It’s me. I know you’ve tried to bury the memory of me into the corner of your little mind, but some of us don’t quite get that luxury. After all, I was the 11th person you’d slept with. I’m sure your memory is a little hazy. You were my first. You will always be my first.
You moved far away after it happened. I’d like to think that it was because of me, you couldn’t deal with the memories, but in reality I’m not that self-centred. You moved away because you could. I can’t. I’m always going to be stuck here. Reliving not just the hell you put me through that night. In fact, that was the least of it. The hell you have inflicted on me in the 7 years that have passed since you asked me not to go to the police, and the pain that fills me fuller than you did, the pain that you’ll probably never know the hurt you caused.
The day you invited me to stay with you for the weekend. You were my first ever boyfriend, we had broken up 3 years before but, shocker, we will still friends. ‘How can you be friends with your ex boyfriend?’ my friends would exclaim, bewildered that we ended things amicably when you went off to University and I, 3 years your junior, was just sitting her GCSEs. ‘He was my first, we had a lot of fun together and we still keep in touch.’ I replied, knowing I was on a level of maturity far higher than they.
I was 19 years old then, had my own car (and wasn’t awestruck at your own 1960s Mini Cooper anymore) and was at University myself. So yeah, I’ll come up to see you. We’ll spend one night out on the town, then the next will be your birthday party, will be great to see all your old friends again, so much to catch up on. I waved my new university-based boyfriend goodbye and told him I’d be back on Sunday.
Seeing you was like putting on an old, woolly cardigan after the sun had set in the garden. We fell back into joking around, into being good friends and as if three years hadn’t passed us by so fleetingly. But I reminded you that it had, when I gushed to you about my new boyfriend on the bus into town, and you became quiet and turned away from me. Your reflection in the window frowned at me, and you told me you didn’t want to hear about him. I shrugged this off, as we walked into town to pick up some outfits for your party tomorrow, do you remember? It was pub golf themed. I got some awful chequered shorts, some white gloves and a yellow polo shirt from Primark and we laughed at how ‘university’ this all was and how ridiculous we’d look. Then we went for a drink. We went for a lot. You took me on a tour around all the bars you’ve spent your last 3 years and how cheap the drinks were. You ran into some friends and you introduced me, and I was amazed that they all seemed to know who I was – I don’t think I really ever mentioned you to my university friends? Then we were finally alone in a bar, and we were laughing about the first time we met, then you put your hand on my face and you kissed me. I pushed you off, and I can still remember the anger in your eyes. I reminded you of my boyfriend and you pushed the chair out you were on, so suddenly that it made me dive out of my own, and you strode off. You were gone for an hour. I didn’t know where you were. I was drunk and alone in a city on my own with no way to know how to get back. I rang my flatmate at the time, who told me to try and get the train home. I said I couldn’t, as my car and all my things were here. I sat outside and sobbed in a stupid little drunken state until you came to find me. You said we should go back home, and like a little lamb I agreed.
You told me to get in your bed, and you’d sleep on the couch. But your drunken flatmate was already passed flat out on it, and you asked if you could join me. You apologised for your drunken behaviour, and you put your arm around me and told me you’d make it up to me tomorrow. I was relieved to be in bed, my mind spinning with countless Snakebites and Vodka Red Bulls that I accepted your pathetic little apology and started to doze.
The next thing I knew your hand was down my underwear, and you were pushing, harshly upwards with your fingers. I let out a sharp and pained gasp and you just said ‘Shhh, he’s asleep next door’ – I’m sure you probably said his name, but any names of anyone I met out that night are muted in my memory. I started pushing your arms away, and pleading ‘no’ in as much as a hushed tone as I could. You were so strong as you climbed on top of me. In years to come, my Auntie would always say, ‘Oh but you know who I remember? Your first boyfriend. The one with those gorgeous muscly arms and those thighs.’ Those thighs. The ones you used to push my legs down as I kicked out. The muscly arms that just needed to hold my shoulders down to render me motionless and then the agony of you, just pushing. I kept moaning ‘No’ that’s all I could bring myself to say. I couldn’t say your name after, I couldn’t say anything else. And you said the one line that haunts my sleep every fucking night. The one line that just changed my life forever – the one line that has caused all this fucking bullshit to happen to me over the past 7 years.
“Shut up and let me finish.”
You know, just 2 months ago my auntie brought you up again, and ‘those thighs’, and only then was I only able to tell her what happened. But for 7 years I’ve had to grimace through my teeth every time she said it, tell her we drifted apart but yes, I remember ‘those thighs’ and it was a shame we broke up. I loathed myself even more with every time I said it.
I did what you said. I stopped fighting and I stopped writhing and I let you finish. Like a good fucking girl. And then you rolled off me, and you started to breathe deeply as you slept. And I hated you. I hated that I was still way too over the limit to drive home, I hated that I had to just stay here next to you until morning, and I hated that I didn’t have an answer to this. I couldn’t make it make sense in my mind. And I hated even more that I gave into sleep.
