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I got raped two and a bit years ago, it was at a friend’s house.  I had just made this New Year’s resolution to make more of an effort to hang out with friends; if someone invited me somewhere, I was going to say yes basically. I am quite introverted by nature, so I decided that that year I would be more social, make an effort to go out more, and just see where that takes me. So a girl that I have known since I was sixteen said, “Do you want to come over for dinner?” She had made too much roast, had a pool, and wanted to catch up. It was a muggy summer evening, the sort of heat that sticks to your skin, so the lure of the pool was great. I was keen, I packed my togs and rushed off to her place. When I got there, it was just her and her partner. It was a bit awkward at the start because I hadn’t really seen her in a long time and I’d never met the guy before. But when we were teenagers, we spent a lot of time together, we literally hung out every day for two years until I went to uni, so I felt like I knew her pretty well. 

And you know, we had dinner, poolside. A roast lamb, cheese, crackers, and wine.  We reminisced about old times, filled each other in on the years in-between, and she gushed about how in-love she was with her partner — her soulmate. I had had two glasses of wine, I remember that.  It was sharp and bitter to taste. After dinner we went for a swim and I remember thinking that I felt really woozy. I felt like I’d drunken two bottles instead of glasses.  So that was quite weird.  I put it down to the fact I had stopped drinking the previous year, because being drugged didn’t really pop up as a viable cause in that kind of situation…Anyway, I stopped drinking. I remember her boyfriend walking around the edge of the pool, watching us. And I just got this really vivid vision of a Shark circling its prey as he did it.  I got really uncomfortable, but then I just sort of pushed it to the side and told myself I was being silly. I told myself that it was just because I didn’t really know her anymore and that’s why I felt uncomfortable. I just sort of…ignored it. I remember they kept insisting I have another drink, and I kept saying, “No, no, it’s alright.” I told them that I was just going to wait a few hours until I was sober enough to drive again.  They dropped it, and asked if I wanted to watch a movie. 

I thought we were going to watch it in the lounge so I said yes because it was the best way to kill time before I could go home. I went into the bathroom to change, and I remember flopping all over the place trying to get my togs off and pants back on.  The materials stuck to my skin and my body was dead-weighting itself as I tried using the wall to keep myself upright. It was so weird, but then again, I never thought anything sinister of it - I was just tiddly off a few drinks right?  I came out and they had the movie playing in their bedroom; it was so awkward. The next thing I remember, I was in their bedroom, and I was thinking how did I get in here? I still had my clothes on, and they had some stupid movie playing. It all gets a bit blurry from then, because the drugs started kicking in.  

I remember them trying to take my shorts off: I was on the edge of their bed, right on the far side (away from the door), and I was like, no, no, no. First I was trying to be sort of like playful but also firm in saying no as well. It’s sort of ironic in a way, the way I did that, because I didn’t want them to get embarrassed or cause a scene. I didn’t want to overreact to a situation that may or may not have been happening. But then they were yanking them off, and I was trying to press my feet hard up against the wall so they couldn’t get them down my legs.  I don’t know how long I pushed against that wall, I could barely lift my arms, they were so heavy. They ended up getting them off, my shorts and undies ripped on the ground, and they were giggling with excitement. 

Then the girl started fingering me and giving me head. I'm so grossed out by it still. I couldn't move. I was lying on my back and I just remember looking at the ceiling and it was just moving in circles. They had an old fashioned string light with a bare bulb just hanging down. All I can remember is that light just spinning. It was really sore and they kept saying to me, “Just cum we just want you to cum," and I said I'm not going to. There was no way I was going to, it was horrible. To this day, those words still haunt me and even just saying them, makes my face curl up in disgust and I just want to vomit. So it kept going on, I asked them to stop, I winced, and I watched that lightbulb centre-point the spinning room. And they just wouldn’t stop. She did it more than him, but she would encourage him to do it. From memory, I think he was masturbating in the corner while she was doing things. At one stage, I remember him leaning over me, his face blocking out the light and a cold nausea just flew through my body rolling my eyes closed. 

