Monthly Archives: March 2015

The danger of taxis and the safety of homes

Two women were sexually assaulted in taxis last weekend in Nottingham. This has lead to the usual flurry of safety advice for women as well as the need to mention that the women were drunk. Here are the safety tips released by Nottinghamshire Police and news coverage:

http://www.nottinghamshire.police.uk/blog/2015-03-23/video-be-aware-your-personal-safety
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-nottinghamshire-32030068

This is a pretty standard response to rape. All women and girls grow up with similar tips that put all the responsibility of staying safe on us while boys grow up never being taught to respect women’s bodies. I was angry when I saw it but dismissed it as a fairly typical response from a police force with hardly a great track record in terms of victim blaming.

Then it got personal when my parents sat me down to tell me exactly how I need to stay safe. Don’t stay out too late, don’t take a taxi home, do not walk home alone – we’ll pick you up. No need to act too strong or independent, safety first. Don’t wait alone in the dark, take the longer, better lit route home.

My parents teaching me how to stay safe in the big bad world is ironic to say the least. The timing is specially painful. It’s been a particularly bad week following a bad few months triggered by what I can only describe as quite a special kind of torture. I recently spent a week staying in the same house as the man who sexually abused me, in the same room in which most of the abuse took place. This was after repeatedly telling my family that I was NOT comfortable in this setting, that I did not feel safe. It is true that my family does not know the extent of what I went through and maybe I am unfair – but surely knowing that some kind of abuse took place is enough? More relevant safety tips: do not put your daughter in the same room as the man who raped her, believe her when she says she is not safe.

I know I sound bitter. I AM bitter. I am angry. I am exhausted and so done with this bullshit. I spent years trying to build myself back up and create a life only to be knocked out again and at risk of losing it all. In this context, useless safety tips from the very people who placed me in this position are a slap in the face. Let me be clear though – my parents are not solely responsible for this. It is the victim blaming messages and rape myths ingrained in our society which make it possible for them to not listen to me when it comes to abuse within family but jump to protect me from strangers in alleyways and taxis.

I was not raped in a taxi in the middle of the night. I was not alone when I was raped. I was not raped by a stranger. I was abused by a family member at all times of the day and night, sometimes right next to other people. I learnt how to keep myself safe because I knew no one else would. I do not need safety tips on how to protect myself from strange men. As it is for most women, if you want to protect me, protect me from my family.

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A letter to the wife of the man who abused me

Dearest Sister-in-Law,

We have a strange relationship, don’t we? One of guilt and sisterhood and friendship and pain and lies.

You are the wife of the man who is supposedly the elder brother figure in my life and the man who abused me for years. Do you know that? I ask myself that all the time. Do you find it hard to look me in the eye too or is that just me? The guilt I feel for not telling you about your husband’s reality before you married him haunts me. It’s probably too late now – or would your rather know? Would you even believe me or would you wish I had kept it to myself?

You and I, the only women in a family of men. The way our culture works, we were bound to be pushed together, destined to be confidantes and that is what you want our relationship to be like, isn’t it? Do you ever wonder why I never keep in touch with you? You must think I am stuck up and aloof, but I am just full of guilt and running away from a past that refuses to let me go. I resent the happiness you give him – it’s not fair that he gets to live a normal life while I struggle with each day. I blame myself for letting you walk into the mess that is our family unequipped and unaware, and I blame you for being a reminder and a trigger just by your mere presence on my social media.

There is also the fact that you are so incredibly wonderful to me. Every time you do something nice for me, I sink a little bit further into guilt and self loathing. You try so hard to be the perfect sister and your take that role so seriously. All I want is for you not to be my sister-in-law, to not have another relation tying me to him. I do not understand why I don’t just break off all contact with you – I guess in some weird, messed up way I feel responsible for you too. I feel responsible for your happiness and I obsessively look for signs that he is not treating you right. But what would I do if he wasn’t? I could not stop him from doing everything he did to me, how would I protect you if you did need protecting?

Your wedding, oh your wedding. Why did I attend your wedding? I played the part of the only sister of the groom so beautifully, didn’t I? I was there at every ritual, but I wasn’t there for him, I was there for you. Did you know that? I don’t quite know how to forgive myself for actively participating in the wedding of the man who raped me. I think I was punishing myself for not telling you the truth and for some reason, I felt that I owed you this at least. Did you even care or was that my head?

I know you are trying to have kids and the thought terrifies me. I should say something. I should have said something years ago. I should have said something before you married him. I should have something at some point. What will I do when you do have children? Will I do anything or will I stay silent like I have been so far? What would you want me to do? I wish I could ask you. He caused so much destruction to my life. I do not want to do the same in yours. They say ignorance is bliss and when I look at you, so radiant and happy, I can’t help but agree.

There is so much I would like to say to you but mostly I just want to ask you – will you, can you, forgive my silence?

With love.