The Survivor Anthology at Oxford University

Providing a space for the artistic expression of sexual violence survivors at Oxford University.

Project Lead


Project Description

It Happens Here, the student-run sexual violence prevention and response campaign at the University of Oxford, has created this Student Union project to put together an anonymous "Survivor Anthology" digital publication. The anthology compiles reflections by survivors of relationship abuse, sexual violence, and related interpersonal violence who are members of the university community. We also accept and encourage pieces from advocates, allies, and active bystanders at the university who have dedicated their time and resources to helping survivors. We publish a wide range of nonfiction literary and artistic material - including, but not limited to, poetry, essays, and different kinds of artwork. The purpose of the anthology is to provide an empowering outlet for creative expression, solidarity building, and awareness promotion at the university. Those who submit retain full ownership of their work. All submissions are published anonymously and treated confidentially. New additions to the anthology are published each term. We accept all submissions pending compliance with the minimal submission guidelines outlined in our submissions form (which can be found below). Feel free to contact It Happens Here via Facebook messenger (https://www.facebook.com/ItHappensHereOxford/) with any questions or comments.

 

Disclaimer

While all submissions are from Oxford University community members, including students, alumni, faculty, and staff members, they are not necessarily about events that occurred on campus. Please note that all names and identifying details have been changed or omitted to protect the privacy of contributors.

 

 

 

***Content Warning***

Please be aware that the pieces in this anthology are inspired by real lived events, and thus they depict a wide range of experiences and emotions. As such, some works might be triggering to some people, particularly survivors of sexual assault and related forms of interpersonal violence, such as physical, verbal, or psychological abuse and stalking. 

 

 

Trinity Term 2019 Submissions

 

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Things I’m Not Supposed to Think About Rape

I don’t like to use the r-word to refer to what happened to me, though, legally speaking, that’s what it was. That’s what it says on my police documents, next to my name. It’s what X has been charged with, and it’s what he will be tried for in December. Despite all the police tape and bureaucracy saying that a rape occurred in my bedroom two years ago, it still doesn’t feel real.

Rape is serious. Rape is spoken in the same breath as murder. Rape conjures images of blighted lives, deep dark trauma, and women in antiquity carried off by invaders. Rape denotes a victimhood that I don’t feel entitled to claim.

One thing I am not supposed to think about rape is that some rapes are worse than others. Rape is rape! Yes means yes, and no means no! I do appreciate that simplicity sells, and it’s important to get the message across that none of it is ok. But it’s just not true. If you’d told me beforehand that I was going to be raped, I would have been horrified, terrified, devastated. As it happens, I think I got off lightly.

Some would call what I experienced ‘date rape’. It wasn’t a date though— he was an acquaintance, a friend of friends. It wasn’t a held-down-screaming-for-it-to-stop affair. I was actually asleep for most of it. When I awoke and asked what was going on, like a confused child on a car ride, he stopped, rather sheepishly, and went to get me a glass of water.

I don’t think what he did is ok. I do recognise that I could have been deeply upset by it. But in reality, I look back on the bare fact that his penis was inside my vagina with complete neutrality. This is not what I am supposed to feel. I know it’s not how I’d feel if I heard about it happening to someone else. But it’s true.

At first, I felt shock, confusion and incredulity. I simply couldn’t believe that someone I knew, a supposedly intelligent person, would do what he did. Aside from ethics, it’s just an incredibly bad idea. What did he think would happen? I’d stay asleep? Or I’d wake up and be into it? It still makes no sense to me at all, and probably never will.

But by the end of that first day walking around in a daze, I’d worked out that I had to do something about what had happened. As soon as I woke up the next morning, I went to the police station on St Aldates. Since then I’ve been back to the station many times, and it always strikes me as strange how it’s just a building on a street like any other, and I lock up my bike and walk in, like a normal person walking into any normal building on any normal day. It feels laughable that something as everyday as riding a bike should be the way I arrived for such an unconveyably not normal experience.

Here are some facts about what happened. Once I walked up to the front desk and managed to say why I was there it all moved very, very fast. I hadn’t been expecting much more than filing a report, like with a stolen wallet. The police took me to a cramped private room and had me describe what happened, once, then again, more thoroughly. I gave my personal details and a sample of my urine. I told them what pants I had been wearing. They whisked me away in a police car to a forensic centre in Milton Keynes. My friend was in the car with me and we chatted away to the two officers driving us. At the centre a specially trained doctor asked me what happened again, in slightly less detail than before. She seemed slightly annoyed that I had showered twice since the incident. Of course I know that after you’ve been raped you’re not supposed to shower, but that was the last thing on my mind when I woke up after, well, the incident, feeling very much like I needed a shower. Then I removed all my clothes behind a screen in a large bright room that looked like it was designed to be hosed down. The doctor and her assistant gently examined, swabbed and documented every inch of my pale and bony body. I answered more questions. I dropped my mooncup, goopy with blood, into an evidence bag, and was sent home bleeding into a thick pad.

When I got home, my housemates were chatting and making tea for the detectives who were there to photograph my bedroom. Out came more evidence bags, and in went the clothes I had worn to the party, the dressing gown I put on the next morning, my bedding, and two pairs of my unwashed knickers. I received the news that X had been arrested and taken for questioning, and the fact that something so drastic was happening because of words I had said was panic-inducingly unreal. When everyone had left I went alone to my bare, scrutinised room and let out a single sob.

The next day I cycled to a special police centre in Cowley where I spent an hour being cross-examined on video, and had the distinct impression that the officer— extremely nice off camera— had been given the brief to break me down with increasingly detailed questions until I cried. At this she succeeded multiple times. This was supposedly so that, if the case went to court, I won’t have to be cross-examined by the judge. The level of detail required was insane: euphemisms or normal language wouldn’t do, it would only stand up legally if I explicitly stated, multiple times, that his penis was in my vagina. I was surprised by how much I didn’t remember when grilled. I had no idea, for instance, what position I was in when I woke up. The one thing I dread most about going to court is that I will have to watch this video again. The prospect makes my skin crawl.

X’s story is that we had consensual sex that morning, but this case is unusual in that it’s not simply my word against his. After he left my flat, I was so incredulous about what had happened that I had to message him to ask if he saw it the same way: that I had drunkenly let him sleep in my bed, but insisted that I didn’t want to have sex, before waking up the next morning to find my pants pulled down and him having sex with me. He apologised and agreed that, when put like that, it sounded pretty bad. That message exchange is the reason that my case continued to progress until recently, two years and presumably a huge amount of police time and resources since the incident, X was finally charged. With rape. I understand he is pleading not guilty. A jury will decide whether I’m telling the truth or if I’m a lying whore in six months’ time.

Since the day I first went to the police it’s been rumbling on slowly, coming in to answer further questions every so often or sign away various rights to privacy. They wanted to go through my medical records and years of counsellor’s notes, to check for anything that might indicate I’m lying or delusional, and the entire contents of my phone, for the same reason. Of course I agreed, because I’d come that far, and given up enough of myself already, why not this one more thing as well? Because the police wanted to interview everyone who was at our house party the night before it happened, basically my whole extended social circle knew, including people I didn’t know personally, and I’ve never been sure who knows and who doesn’t. My GP also knows (I received a phone call expressing sympathy that I wasn’t quite sure what to do with), and I had to tell various authorities in college so that I could get a two week extension on the dissertation I was working on.

I essentially gave up on maintaining the boundaries that exist between me and the world. I became porous: people knew intimate things about me, and I wasn’t sure which people or what they knew. People had looked inside my vagina in the bright room in Milton Keynes, people had forensically examined my underwear and my mooncup covered in blood, people had read my message history with my borderline-emotionally-abusive ex and my estranged father. The one boundary that I have managed to keep solid is that nobody in my family knows anything about this. I’ve never been sure whether I should tell my mum, so I haven’t, because once someone sees you as a person who’s been raped you can’t take that back.

I don’t think I’ve ever felt about this whole affair how I’m supposed to feel. For the few weeks after, I was in shock. I startled, sometimes screamed, at the slightest provocation: people entering the room I was in, people saying my name, even once the way my housemate’s head moved unexpectedly as she ate. Eventually this subsided. It’s just so weird, so removed from day-to-day experiences that most people have, that other than the initial numbness I don’t really feel able to generate any kind of emotional response at all. When I remember how surreal this experience is, how different from everyday experiences that people usually have, I feel… bemused? I’m not sure. My feelings around this experience are a strange, confusing blank space. Sometimes I have tried to project the feelings I’m supposed to have— anger, upset— onto this space, but it doesn’t fit. It’s just a confused nothing. Or, it’s a feeling so different from that produced by other experiences that I can’t really give it a shape.

It’s because of this weird lack of feeling that I feel guilty when I think too hard about it. Rationally, I know that what he did isn’t ok, irrespective of the consequences for the victim. But in proportion to the actual harm caused to me, I can’t help but feel that the police response is way over the top. I feel ridiculous as the centre of attention of this serious investigation, especially as most victims, who have often been through something much worse, have trouble getting anywhere at all. Sympathy has always felt wrong. If someone looks pained and shocked and says, oh my god, I’m so sorry that happened to you, I feel like a fraud.

I’m not supposed to think this, but I think whatever happens in December, X will already have paid the price. He had to drop out of medical school two years ago and move back in with his parents. I can’t imagine what it was like to explain to everyone what was happening. I know I’m not supposed to, but I feel immensely guilty for making him go through that. The shame he must surely have felt doesn’t bear thinking about. I guess that in his position, the only way most people could cope would be to convince themselves they haven’t done anything wrong, so maybe he does really believe it. I don’t think what he did is evil. Sure, it’s wrong, but people do crueller, more harmful things all the time. I think it was incredibly impulsive and very, very stupid.

When I feel guilty, I tell myself: what he did is against the rules. He knew the rules, and he did it anyway. Someone who does something like that should not be a doctor. I remind myself how much worse it would be if he hurt someone in the future because I had said nothing. I see going through this invasive, stressful, years long reporting process as a public service that only I can fulfil. I was the only other person there.

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The Aftermath (or How to Survive)

When I told my friends what had happened they said that I was brave. That I wasn’t alone.

I think they meant it to reassure me. And some part of me was reassured. I took comfort in their solidarity. Their reassurances that it wasn’t my fault. But it wasn’t enough at first.