At one stage, she invited him to “taste me” and then they had this weird dialogue together about it as though they were a bunch of food critics and I was their buffet. At another stage, she said, “She needs your penis babe," and I was like, no, no, no, I don’t need that!  I don’t know if I could still talk by this stage, so I don’t know if what I was saying in my head was actually being vocalised.  I remember trying to move my body up the bed, away from them but I think I only managed to slightly tilt my head. So then he started having sex with me. She was watching and fingering herself on the bed. It was just really strange. I think something in me clicked and I realised if I just pretended to cum that they'll probably stop. So I did, I tried to make audible “moaning” noises and do a play-by-play of someone having a great time right until the end.  I told them I came, and then, they just stopped. They put their clothes on, snuggled up and watched their movie like nothing had just happened.  It was surreal. By this time I was sort of coming around, I was a little disorientated but I could feel my body more, whatever I’d been given was wearing off.  I realised I was still in a dangerous situation, and that I was not fit to drive. I lay on the edge of their bed, naked and exposed until I could move more.

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I literally flung myself off the bed onto the wooden floor, and passed it off as a drunken stumble. I picked up the remains of my bottoms and put them on; they offered me to sleep in their bed. The guy was staring straight into me, watching me, he hadn’t drunken a drop all night and I still had this untrusting feeling of him. I declined, politely. I acted tiddly and stumbled out to the lounge and lay on the couch, pretending to be asleep. Something told me to lay there, be still and wait.  So I did, I made sure I listened to that voice inside me. I was waiting for the noise in their bedroom to stop, and then I was waiting a little more so I knew they were asleep. At one stage the guy came out, I kept my eyes closed and took deep regulated breathes mimicking sleep, and he stood above me for quite a while. The floors cracked as he went back to the room, all my senses were heightened. As soon as I heard him snore, I grabbed my shoes and very quietly opened the gate to let my car out. I drove three blocks, pulled over and went to sleep for a few hours. 

When I got home I turned on the shower so it was scalding hot, and I just scrubbed my body raw and I sat in the shower crying. I started getting panic attacks, I’d never had them before. The panic attacks would lead to nose bleeds. I remember there was blood everywhere. I came out of the shower and just cried, this sort of horrible wail that came from deep inside my body and it wouldn’t stop. It was 8am I had had 3 showers, my skin was littered with blood blisters from them and streams of blood, snot and tears fell from my face as I sat naked on the edge of bed wailing this terrible wail. In a daze I sent a text to one of my friends in this roundabout way, “Oh yeah, I had a threesome last night, but I didn't ask for it and I didn't want it." I do this thing where when I experience something traumatic I turn it into humour. It’s not efficient. 

She almost instantaneously replied, “Whatttttt? You must have been really drunk because that's nothing like you would do”. My mother was really promiscuous when I was growing up, so I've always been a bit iffy about sex anyway because I never wanted to be like that. So my friend saw it was really out of character for me and started pushing me. I started telling her more and she straight up said to me, “Bro, that’s rape. I’ll be over in 5”.  She came over and we went to the sexual health clinic together. I pretty much just wanted to get checked for germs and to make sure there was no long-term effects from the incident. When the nurse asked how she could help, I told her something had happened last night and I didn’t want it to happen.  She asked me to clarify and I broke down in tears with my voice cracking. She said we needed a special doctor to come in and see me to do the tests. 

