This blog post contains details of rape that some readers may find upsetting. If you do not wish to read this, please skip the section subtitled “The assault”.
November 21st 2015
I lost three people that night.
My best friend, for the need to cover it up, for the need to have no part.
My boyfriend to the assumption that I objectified myself, because for him, that could be the only explanation, the only sane reasoning. That I asked for it. That I wanted it – because when it comes down it, I am a woman after all.
Then there was myself. For a period of time, I lost myself.
My best friend of 16 years and I took a 5-night trip to Budapest. We had been there 2 nights when on the Saturday we decided to go out for dinner and go to a few bars we wanted to see.
We shared a bottle of wine with dinner and got in a taxi to a ‘ruin bar’. We had a couple of glasses of wine and were having a good evening. My friend left to use the bathroom whilst I sat at our table, when this guy immediately came over and said “Hey, you speak English! Thank God! Sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt.” I didn’t want to be rude, so I engaged with him. My friend returned and I introduced them, and we were having a general chat about work, Budapest, travel etc.
The guy then suggested we go to a club not far away. I wasn’t too keen but I knew it was one of the places my friend wanted to go, so we got in a taxi.
We went upstairs and he came in with drinks. I recall saying: “No, don’t buy us drinks, we can buy our own”. We took them anyway.
The next thing I recall is running around different rooms in the club, dancing on my own and laughing whilst he stood there and watched. Then, I went over to my friend (who was sat at a table) and told her I was going for a cigarette. I think I must have used the bathroom as well because he was waiting outside the door for me, which I remember thinking was a bit strange seeing as my friend was on her own.
Back at the table, my friend was leaning over saying she felt drunk and that she wanted to go home. My response: “No, I want to stay. I thought you wanted to dance”. As quickly as that, the guy told us that there was a taxi outside for her. I am later told that we got her coat, walked her out and put her in a taxi. I did not get in.
The next thing I can vaguely remember is being in a taxi with him, feeling pretty out of it.
Next, we were at a strange club in what looked like a field. There were half-naked women dancing on stage. The place was quite busy. It seemed to be in a tent.
Then, we were at the bar, where he tried to kiss me. I push his face away with my hand, and said “No! I have a boyfriend.” He looked annoyed at this and shook his head. I was sipping wine and looked down and realised there were 3 or 4 drinks in front of me. When I asked him why, he said something about a credit card minimum.
At this point, I was slurring my words and leaning over the bar. I then said: “I can’t. I can’t. I don’t feel well.” He grabbed me by the arm and pulled me outside.
I opened my eyes and I was in a taxi. I thought I was going home. We pulled up outside a different hotel: his hotel.
I was walking to his room.
There was another drink in my hand.
I moved to the end of the bed, lay down and closed my eyes. I remember feeling tired. I opened my eyes and realised he had undressed me. He was inside me. I told him to stop. He shook his head with his hand around my throat. I quickly came to the realisation that he wasn’t going to stop and I was not able to fight.
I just lay there. Waiting.
The adrenaline must have kicked in because I don’t remember getting dressed, all I remember is screaming and shouting at him and frantically running around the room telling him to call me a taxi. He grabbed me by the arm, marched me out of the room into the lift and threw me outside saying “There’s your taxi”. I somehow managed to remember the name of my hotel, but when I told the taxi driver, he said he ‘spoke no English’ and started laughing. He wouldn’t take me back, so I got out. For some bizarre reason, instead of going to the desk I got back in the lift. I couldn’t remember his floor, so I hit 3. I couldn’t remember his room, so I walked to the end and knocked on the door on the left. He opened the door and had obviously just been in the shower. His suitcase was half packed on the bed. He asked what the hell I wanted. I started shouting at him about the taxi. He then asked if I wanted money, which he tried to give to me. I told him I wanted a taxi.
In the next taxi, I glazed over in the back. I’ve no idea how long the taxi journey was. I was jolted back to reality with the driver shouting at me to get out and I tried throwing money towards him.
I managed to get back to my room, and my only thought was “I need to get these clothes off”, then I blacked out in bed.
I awoke to my friend coming into the hotel room. She had been to get us coffee. I sat upright in bed and said “Oh my God. That guy had sex with me last night.”
She was shocked. She immediately said about not having to tell my boyfriend, to which I replied with “What do you mean?! Why wouldn’t I?!”
I called my boyfriend of the time immediately and told him. He did not take it well and from then on it was a constant battle to just breathe in and out. I had two days left in Budapest. My friend was not exactly supportive.
When I arrived home, it was no better.
I saw the doctor the day after I got back and had all the necessary tests done. Luckily, I was clear.
I would receive phone calls on a nightly basis at 3am, 4am, 5am from my boyfriend calling me every name you can think of, drunk, threatening suicide. I would have just a few hours sleep, have maniacal phone conversations in the dead of the night, then get up and go to work.
It was in those times – times of darkness and what felt like pure, choked desolation – that I realised very quickly who my true friends were. Sometimes it takes something like this for people to truly reveal who they are.
I made the decision 3 months later to go and see a therapist. I decided to go privately. I did a Google search for therapists in my local area, saw one that appealed to me and found their contact details on their website. I sent an initial email as I didn’t feel comfortable speaking on the phone and we organised our first session.
The first session was the hardest. I felt uncomfortable speaking with a stranger and also did not want to discuss what happened or even say the word ‘rape’ out loud. But each session became easier than the last; I found that I had so many emotions bottled up, that it was a relief to let them out.
My therapist taught me to focus on my hobbies. I love photography, so she told me to focus on that. This helped me a lot as it gave me something to do and focus on, rather than what happened that night and the aftermath. It was a difficult and emotional time, but I ended up getting a lot out of my photography.
She also told me to ask myself every morning how I was feeling, and to answer myself with the emotion I was feeling. This also helped because if I felt angry or sad that day, I would tell that to myself and then tell myself it was OK to feel that way and to just let it be. This had a positive effect on my mental well-being. I was a relief, just saying and knowing that I could feel however I felt like that day and not need to pretend otherwise.
She would give me tasks for the week. For example, she told me to do something for myself at least one day a week, like having dinner with a friend or going out for a walk.
She also told me I could contact her whenever I needed and to take it one day at a time.
Although it was hard, getting therapy was the best decision I ever made. I continued to see my therapist for 9 months and managed to work through everything with her.
Some people have asked why I didn’t contact the police. The answer: because I didn’t want to. Especially not when I was in a foreign country. That was my decision; the one thing I did have control over.
I have slowly found myself again and regained who I am. I still have times where I think about what happened, where flashbacks occur, or I suddenly become defensive. It takes time. It’s been nearly 2 years and I am still healing, still coming to terms with that night, with relationships that were broken.
As a survivor, I feel lucky to be here, living the now. Two years on, I am now with someone who makes me very happy; someone who I can picture my life with.
All the time you feel like there’s nowhere to turn, or like there’s no one to turn to, like the knot inside you will never dissolve, just know: it will.
It gets better.