I was angry – angry that I HAD to be brave. Angry that I wasn’t alone, that every girl I knew had a story or knew someone with a story. Angry that I was blamed, that my best friend was compared to an expensive handbag left unattended when she was assaulted drunk at a bar. Angry that I would forever be looking over my shoulder, unable to trust, while he would continue on his life just fine. 

But before the anger came the disgust, the tumour of self hatred sitting in my stomach. The fear, the unwillingness to go out alone. No part of me ever felt clean. My focus was lost, my personality drained. He had taken a part of me. And ruined the rest of me. I went from being an outgoing, bubbly girl to someone who couldn’t even form the words to explain what he had done. I felt like I was living out my death – all because of the events of an hour. That was the worst part I think. Some part of me blamed myself not only for it happening – for trusting him, for being drunk – but also blame for reacting the way I did. I couldn’t understand why this took such a toll, adding frustration to the miasmic burden of emotion crushing me

I tried to absolve myself of the blame and lessen the pain but there would be constant reminders, worsened by the advent of University. Groping in clubs, loud men outside of pubs, stories and cautionary tales of drink spikings all sent me into paroxysms of terror, right back to that night.  

The casual r*pe jokes thrown around by generally well meaning lads at my college only added to this. I took them with a tight smile – attempts to dissuade them in the past generally hadn’t worked and I wasn’t planning on laying out my traumas on a silver platter in order to get them to demonstrate basic human decency. I don’t know whether they did or do realise the impact these have. To me it rings loud and clear – you value the wellbeing of women less than a cheap laugh. Whether that direct correlation has ever entered their mind I doubt. Bear in mind that in all likelihood one of those “jokes” will evoke all kinds of unimaginable pain in someone standing in that room – you have no idea how raw your audience are, nor the type of message you are sending to people in that room. 

It is not enough to simply say “I’ve never taken advantage of someone”. It’s about the language you use, calling out those around you, even when it is uncomfortable for you – if it feels awkward telling your mate not to make a r*pe joke, imagine the pain of one of your female friends hearing you make light of her drink getting spiked at what should have been a fun night out. It’s about reminding your friends male and female to look after each other, defend each other and be aware. There’s a reason it’s called active allyship. 

Time lessened the pain. Listening to other survivors helped as well - seeing that the loss I felt was not unreasonable made it more possible to work through my emotions. Recognition that this is an institutional problem rather than an individual problem, while being a depressing thought was key for me to overcome some of what seemed insurmountable. 

Nothing that’s happened to me will ever leave me, and I hate that it has never affected any of the perpetrators. Forgiveness was a healing tool offered by many, and for some it works. For me, I don’t think that will ever be an option. 

That doesn’t mean I won’t heal. We look forward, helping those who have been affected and we keep trying to change mentalities. There is a future for everyone. Listen to each other.  Look after each other. 

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Rust

 

I grew up in the forest of holding my silence

and I still keep my voice in a box beneath my bed.

I am sad for my family,

who will not know the truth.

My vocal cords are clogged with the pine needles

of everything you ever said.

 

Your words are the vine tapping window

but I am not princess.

I am redbird

floating rust in the sky of every dream you’ve taken away.

My wings beat the salt-struck air

but I will not fight.

I am not your violence.

 

I am not survivor:

I am the skills that survived.

I am the courage that escaped,

the hope that hits the back of my throat,

the white flag chiseled from baby teeth.

 

And so I live.

I live with your fingerprints on my skin.

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What It Feels Like For A Girl*

*Please note that this short film is an exception to our anonymity policy. It was created by an Oxford University student with a cast of actors and film personnel who gave consent to have their identities known publicly in the context of the film. We have included the film in the anthology as it is an artistic reflection based on real events, and the film creator has collaborated with It Happens Here in the past and has given specific permission for the film to be included in the anthology.

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Past Submissions to It Happens Here

Original source (the old IHH website): https://ithappenshere-oxford.tumblr.com/

 

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I Was Raped At Oxford University. Police Pressured Me Into Dropping Charges.

Originally published anonymously here.

Former judge Mary Jane Mowat’s recent comments about rape convictions are outrageous. (“Rape conviction statistics will not improve until women stop getting so drunk”, she said this week.) To me however, they are also personal.

In the first term of my second year at Oxford, I was raped while passed out in my bed. Yes, my unconsciousness was due to alcohol.

Desperate to learn how to play poker, I had invited some friends over to teach me, one of whom brought two companions. Poker rapidly descended into a drinking game and I, being a fatal combination of bad at poker and intolerant of alcohol, passed out. I have since learnt that I was put to bed, but I don’t remember anything. Then a guy I didn’t know had sex with me in my sleep.

I have one very clear memory which still haunts me two years later. I remember waking up during the night and seeing him on top of me, my trousers around my ankles and my shirt still on. I pulled away and heard him mutter “Oh no, it fell out” to himself, at which point I blacked out again. I assume he continued to rape me.

I told very few people at the time, but a friend came with me to the police station. The receptionist, on learning I was reporting a sex offence, insisted on me giving details in front of everybody in the waiting room before taking me somewhere private. Two officers then came to my house, where I was questioned further. One described rape as “just something that happens”, especially at university. The only advice I received was to drink less in future.

Once I explained what had happened and provided forensics, the policemen contacted a woman I was told was in charge of dealing with rape allegations around Oxfordshire. She came into the kitchen, where I had been with the two policemen and my friend, and sent him from the room insisting the conversation be private?—?even as I maintained I needed him for moral support and didn’t mind him being there.

She proceeded to question me rather forcefully, in a very short and matter-of-fact tone, and concluded that because I was drunk I couldn’t prove anything, informing me my evidence would not stand up in court. She said she got called to investigate a number of rape reports each day and her job involved deciding which of them it was worthwhile to pursue and which it wasn’t. In her opinion, as she made clear from the start, mine fell into the latter category.

The woman asked me to decide in that moment whether or not to press charges. I was not allowed to leave the kitchen until I had made my decision. She didn’t fail to emphasise how traumatic I would find the process or her certainty my case would not stand up in court: I would be unable to prove I was unconscious at the time or that I didn’t drunkenly consent.

In fact, the Crown Prosecution Service states “capacity to consent may evaporate well before a complainant becomes unconscious”. Photos and videos my friends shot of me passed out both on the floor and on my bed proved I was incapable of consenting: unable to talk or stand up, I cannot have been capable of agreeing to sex. Furthermore, the Sexual Offences Act 1956 lists “evidence that by reason of drink… the complainant was unaware of what was occurring and/or incapable of giving valid consent” as a means by which to establish rape.

The entire experience, being separated from my friend and then questioned harshly hours after my rape, was perhaps as disorientating as it could possibly have been. I was given no opportunity to seek advice or regain composure; no chance to sleep on the matter. The woman insisted on me deciding whether or not to press charges immediately. Still shaken and vulnerable, I was in no position to make such a decision on the spot, and frankly her description of the court process scared me. It was little wonder, then, that I dropped it.

The woman who came to my kitchen told me my situation was exactly what former judge Mowat calls “one person’s word against another[’s]”. Her implication is that a woman who was drunk can’t prove anything?—?that the whole case is a matter of he-said-she-said.

For me, it wasn’t. As it happened, I did have evidence.

Had the police cared enough they could have acquired DNA, but the woman told them to return the clothes, bedsheets and used condoms I had given them. These all provided incontrovertible evidence that the guy had sex with me. In fact, given his bragging at dinner the following day, this was never really in question. “I lost the poker,” he said, “but I did pretty well if you know what I mean.” Just typing that today sickens me.

My Oxford college, when I spoke to its professional welfare staff, largely ignored me; the guy who raped me received a minor reprimand and no further repercussions. Despite several friends explaining on multiple occasions that his mere presence unnerved me, he seemed to devote his life to making me feel uncomfortable. On nights I was working behind the college bar, he would carefully place himself between me and the exit, sitting there all night. One time when I left a party as soon as he came in he followed me all the way out of college. I ran, and made it halfway back to my house before stopping. Whether his behaviour was intentional is irrelevant: I spent as little time in college as I could, rarely attending events there.

Despite the number of times I have contacted the welfare officers about this, they have largely ignored me except to say that if he’s around I should just leave. I have a year left at Oxford, as does he. I still don’t understand why I should be the one leaving.

“I’m not saying it’s right to rape a drunken woman,” Mary Jane Mowat told the Oxford Mail. “But [when] they’ve got a woman who says ‘I was absolutely off my head, I can’t really remember what I was doing[’] … how are they supposed to react?”

Juries should react, in those circumstances, with the understanding that a state of extreme inebriation is not one where a person can give valid consent for sex and that this in itself is evidence of rape. The CPS explicitly states as much, encouraging investigators to “consider whether supporting evidence is available to demonstrate that the complainant was so intoxicated that he/she had lost their capacity to consent”.

There would be more convictions if the police process didn’t pressure women with viable evidence to drop their reports. In 2012–13, official treatment of victims like me meant only 15 percent of rapes recorded by the police even went to court. Mowat is right in that rape conviction statistics are lower than they should be. However, the criminal justice system is to blame, not drunk women.

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I was assaulted by 8 men without even knowing.

Before writing this submission, I counted how many men have sexually assaulted me - the number was 8. How did I feel about this number? I felt like it wasn’t very many at all.

That’s how normal sexual assault has come to feel to me.

It hasn’t been until very recently that I’ve really come to understand what sexual assault is, or the full idea of consent; I’ve always blamed myself to a large part. I’ve always believed that there are grey areas.

The first time I fell in love, my boyfriend asked me if I wanted to have sex with him just a few days after we started dating. I said no, and I was dumped within a week. I think that’s why it’s hard for me to say no. 

I have had sex so many times when I didn’t want to, simply out of fear of saying no. In fact, I can’t really remember a time when I ever actually did say no.

I have been raped. I have been forced into a toilet by a man who I had previously been kissing, and had no intention of going any further with; my jeans pulled down, and his penis forced inside of me for no more than two minutes - all it took for him to finish. But I didn’t say no. I just stood there.

I have also woken up after nights out next to people who I had no recollection of, not knowing what college I’m even in. Woken up naked, with no idea what happened, but probably having had sex with them. Probably unprotected. Too ashamed to ask in the morning; too afraid of hurting their feelings. Not realising that if I was too drunk to remember anything, then I was probably also too drunk to really even walk, let alone consent to sex.

