This is a long story, forgive me.
I was seventeen. It's more than thirty years ago. It hasn't gone away yet.
It doesn't exactly haunt
me, but it doesn't go away either. Something gets said, a story gets reported in the paper or the news and it all comes back. Every detail stark
It never goes away.
It started in the school holidays. I had a vacation job, nannying a couple of young boys and I would finish around four when their mother got back from work. It wasn't too far from home, and I'd generally get back at four-thirty or five depending on whether I stayed on for a coffee and gossip with the mother.
My parents worked thirty miles away and Mum generally got home after seven and Dad later still, so, unless they called to say we were eating out or bringing home a takeaway, I would prepare a meal for everyone. If I was going out with my friends, I'd leave it in the oven. I was a rather serious, very responsible kid and I never really did the rebellion thing. My parents had enough to deal with with my kid brother. He was a year younger than me, very bright, but disruptive, lazy, a petty criminal and a liar; always in trouble. His behaviour had got him sent to a boarding school for underachievers. I envied him somewhat -- the facilities there were incredible, the teacher:pupil ratio incredibly low -- I'd have loved that kind of environment.
So, I got home, got dinner prepared, and sat down to read, saying a quick 'Hi' to my brother, who was, of course, home for the holidays. It seemed like the school was doing him some good, he'd been more pleasant than ever before, even seemed to have overcome his habit of swinging a punch at me whenever he passed.
I was sitting there with a book in my hand when a cord of some kind dropped round my neck and tightened, and tightened. I blacked out.
When I came to, the cord was still tight around my neck, and there was something over my eyes - I couldn't see. I heard "Put your hands behind your back now, or I'll kill you." I never for a moment doubted that he meant it. Even now, in retrospect, I don't doubt it. I did what I was told. With one hand holding the cord at my neck he slipped something else over my hands and my wrists. It was already looped and he pulled it tight before letting go of the thing throttling me.
Then he gagged me, and pushed me onto the floor. I don't know why he gagged me -- we lived in a detached house with grounds, even if I'd screamed my throat raw, nobody would have heard me. I guess he just didn't want to listen to anything I said.
He rolled me onto my back, undid my shirt and pushed my bra up to expose my breasts, then pulled off my skirt and underwear. Then he screwed me.
He took his time about it. I remember pain. Pain in my shoulders, in my arms, my neck and between my legs. I remember fear. Fear that if I did anything, struggled or kicked I would die. I remember shame, because I was too cowardly even to struggle. Behind the blindfold I was crying, and my tears made the cloth wet.
When he had finished, he pushed me roughly onto my side and undid my hands. He told me contemptuously to get dressed. He said that if I even thought about telling anyone, he would kill me. I believed him. I did as I was told. And I thought it was over.
It wasn't over.
Two days later. A weekend. I was working in my room on an A Level project. I didn't hear my parents go out.
Again, exactly the same.
I started going to my best friend's house from work, staying there till I was sure one of my parents would be home. I told her, but swore her to silence.
The last day of the holidays, he was at a friend's house, staying over. I was going to a party for a group of my friends, going to university. Came home from work, had a bath.
He was waiting for me as I came out of the bathroom. He must have been home all along.
Afterwards, I fled to my best friend. We went to the party, and I was trying to act normal, trying not to flinch when my boyfriend touched me, or kissed me. A boy I knew quite well was flirting around, saying he was going to steal the prettiest girls from their boyfriends. One of the others started listing names. When he got to mine, the flirty boy said "No, not her. She's lovely, but she's too pure and virginal for me."
I felt as if I had been stabbed. I started shaking. Tears filled my eyes, but I smiled and made an excuse to go outside. My best friend followed and held me while I cried.
Things eased a little after that. He was back at school, only home at the weekends. On Fridays I stayed late in the college library working, and had my mother pick me up from there. I just made sure I was never alone with him. It wasn't a solution, but it was an answer of sorts.
Then came New Year's Eve. I was booked to work, Mum and Dad were going out. I knew the friends they were going to and I knew that they would be very, very late. Hours after me. I knew I couldn't face it, couldn't be alone with him.
I spoke to my mother. I asked her to come home early. When she asked, I told her why.
She looked at me with horror. She said she couldn't deal with it now, but we would talk about it when they got home. She said she'd be back at the same time as me. Then she went and told him what I said.
They got home half an hour before me. He was gone, leaving a note saying "I know you'll believe her, and not me, so I'm going". My mother said "If anything happens to him, I'll never forgive you." I've never forgotten that. Nor has she, poor Mum. I think knowing she didn't believe me, and that she said that, haunts her more than anything haunts me.
The police were called. They were told there had been an argument, but no details. They found him, miles away, and brought him home.
The cross-examination went on all night.
It finally became absolutely clear that I was telling the truth. Every get-out he was offered, he took. "It happened, but we were experimenting, she wanted it too.", "She provoked me into it, wandering round the house in a towel" and so on. I told my story, over and over and over. I didn't have to change it, it was true.
Then Dad asked "Were you a virgin before?".
Did he really think that mattered? I guess he did. I told my only lie of the evening. I said "Yes". I hadn't been promiscuous before, but I had had sex, once.
He gave my brother a beating. Coldly and clinically.
We agreed that I wouldn't, couldn't go to the police. It would have torn the family apart. What's more, everyone would have known, and I didn't want them to. Name supression or not, it would have got out. The county court was in my town, I knew half the people who worked there.
My parents promised to protect me from him. To have him kept at school if for any reason they had to be late, or away, until one of us left home -- probably me, when I went to university the next year. I agreed.
And so, it was over.
Only it wasn't.
I still had to see him.
A year later. My parents had made good on their promise
. I was going to university
the next day, I was going out. I was getting ready. Heard the phone
ring, but thought nothing of it. Mum was on her way home, would be there any minute, she always was.
I didn't know her car had broken down. Didn't know that the neighbour, who she had asked to come round and tell me she would be late had phoned and told him instead. Mum had carefully phoned them instead of calling home to make sure that I was the one who knew she was late, not him. She'd even told the neighbour that we had a problem with the phone, to make her come round, but she had decided "just to try calling first". She wasn't to know.
Again. And he laughed at me.
I went out. When I got home, my parents could see there was something wrong. He sat there smirking until I said "He did it again."
This time, Dad wasn't cold. If I hadn't stopped him, he would carried on hitting my brother until he did him real injury, maybe worse, but that would only have got Dad in trouble.
That was the last time.
But it wasn't over. Isn't over.
Sometimes, though very, very rarely, I still have to see him. If I'm alone in the same space with him, even for a minute, I'm terrified. And I shake, and I feel sick. I've never been able to tell my husband, even that I was raped because I know if I did, he would kill my brother. I don't think it, I know it.
Things remind me. It isn't over.
And in many ways, I was one of the lucky ones. From the very first time, I knew it wasn't about sex, or desire. I saw it for what it was, an act of hatred and violence and an exercise of power. It didn't really distort my view of sex at all.
I never blamed myself for it. I never thought I "asked for it", or I deserved it. I've wished I'd fought more sometimes, but I'm still sure if I'd fought I'd have died. And I'm glad I'm alive.
I've been married for 26 years, I have a daughter who has grown up beautiful, bright and well-mannered and now has a son of her own.
I teach. I love it, and I'm good at it.
I've published twelve non-fiction books, short stories, poems and articles.
I got first class honours in my Arts Bachelors and my Science Masters.
I've been a rape counsellor from time to time, and work with The Samaritans.
I'd say I'm a survivor, not a victim.
But it's never over.