Trigger warning: rape, sexual assault, sexual violence
In the third year of my Rhodes University career I was raped inside the DJ booth of a nightclub by an acquaintance. I remember very little as I suspect my drink was spiked by this acquaintance, who had been pouring my drinks all night. I trusted him, foolishly. I could not walk the next day due to the bruising. I couldn’t remember much. I only went to the hospital in the evening after trying to frame what had happened in my mind. I had showered.
The nurse at Settlers Hospital yelled at me when I told her I was there for a rape kit. Although I had showered and almost 24 hours had passed, I needed to know that someone agreed with me that it wasn’t consensual; that my blood would show what he had put in my drink.
She screamed, ‘You only get a rape kit if you were raped! Were you raped, or did you just sleep around?’ I couldn’t look her in the eye and tell her that I was raped because I could not carry the gravity of those words.
I had not wanted anything from my rapist. I had not wanted him to touch me in any kind of way. But I hadn’t been harsh with him. I had minced my words for months when he had hit on me. I had remained friendly and nice; the way women tend to be so as not to be thought of as bitch. I should have been clearer. It’s easier to call it rape when you hadn’t laughed with someone or when they didn’t have your phone number.
I told the nurse to give me the post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) only. I could not let someone who had betrayed me with her words open my legs to check if I could be trusted. The shame overwhelmed me. I knew then that nothing would come of it – I would not go to the police because they, too, would put this burden on me.
When I informed the school management who deals directly with sexual assault, I was told that nothing could be done because there was no proof. The burden of proof was on me and because I had not been to the police, it would drag out as my word against his. They did suggest a round-table discussion with my rapist to talk things through. How admirable, a victim and her perpetrator sitting together over tea and biscuits discussing how we should both proceed. They could give him a warning to stay away from me. They could give him a call. They could set up a contract where he wouldn’t speak my name. By this time, of course, he had told everyone that he had had sex with me in the DJ booth. The shame; a destroyed reputation. No one thought it rape, of course. He made sure of that.
That’s what it’s like to be raped at Rhodes University. You get to see your rapist every day on campus while he breathes easier than you ever will. Management doesn’t call or check up on you. They tell you about backlogs when you ask them to hurry or you’ll drown in your own tears. When you call and ask for help, they tell you it will drag out, your parents will get involved, everyone will know. As if your idea of safety isn’t already crushed, you have to deal with a safety net that protects rapists over women who go to bed every night carrying the memories and scars of betrayal.
I hope my submission helps. I hope someone can relate to it and know that they are not alone. I hope universities can stop lying to their students – they don’t care about their students; only about keeping their good name.
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