Welcome to Us Project

Nicole
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Before the event, it was an interesting time for me, because I had not only found myself as a woman, but I had found myself as a woman who dated men, so I was very fortunate to be able to go out and go on these amazing dates with these amazing men and have awesome experiences, and getting to have that feeling of being treated like a woman by a man. I got addicted to that for a little bit there, and I was going on dates quite often, so I joined up to a few dating apps before it all happened, which seems to be the way of the world at the moment. Everybody is finding what they want to find, whether it’s something brief to something long-term. I was just interested in meeting men and going out and making friends and hopefully something happening. It did a few times, which was nice, but then it always sort of fizzled out.
Up until my experience, I had never met a man that could make me feel that low about myself. I mean, I had guys that played me on, that would sort of lead me on and my heart would break or whatever, but I’d kind of pick myself up quite quickly and move on and realise it wasn’t worth my time. I was in that rut of being on five different dates a week with five different men, and it wasn’t anything sexual, it was just a coffee with this one and a dinner with that guy, it was little brief connections made on line to catch up. I was sort of in that stage of Melbourne life, meeting new people all the time. This particular night, it was the same sort of typical night. I like chatting to you, you like chatting to me, you know, and the only way I’d meet a guy is if we had a bit in common online. If it was in public, a coffee, lunch, dinner, something to bond over, or just do. Too many people these days accept someone coming into their home for the first meet, just sit there and talk, but to me I don’t like that, it’s just something you do when you're in a relationship. 
So, this night, this guy I’d been talking to for a week or so, he was finally free to meet. He was  finishing work early, he had plans with me, to take me out to dinner. I was very flattered, I thought that sounded nice. I got dressed up, got ready, and he picked me up at around seven o’clock. That was just after he’d finished work, and he said we were going to go straight to dinner, but he was in the car and said to me, ‘I haven’t had a shower, do you mind if we stop off at my house, it’s just on the way to the restaurant, and then we can go.’ I was quite confident in myself meeting people,  nothing bad had happened so I thought okay and said I’d just wait in the car while he ran inside. But he was insistent in me coming inside, and offered me a glass of wine. I went inside and sat down in the lounge and had a glass of wine.
He went for a shower, and he comes out in his towel, and before we met up I’d told him that I wasn’t looking for sex. I’m not a sexual object, I’m not looking for men who are finding women as a sexual experience. I’m not someone to experiment, like, I’m human! And he had said he was fine with that. So he walks in with his towel, and he stood in front of me and says we should just have a little fun before we go. But I’m not into that, I said I’d told him I wasn’t up for that and to go get changed, for dinner, like he said. I was being nice but I could see he was getting agitated, walking around, then he exposed himself, and as a woman, I went, oh my god! I didn’t feel I was unsafe with this man at this time, then he came and sat next to me like that and I began to feel this is odd, this is getting really odd.
Then he started trying to get me to touch it, and I put my glass down and said, ‘I thought you were taking me to dinner, obviously that’s not what you wanted and that’s fine, but I’m not the type of girl to sleep with a man I’ve just met, maybe I should go.’ Then he was trying to persuade me to stay, and there was no mention of us going to dinner at all during this time. Then he tried coming on to me, and I pushed him off. I tried to get my phone out of my purse to get a taxi because I thought this was getting dangerous, and he ran to the lounge door and he locked it, and then came back and sat down.
That’s when it got dark, I’d never been prepared for something like that. I tried to use humour, to be flirty and cute, and was like what do you mean? He said, ‘I’m not going to let you go.’ I said, ‘Oh, you’re so sweet,’ and I’m trying to figure out a way to butter him up and get out. Then he came on to me, this time more aggressively, and I said, ‘Okay, that’s it, I’ve got to go. I’m calling a taxi.’ That’s when he ran to the door and stood there, and said, ‘You’re not fucking going anywhere.’ That’s when he became violent, and things happened.
He threw me on floor. And then it happened. At that time you kind of have that fight or flight feeling, and obviously in my head I was thinking that door is locked, and he’s a big strong guy, and he just did his thing, I guess. It’s so weird thinking about it all again, it was awful, I just feel sick thinking about it. You just become numb, I didn’t even squirm or cry, I was frightened, I didn’t know what to do.
He was doing his thing, he was using protection at this time, but he was getting frustrated because I wasn’t responding in a way that he wanted me to. His hands were on my back and I couldn’t move at all, I almost couldn’t breath as he was squashing my lungs, and it went from that to him getting frustrated because he couldn't do his thing with the condom on, so he ripped it off and did it again unprotected. He ended up finishing himself. It was so disgusting. That feeling, yuck, he just did that, you know. 
At the time, I’d never have thought that was rape. At the time, I thought he was just a little bit rough, it all happened so fast. Anyway, he finished and got off, and I got up and said I had to use the toilet, and cleaned myself up, got changed and told him he could take me home then, like, if he’d finished. Everything was just dark after that, and he said to me, and this is the thing I always talked about in my counselling sessions, it wasn’t exactly the sexual act that caused the most damage for me, it was the fact he said, ‘Nah, I’m not taking you home, you can get the fuck out of my house.’ I was forty minutes away from home, so I then had to think about finding a taxi, and if I had enough money to get home, those were the things you shouldn’t have to be worrying about after being attacked, but yeah he just threw me out the door and told me not to stand outside his house. It was those sort of things  that made me feel really disgusting, I felt awful, sick about myself. I couldn’t believe it had happened. 