I’ve tried to assert my boundaries with people I’m having sex with. One guy at my college who I had sex with a lot of times would always try and put his fingers up my anus. Every time, I’d tell him no, push them away, but he would try again about half a minute later. Eventually, tired of saying no, I’d just do my best to ignore it, as I didn’t want to ruin the sexual experience for him.

It wasn’t until I read all the stories on this page that I identified myself as a true survivor of sexual violence. It happens here. It happens everywhere. And not everyone even knows when it is happening to them.

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It wasn’t less serious because she’s a girl too

As a bisexual girl, it was exciting to be able to openly sleep with girls when I got to Oxford, having kept quiet about it at school.

I had a group of friends through a society and we spent a lot of time together – often involving heavy drinking. I hit it off with another girl in the group early on in my first term and we slept together a few times. We were both sleeping with other people and there was no expectation at all of exclusivity.

The sex had a BDSM aspect to it but she – as the dominant – was especially clear that we had to have safe-words, it seemed responsible enough even if we did get very drunk.

One night she was exceedingly drunk although I wasn’t aware how much she had consumed when we saw each other. We had a discussion which concluded with us deciding not to sleep with each other any more but to remain friends. We sat down with the rest of our friends to watch a film, vaguely cuddled on the sofa in a non-sexual way.

She tried to kiss my neck and I responded (in a whisper as there were other people in the room) “You don’t want to do this.” She replied “Oh but I do”. 

She pushed her hands up my skirt and into my vagina. I said “stop” repeatedly and even said “I’ve said stop – this is sexual assault.” I was on my period and wearing a tampon – I think that made the penetration feel more violent. She pushed her other hand into my mouth to make me be quiet and said repeatedly “You know you want it”. Her nails were so sharp they scratched my vagina. I finally managed to push her off; she was much stronger than me.

I told my friends who were fairly blasé about it – she had reportedly had sex with one of our male friends when he was unconscious and their attitude was mainly “well she is pretty crazy”. Once they realised how distressed I was and that she did genuinely assault me they were very supportive. They confronted her and she very sheepishly came to talk to me – apologising profusely. 

I accepted her apology until she was so drunk at a party that she bit my neck and tried to bite it again even after I had pushed her away. At the time of the assault I thought I would find moving on easier if I didn’t report it – I’m not sure I made the right decision now.

I’ve definitely been made to feel that the assault was less serious because she was a girl. Broken Rainbow is a great organisation and their hotline staff are excellent- if you experience abuse in a LGBT relationship, I recommend contacting them for support.

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In response to the Oxford Student’s and the Telegraph’s idea of consent

I have told my attacker that what he did to me wasn’t rape. I told him that it was, of course, totally consensual- I was just a bit drunk. Why? Because the truth was and remains uncomfortable- and terrifying when you speak it aloud.

I remember vividly how he confronted me, saying he had heard that I described what happened as rape. I remember him being angry and intimidating, outraged even. And I remember panicking, telling him that the friend must have made it up, misheard me or misinterpreted what I said- all in an effort to make the anger and intimidation go away, along with the memories of what happened.

I also remember how I tried to get away from him. And how he held me down, drunk, and pushed himself into me. And how I have kept silent about it since the confrontation, apart from to reassure him that no, no, of course it wasn’t rape and to please not be angry at me.

I still have to see him [my attacker] frequently and I wouldn’t think of being brave enough to confront him or go to the police, unlike others.

Does this make what happened to me truly consensual? Does this mean I would be lying now to say what he did was wrong? And moreover, would this make it alright for much of my personal information to be publicised in the press, so that I was easily identifiable and humiliated?

Because I don’t think so.

Survivors of sexual violence deserve respect. And belief. It happens here, so don’t act like it doesn’t.

 

Note: The admins have edited this to add “[my attacker]” to the fourth paragraph to clarify that this account does not necessarily relate to any other cases.

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I said for so long that it wasn’t abuse, but it was actually three years of rape.

I’m only just coming to terms with what has happened to me. 

I experiences several years of sexual abuse form a friend. It started when I was in my mid teens. 

He told me what to wear. He told me the only reason people would want to spend time with me was for sex. he told me I was stupid. He used to tell me that I’d been really bad - that all of my actions ruined people’s lives, but I wasn’t a bad person. That I needed him to make me a good person. It was a horrible power dynamic, and he used it to get sex from me. The sex was horrible and it hurt, but I pretended to enjoy it so that he might stop.

Rape and sexual abuse are horrible. The stigma and shame that a victim-blaming society meant that I couldn’t even begin to understand my experiences as rape until years afterwards, particularly when my abuser was still in my life. It took so much from me just getting through everyday life, I had to block out labelling what happened as rape so I didn’t have another problem in the relationship to deal with.

This hasn’t been on my mind for a few months, but I’m so sick of seeing rape myths and victim blaming around in Oxford. The idea that someone who has been raped will automatically be able to speak out about it is regressive and denies the reality of sexual violence. 

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This happens to men too

A male friend who doesn’t have a Wordpress account asked me to post this for him:

It all happened one month after I had been at Oxford and I met this girl at a bar, we seemed to hit it off and after lots of drinks we went back to her place. 

I was sleepy but I know I didn’t want to have sex so I got into her bed and fell asleep. Only to wake up an hour later to find that she had taken all my clothes off and was masturbating me to get me hard she immediately tried to tell her to stop but she wouldn’t she then mounted me and forced me to penetrate her. I was quite drunk so motor functions were not great. In the end she held me down until she had finished….I felt so used after that. Obviously I haven’t told anyone about that as, a male there is very little support for me. Most people don’t believe you or even laugh at you, even with this countries laws they don’t class what happened to me as rape. I am sure many men experience what I have gone through. I never spoke to the oxford student again after that I avoided her.

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What counts as rape?

By the end of my freshers week I had started seeing a guy - sort of. We’d admitted that we liked each other. I had never had sex sober because for me that was a big thing to be shared with someone I completely trusted. Sex after a night out has always been fun and casual. This guy wanted to have sex straight away though and convinced me that it wasn’t too soon and that being shy was stupid. We were a thing on and off for about 4 weeks, in that time we had sex drunk a few times and although we did try sober I never let him finish - I didn’t feel comfortable. One night when we were in bed we started having sex (sober), but I still didn’t feel like I really wanted to, it wasn’t fun and I didn’t feel comfortable. I told him to stop and he paused, but didn’t pull out. He reassured me that ‘it was fine’. I thought that meant he was going to stop - but he kept going. I was quite shocked so didn’t do anything and let him continue for a bit until I actually started getting angry and told him to get off. He got a bit annoyed then and defensive and pulled out. I just picked up my clothes and walked out the room. We haven’t really spoken since. 
I don’t really feel that affected by it. I seriously dislike him, but the main thing that aggravates me is that the people I’ve told seem to make excuses for him when I tell them why I don’t like him. I don’t see it as some big secret, frankly the more people that know the better. But I don’t want to big it up into some huge deal. I’m not sure if it even is a big deal. 

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It couldn’t have been him and it didn’t happen to me


Here’s what happened to me last year:

Throughout a year long relationship my ex boyfriend would sexually harass me:
- This took the following forms: feeling in my pants and pressuring for sex as soon as he felt I was ‘wet’, penetrating my anus with his fingers even when I didn’t want him to. After sex, pleading to have sex again, even when I had told him that my vagina was really hurting.
- This often caused a series of painful urinary tract infections, which he never expressed any concern about or apology for.
- One night after a party he raped me. It is not the way you’d imagine rape to happen. We were making out in bed. He was drunk, I was not - only tired. I didn’t push him off. He pleaded for sex. Just like those many times before, I told him I didn’t want to. He had broken me, I felt utterly powerless. He didn’t notice my tears. 

When we were in a relationship, and even for a while after he raped me, I knew what he did was wrong, but could not bring myself to hate him. I only hated myself, and often felt guilty for not 'training’ him to be a good and loving partner. What I’ve realised since:
- I am a strong woman. At the time of our relationship I was suffering from depression, which resulted in much self-neglect. I am shocked at how little self-respect I had. Why didn’t I just leave him when this abuse began? With few close friends, I clung to him. But why did I trust the one person who was so bad for me?
- But the problem never was with me, it was and is with him. He is weak. 

A few months after it happened I confronted him. Some reflections: 
- The scary thing is that he genuinely did not understand what he did to me, and why it was wrong. He says that he always loved me and always wanted the utmost happiness for me. He’s either lying to himself or consciously lied to me as he’s not stupid, he goes to Oxford. 
- He is a genuinely likeable figure, with a close group of kind friends in college, and by no means the stereotype of a sexist 'lad’. He has female friends and generally looks harmless, does not express overtly sexist statements. He would never identify himself as a 'rapist’, and yet he was capable of sexually assaulting and raping a woman that he claimed to love.
- He is not a stereotype of evil. Yet his actions were informed by the belief that in his sexual relations with me, I was not important: my body was his right and could be fought for. I don’t know the root of this view and it’s not up to me to figure it out. I just continue to move on with my life and deal with it. 
- I really have no idea if you can make someone care and think about the impact their sexual violence has enough to prevent it, but I hope that someone not only reads this but discusses it. It could happen to anyone you know. 

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This felt more like a slap in the face than a victory

Very little has changed since I went to my college for help escaping my rapist.

When I first reported it, to my surprise, the college authorities were sympathetic. No one blamed me for what happened. I was listened to and respected, I was allowed to stay anonymous. At first I felt invigorated. I was taking the power back, and something might happen, and people who mattered believed me and wanted to help.

But the authorities were also confused about what to do, and had no specific guidelines on how to deal with sexual violence or post-traumatic stress disorder. It took months of meetings to make sense of the disciplinary policy that exists, and try and reconcile it with the law. All I wanted was to go to the library and eat dinner in the hall without running into my rapist, but apparently this was a lot more complicated than just books and dinner. Slowly, as the college explored several avenues and after consulting with lawyers cut off each subsequent route to safety, I became more and more distressed. 

In the end, the college did not discipline my rapist. They requested to meet with him about a ‘serious welfare issue’. I suspect this was the lawyers’ doing, college not saying the r-word. He voluntarily agreed to not contact me again. After four months of meetings, having my hopes risen and then dashed again repeatedly, this felt more like a slap in the face than a victory. 