When I woke up, I woke up before you. I went to the bathroom and saw my bloated face and felt the sting between my legs as I finally relieved myself of all the alcohol in my body. I went back into your bedroom and silently started packing my things when you finally woke up. You told me to get back into bed as you reached for my thighs once more. I pushed you off, and you sleepily looked into my eyes and realised something was wrong. I don’t know how long it took you to remember, but you did. I repeated what you had said, ‘Shut up and let me finish’ and you cried. And I could’ve even felt sorry for you. Until you said, ‘I’m going to hell, aren’t I?’ You were a strong Catholic, and it was the fear of not reaching the pearly gates that caused you to weep like a child, not remorse for what you had actually done to me. I left right then and drove back.
I hid in my University dorm until Sunday. I couldn’t let anybody know what happened, I couldn’t let anybody know I was back so early. I sat, unmoving for a full day, not daring to go for food, cradling my legs as I waited for Sunday to arrive.
You called me so much I had to change my number, you texted me each day apologising for what you’d done. Eventually, my boyfriend found out after he overheard me yelling at you down the phone to leave me alone as I paced outside his house, ready for our next date. He wanted to kill you. I said it was fine, that I was fine, and convinced everyone around me that it was a drunken mistake, I accepted your apology and all can be forgotten.
So, that was where we left things off I suppose. I’m sure details are now all flooding back to you and we can pick up where we left off. A few things about the following years for me, in list format, as I’m sure all this reading has tuckered you right out!
- I didn’t get the grades in my law degree that I was predicted. Why? Because I couldn’t bring myself to go to any of the lectures and seminars about non-consensual sex in Criminal Law without breaking down and hearing your words like a song in my head, taunting me as I skipped that question and holding my chest down with your arm.
- I haven’t been able to stay faithful to anyone. For years, I couldn’t say the word, ‘rape’. I still struggle now even. What I needed more than anything was to convince myself that sex was nothing more than a physical act between two people. Because if I could do that, then you didn’t ‘rape’ me. I wasn’t ‘raped’. And I was fine. So I slept with anyone who would have me. I stayed out until stupid o’clock in the morning, drinking as much as I possibly could in the hope that I could make another mistake and prove to myself that sex is just sex. It doesn’t mean a fucking thing. I ruined so many relationships because of you, because hey, what does it matter? Sometimes it’s just easier to just shut up and let them finish.
- I found myself in an abusive relationship, one that I thought I deserved. He knew about what happened, I had told him once in a misguided tipsy conversation thinking we were friends. He used our story against me for months. He recreated our night, but with more detail. He’d hit me, and he’d call me a slut, and he’d cover my mouth as I begged him to stop. He told me I liked it, he convinced me it’s what I deserved. I believed him. I was worthless, I was a lying whore, a cheating slut, I let men ruin me whilst I just fucking shut up and let them finish.
You know the worst part about all of this, that I’m disgusted about? I went to the police about this abusive guy. And I tried to tell them what had happened. But they focused on you. And you’re the reason why my friends gave up on me and the police didn’t believe me enough to put him away. They said, ‘Your ex has said in questioning that you claim you’ve been raped before? Why didn’t you ever come to the police then, but you are now?’ And all I could say was that you apologised. I don’t even know if that was the real answer. But thanks to you, I became the girl that cried rape. And he became the guy, like you, that got away with it all.
- I have nightmares every night. Without fail. Not always about you, about the other guy, about my friends calling me a liar, trying to ruin men’s lives and claiming rape. Sometimes it’s you. It’s always your arms and thighs I feel heavy on me whilst I try to sleep, and always your arm over my chest when my panic attacks set in.
- I’ve tried to kill myself, and nobody knew the real reason why. It’s because I still believe to this day that I’m a liar. That I’ve made this all up. Because everybody tells me I have. But why would I remember those words so clearly, why would the flashbacks happen and the nightmares recur – I felt I was going mad. I was in a well screaming for help and nobody would lower down the rope and offer me the truth and the reassurance that everything I said had happened did really happen, and that sometimes I just need someone to hold me while I sleep and tell me that I’m not a bad person.
- My therapist doesn’t know what has happened yet. We skirt around ‘the event’ that has caused me to develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or ‘events’ if you’d like to take some responsibility off yourself for this. She’s trying to teach me how to eat again, and how to sleep again at the moment. How to treat myself like a good person and look after myself. Baby steps, she says, as we build up to a day I can tell her all of this.
I think the worst of all of this is that you’ll never get to know how royally you fucked up my life back in February 2009. I’ll never get to read this letter to you, and you’ll probably believe what your Irish mum still tells you, yes, you’ll go to heaven because you’ve been a good Catholic boy.
When I finally told my mum, the same day I told my auntie, she said ‘Well, at least it happened with someone you know, rather than a random stranger.’ I can’t tell anyone which is worse, but for me, knowing that you were my first and knowing that’s a privilege nobody can ever take away from you makes me want it to have been a stranger. Seeing you on my fucking Timehop each year makes me wish it had been a stranger. Maybe I would’ve actually called the police if it had been a stranger. Having had my mum and auntie recall how lovely and gorgeous you were every year since it happened makes me want to chop my right arm off for it to have been a stranger.
But it wan’t, it was you. And this is the first time I’ve ever wanted to talk to you. Because it is so unfair that I have to live through this every fucking day and you don’t.
But, hey. At least this time, I got you to shut up and let me finish.