They couldn't seem to get hold of the doctor and we had been there waiting around 4 hours. All I wanted to get was the morning after pill and a STD check, but they were telling me I had to wait for this doctor, and then go to the hospital for examination, get DNA tested, and then to the police for photographs. I was thinking that sounds really traumatic. I didn't really want that. I just wanted to curl up in bed and sleep. We waited for five hours before I demanded they did the tests I wanted so I could leave. The receptionist at the clinic informed me that if I didn’t wait to have the proper procedure done by this Doctor, I wouldn’t be able to press charges.  I decided that this was okay: I’d waited several hours in a sterile room with no comfort, feeling a type of self-wallowing misery I’d never experienced and all I wanted was to make sure I was safe. This lady then went on to tell me that if I didn’t do the tests and press charges, that I’d be responsible for someone else getting raped by these people. I’m not sure if she was trying to be “helpful” or whatever, but it made my blood boil. I don’t think that’s something you should be saying to someone who has just gotten raped — you don’t know what kind of vulnerable state they are in. I stared straight at her and said, “What if you said that to someone who is severely emotionally unstable — that they were responsible for the rape of other people by not pressing charges?  You’re putting them in the same boat as their rapists; how do you think they would react?” I wanted her to understand the power of words she was putting out there.

The clinic called the Police while I was getting the tests done, and I did end up speaking to a detective. I had bruising all up my legs, and the first thing the Nurse said when she looked was, “Oh you poor thing, they really were not nice to you at all. I am so sorry”. My whole body was covered in finger marks and claw marks; a visual display of last night’s horrors. So I’m sitting in this room with the shades down talking to this detective about pressing charges with my friend engaging in the conversation more than I am.  She talked to me about the Police obtaining “evidence” whilst referring to my vagina as “the crime scene”. They would have to do Forensic testing. She said I would have two people in the room, the doctor taking photos and an officer questioning you at the same time. I thought it sounded really traumatic; I had just had someone ripping my vagina to shreds, and now I had to justify why it's ripped up?  When she finished her spiel, I point-blank said to her, “You guys really need to re-evaluate how you go about this”.  She was sort of stunned, I think, that that was my response. But I honestly couldn’t believe how stupid the process with dealing with rape is; how clinical it is, and how much it lacks basic empathy for a human spirit. 

So I asked her how many rape victims she comes across actually go through with the forensic process. Statistically very few people go through it. Quite frankly, I’m not surprised. It sounded awful. I told her to stick to the facts and tell me straight: it was two people’s testimony against mine and not enough evidence on my side. I’d drunken alcohol, I had cleaned off any DNA that could have been on or inside me, and I didn’t see the Doctor.   I get the whole preventing false accusations thing, but I think there should definitely be more pressure on the accused to prove their ‘innocence’, especially when there’s already physical evidence to support victim claims. I knew that if I did that process, that it would have been more detrimental for my well-being than beneficial. I decided not to press charges. I said to the detective, “You've got all the details here, you can physically see the assault that has happened to me. You've got their names and addresses, so it’s up to you. There’s enough just to arrest them for assault.”  

I spent days on end in my room, shifting between bed and shower.  In the first week, I would go to my Nana’s house to have vinegar baths to help heal the damage internally. I just showed up, asked if she had any vinegar and then took it into the bathroom. I’d bathe then leave. One day she met me at the stairs and wouldn’t let me into the bathroom until I told her what I was up to. I love my Nana, she’s frail, she’s stubborn and she’s a fighter. So her trying to stop me wasn’t really a physical barrier, just an annoying one…I told her I didn’t want to talk about it, breaking down into tears, instant nosebleed. She sort of just figured it out, gave me a hug and handed me the vinegar. That’s when I sort of understood that maybe this wasn’t something I could do on my own. 

The whole emotional support thing is something very foreign to me and it makes me feel… uncomfortable. That made it a bit more difficult to deal with.  One of the main things about the rape, was that it brought me into a new space where I realised I was actually really fucking vulnerable. I hadn’t really experienced that before, I had always been very independent and hard-willed.  I guess growing up, I had an estranged relationship with my Mother and as a result I've got stunted emotional growth, so I never really had anything affect me in that way (emotional).  I was just like a very, very strong person that dealt with anything that came my way very effectively.  The silver lining of the whole ordeal, for lack of a better term, is that I learnt the beauty in vulnerability. 