I went home, had a shower and went to bed. I didn’t think anything of it afterwards, I just thought it was a real sex session, do you know what I mean? I think I just labelled it in my head just to put it away. I noticed the three weeks after that, I didn’t notice at the time I was doing this, but I was drinking two bottles of red wine by myself in my bathroom. I lived with others, and I thought I was just being fancy-free and just living for the moment, but now looking back I was trying to drown something. I was drinking two whole bottles of red wine each night, getting filthy pissed and then going out and doing work, and the next day hungover. I wasn’t eating, I stayed in my room every chance I could. 
At the time I was studying counselling, and it wasn’t until I went the third week after it happened, and my tutor said that I wasn’t myself. I said I was just tired and a little hungover. So she must have noticed something, because she took me aside. That class we did an exercise where we reenacted what we’d do with a client, so me and another student worked together while the tutor came around and watched how it went. So I was a client for my friend, and she kind of started, and asked me about my week. I wasn’t really paying attention to my issues, and I started looking at her.
She asked me how dating had been, and I think that started to trigger something in me. I told her I wasn’t really dating anybody at the moment. She asked me what my last date had been like, and it was that question that opened it up. I just looked at her and I was open about it. I don’t know why, but I just said it. Anyway, my tutor was there, and she closed the door and locked it and asked the lady to move so she could sit down and talk to me. She helped me to understand that I was actually sexually assaulted, and in that moment I just couldn’t believe it. I was sitting there thinking, no, no, that was rape? Rape was worse than that, you get beaten up or stabbed. That was just him forcing himself on me because he wanted sex.
Then she started to make me understand, all the details started coming up, and I told her everything, and she said, ‘Honey, you were raped.’ I started balling my eyes out, and then she stopped the class for a bit. She talked to a councillor on the phone about what services I could get, and I followed that through for a time. 
I lived with a woman who had started counselling at the same time, and she basically just counselled me through it I guess, to the point where I could start going out dating again, and meet ing men and being comfortable with doing that again. Even though I kind of understood it, I got my closure, I lost the shame, I think that’s the biggest thing for me, and not comparing my experience to other people’s experiences, and not thinking it’s less so or more than. I don’t there’s a high degree of being raped compared to a lesser degree of being raped. Rape is rape. Sexual assault is sexual assault.
The feelings you get from it is still the same, the intentions and making her feel like she’s a piece of shit, it’s that sick feeling, it’s all the same really, regardless of what actually has happened. I know my experience might be a little bit softer than a lot of other sexual assault, and now I can own that and acknowledge it and realise that it happened to me. It helped me to move on a little bit. 
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I notice with men I’m not so easy going and I notice now when men try to be flirtatious or a little bit sexy, I kind of get stung by it and cut everything off. When I was in my last relationship, post my sexual assault, I noticed I wasn’t able to be intimate with him too much because I always thought about it. My sex life is killed now, I just feel like I see sex differently now. Before, I could have a little bit of fun and treat it as that, but now it’s not fun, maybe it’s killed it for me somewhat.
I don’t know, I think in a way it’s made me think, if a man really wanted to be with me in that way, he’d show me in other ways. Not being a gentleman and pulling out the chair for me and all that bullshit, I’m talking about understanding me, and accepting that I’m strange. And how’s he going to react to that, how he’s going to help me to let my guard down. I think it takes a really strong, real good man to be able to handle a woman like that. I don’t believe myself to be damaged, I just think I’m a little bit wiser now. 
I found that with a lot of people that have been sexually assaulted, they think theres wasn’t so bad, because they’re still living, because obviously there are people that have died through their sexual assault, and that’s got to be tragic. If I was this gendered woman, should I be grateful that he didn’t impregnate me? Am I still able to feel like that was sick? I know for a lot of people that have been sexually assaulted, it’s that shame that really gets you. Hearing people say, ‘Well, you should have known better,’ and I found myself doing that afterwards, I was shaming myself. I was thinking, there was that moment when he said this, I should have known and it wouldn’t have happened to me.
You’ve got to get over that, you know, and understand that it was nothing to do with you, it wasn’t anything you could do to change that man’s evil way of thinking about you. And there are women out there who have assaulted males. I think anybody who has gone through that sort of thing need to try to find someone to reach out to, to find a way to deal with the shame of it, and in time, own it. I know that’s the wrong thing to say to someone that’s just been through it or dealing with that, but once you own it you get empowered and you can shut all those people up that are victim shaming. Those are the ones that are privileged in the fact that they haven’t gone through something traumatic, so of course they’re going to think, ‘Can’t you just get over it?’ I’ve had a lady say that to me once when I told her about it. ‘Oh, you seem fine now. You seem happy. It mustn’t have been that bad.’ It’s weird to see the perceptions of what people think a rape victim looks like. What are we meant to look like? How are we meant to act? We can’t be happy again? You can’t have sex again, you can’t be flirty and fun again? That’s stupid. It was one of the things I had to learn as well, I’ve lost the shame and I can be flirty and fun, going out and being sexy again. Dressing up and feeling sexy, for myself this time. There were times after where I could be sexy for my boyfriend and not have that experience effect it. I think there needs to be a lot more voices from people who have been through a sexual assault to come out and share their stories, because it’s an important thing for people to hear. I hope one day it will give people an insight to understanding how it feels to go through something like that. You can’t fully understand it unless you’ve been through it, but at least they can accept that rape is rape, and that going through anything like that is traumatic. I think people should look at victims as being strong, especially the ones that lost their lives. 
Nga-Atawhainga

Nga-Atawhainga

Nicole & Yvette

Nicole & Yvette