Sexually assaulted in matric

I don’t really know how to start this, and I have no idea if it is relevant since it did not happen at UCT.

In October 2009 I was a 17-year-old matriculant. I have been chatting with a guy on Mxit and finally decided to meet him one Friday night. I told my parents I would sleep over at a friend’s house (she was in on it, of course). Well, I met the guy who took me to a restaurant. He was a lot older than the age he gave me on Mxit. I think he might have been close to 40.
After dinner, he drove around and eventually parked on the sidewalk of a dark silent street. He then started kissing me and removing my clothing. For some reason, it did not register what was busy happening. I mean, I knew about sex, but I could not comprehend that that’s what was about to happen. When he removed my underwear, it still did not register. It was as if I wasn’t even there. When it eventually happened, my brain somehow made the connection and all I wanted was for it to end. When it ended, I got dressed quickly and ask him to take me to my friend’s house and when I got there, I realized that I just lost my virginity. I wanted to save myself for marriage.
I did not tell anyone about this and quickly “forgot” what had happened. I never saw it as rape, because I never really said no. Only recently I started remembering how scared I was when he pushed me back on the car seat.
I’ve always dreamed of being a psychiatrist, but after that night I just did not want to be anything anymore. I wrote end of year exams without studying and miraculously still ended up being the top matriculant at my school. I went off to varsity to study Psychology in 2010, but had to see a counselor as I suffered from severe depression, and she also diagnosed me with social anxiety disorder. I had to drop out in October 2010 as I was failing. I never told the counselor about that night because I didn’t think it was linked to my emotional health.
Currently. I am a 24-year-old first year student at UCT, I’m getting distinctions in for all my courses, but I still don’t want to do or be anything.
I saw a group of younger women in the library the other day, looking very beautiful and feminine. Since that night, I have only been wearing jeans and t-shirts, so I decided to get a dress or two. At the store, as I was trying on dresses, I couldn’t help but weep in the changing room… I felt exposed, like anyone who sees the outline of my body in a dress can just reach out and touch me and I could do nothing about it.

Sexual assault by a ‘friend’

This is all so weird. Only because of the anti-sexual violence action taking place on UCT campus this year have I come to realize that I was sexually assaulted two years ago. When I heard a student speak about her experience of sexual assault at a mass meeting, sudden memories of my own experience came flooding back to me. I have only opened up about it to one other person, a survivor who I had met for the first time. I couldn’t seem to use the word ‘sexual assault’ when talking to her about it. She encouraged me to say the words: ‘I was sexually assaulted’ over and over. I had no idea how hard it would be to say such a line, but it was the first time I consciously recognised it for what it was.

 

I was in a foreign country while doing a course with a bunch of other students from around the world. I made a lot of friends, one of them being Pagal* who I thought was really funny and handsome. One night, he told me that he really liked me, and I told him that I had a boyfriend (which he already knew). He kept pressing me to find out if I thought he was attractive – I admitted that I did, but that it didn’t change the fact that I had a boyfriend, with whom I was in a committed, long-term relationship. Even though all the students were partying in our little hostel, I decided to go to bed because his advances became too much. I was asleep when he started calling me from outside my window, telling me to come outside. He was insistent, so I got up to see what he wanted and he asked me to sit outside with him.

 

I should have realised that I was in trouble when he randomly asked me if I had ever been raped before, but I told myself that he was asking out of nothing but curiosity. I responded ‘no’, to which he seemed surprised.

 

He started calling my boyfriend a ‘woman’, telling me that I needed to feel the touch of a ‘real man’. I tried to defend my relationship, but didn’t quite know how without telling him about my sex life which he had no business knowing. He kept telling me that he knew I wanted him, that he knew I found him attractive, and that I should just ‘give in’. I told him over and over to give up because I had a boyfriend. I now realise that saying ‘no’ alone should have been enough to make him stop. However, no reasoning would sway him. I had to keep swatting his hand away from my leg, but he only became more insistent and forceful. He unexpectedly put his hand in my bra, and when I quickly jolted back, moving his hand away, he put it between my legs, trying to get up my pajama shorts. He was really tall and big, and when he got annoyed by my swatting he held both my wrists together with one hand, while touching my inner thighs with the other. I squirmed and squirmed until he let go of me, telling him to stop. I found myself with one arm across my chest and another between my legs, trying to block his touches. I tried to get up and run to the door of my room, but he got there before me. He refused to let me into my room unless I kissed him. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t want to cheat on my boyfriend. But I couldn’t bring myself to call for help because he didn’t have a weapon, and I felt responsible for my situation by having told him I found him attractive – I led him on, this was my fault. Everyone had gone to bed by then, I was scared of what might have happened if I didn’t kiss him and was forced to stay outside with him all night. So eventually I let him kiss me, and then demanded to be let into my room. He said that I had to give him another, ‘proper’ kiss. So I kissed him again for a little bit longer. He then let me into my room, but as I tried to close the door behind me he put his arm against the door, and demanded I kiss him again, so I did. As soon as he moved his arm, I slammed the door, immediately locking it. I didn’t sleep that night. I was so grateful that I was leaving for home in the morning, but I was also so overcome with guilt, especially at the thought of being picked up at the airport by my boyfriend. I was convinced that I had cheated on him. I had never cheated before and have always had such strong feelings towards the act of cheating, but now here I was, a cheater. I never told my boyfriend about it (who I dated for another 2 years), as I was afraid he would dump me. Only now have I come to realise that I did not cheat. I kissed Pagal out of fear for my safety, because I was afraid of what would happen if I didn’t get into my room.