‘If this was a simple harassment case, or a theft- If he’d stolen your alarm clock we could have disciplined him’, I was told in my final meeting with college authorities. I was told that my rape was ‘too serious’. I wanted to laugh. This felt like the end of a game of Cleudo… Colonel Mustard, with the spanner, in the billiard room. Except this time it was my long-term lover, in my college, with- well let’s not talk about that. Of course it was serious. It was my life. What’s the point in having a disciplinary code if it can’t deal with serious things? 

I was furious at the time, but looking back on it now, the college wasn’t so bad. They didn’t blame me or try and shut me up like I’ve heard people say some colleges do. I’ve heard other colleges are better though, and new guidelines are coming out soon on dealing with sexual violence, so there’s hope. Very little has changed for me, but it hasn’t got worse either I guess. At least my college tried.

They were nothing compared to the police. 

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Before this Oxford was my first choice uni, but when my offer came I was just happy to say “no”

I don’t study at Oxford, and thanks to my “attacker” I know I never will. I was at a college for interviews in December, and my last night there was the same night as the Arsenal Napoli match. I’m a massive Arsenal fan, and I’d brought my shirt, scarf and hat to wear that day after my interviews were done, as was my ritual when I wasn’t at the game. While I was in Oxford, I’d met some friends from my old school who I hadn’t seen in years, so we decided to go to the pub before I went back to my room to watch the game. 

After a few drinks I left my friends at the pub to go to my room, and I was walking through the main green when one of the undergrads who was there helping with the interview process saw my shirt and decided to come over and talk. He told me he was an Arsenal fan too, how he wanted to watch the game but his laptop was broken, and could he come to mine and watch it? Admittedly, when I’d seen him around before I had commented in passing to my friends how I thought he was attractive, which is I guess why it has taken me this long to realise that maybe I wasn’t entirely to blame. 

We went back to my room, I found a stream and settled in to watch the game on my bed. I could feel his attention wander from the moment they started playing, and about 20 minutes in he started kissing my neck and whispering vile thoughts in my ear. I told him to stop, I had to push him off me at one point, and said I wanted him to leave. He said he’d stop and we could watch the game together in peace if that was what I wanted. I said it was and he stopped. Not long after he said went to his room to pick up his phone and a bottle of whiskey. I’m never one to say no to a drink, so I had a glass or two before I noticed he was pretending to drink. I started to ask him about it when he forced himself on top of me, pushed my laptop to the ground and within seconds he took off my clothes and “claimed my arsehole as his”, as he so eloquently put it. I told him to stop, I tried to push him off but my arms were beyond my control. 

The next thing I remember, I woke up at lunchtime with a torn anus and bloody sheets, and a note on the table with his name and number saying call me. Before this Oxford was my first choice uni, but when my offer came I was just happy to say “no” and know I was being listened to. ]

Note: we have had to take out the college’s name because of laws around defamation. Thank you so much for sharing your story. 

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This was not a decision I consciously made

One night not long after I came to university I was out on a night out and having sunk 70cl of vodka at pre-drinks, I was drunk beyond comprehension. Despite being a usually competent drinker, I have been told that I was crawling home. The morning after this night I woke up with condoms in the bin in my room, with no idea why. There was no clear sign however that the condoms had been used and if they had been the sex certainly hadn’t come to a climax. I immediately set about figuring out who I had sex with, or rather who had sex with me. 

After some investigation I came across one of my friends who showed me a picture of me with my trousers around my ankles and no shirt on lying on the floor on the street, prior to making it back to college. He then informed me, laughing, that a girl from my college had been escorting me back. In the least mean way possible, this is not a girl whose sexual advances I would condone under pretty much any circumstances. As I said, let’s not be mean, just not my type. It took the rest of the day to confirm that it was indeed this girl who had taken me back to my room and had sex with me.

I realize that because I am a guy, this story is taken less seriously; people suggest that I initiated it, and indeed that I remember it and I’m just making excuses because I am embarrassed. I am not the sort to get embarrassed easily (as the behaviour described above may suggest) and would have no problem with admitting to a drunken sexual mistake that I had consciously made. This was not a decision I consciously made and the picture of me drunk beyond recognition was convincing enough to prove that I was in no state to consent to sex. It’s an incredibly unpleasant feeling knowing that you have been used in such a way, and even more unpleasant when people mention it at Crew Dates, sconcing you for ‘pretending to get sexually assaulted’ for being 'ashamed of bringing back a fat girl’. 

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Self-blame

I’ve never told anyone what happened. Not just because I’m ashamed of what occurred, and ashamed of the fact I ‘let’ sexual assault happen to me, but because I’m so scared they’ll just see it the way I saw it for such a long time - as completely my fault.
I was friends with someone and it became something more - but I was always completely firm on the point that I’d didn’t want to have sex with him. This he respected (in the sense he only tried to persuade me otherwise a few times and would eventually listen to my no) - a fact I always used to supress the feelings that what he was doing was wrong. (Looking back I’m horrified that I used the justification of him not raping me as proof he was a complete angel).
He’d know I didn’t want anything to happen, both from being explicitly told and non-verbally. I would sit at a distance, be unresponsive to his touches and wouldn’t kiss him when he tried. But he’d keep going until I gave up trying to resist. Which I would because I knew full well he wouldn’t give up until he got what he wanted, no matter how long it took. He’d get me to drink and get me tired enough that I became passive, and would wear me down verbally until I’d eventually give up saying no. Not that no was a barrier sometimes. I’d tell him to go no futher than last time and he’d ignore me. I’d tell him I didn’t want to carry on and was told I had to. He even once told me that although I kept insisting I didn’t want to, my body was telling him otherwise.
Everytime I’d seriously consider physically pushing him off me or yelling at him and leaving but I was made to feel it would be a serious over-reaction and would lose a friend over nothing. But I’ve regretted every little concession I was ever pressured into making. It wasn’t just a fear of losing him that made me give up resisting and go along with it. I sometimes found myself in situations I couldn’t easily get out of. He purposefully tricked me into going somewhere I wouldn’t be able to find my way back from without him (a fact he pointed out to me when convincing me to just do as he wanted). And when I was in his college I couldn’t leave without his keys and he wouldn’t let me out unless I did what he demanded. I was begging to be let out for hours but his erection took priority over my tears and the porters wouldn’t let me out either. I almost took his keys from him but couldn’t face the thought of having to see him again to give them back.
I feel dirty, used and most of all a liar because I’d pretend to enjoy it after it begun in the hope it would end sooner. I hated myself for not saying no enough times, or with enough force. And thought it couldn’t possibly have been abuse because he never physically restrained me. 
I don’t want to tell anyone I know because even if they do realise how bad it was for me, and even if they did blame him rather than me, I’m terrified they’d want to confront him or make me do so. A part of me wants to believe he didn’t realise what he was doing, but either way I know he’d twist things and use all of his powers of persuasion until I saw him as completely blameless. And that would make him the victim of my actions by telling someone. And I can’t face the guilt I’d feel believing I hurt someone like that.
So I’ll keep quiet and just hope this will help me stop thinking about it.

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I still don’t know how I feel about it.

I was walking home with my housemate very drunk – she was essentially carrying me home. We bumped into a friend, and he came back to ours for a bit. I woke up aware that we had had sex, but I didn’t remember it happening, and I don’t know if we used protection. For months I had been slightly embarrassed by letting it happen, and got ‘sconced’ on crew dates and in drinking games for having sex and not remembering it, and I laughed along with the joke. I always said to myself that I must have consented – he’s someone I know quite well and am attracted to, and I definitely don’t want to accuse him of anything. It is only now with over a years perspective that I fully realise that there’s no way I can know if I consented, and I still don’t know how I feel about it.

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I guess there’s no single way to feel after sexual assault.

Last year, a close friend of mine stayed over and slept in my bed. We were really close, and I felt really comfortable around him. We’d talked about having sex before, but had decided that night wasn’t the night (we both had partners at the time), and just went to sleep instead. 

I remember waking up to feeling him touching me. I didn’t know how it started. My mind wasn’t fully together - I was trying to pull myself out of sleep to work out what was going on. 

After we finished, I got really upset. I was confused and scared. I was terrified because I couldn’t remember how it started. 

The next day I felt unsure and confused. I wasn’t sure how it all began, and I felt like I had cheated on my partner without even meaning to. I knew that I had gone along with it, and enjoyed the feeling of him touching me. I felt like I was making something up - I’d enjoyed it, so why was I thinking that it was sexual assault now?

Since then, I’ve realised that it’s not actually that complicated. I was asleep so I couldn’t consent. He should have checked that I wanted him to touch me. It doesn’t matter that I didn’t stop him. I wasn’t awake enough. Even if I was, that doesn’t give anyone an excuse for fingering me without asking first. 

I was pretty upset the day after it happened, but it hasn’t affected me badly long-term. I’ve been raped in the past, and that’s really damaged my emotional health/sense of self for a long time. This time only upset me for a few days. That doesn’t mean it was less traumatic, it just hasn’t brought out the same emotions in me. I guess there’s no single way to feel after sexual assault. 

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Untitled

A year ago, I was walking home by myself from a party at about 3.30am. A man, I guess of about university age, ran up the street behind me and grabbed me from behind, locking my arms to my sides so that I was unable to move or get out of his grip. He was completely naked, which is why I wasn’t able to hear any footsteps until he was right behind me. I struggled but wasn’t able to speak until he loosened his grip, when I turned and shouted incoherently at him, in shock. He responded: “I thought it would be funny!”
I ran back to my room in college and locked the door. I now have to check that my door is locked 3 times every night before I go to sleep.

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Some cards from the 2014 anti-violence Valentine’s Day card making event co-hosted by It Happens Here and WomCam.

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“I felt totally degraded, but as if I had brought it on myself.”

In my first year I went on several dates with a boy with whom I had mutual friends. On our second date we had two or three drinks at the pub and then came back to my room in college. Whilst I did allow this, I did not instigate it or nor was I properly asked if this was okay. When we were back in my room we put on a tv show to watch and have a cuddle. This was genuinely all I wanted to happen, I was inexperienced and not comfortable enough yet with him to do more. Within two minutes of the tv show being on he kissed me and I did kiss him back. I was comfortable with this although now very uncertain I had any agency in the way this was progressing. He then started touching me and fingering me and kept taking my hand to his penis. He couldn’t get hard though so we both stopped and went to sleep, I was very much relieved. 