What is difficult about it is that with being drugged, you don’t really remember everything that happened, so you sort of have to piece it together as it comes to you. I would get these crazy panic attacks that would be so intense I’d get full on nose bleeds and black out. It took me a while to realise that these panic attacks were caused by “triggers”, little pieces of information that would trigger memory release of what had happened that night. I remember once, I got triggered by a friend approaching me from the back of my left shoulder. They just had no idea what was happening. It’s like a giant jig-saw missing lots of pieces, then one day you’ll get triggered by something, and you then have to think about it really hard to work out why that’s a trigger. It’s not something I do on purpose, but it just happens. A lot of stuff “just happens” so you’ve just got to learn to roll with it and take control. I think it’s also important to note that, seeking help, is also taking control. I had one friend who helped me through so much of the dark water: panic attacks, insomnia, nose bleeds, and bawling sessions. Everything. He helped me see a lot in the importance of being vulnerable and open to seeking help from others, and I think that his aroha and friendship was really key in me finding some ground beneath my feet to kick off of on. 

I began to develop an understanding that shit wasn’t going to get better unless I pushed through and worked on it. So I did. I saw people that listened, I took tests so we could measure, I put myself into situations where I felt uncomfortable but also where I knew I was safe. I researched, I went on walks, I wrote, I expressed; I took control. Slowly yet surely, I dragged myself out of the dark waters; through the panic attacked, the nosebleeds, the flashbacks; the somber days, the silent days and the staying under scalding water days, until they became less frequent.  I learnt that I needed to express vulnerability in order to grow, and where that landed, I bloomed. I learnt to take control of the way things affected me, I became proactive. I learnt the need of balance through continuous high ups and dark downs. Vulnerability has been both my biggest challenge and my biggest blessing.

I met my Husband amidst all this self-relearning; I was out in town with some of my trusted friends, ones who I felt safe and comfortable with, and we were just having a good time dancing away. He sort of just came out of nowhere and started bantering with me, it was pretty funny but there was no way I was ready for any male attention. Or so I thought…I told him straight off the bat about getting raped. It just sort of snowballed from there. At first intimacy was fine between us; there were no issues.  Then one night when we were in the UK, we were doing our thing and I looked and saw this bare bulb hanging on a string. It was as though I had been petrified; Internally, I was freaking out, my body was on fire with all these flashbacks but externally I was stiff, staring at the ceiling. Ali reacted sweet with it, he told me that we’re a team and we deal with this stuff together. Now we’re married, happy, and just dealing with the waves as and when they come. It’s on and off, sometimes I get crippling pain, others I cry, and sometimes it’s a good ole time. We just work at it as a team - Go team Rali! But in all seriousness, I don’t think we would be where we are now — or even met — if it weren’t for pushing at my boundaries of vulnerability and taking back the control. 

Having come back to understanding of my mantra, “Everything happens for a reason” has been absolutely liberating. After struggling with the truth of this for the past two years, which in turn, meant struggling with myself internally and externally…I am able to move through the trauma and acknowledge that I am who I am and where I am as a result of my reactions to being raped.  People don’t understand how much it affects you internally; the constant turmoil you face being in a perpetual conflict with your past and your present self. The growth you face is a hard, fast-paced truth that your mind is not really willing to release itself into with no safety net. So yeah, it’s tiring and sometimes spirit breaking but you learn a lot about yourself and what you can get through, which I think is sort of poetically beautiful in a way. 

I am still healing. I get the occasional trigger, the sharp pains in groin area has moved back in and sometimes the flashbacks keep me up at night. But I have the tools that I never had before, I have lost my one-man ego to the wind so that I can embrace myself as I am in all these colours, and finally I have accepted; that yes, something real shit happened but it happened, and I am where I am now as a result of how I reacted. I have discovered the beauty in uncertainty, the meaningfulness of vulnerability, the value of trust, a deep appreciation for relationships, and that there is always lightness in darkness.