 

Only after receiving a message from Pagal saying that he was sorry for forcing himself on me was I able to cut myself some slack, but I still did not recognise what he did as sexual assault until that mass meeting, when someone else used the term to refer to their very similar experience. I am only starting to process my feelings regarding this incident…I don’t know when I’ll be comfortable to talk about it again. But I’m really grateful to UCT Survivors for making me realise that what happened was not my fault, I am not a cheater, I am not to blame. Even if someone knows that you find them attractive, that does not give them the right to your body. And even if they claim you ‘led them on’, that does not give them the right to disrespect you or ignore the word ‘no’.

 

Coercion is not consent

It was a typical weekend night for us: he would work late and I would go out partying and I would come back to sleep at his place. I would be so drunk and we would have sex, because for the last two years of our relationship that was the only way I could bring myself to sleep with him. But I felt that I owed him sex, because he was my boyfriend and he was always so supportive of me and I really didn’t want to let him down. On this particular night I was drunk but still coherent and alert. It was the early hours of the morning and I stumbled into his room so looking forward to just going to bed. But he had other ideas. He asked if we could have sex and I said no, I was so tired and I just wanted to sleep. He asked again – please? No I said, I really just want to sleep, it’s already 4am. Please? He tried again. Ok fine I said and I lay there as he rolled on top of me. It was in that moment that I felt like I had just given up. Like I had no control. Like I was trapped. Like a part of me had just resigned myself to the fact that this was how it was going to be. And I lay there while he humped on top of me. I turned my head to the side so that I did not have to look at his face. I might have fallen asleep or might just have tried so hard not to be in my body at that moment, but I remember drifting in and out of reality.

That was the last time we ‘slept’ together and I broke up with him about a month later.

I buried that experience deeply. I didn’t talk about it; I didn’t think about it. Until recently, when a series of events this year meant that I could no longer ignore what my body was so desperate to be freed from. And when I did start thinking about it, all I could feel was a deep sense of shame and guilt: that I should have been stronger, that I should have said no more forcefully, that I should never have given in at the end. But now, through therapy, I have realised that those feelings are not true because it was HIM that was in the wrong. HE shouldn’t have been trying to have sex with someone who was drunk in the first place. HE should have taken my NO’s seriously. HE should have realised that when someone says ‘OK FINE’ that that is NOT CONSENT, that is being forced through coercion. HE should have looked at my body language and realised that the last thing I wanted was him inside of me. IT WAS HIS FAULT.

I’m still working through this experience and others and healing comes in waves. But one thing I do know now is that IT WAS NOT MY FAULT. THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH ME and I AM NOT BROKEN. I am now on a journey to reclaim my body and my sexuality.

And I just want you to know that it is not your fault either.

Harassment triggers memories of previous trauma

I’m going to provide my story, to highlight how triggering any form of harassment can be to somebody who wears scars of abuse daily.

I was sexually abused as a child, by a family member. The trauma of this will stay with me forever, and it seems has formed a pattern in my life. My childhood was tarnished through this experience, and has obliterated any sense of trust – and also formed the belief in my head that I deserve abuse, and that it is somehow always my fault.
Later on down the line, I experienced abuse that no human – male, female, trans, neutral and every other identity on the gender spectrum – should ever experience. I was only 18 when I got sucked into a relationship with a man 26 years my senior, who has been in prison longer than I had been alive. He was a professional criminal. Despite knowing his history, and being well aware that I was putting myself in grave danger, I felt that that was all I deserved. The abuse began with slaps to the face, and progressed to him raping me almost daily. People say that it can’t really be rape if it is your partner, but when I am crying and saying, “Please, no,” that is rape. There is sex, and there is rape. My fear led to an engagement, and almost a pregnancy.
Fast forward to UCT. I arrive as an outsider; I moved to Cape Town from London, knew nobody, and wanted a fresh start away from the horrors of my past. First semester, first tut. My tutor seemed friendly, funny, and generally a ‘cool’ person to help with my studies. People joked about him flirting with me, and it was innocent at first. Then, suddenly, things escalated to him emailing me in the early hours of the morning, drunk. My past came flooding back to me, and so did the thought pattern that it was my fault, I couldn’t speak out, and that I deserved it. The inappropriate behaviour continued throughout the semester, as did my silence.
Compared to rape and sexual abuse, this may seem minor. But that is false. I turned straight back into the 5 year old girl, terrified, confused, intimidated and self-loathing. The harassment I encountered was exactly that: harassment.
I will no longer suffer in silence. I will no longer blame myself. I will no longer accept this pattern of abuse as ‘normal’.
I have since reported the incident to a superior member of staff, and have never felt more empowered.
Abuse is abuse, and nobody should have to feel too intimidated to stay silent.

