The experiences women go through open our eyes to the dangers of gender-based violence and discrimination. And I would like to share my story with everyone who still has doubts about the seriousness of the issue. To the men who were never taught what consent is, to those who hurt women just because it gives them joy and to all of those who see people being a victim of domestic violence and choose to ignore it.
I would urge you to not turn a blind eye and do everything in your power to intervene. You might not be listened to at first but your voice is important. Several people sharing stories with me about the guy who raped me and was gaslighting me for 2 years, made me realise and helped me collect my strength to face him and tell him that I don’t want him in my life, that he made me miserable while always portraying himself as the victim. Abusers tend to do this. Tell you how you did something that, it’s your fault, make you feel horrible and then apologise although they were the one who hit you or was mentally torturing you for things that are so banal and so unimportant.
This is my story.
I was raped 4 years ago by a man I considered one of my best friends. It took me 2 years to realise it and 1 more to be able to say it out loud and then say it out loud without getting upset or suddenly feeling this huge tightness in my throat that makes me feel like I am not able to speak right now. It is a process, yes. A process that is still ongoing every day, every minute and second of my life. As sometimes it feels like this ticking time bomb that waits in your brain to explode and what the explosion will look like is a complete mystery.
I have been going to therapy for a bit more than a year and my main problem to tackle and talk about in there is indeed my rape and the domestic violence I experience. 2 years ago I had no idea that even if you were not in a relationship with a personal meaning that you were not calling each other partners and you are not living together, a person that you have a sexual relationship with can also put you in a situation of domestic violence.
Even while writing this small personal statement, I am not sure where to start and what is important to mention… Here are some common questions that pop up.
Does rape or domestic violence change you?
Yes, it does. You will from that moment be a completely different person that you need to get to know. However, give that person the space and the opportunity to flourish and tell you who they are. You will not be the same but you will become stronger and more able to identify situations or behaviours that might transform into sexual violence or harassment.
Is having sex the same?
No, and it will never be. I am still working on that part. I am very scared of men sometimes and I don’t correspond well in situations when flirting can get into rather flirting with sexual tension and I barely had any sex for the past 3 years while working on what happened to me. And when something small like even a consensual kiss happens I tend to panic and focus on eating or gaining weight. Just a note here. I have always had problems with my weight but since this happened I tend to try to gain weight on purpose so I make myself less desirable or sexually attractive to men. Thank you, no thank you, brain.
Did you do something to make it happen?
In my case, I have known that I will have sex with the guy who raped me as it was something building up in our communication for months. So I did somehow give my consent to him online before we finally met again in person. This has haunted my brain for such a long time while blaming myself for putting myself into a situation in which I was beaten up and raped. The confusion came from the fact that I had had consensual sex with him and I started thinking maybe I was not clear. BULLSHIT. Whatever or whenever your brain tries to make excuses: don’t listen to it. But it also took me a year of therapy and being put into hypnosis to go back and think about the exact moment when it happened to realise that the fact I was crying and trying to push him away is enough of a “no”.
I had sex with that guy on multiple occasions. I had stopped our sexual interaction a month after he raped me but I still had to work with him on a voluntary project and I made the mistake of staying his friend. At some point, he was heartbroken due to a breakup with his girlfriend and I really felt bad for him out of pity I decided to sleep with him again. He then started hitting me while having sex for no apparent reason until one time he bruised half of my face. I had a blue eye for 2 weeks and only one person asked me what happened. None of the people I met or worked with, not even the people I lived with asked me and even my housemates didn’t.
It’s “I don’t want to get involved in other people’s business”. In my case, I was strong enough to say enough is enough but there are tons of women out there being stuck in committed partnerships, maybe also having kids, being financially dependent on their abuser who cannot escape and you make it your business might save a life. Please do not take this lightly!
Please, reflect on that thought. Have you ever been in a relationship? Was it easy breaking up with a person even if you didn’t love them? Was it easy to even say to another person that you don’t have feelings for them when they told you they did? No, it’s never easy.
Then imagine how hard it must be if you are in a relationship with someone that you love or loved and you also saw another side of them as the abuser has not always been the abuser. It can also be nice and sweet. Do the whole relationship honeymoon phase with you. They are still the abuser though. And escaping them might be the hardest thing you ever did.
The next time you see something wrong going on with a person in your circles or even someone you don’t know, try to help or ask if they are ok. If they hear this multiple times maybe they will gather the strength to escape.
After I realised I am a rape survivor, I understood the Istanbul convention even more and appreciated the existence of the document. However, there is so much more that each of us needs to do to create a safe space for women who are survivors of domestic violence, give them a roof over their heads and also help them recover. And most importantly:
- Believe victims and survivors
- Never blame them for anything that happened or is happening to them
I hope my chaotic storey can show you that anyone can be a survivor of rape or domestic violence and we can live a normal life and overcome everything. If you would like to talk or share your story with me, feel free to find me.
Telegram & Instagram: @elliehadzhieva