Through my sleepy state I felt him moving beside me and just put it out of my mind that he could possibly be trying to jerk himself off, that would be ridiculous. He continued to move and began to breathe heavily, I was really nearly asleep when he announced he was ‘ready now’ and led my head to his penis. He then proceeded to fuck my face, thrusting into me and holding my head in place. I felt totally degraded, but as if I had brought it on myself. I felt that this is what happens if you lead them on; if you are officially dating as well you probably owe them something. He made this clear, his forced and short attempts to pleasure me gave him the right to wake me up, take my face to his dick and treat me like an inanimate object.

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“Eventually I let him finish because I just wanted it to be over and was too frozen to resist any more.”

After a night out in Oxford I agreed to go back to an acquaintance’s house. I’d known him a few years and we have a lot of mutual friends, so I thought I could trust him. I consented to sex and some BDSM activity, but after a while he started to do things I definitely hadn’t consented to. Each time it happened I’d tell him to stop, that it was too much and I didn’t want to do that. Each time he’d say sorry and stop for a few seconds, but he’d always try again moments later. Eventually I let him finish because I just wanted it to be over and was too frozen to resist any more. Afterwards I was completely shell-shocked and, though I desperately wanted to go home, I ended up staying the night. I was left bleeding from my vagina and anus, but he acted like nothing was wrong. I felt violated, dirty and angry with myself for months even though I know he was in the wrong, not me.

I have never told anyone what really happened that night because there are so many complicating factors that I know would prevent a lot of people from taking me seriously: the consensual BDSM activity, the fact that I stayed the night, that my very liberal views on sex are not exactly a secret, etc. I don’t know what to call what happened to me. All I know is that it was wrong, that my trust was violated, my boundaries were not respected and that I have absolutely no way of proving he did anything wrong.

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I felt like I couldn’t tell him he was raping me

During last Hilary term, I went to Camera with a couple of friends. I hadn’t been out in a while and was really excited. Beforehand I told my friends that I was only coming out because I hadn’t had sex in a while and really wanted to go home with someone.

In Camera, I ran into an acquaintance that I’d met at a formal hall the term before. Towards the end of the evening I suggested that we go home together. We went back to his and chatted with his housemates a bit. After that, we started kissing and having sex. I don’t know why, but the sex was really painful, so I told him to stop. He didn’t.

I feel so stupid, because all I did was lie there. In my head I knew that I’d verbally retracted my consent, so him not stopping was rape. That was unambiguous. Still, I felt like I couldn’t tell him this, or say that I was really hurting. I don’t know why. While it was happening I remember thinking that I just wanted it to be over.

The next day I was unable to do anything because I felt really violated. I usually find one night stands really fun and empowering, but this time I felt completely voiceless.

I still struggle because I blame myself for not saying anything, even though I know that I told him to stop and he didn’t. But this isn’t my fault. It wasn’t a one night stand that I regret, it was rape.

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“One of the most difficult things has been coming to terms with the fact that I didn’t realise how badly I was being violated.”

“So I was watching this documentary about rape” I told my friend when she came to visit “it said that if someone doesn’t stop if you want them to, then it’s rape. I think that happened to me… “

It was three months previously, Sunday afternoon, my then boyfriend was visiting from his university for the weekend. We’d already had sex multiple times, despite me not enjoying it and he penetrated me again. I was in a lot of pain, I cried and told him to stop but he didn’t, all I could do was bury my face in my hands and try and block out the pain. Afterwards I cried my eyes out to my housemates but couldn’t tell them why I was so upset. 

It took a lot of time, perspective and counselling to realise the whole relationship was abusive not just that night. I wasn’t raped once, I’d been being raped for months – every time I woke up with a penis in my mouth, every time he penetrated me refusing to wear a condom, every time I was in pain and wanted to stop. But I couldn’t see it at the time – I thought he wasn’t physically abusive when he stuck his finger’s down my throat to ‘improve my gag reflex’, just messing around, he wasn’t sexually abusive because I always managed to make him stop eventually. He couldn’t be a rapist – those were people in dark alleyways with knives, not a boyfriend who brought me flowers and looked after my friends when they were drunk. One of the most difficult things has been coming to terms with the fact that I didn’t realise how badly I was being violated. I knew I was deeply unhappy but felt like I had no good reason to break up with him. You think that in a situation like that, you’d know instantly, you’d stand up for yourself, you’d report it, you’d leave. I didn’t and that still scares me. I am a strong person and don’t usually let people walk over me, but it just goes to show the power of sexual violence, it can be very manipulative and confusing.

Everyone reacts differently to sexual violence, but for me it’s not something that goes away easily and has affected all areas of my life. Initially there were months of denial, knowing something was wrong but not pinpointing what it was, getting behind in work, crying in tutorials. 3 months in when I finally told someone I was reduced to complete inability to function, I cried every day and felt very isolated. 7 months in I developed PTSD; panic attacks, nightmares and I was completely overwhelmed. 10 months in and it manifested itself in physical pain, I was hospitalised and since diagnosed with chronic migraines and a constant headache caused by emotional trauma. I had no choice but to leave Oxford to recover at home. 18 months in the headache is still there and unresponsive to all treatments tried so far. And don’t get me started on how difficult it’s been to rebuild my sex life! I’m lucky, I’ve found a new partner who is incredibly patient and understanding but it’s very slow progress. 

It happens here – in clubs, in colleges, in your own house on a lazy Sunday afternoon with your friends just the other side of the door.

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Dubious Counselling and Leaving Oxford

After meeting my first counsellor at the student services and explaining to her how I was raped when I was younger, she then proceeded to suggest several times that perhaps my problems (i.e. the reason I needed to see a counsellor) were due to the fact that my mother is gay (which, incidentally, she isn’t, but that’s hardly relevant). This put me off the counselling services for the rest of the year, which in turn led to me leaving Oxford for good after finding that my mental health wasn’t really up to it without that level of support.

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Victim, no. Survivor, maybe.

It took until I read this blog for the second time that I actually took a deep breath and realised that so many of the things that have happened to me during my university career have been non-consensual and that I am truly lucky that I have managed to blank so many things out or laugh them off as a bizarre story. The first time I read the stories on here my response was one of frustration, ‘well of course everyone goes through that, what’s the big problem?’ Then I read them again and realised that the big problem was both with what is happening and for me, with my blanking what has happened to me out and refusing to see it for what it is, most likely as a protective mechanism.

I don’t want to be called a victim. I don’t want to be called a survivor. But I do know that I have experienced sexual violence, at a frequency that it has become part of my life, part of me.

I’ve always had a very sexualised body. When that’s the case you get used to the creepy comments on the street, the men coming up to you in clubs and groping you, the College rugby team asking to 'motorboat’ you and then saying that you are 'lame and boring’ for refusing. So you sometimes acquiesce but more often or not it’s forced on you. And yet you become so desensitised to it all that you think it’s normal for other people to grab your body whenever they like. And it’s taken me a long time to realise that it’s not.

But more than that I have so often ended up waking up with strange men in my bed, men I have no recollection of them arriving or what happened next. Men who sometimes are freaked out when I say I don’t know who they are and what happened, and men who sometimes laugh and say, 'I know, you were really wasted last night’. The former I cannot class as rapists, for I know that when I am drunk I can often appear very lucid until the moment I pass out. But after, when I wake, I will have absolutely no memory of that lucid-appearing interval. So in that way, anything that happens probably appears consensual and I don’t feel any anger towards those guys. But sometimes when I am drunk I am all over the place and it is very obvious that I have little idea what I am doing. Usually my friends look after me but they cannot always be there and I know that really it is up to me to control my own behaviour and not get into such situations. But it is not up to random strangers, or guys I know, to take advantage of such situations, to go home and sleep with me, knowing full well I have little control and ability to consent. That is predatory, sexually violent behaviour.

The worst of those instances occurred with a tutor. A visiting professor, twice my age, married with children. I got so drunk at a College dinner that I had no idea what I was doing. My glass kept being topped up and I really should have gone home sooner. But I stayed. And then I tried to leave. I left alone to stumble back to my room, but a 2 minute walk away. I left alone but he followed me back to my room. I have no idea what happened next, I don’t even think we had penetrative sex. But I don’t know. All I know is that I woke up, semi naked in my bed with that man. A man who when I said I had absolutely no idea of the conclusion of the night commented on how drunk I was. Commented on something that would have affected my ability to consent yet in no way apologised for what he was doing in my bed or the fact that he should never have been there. They say you get wiser as you get older. He was old. His behaviour was not wise. 

He then refused to leave my room. I had to beg him to as he made me physically sick. He still refused. So I left. I left my own room, leaving him in there. Leaving a man who had followed me home, knowing full well I was completely drunk, who had ended up with me semi naked in bed, unable to give consent for what happened. I left him in my room and I went to a friend’s house. But what did I say at my friend’s? Did I cry and really think about the severity of the situation? No, I brushed it off as a hilarious story. A story told in a way that made my friend howl with laughter. A story which hid all the mixed feelings I felt, laughter which smoothed over my concerns.

I still don’t call myself a victim. But maybe I call myself a survivor.

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House Party

I was hosting a house party, and everything was going really well. The drink was flowing and we were having lots of fun, I had all my friends around me, except for my girlfriend who was doing a singing recital at the time; and couldn’t make it. We were both wary of another girl, who I had invited by extension of the friendship group; she was totally into me and everyone could tell, but everyone also knew I had a girlfriend, so nothing would happen.

She had approached me before about me and her, about how much she wanted to be with me, about how my girlfriend at the time didn’t treat me right. I was happy with my girlfriend, so I didn’t listen to her, and I told her to just forget me. After that conversation everything was smooth, and I thought she got the message that I wasn’t into her.

As the night went on, one of the last things I remember was her passing me a drink; I thought nothing of it, I was already drunk and didn’t think to question why she was giving me one. Apart from vague blurs of her on top of me, the next thing I remember is me waking up, feeling a cocktail of bad emotions, seeing her, in bed, next to me. I had my drink spiked.

I said nothing of it to anyone of my friends that day, and it took me a year to admit it to my girlfriend; she dumped me because she didn’t believe that I had my drink spiked, she considered it to be cheating. 

Now, I have to be insulted and feel let down by nearly everyone that claims to be helping this issue. I am called a “survivor”, a term I find derogates and trivialises what happened to me. 