Disability and Sexual Assault

After an accident on UCT premises for which the department was responsible, I found out about the DU (Disability Unit) who informed me of my rights. Surgery and some physio at UCT was covered, which was a basic requirement for any accident on campus. Later I failed to sue UCT and paid for bio-kinetics myself. It’s a lifelong issue, now over a decade (impacted 2 more joints) and my foreign medical aid had bailed.
I got invisible disabilities and returned after a couple of years. The DU could not help in any way, I had depression and 2 other illnesses besides physical disability. To be at UCT, I had to rent accommodation very close to campus (more expensive) as my chronic illness made Res inaccessible. I also had to pay a doctor’s visit monthly while my chronic illness was a lifelong issue. I don’t know if that’s a departmental (Humanities) issue, medical aid did cover some. Has it changed that one needs to prove a gynecological chronic illness every month?

Later I got sexually assaulted on campus by an employee, I was one of 2 or 3 sexually assaulted students by that man according to a Varsity writer. I had to encounter him several times a week. Reinette Popplestone could not understand why I was asking her for advice/ access assistance. I was targeted because of my disability, I was coming down steps with difficulty and he sexually assaulted me. Friends could not always wait for my last lecture to accompany me. She referred me to DISCHO without telling me DISCHO was window-dressing. Instead of resolving the issue, they caused the man to verbally assault me further on campus because I had complained. DISCHO still had the nerve to be more window-dressing after that, ignoring the question ‘Isn’t that proof of his guilt if they didn’t tell him my name/description allegedly and he yelled at me in a crowd insulting me because I had complained against him?’
DISCHO didn’t look for witnesses. Later SAPS couldn’t find any. The VC’s office took 4 months to reply, which was 7 months after my initial complaint. The DU allowed me to use disabled transport then. Some months later I was sexually harassed by one driver who has one’s number for the job. Ms. Popplestone said it was because of the way I dressed!! I asked “How could you say that!?” surprised that she, too, supports rape culture. She said it’s what she’s been told. I can’t believe I actually had to describe what I wore. [I can’t wear jeans bc of knee injury, I didn’t wear dresses/skirts either. Let’s not go there, just both incidents were in winter, was my jacket too puffy? I got it on sale so it was actually a size too big.] and I was sent to the DISCHO again!!

I had to somehow manage to come to campus for lectures & tuts at the end of that year and write my exams without transport on odd days and while still encountering my (1st) sexual assaulter occasionally.

In my 3rd year I got disabled parking. I’d been for counselling at Rape Crisis, and at Triangle mostly. They stepped up for UCT’s failures. I still had PTSD.
When discussing options with Ms Popplestone, she said there doesn’t seem to be any solutions and asked me “why don’t I leave UCT?”. She confessed to me that she had been against my getting a parking disk(!!) but there’d been other co-managers then. I was always more than civil with her and didn’t put on social media or blogs that UCT, DISCHO  and the DU are pro-rape. There should have been a way to deal with that without having to explain to her that my country had only one uni which was hard to get in to and without the same courses; my one course was also unavailable in SA. I was asking for access and paying UCT for a degree!

I could never get extra time, it’s for people who really need it I was told. Same for my final year, with extra workload from the previous year and battling with what I thought was PTSD! Then I got a diagnosis and that didn’t help. I never complained of the issues with the DU as the decision-making seemed so arbitrary, and one doesn’t want to be further discriminated against by Ms Popplestone when one will depend heavily on access to finish a course.

A well-meaning lecturer was comparing me with another student with cancer, saying if she can manage why can’t I.

At departmental level I did not get deferred exams.

Online Harassment at UCT

It began in MAM1001W in 2012, rumoured to be the most difficult first year maths course in the country. Most of the year I was simultaneously trying to concentrate on what the teacher was saying and win the affection of this boy I liked, Mark*. We were chatting quietly, when a good-looking white boy told us to be quiet. A reasonable request – we were talking while the lesson went on in front of us.

