1973 - forever in my mind

My name is Luisa and I am a rape victim. I know many people don't like that word - they prefer "survivor". So why do I call myself a victim?

In the early 1970s I loved English motorbikes. The sound of a Triumph thrilled me, and it was, for me, a natural progression to become friends with people who rode these beautiful machines. My friendship with a particular group of these guys became my undoing.

When I was 17, I was gang raped and sexually assaulted with a bayonet by 5 men I knew in a small town an hour away from home. There were two of us women in the house that night. These were guys we'd been friendly with for a year, and we had no concerns. She and I shared a room and we'd gone to bed for the night. It wasn't long before my world changed forever.

The door opened and 4 of them came in and approached B's bed. They told her they wanted their "wings", because she had her period (red wings). She had no choice but to lay there while one by one they performed oral sex on her. I was on a mattress in a corner on the floor, and I curled up tight and kept my face to the wall, thinking that was all they were after and they'd leave, and if I kept quiet they'd ignore me. Not a chance.

When they'd finished with B they came over to me, but I was intended for a different type of entertainment. These men all had nick-names - Joe 90, Skippy, Brownie and Possum - and that's how we'd known them for the year we'd been friends with them. I knew Possum's real name was Mel, but didn't know the real names of any of the others. Their leader, who wasn't in the room at the start, didn't have a nick-name. His real name was Pete.

Joe90 sat by my head and held my arms and quietly suggested to me that I should just lie still and play along. I struggled and cried and kicked and begged but one by one they took turns raping me. Before Joe90 had his turn the door opened and Pete poked his head in, at the same time that I kicked out again. I got the door and it hit his head, which made him mad. He vanished for a minute and came back with some item - I didn't know what at that stage - and said to them to "stick that up her". Joe90 told me to be very still. I didn't find out until months later what it was.

After they'd finished they left the room and shut the door - on the way out Brownie said words to the effect of "don't think about leaving."

The next day I was a mess, and I know I wouldn't have got out of there if it wasn't for B. She told me to hold my head up and led me outside and we headed up the driveway. Brownie called out to ask where we were going, and she told him cheerily that we were just going to the shops for milk and bread. We took nothing at all with us other than our purses.

We walked out of their street, past the shop, up to the main road and turned south - we knew that if they came looking for us they would head north, towards our home town. Twice we had to hide when we heard bikes, but eventually we got a lift.

I drank a lot that weekend, trying to numb the pain and the shame. We couldn't stay away forever without money, so we hitched home. My wall was already under construction and a strange event hurried that along. Months after the rape my sister wanted to go say hi to "the boys". I was very uneasy but had blocked enough of what had happened that I didn't really know why, so I went. We visited Mel, who was cleaning his bike when we arrived. In a very off-hand way he said "Last time I saw you, you had a bayonet up you". That was the one detail I hadn't known. My sister questioned me on the comment but I brushed it off. My wall was finished. It would be nearly 20 years before it would come crashing down, but the damage that had been done to me was too deep.

My entire adult life has been a struggle to prove I am somebody and worthy, but always accepting second best. I couldn't concentrate on study - I tried university twice and still couldn't finish my degree. I always seemed to get jobs which were, in one way or another, subservient roles to men, and never paid as much.

My first marriage was doomed from the start - a loser I thought would change. It took me 11 years to figure out he never would. In that time we'd lost 2 houses due to his lying and cheating, and at the end of our marriage I was left bankrupt.

The only good to come from that relationship were my children and I spent the next 11 years totally focused on them.

We were living many miles from my hometown when my marriage finally fell apart, and I took the kids back to my parent's house. It was soon after that when I found out about a close relative who had been gang-raped by 3 men she knew in the same small town where I'd been abused so many years earlier. It was like a damn breaking open. The wall I had constructed so many years earlier fell apart, the memories flooded back, and I haven't had a single day since then when it doesn't haunt me in some way. I've been on Prozac or Lovan intermittently since then, and each time I have tried to get off it I spiral into depression. Sometimes even the Lovan doesn't help and my emotions take over.

I have had a number of counselors over the last 10-15 years, the only one of whom was any good was a wonderful woman named Ruth with Rape Crisis, but you only get supported financially for a restricted number of visits so my deepest issues have never been truly purged. In the last 5 years I have been to 3 counselors - the first two were absolutely useless, the third was very good but the sessions are not paid for, only subsidised, and I couldn't afford to keep going.

The dictionary definition of a victim is" a person who suffers from a destructive or injurious action" while a survivor is "a person who continues to function or prosper in spite of opposition, hardship, or setbacks". My life was changed by a vicious, destructive and very injurious action. I have functioned since then, but never to my fullest and never to prosperity. I no longer sleep properly, I have fought battles with my weight all my adult life, I have always told myself that second best was all I was worthy of. I can't make friends, I don't trust people. How can I call myself a survivor?

I would dearly love to be a survivor, and that's why I am angry. There's a shame attached to being a rape victim, even though there never should be. For my part, I didn't tell my parents, I didn't report it to the police, I didn't tell my friends, because I'd gone voluntarily to the house. In many people's eyes I knew they would say I'd brought it on myself. Never mind the fact that those 5 men had no right whatsoever - legally, morally or any other way - to take over my body without my consent.

I started this site to help myself heal. Writing it has been cathartic. I know that there are a large number of women who have been through the sort of trauma I have, and who haven't faced it for one reason or another. Many women build walls and hide their trauma, from themselves and the rest of the world. But anger can be healing. If someone stole your car, you'd be angry. If someone threatened a loved one with a weapon, you'd be angry. So why don't we get angry when it happens to our bodies? Why do we just build our walls and shut it away like it never happened?

You have a right to be angry. Don't use your anger for retribution, that's not what it's about. Use your anger to heal. Read the many news reports about rape the world over. Go to the many sites I have linked which give healing and counseling suggestions. Get angry, and then find what works for you. If you need help, write to me. I'm not a psychologist or a doctor or a counselor. I'm a woman, like you, who was raped. I understand.

It's okay to be angry.

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