The JCR Equal Ops officer at my college, (a militant feminist) is unapproachable and ignorant; so wrapped up in female cases that they forget that men can even be affected by this sort of thing. Even when I ask them to go to certain meetings of other “survivors” I am turned away, or just ignored if I repeatedly insist. 

The welfare team is inadequate; they lack experience, and they feel very unapproachable when I think about talking to them about it. I don’t want to be treated differently because of what happened to me.

I don’t want a counselling service, I’m happy just forgetting it and treating it as if it never happened; but things like this keep on bringing up old scars and bad memories. Every time I’m told that I’m being unjustly misogynistic by the hard-core feminists I feel sick inside. Those same militants that dominate the issue with female related solutions; being coldly pushed forward on both sexes, ignoring the fact that men and women deal with sexual assault on a personal level differently.

I am told that only 1 in 10 cases of sexual assault are men, and that we should focus predominantly on female issues. One might think that this is just; but what it doesn’t take into account is the fact that men, in general, tell almost nobody about these issues, maybe one or two people they trust fervently, but they will never be included in the statistics that are quoted to guide policy by OUSU and by the university and college equal opportunities team.

Editor’s note: Thank you so much for your submission. It is so important that we have men who have experienced sexual violence come forward and share their stories. I hope this enables other men to do the same, so that we can start changing the culture of silence around sexual violence which exists for all, but particularly for men. As a campaign we are dedicated to recognising that sexual violence happens to all sorts of people, not just women. We will do all we can to ensure that our campaign, and the policy we advocate to the university, is inclusive. Please feel free to post feedback anonymously if you ever feel like we miss the mark.

---

“I didn’t know what to do, what to say, or how to react. I just assumed this was how it went…”

I am male. I met my first girlfriend at university. The first time we had sex I did not consent. We were naked, yes. We had been engaged in other sexual activity, yes. I had an erection, yes. But I wasn’t ready to have sex. She knew I was virgin. I knew she wasn’t. The move from fooling around to her having sex with me was so rapid, undiscussed and once it was happening I didn’t know what to do, what to say, or how to react. I just assumed this was how it went, that this was what I should want. I stayed with her for a year during which time I was squashed by sexual fears and sexuality as a tool of control. It wasn’t until I was seeing a counsellor after that relationship broke down that I realised how much it had damaged me, how much it still made me shake and question myself, how broken my relationship with sex had become.

Luckily I later found the right counsellor to talk to and started to get to grips with that history. Years on I have a functional relationship with a woman and with sex.

---

Nobody deserves to be violated

At my birthday party at my home, my then long-term boyfriend and a friend performed sexual intercourse on my conscious body. I was too shocked and vulnerable to fight or scream, I only weakly removed her hand from my genitals several times and eventually feebly asked them to stop squashing me. I got away from underneath them but was too transfixed to leave the room and they kept doing it staring me in the eyes. I was not asked for my consent, I never gave my consent. This was in the context of a strictly monogamous relationship.

My then-boyfriend said afterwards that it was a shame that I had not enjoyed it. When I went to the university counselling services, the woman I saw said a similar thing. (I know see a psychotherapist who offers me a far higher standard of care then the counselling service could.) This made me feel guilty. It was through talking to a close friend and reading more about sexual assault online that I understood that if you are not consensual it is sexual assault. That if you did not scream and fight it does not make what happened to you your fault. Putting up a fight is the depiction we see most frequently in films, but in real life when in utter terror we often freeze. Acknowledging what happened to you, realising that the assaulter will manipulate you and take advantage of your shock to make you believe it was your fault when it never is - nobody ever deserves to be violated - is the first step in the process of psychological recovery.

Don’t be afraid to tell your close friends what happened either. In my sense, silence happens because you feel that what happened changed you, made you a different person, a victim. You are not defined by the acts of others. It is your abusers that have a problem not you. Those who love you and are close to you can offer true support. The event damaged my faith in humanity. It happened in a place of safety and trust, my own home, my own birthday party attended by friends and long-term boyfriend. The friends who listened and supported me showed me how loving and caring a lot of humans are and that my assaulters were the exception. And those ‘friends’ who deal badly with the news, stop being there for you, simply aren’t true friends. Acquaintances, but not true friends, and you should not feel sad for losing them.

To by-standers: intervene. There were people in the house hearing the noises while I was being assaulted. They did not intervene because it felt awkward and they were not sure what was going on. It’s never awkward to step in when people have been drinking and things are getting out of hand. Don’t be self-conscious, just think that you could save your friend from a very damaging experience. And if it turns out everything is fine, well, you were just showing you were looking out for them.

---

“Behaviour of this sort is not often enough acknowledged as sexual violence. It’s not complained of because men feel as if they should be panting for pussy (any) all the bloody time. We’re not. Lad culture can hurt lads too.”

There’s a girl in college who touches me up, all the time. Whenever we’re out together she’ll grope my arse or grind up against me or grab at my crotch. I push her away but she doesn’t get the message. Even around college she’ll try to grope me, and I have seen her do the same with others. Myself and a friend have both told her how uncomfortable it makes us feel and asked her to desist, reminding her that what she is doing is sexual assault and is illegal. For some reason though, I feel stupid when I push her away or ask her to stop. I’ve read the law and I know that I have the right to complain, but I am not comfortable doing so. I think I can start to understand why female victims of sexual assault, including rape, so often do not tell anyone, let alone the police. Timidity is not a trait I would usually put my hand up to, but on this matter I must (timidly) raise my hand. It is hard to call sexual violence by its true name. It’s particularly hard when the perpetrator is your friend, and very hard when you know of her emotional fragility, and it’s very very hard when the touching makes you just a very little bit hard… male hormones fire regardless of emotion, and it makes me feel even more awkward when looking her in the eye and firmly informing her that I’m not interested. It’s made even harder (my predicament, that is) by the fact that we got together ages ago - I hadn’t been any more keen on her then, but I was a Fresher and not very confident and she was all over me: I thought I would have been laughed at for pushing her away. 

Behaviour of this sort is not often enough acknowledged as sexual violence. It’s not complained of because men feel as if they should be panting for pussy (any) all the bloody time. We’re not. Lad culture can hurt lads too. 

---

“I think the worst thing is the shame”

I was in Camera with a friend, when a guy I know from lectures comes on to me. We end up back in mine, having sex. At this point, I’m quite drunk and falling asleep. Half way through he tells me that the condom is ‘too tight’, so I go and get him another.

I can’t really remember anything else until after he’s left (I get him out, telling him I have a boyfriend), where I stumble back to bed and find the condom unused still in its packet.

I think the worst thing is the shame. I’m at Oxford, I’m a feminist, I should know better, be stronger, not drink as much. I’ve seen him out a couple of times since then, and I just don’t look at him. I can’t, I’m too embarrassed.

---

“I still have nightmares about it to this day”

When I was a fresher I went on a night out. I got with a guy and said he could come back to my room on the condition that I wouldn’t sleep with him. He then proceeded to force himself on me, telling me that it was my fault because he “got carried away”. I still have nightmares about it to this day, and have been in hospital once for a suicide attempt because of this. 

---

“It happens in Oxford… and apparently it’s still *funny*, to judge by the laughter.”

Some drunk guy ran by me on Cornmarket and grabbed my breast, nearly knocking me over, as he and a friend laughed hysterically. Think it doesn’t happen in Oxford? Bullshit. It happens in Oxford, on one of our main and well-lit streets while that street is full of people, and apparently it’s still *funny*, to judge by the laughter.

---

The Voice in Me Told Me Not to Tell

More than one year ago, I was at an exchange dinner in another college. The small talk during dinner went well, and we all went to the MCR after dinner to enjoy some port wine. Since the whole point of the exchange dinner was to mingle, I sat down with a group of graduate students I had never met before and began chitchatting. A male student, who was initially sitting on another couch, moved towards me during the conversation and decided to sit right next to me. I was not alarmed at first, as quite a number of us shared a couch and we were all siting quite close together. Gradually, I grew suspicious as I felt as if his leg was deliberately touching my leg. I observed his facial expression for a while, but he did not seem to be paying attention to me in particular, so I turned back to the group conversation. The touching did not stop but became more and more deliberate. I feel sick to my stomach at this moment knowing that if I said anything out loud or just stepped on his foot would have been enough to protect myself, given that we were surrounded by a large group of people. But I only gave him a small nudge and said in a slightly accusatory tone: ‘What are you doing?’ Looking in retrospect, that probably made him think that I was flirting and encouraging him to go further. I personally do not agree with the logic, and I would not make another move if someone said that to me, but I also see how a certain group of people would have interpreted what I said as flirting.

After a while, I suddenly realised that all the people I knew from my college had left the party. At this point he was deliberately and openly touching my leg with his hand. Some of the people in the group began to notice that he was hitting on me and started looking at us as if we were going to hook up. It did not bode well for me, so I made an excuse to leave and was hoping to get away from this man as soon as possible. Unexpectedly, he stood up, and offered to walk me home as it was dark outside. I said no, but he insisted and put on his coat, ready to go any moment. I said no quite a number of times, looking for every excuse I could find, but I realised that he was determined to leave the party with me. He whispered to me, 'You could come to my place if you want.’ I said no, but he did not seem to get it. I felt unsafe, so I did not go home but stayed with the group of people in the MCR. As people began to leave, I grew anxious, as I did not know any of them personally and did not feel like I could ask for help. One thing led to another, he was kissing and touching me in the MCR in a rather forceful manner, and the more I struggled, the tighter he held me. He finally stopped as someone entered the room, and I slipped out as soon as possible. I took off my high-heels and ran as quickly as I could towards home. I could still vividly remember how scared I was and how I constantly looked back to see if he was running after me.

I tried to block out this terrible experience in my mind, and at times I have even explained it away as 'a bad kiss’, as if my action was completely voluntary. But the memory keeps coming back, along with a strong sense of shame. I still vividly remember the voice that was stopping me from doing something more drastic to get help the moment I sensed something was wrong. That inner voice said to me, 'You’re in a social situation and not supposed to disturb anyone else. Don’t spoil people’s fun. Be nice. Look happy.’ I am sure that if I showed my anger and raised my voice to let people know what was going on, even if I did not know them personally, they would have helped me. But my reluctant to 'spoil’ people’s fun costed me so much emotional energy and stirred up such sad feelings… I am still scared to this very day of what could have happened if nobody walked in the MCR late that night. I stopped going to social events for more than half a year, and now I have become too scared and bitter to socialise with new people alone.

