose not to go to the police when I was first raped in 2015.
This time, I went to the police hoping that things would be different and their understanding of LGBTQ+ lives would have improved. Through my compassionate eyes, I see that the police and services like GALOP are over-stretched, and cultural competence may not be this government’s or their polices priority. The government has promised to put more police on our streets, the government needs to put more money into mandatory training with the police around LGBTQ+ cultural competency and inclusivity.
In 2004, whilst working at East London Out Project (ELOP), I recall spending a week at Hendon Police Training headquarters, training police around cultural competence. Where has that work gone? Is what my mind keeps questioning. The CID called to thank me for the education I had provided them, I had no idea what to say. I can say it clearly now, it is not our role to educate when we are at our most vulnerable.
As a secular Jew, I am in that period of the year where we pray for atonement, to be forgiven for our sins that we have committed, either knowingly or unknowingly.
I am in a place of questioning my faith following this incident. I am questioning where was G-d? Why did they not protect me? Where was my internal G-d and why did they let this happen to me? In Judaism we are meant to believe that G-d is, apparently, everywhere.
This Jewish New Year, I picked up a book that I found hard to put down. The book was called The Choice written by Edith Eger, a Holocaust survivor. Within it she says, “Each moment is a choice. No matter how frustrating or boring or constraining or painful our experience, we can always choose how we respond”.
I am beginning to realise that there will never be a winner or a loser when it comes to what, sexually, happened to me.
The perpetrator has to live with the reflection looking back in the mirror at them every day, and hopefully they can learn to get the help they need, and hear their conscience telling them what they did was wrong. I can choose to be a survivor, not a victim, just as my Grandfather and his brother chose to create new generations after the holocaust, this must have eased their survivors’ guilt for those they left behind, those that perished in the Holocaust. Perhaps I can use that survival strength I inherited from them to choose to move on with my life right now.
For now, I know my own sense of value and self-worth has to come from within. It is those that did not give up on me in hard times and my family that taught me that and for that I am so very grateful, for now I shower in the love and in the support they can provide. If you are also a sexual assault survivor know that you are not alone and that you do not have to go through this painful journey alone.