As a relatively vocal feminist, I've struggled with the concept of publicising your survival story for several months now. Whilst I feel a powerful social responsibility, I haven't been able to find the right words with the right emphasis and details; so much so that my mind is actually more occupied with HOW I should discuss rape, than the rape I experienced itself. (Maybe that's a coping mechanism though, who knows?)
On the morning of 2nd June this year, I was raped by a stranger who, due to my trauma, I can't remember any identifying features about, not even so much as the race. I ran away, went to the closest A&E in Central London, and got referred to the truly EXCELLENT services of The Havens, a specialist sexual assault referral centre, where I was for several hours and all DNA samples were taken.
After this followed a numbness. Knowing about the unlikeliness of identification (it helps a lot if you can pick out your attacker in a line up, or at least, like, vaguely describe them), the length of time the cases usually drag on for, and the extremely low conviction rate if you're lucky enough to get a trial, I was reluctant to report it. There was also something about reporting it making it seem more real and inescapable, and even a weird imposter layer of, "But what if I just imagined it all?".
This bit I think is so crucial to discuss as it's something that is often brushed over. All these points are definitely worth consideration (except maybe the imposter one) and your mental health needs to be prioritised. Being raped and not reporting it to the police does not make your experience any less real or traumatising, or make you any less of a feminist. Just the same as with being raped and not discussing it doesn't make you any less of a feminist (if you choose to define yourself as one).
I was in an extremely fortunate position of having a manager I could trust wholly, a workplace that was flexible enough to allow me to leave when needed, and brilliant friends who work within the criminal justice system and could give me well informed and frank advice, specific to my situation.
In such a haze of apathy, it can be extremely difficult to make decisions. After a few spurts of thinking, mixed with a lot of numbness, I was pushed into reporting more quickly than I probably naturally would have, due to TfL's rules on how long they keep CCTV footage (really not very long at all). Once I reported it, the Met could request for copies of the footage, and if I changed my mind, I could withdraw from the case.
If my story is used towards someone else's survival guide, I want you to know that reporting it isn't as final as I originally felt it was. In many cases, medical professionals aren't allowed to recommend anything, no matter how much you crave direction and guidance. The time sensitive factors in reporting are the evidence (DNA, CCTV, Oyster records, photos, etc.) and once you have them in lockdown, the power still rests in your hands and you can take your time processing and deciding on what path you want to take. In such situations, you need to feel as empowered at possible and, for me, gathering evidence was a huge step towards self-validation.
Before I went to the police, my mind was obsessed with the low conviction rates. Why would I put myself through the drawn-out trauma of constantly reliving it for a minuscule chance of conviction? My manager provided a sound alternative perspective: "If you don't report, in 30 years time will you look back and regret not knowing if a conviction were possible?".
Nearly half a year on and my rapist remains unidentified. Despite this, I have never felt any regret for reporting my rape, not for one second. I hope my vocality contributes to the changing social attitude around sexual assault. More importantly, I hope that sharing my experience helps fellow survivors.