---

“That was my first sexual experience, and the whole thing made me feel dirty and used.”

Until I came to university I’d never really had any experience with dating, let alone sex, so when in Hilary of my first year I met a really sweet postgrad guy on a crewdate who didn’t try anything on, just asked for my number and gave me a hug goodbye I was really excited about something new starting. We texted a lot, and I now feel like I should have picked up on the warning signs; sometimes he got really drunk and would text very inappropriate things about seeing me without my clothes on etc. but for the most part he was very sweet and we arranged to meet for drinks. 

That went well, we spoke for hours, and I was excited to see him again. He invited me over for Valentine’s Day to cook at his flat. Without thinking it through properly, I agreed. I got all dressed up and went to his. When I got there I began to realise it wasn’t as romantic as I had made it in my head. He hadn’t asked his roommates to do anything else, and they were wandering in and out as we cooked then ate. 

After dinner, he said we should go to his room. I wasn’t so sure, but decided I would and we could talk before I left to go back to college, but he turned the tv on and sat on the bed, telling me to do the same. He started getting far more intimate than I was comfortable with, and was trying to undress me with the clear intention to make me have sex with him. I stopped, and told him I wasn’t comfortable with what he was doing and didn’t want to have sex. All he said was “Why?” I felt on the defensive and a little hurt he would ask, but told him anyway that I’d never had sex before. He was clearly annoyed and exasperated, making me feel as though I’d done something wrong. He said I should sleep over anyway and asked if I was ok to do “other stuff”. I said I wasn’t sure and wouldn’t make eye contact with him. I’d already said “no” once and suddenly felt like I was being unreasonable to say no again. 

Predictably, a few minutes later he starts initiating “other stuff” and goes down on me, despite me suggesting I was uncomfortable with that and felt things were moving far too fast for what I was ok with. After he’d done that for a while he started pushing my head down. I resisted for a while, trying to deflect him, but eventually tried to give him head. He was directing me through it and giving me orders. I felt sick at myself and hated him for it. All I wanted to do was run away but I felt like it was my fault for not saying I didn’t want to do anything like that more forcefully. 

That was my first sexual experience, and the whole thing made me feel dirty and used. When I spoke to my friends about it I didn’t feel like they understood how shaken I was by the whole incident, and they just dismissed it as a shame, or a bad night, constantly asking in the days following whether he’d texted yet, not quite hearing me when I told them I didn’t want him to because even getting a message from him made me feel seedy, dirty, and used. I think they still don’t know how much it upset me. I still can’t tell if part of me still thinks it’s my fault or that I’m making a big deal out of nothing. But no-one can tell me that these things don’t happen here.

---

“I felt like the whole thing was my fault… he was my friend, and friends don’t sexually assault one another.”

During Hilary, I was out with some friends, one of whom has a girlfriend. I walked back to college with the group, and he pretended to go home but actually hid on the way to my room, revealing himself once everyone else had left. I thought he wanted a chat so invited him inside, where he grabbed me and kissed me. I pushed him away. He started getting upset about his relationship, and I didn’t feel like I could make him walk home alone. So I let him share my bed, and spent hours fending off his advances. I felt disgusted at myself.

A week later, we were both out again. I thought he seemed upset so told him he could come over for a chat. I fell asleep waiting; he came in and crashed on the bed. I woke up to him trying to kiss me, and eventually I kissed him back. I was attracted to him, and he was so insistent that it was easier not to resist. He repeatedly tried to finger me, insisting I ‘wanted it really’, though I kept pushing his hands away and asking him to stop. A couple of days later, I told him I was feeling vulnerable and confused by what had happened and asked him to leave me alone. He agreed to do so. 

Two days later, I got back from a bop, drunk. I woke up when he burst into my room without warning, got into my bed, and undressed me, even though I tried to resist. He undressed himself. I was kissing him, and trying to prevent him taking it further, pushing his hands away, and telling him to stop. He went down on me several times, though I asked him not to. He seemed to think he was doing me a favour, which it was only fair for me to return. He kept saying that I was ‘asking for it’, that ‘if I didn’t want it from him I definitely wanted it from someone’. That he’d come to me because he ‘thought I would appreciate him even though his girlfriend didn’t’. He laughed my reticence off, saying, ‘I’m pretty sure no means yes…’ as though the entire thing was some kind of joke. After this, he repeatedly tried to have sex with me without any form of protection. I kept telling him I did not want to. Eventually, he left.

I felt like the whole thing was my fault. That I must have led him on, that this was punishment for kissing him, that if I really didn’t want it to happen, I should’ve screamed or pushed him out of the room. That if I found him physically attractive and enjoyed kissing it must be my fault. That he was my friend, and friends don’t sexually assault one another. The next morning, I felt so dirty, used and disgusting I could hardly drag myself out of bed. I stayed locked in my room, feeling repulsed by what I had allowed to happen. It was not until I spoke to several people that I began to realise that it was not my fault. I stayed in my room for the majority of the week, feeling too jittery to walk anywhere alone. What if he was lurking somewhere? What if he still thought the whole thing was just a joke? That I was still ‘up for it’?

The sense of panic and guilt I experience on seeing him and his girlfriend around college is fading. Trusting anyone sexually is almost impossible now; kissing sets me off into a panicked frenzy. I find myself making decisions on where I go, who I talk to, based on what happened. I don’t think he really understands what he did wrong. I hope that, somehow, this message will reach him: sexual violence is not a myth. It is not enacted solely by strangers in dark alleyways. It is very real, and it has very real effects, and ignoring those effects does not make them go away. It most definitely happens here.

---

“I felt it didn’t count as rape because I let it get too far before saying no and it didn’t last long.”

I got drunk at a party in fresher’s week at another college and went to this guy’s bedroom; I knew we’d end up doing ‘stuff’ and was fine with that, but hadn’t thought through how far I was prepared to go with him. I got with him and gave him head but wouldn’t take my underwear off and realised I didn’t want to have sex, so I said no. I definitely didn’t say it coyly, as if I was joking or playing hard to get, but neither did I say it loudly or angrily, and he didn’t stop. I still hadn’t taken off my underwear and obviously wasn’t going to, so he just moved my pants to one side to penetrate. He didn’t carry on for long or go very deep, as I wasn’t 'physically receptive’, shall we say, and I joked the next day with my friends that it didn’t count as rape because I wasn’t particularly upset by it and he had “only put a little bit of willy in” - we refer to him as “four prod guy”. I don’t feel remotely traumatised by the incident, and I rarely think of it- but it worries me to think what could have happened if I hadn’t forcefully got up and left when I did. It also annoys me that I couldn’t help feeling guilty afterwards, because some of my male (and one or two female) friends said that I shouldn’t have let it get that far, and said I 'must have been acting like a tease’.

---

“Suffering in Silence to Save Face”

It happened to me when I was an undergraduate student. I had just broken up with a long term boyfriend and was feeling pretty bad about myself. Some friends and I decided to have a big night out. We went to a club with a big bunch of people, some that I knew, some that I didn’t. We were all very drunk and a few of us, including me, had taken ecstasy. We were all partying hard that night. When the club closed, a bunch of us went back to my friend’s place. Another friend had brought her cousin and his girlfriend. By this stage I was starting to come down, so I lay down on one of the couches in the living room and quickly passed out. The rest of the group were either outside smoking or in another room in the house. 

I woke up sometime later and my friend’s cousin (the one with the girlfriend, who was standing outside, literally metres away from where we were) was also lying on the couch, virtually on top of me. He was rubbing his penis against me and had undone my trousers and inserted his fingers into my vagina. I was startled. I woke up and said what are you doing? He just looked at me with disgust, stopped what he was doing and said to me ‘clean yourself up’. He then got up and went outside to be with his girlfriend.

I was horrified. I felt so cheep. Like such trash. I immediately told my friend what had happened, but she reacted in a really strange way. She said, 'oh, what is his girlfriend going to say?’ I then felt like I was the person who had done something wrong. That I had 'cheated’ with him, despite the fact that I was unconscious at the time. I never told anyone or spoke about it after that night. In some ways in my head I guess I said to myself, 'well, it’s not like he fucked you, he only fingered you so it’s not really rape’. I was also too scared to tell anyone in case it came out that we had been taking drugs that night. I focused on all of the things that I had done wrong, and I was terrified of how people would look at me if I told them. At the time I felt that in some way I deserved it because I was so reckless that night.

Looking back now, I still feel ashamed. Not of what I did, but what he did. But I understand why people maintain the silence. Most often it will be your word against his, and the suffering of silence is often the price women have to pay in order to save face. This is wrong. And it should not happen here.

---

“It is no small wonder that students here keep silent on these issues.”

I offered to look after a visitor to my department and we had lunch together. He wasn’t flirty, just friendly, and I didn’t suspect anything. He and I went to his room to hang out. He then kissed me, and had sex with me. While I didn’t physically struggle or resist, I verbally said no. The whole thing left me very confused, and I still don’t know what to make of it. Part of me blames myself for allowing myself to be alone with him. I never thought I’d react like this - but I still can’t bring myself to call it assault, even though it was not entirely consensual. When I approached my supervisor and various support networks on the issue, I got sympathy but no real advice, and I’ve not spoken about it since. It is no small wonder that students here keep silent on these issues.

---

“[E]ven to this day I have a hard time calling it rape”

I was in my first year and went out with my friends to a bar and got quite drunk. I met a guy I seemed to get on quite well with and we were talking about our mutual interests. He said we should go somewhere quieter we could talk. Yes, I was incredibly naive, but I thought he actually wanted to talk since we had so much in common. We went back to his room where we started kissing, but that is all I remember until I woke up and he was having sex with me. I was in pain (I was a virgin until that point) and I told him to stop, which after a few requests, he finally did. Luckily one of my friends had figured out there was something not quite right and had sent a guy friend to the room to check on me. He threatened to knock down the door if the guy didn’t open it so he did and I got my clothes and ran home. 

