I was sixteen in 2006. At the time I was protected from what was happening to you by my self-involved naivety and my various layers of privilege.
In 2006 I did not yet have a close knowledge of rape. I knew it happened, but not that it could happen to me or the people that I love.
I did not know the feelings of shame and discomfort that would flood my body every time I said the words “I’ve been raped”.
I did not know the shock and pity and disbelief that would look back at me.
I did not know that I would feel that my body had been ruined and then returned to me empty and fragile.
I did not know that I would wake up in the night years after it had happened and recall the fear as clearly as I had in those terrifying moments.
I did not know that I would ask myself over and over why I had not done more to stop it from happening.
I did not know that when I heard about others who had been raped that it would burn deep inside me, as a desperate pain, mingled with an unquenchable anger.
I did not know that I would be weighed down by this pain and anger.
In 2006 I did not know the pain and violence that you were subjected to; as you were raped, in court, and afterwards.
I did not know the injustice, the hate, the continuous violation enacted upon your soul.
I did not know the power of men: judges, lawyers, deputy presidents, political leaders, and others, to overlook the harm that they cause.
I did not know that so many others could be complicit in rending this abuse of power acceptable and “normal”.
I did not know that so many could so easily move on from what had happened and ignore our failure to protect you and so many others who have been raped.
I did not know that after reading your remarkable story, I would feel so lost, so desperate and so full of rage.
In 2006, I did not know that your rape would play an integral part in my attempt to make sense of my own rape, as well as the rapes of others.
I did not know that you would give me courage to keep asking difficult questions about what it means to live in a context in which we do not respond (or respond equally) to rape, in which we cast womxn who have been raped as “sluts”, a context in which we do not have the difficult conversations about consent, coercion and violence.
I did not know that both our journeys to heal would be so complex, contradictory and challenging.
I know now.