A few weeks later, this boy added me on Facebook, “Nick.” No mutual friends, but I recognised him from maths class, so I accepted. I was flattered, but there was an unsettled feeling in my gut. How had he found out what my name was?

At first his messages were friendly, if not slightly weird. “I sense weird tensions between us,” he said. I was curious, and I wanted affirmation of my attractiveness. Regardless, I replied in a neutral way. I sensed he would take this bait and continue messaging me – this “sense” arose from the persistence I was used to in dealing with men who have wanted to be with me, or get into my pants.

Nick and I had spoken a total of four times in real life and online by the end of the year. They were short, surface conversations, with nothing unusual about them. But during the December vac his messages transformed into something else. “I’m basically in love with you”, he said. I replied, perplexed, “… you don’t even know me.”

From then on it was ugly. He spoke as if we had a relationship, not a vague acquaintance. His messages dissolved into threats. He told my then-boyfriend, Mark from MAM, that I didn’t truly like him. That Mark should cut his hair, wear contacts and stop wearing skinny jeans. That I actually like Nick, not Mark, and Mark should be more like Nick if he wants me to like him. In his messages, Nick mentioned something that only Mark and I had spoken about. He had been listening to our conversations in maths. Mark replied telling him, essentially, to leave him alone. Then Nick threatened to break Mark’s legs. Mark stopped replying.

After that, Nick became more incoherent, and more threatening. He said I shouldn’t be scared of him, that he could be my drug connection, that I’m a mean lesbian. That Mark and I “should start fucking each other (SEX :)SEX :)SEX :)SEX :))…please say you’re not a virgin….start pomping!!!!”

Then he started with the death threats. “Give enough time and i could resort to murder…. just like oscar…shoot you on campus and say you were violating me J” His last message to me on Facebook was in February 2013. It reads “DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE you insect of a woman”.

By this time I had changed faculties, and hoped I wouldn’t see him again. But all of it made me feel sickly fascinated. Like I was watching a reconstruction of someone else’s life on the Crime Channel. I didn’t even think to report it to the police or to DISCHO. Would they care about this online harassment? It seemed like too much administration, with too little reward. Getting a restraining order would require lawyers, costs, time. His words disturbed me, but I felt removed from them; dream-like. I blocked him and the multiple profiles he created to invite me on Facebook, and I thought this was enough.

It was an unremarkable day in November 2015 when I received an email in my private inbox – the subject line: “A secret admirer (who loves you)”. I was hit by a cold wave of shock, fear. How had he got my email address? He said he hoped I was “still single”. How did he know that Mark and I had broken up about a year ago?

After his email my family sprang into action. They met with Nick’s family, who already knew who I was because he had mentioned looking at my social media, talked about something I had said on Twitter. They revealed that Nick had a mental disorder. They spoke to Nick, and Nick gave his word to never contact me again, barring an apology letter.

His apology letter, which he titled “Big Nick’s Apology”, was filled with the delusional narratives he played out in his head. He wrote that it was a joke. That he did it because he was feeling hurt and “rejected”. He gave his word he wouldn’t contact me again.

But he did.

 

 

*Names have been changed

Raped by a family member

Today I realised that my cousin raped me. I’ve been thinking about that night for so long and I’ve been doubting myself, because I can’t remember everything due to all the weed. But I realise now that the absence of one specific memory is actually proof — I can’t remember consenting.

My cousin already has a rape accusation against him. I’m feeling more sure of my realisation, the longer I think about it.

Furthermore, under South African law, no one can consent to sex while intoxicated. So really there are only two important facts here: I was stoned. And nonconsensual sexual intercourse took place. My cousin raped me.

What saddens me, is that I realised it today at a mass meeting against sexual violence and rape culture at my university, and my immediate reaction after realising it, was to keep it to myself and talk to someone first to “make sure”. We’ve been indoctrinated to doubt ourselves. We’ve been brain-washed to doubt our own experiences, emotions and thoughts. But I got up and spoke about it. Because I will not be an accomplice in the silencing and distrust of womxn.

The more I think about that night, the clearer it becomes. I was so uncomfortable the entire time. Anxious. The paranoia from the weed was hitting me really hard. I felt physically sick. I felt like crawling up into a ball and just crying. I felt unsafe. I felt violated.

Afterwards, every time I saw him, I was retraumatised. Everything about him disgusts me. I hate him. I hate when he looks at me. I hate when he tries to talk to me. I hate him coming into my house to help my mom with something. I hate having him near me. I hate hearing his name.

And I wonder why I only realise this now, months later. I am a survivor of rape. I am survivor who has been doubting herself and rationalising what happened for far too long. I’m done with this shit.