I was very confused about what had happened. At first I didn’t want to tell anyone because I was ashamed that I had lost my virginity this way. It didn’t click with me that this was assault until weeks if not months later. I assumed that I had said yes at some point since when I asked him to stop, he did. But then I realized that even if I had, I was clearly passed out at some point since I woke up mid-sex and that is not okay. Furthermore, I was in so much pain that I could not sit down comfortably for almost a week, I bled enough to need a sanitary pad for a day or two, and there were bruises on my inner thighs. At the time I didn’t know this was unusual since I was a virgin and I knew pain was to be expected, but as more of my friends lost their virginities under happier circumstances, I realized that these physical effects I had were not the sign of consensual sex. I also developed an eating disorder afterwards which only a year or so later was I able to realize was a common effect of the kind of trauma I had experienced. For a few months after the event I slept around a bit. I think that I felt like that was the kind of sex I deserved and my body was the only valuable thing about me. At some point this changed and became a serious fear of sex with a new person, no matter how kind and trustworthy. This extends to my friends who I have a lot of anxiety about when they go home with a new person, even if we knew them a bit in advance.

Like I said, it took me a very long time to consider what happened to me to be assault, and even to this day I have a hard time calling it rape since I still deep down feel that I may have consented initially.

---

I remember thinking, “Is this what date rape is?”

During my first term at Oxford, I went out a few times with a guy I met at a service group social event. We chatted over lunch with friends, went salsa dancing, sent flirty text messages. He was cute and one of the more interesting, conversationally challenging people I had met at Oxford. After an early evening coffee, he walked me back to my room, where we kissed for a bit on my bed, before I had to head off to meet a friend. He said he was exhausted and asked if he could stay in my room to nap while I went out. This seemed a little weird, but I said yes, wanting to be nice. When I got back from my meeting, he was sleeping and continued sleeping for the next four hours. I did coursework, hesitant to disturb him and assuming he would eventually wake up and leave.

Late at night, when I was ready to go to sleep, I woke him up, suggesting that he head home. After some conversation, I agreed to let him stay for a bit. We resumed kissing, and things progressed from there. As I had earlier in the evening, I told him – multiple times – that I didn’t want to have sex. He kept asking why, pushing me to give some specific reason. Despite my insistence that sex was out of the question, he began forcing himself on me, advances that I kept verbally and physically trying to dodge, but that resulted in penetration multiple times. I remember thinking, “Is this what date rape is?” and wondering if it would be easier and better for both of us if I just gave in and consented to sex.

He was frustrated at my attitude and my lack of adequate explanation for why I didn’t want to have sex, raising his voice and making me feel like I was doing something really wrong. I didn’t want this to escalate into a loud fight that would wake everyone living on my hall, and I worried that things could get loud if I pressed him to leave. What would my neighbors think of me? Tired, scared, confused, and feeling guilty for making him mad, I eventually rolled over, trying to ignore him and his advances.

He slept, I basically didn’t, and I woke early the next morning to meet a friend for a workout, leaving him barely awake in my bed. By the time I returned, he had gone. I was exhausted for the next few days and wanted to do nothing but lie in bed, something totally uncharacteristic for me. I had a hard time admitting to myself what had happened. “He never finished, so it must not have been rape.” “Perhaps I was unclear and gave him mixed signals.” “How could this have happened? Both of us were completely sober the entire time.” “Maybe I was just this sore afterwards because I hadn’t had sex in awhile.”

Explaining the situation to friends helped me clarify things for myself. I needed to be reminded of what I already knew. Passionate kissing never indicates consent. I shouldn’t need to give a reason why I said no. I said no many, many times—it was his fault for not respecting that. I should feel no obligation to get together with him again, even though he wanted to. 

Once I had talked through what had happened and my role in it, I started to feel more normal. This event’s primary impact on my life was to inspire me to ensure that this doesn’t happen to others, that my college and the university do a better job communicating the importance of consent and what exactly consent means. I talked to welfare faculty at my college about what had happened, and the college is now going to have mandatory sexual consent workshops for all students during orientation.

I am a strong, confident, educated woman. I thought these kinds of things didn’t happen to people like me. I was wrong. It happens here.

---

“I’m not okay with blaming myself for it anymore.”

I am a female undergraduate. In my first year at the end of hilary term, a group of about 10 of my friends, including myself, went to a club. My friend got very drunk and was taken home and eventually my other friends left too, I do not remember this.

I do vaguely remember being downstairs in the club, alone, searching for my friends. The next thing I remember is being in a toilet of a college that was not mine and feeling very tired. Then after that I don’t remember anything until a brief moment hearing talking outside my room and realising there was someone on top of me, having anal sex with me. At the time I was too shocked to do anything and I can’t remember what I did or said. I then woke up in the morning to him touching me again.

I was confused and asked him who he was, he answered nicely and joked that I was a little drunk, he left soon after and I was still in a bit of a daze.
I put it down to a drunken mistake on my part, but when I think back to it, how could he not have realised how much of a state I was in. He left something in my room and emailed me to ask me to bring it to my college. He was polite and friendly about it, so I believed it was me overreacting and thought clearly I must have been up for it at the time.

It wasn’t until I found 2 empty condom wrappers and remembered that I had had anal sex that I panicked slightly, I would never have agreed to that of my own accord, especially with a complete stranger and I began to realise how much of the night I didn’t remember and still don’t, anything could have happened to me in the gaps I’m missing.

I still haven’t told anyone else about this, I thought to blame my friends for not looking after me, but when I asked them about it, they said I had seemed fine, a little bit tipsy but capable of looking after myself. I feel I cannot even blame the guy for it, he saw me not fighting back as a yes, and no one had explicitly told him differently. I feel unsure calling it rape, because that sounds too serious, but after writing this I can see that it was, and I’m not okay with blaming myself for it anymore.

---

“Silence Won’t Make Me Whole”

Early in my first year I went back to someone’s room after a bop.  I was drunk, the drunkest I’d ever been.  And we had more to drink in his room.  Eventually, we had sex.  But afterwards, he kept touching me.  I remember lying there getting up the nerve to say “stop.”  I remember the sound of my own voice saying “stop” more and more loudly.  He must have stopped at some point, because the next thing I remember is getting up and leaving, despite being asked to stay the night.  Because somehow I knew that, that was not okay.

The next morning I talked myself into believing that it was no big deal.  A bad night.  In the coming months I would describe it to other people as “not exactly consensual.”  I couldn’t bring myself to call it assault.  I told a few close friends.  Mostly, they responded with silence.    One called it “a gray area.”  I told someone on the welfare team that I wanted to go to the Dean.  They said they would make sure the Dean knew.  But nothing happened.  So I stopped talking about it.

But I couldn’t stop thinking about it, for hours on end, running over what happened in my head.  Trying to remember more.  Some days were completely fine, and those were the days when I convinced myself I was just being hysterical.  But then there were the days where I constantly felt on the verge of tears.  It got worse as time went on. I started to feel afraid when I saw people on the street who looked like him.  I would be upset for the rest of the day if anyone other than a close friend touched me.  And I couldn’t stop thinking.  Logically, I knew I had been assaulted, but I felt crazy, stuck inside my own head.  I didn’t want to tell anyone else because I was afraid they would think I was crazy too.  

Unfortunately, my attempts to seek help from college and the university just made things worse.  I had to convince my counsellor that the symptoms I was experiencing were connected to the assault, and at one point she implied that the only way I could have been assaulted was if someone physically overpowered me. 

I also tried to to report to the college.  I told a JCR welfare officer who promised they would pass it on.  Aside from an email asking if I wanted to get coffee because I looked really upset, they never contacted me again.

The next year I tried to report it to the college again, going to the Dean directly.  It was a disaster.  He clearly didn’t know either the law or the policy.  I was continually asked why I couldn’t just go to the police about this, despite the fact that college had assured students they would deal with sexual violence and the fact that I had been clear from the beginning that I didn’t want to go to the police (I just wanted to be able to finish my degree).  The Dean said numerous victim blaming things, including warning me that this could have “a very serious impact on another person’s life” and asking if I had in fact been the one to assault my perpetrator. The most insulting thing was that I had at one point asked my perpetrator to not run for JCR council because I didn’t want to be in the room with him for three hours a week, and the dean took this possible issue with JCR elections much more seriously than the violation of my bodily autonomy by another student - at one point using the phrase “reverse victimization.  An email was sent out to the JCR and to me personally detailing proper election conduct, but no email was ever sent out saying to not assault other students.

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“I still can’t believe that it happened to me.”

I am a female postgraduate student in Oxford studying law. In my second year in Oxford I was out for drinks with friends in what was a typical, if overly boozy, night. We had spent the evening in a few different bars and as these closed—as they do relatively early in Oxford—we progressed to a house party out in Cowley. Finding this also almost dead we decided to head home and grabbed a cab together. We all lived in different places so on the way back into town I hopped out of the cab on Cowley road, about one and a half blocks from my house. At this point I was more intoxicated than perhaps I have ever been before. I still have difficulty accounting for how this came about; but that is how I was. From here my memory is very patchy. Text messages I sent to friends some 45 minutes later suggest that I was not yet home and was looking for something to do. I woke the following morning in the room of a man I had never met, a fellow student. Enquiring how I had got there, he said that he had found me wandering around Headington complaining I was lost and cold, and so he took me home (so generous of him). I have no idea why I was in Headington, which is some distance from where I was dropped, and I don’t know whether his account is to be believed. I remember some bits from the night before. I remember him having sex with me. I remember at one point pushing him off. In the morning, I think I was in shock. I woke, he had sex with me again. I knew what was going on but felt like I wasn’t in my body. I didn’t object. I got up, took a shower, and left. His parting words to me were: “don’t get lost”.

I walked home and went to bed. That night, I called a good friend and we went for dinner. I had decided that I had just made a horrible mistake, and had had a terrible one night stand: something that isn’t my style at all. When I told her what happened she hit the roof. Even though I knew the law on rape, I hadn’t put two and two together. Recognising what happened to me for what it was—rape—was and still is difficult. Despite knowing better, academically, I do blame myself for becoming drunk enough for this to happen to me. I have to remind myself constantly that regardless of the state I was in, no one had the right to take advantage of me in that way. I ended up taking a term off university, getting extensive counselling, and—with the support of wonderful friends—can now talk about what happened without it upsetting me as deeply as it once did. It’s definitely effected how I approach relationships and consensual sex. It’s made me much less trusting, and when someone honks at me on the street or makes an inappropriate sexual comment it really shakes me up. I’ve burst into tears at formal functions following a slightly-off-colour remark. I still can’t believe that it happened to me. And I am even more shocked by the number of people who, since then, have opened up to me and told me about their experiences of sexual violence in Oxford. Undoubtedly, it happens here.