Dear girl who was raped,
First of all I believe you. I believe you. I believe you.
It doesn’t matter if this happened to you two days, two weeks, two months, two years ago or two decades ago. I want to let you know that I believe every single thing you saw, felt and said. Even if you were silent and are still silent today.
It was not your fault. You were not sending mixed signals, or drinking too much, or being naive. It was not you.
Instead of teaching our boyfriends, dates, friends, teammates not to rape, we are taught ways to avoid it.
“Don’t be alone with strangers”
“Don’t walk home alone”
“Don’t wear short skirts”
“Don’t accept drinks”
“Buy that pepper spray and download our new App”
I was raped. I want to take this opportunity to let you know about my rape and how I recovered. To let you know that I am both thinking about you and sharing your pain. Every. Single. Day.
My rape happened in the end of 2014 when I was traveling in Costa Rica. It happened five days upon my arrival.
He had been giving me creepy looks since the first day, and one evening a group of people from the hostel went to a party. I wore a beautiful green bodycon dress. I was drinking beers, dancing, making conversations, and having fun. I kept rejected his advances several times during the evening.
Back at the hostel and went to sleep in my tent. He came in several times, each time wearing less clothes. I cried and said no but I was completely in shock. I didn’t fight, didn’t run. I Froze. The fourth time he was about to enter I manage to get up and block the way. I cried and screamed. He panicked a bit and asked me if I wanted to buy drugs of him.
He didn’t go in jail even though there was video evidence of him entering my tent multiple times, and of him calming down a couple that had heard me. The couple looked angry and ready to confront him. He said something to the guy, placed his arm casually around his shoulder, and their faces switched from angry to happy. He took them away from the tent. Then he returned.
The first thing I did in the morning was throwing up and take a shower. Afterwards I went down in the reception and asked them to call the police. I broke down when the policemen arrived. I pointed out the rapist. He acted confused. Found his “girlfriend”, held her hand and walked slowly towards us. I threw up again. I tried to puke on his feet.
He acted like I was insane and the policemen believed him.
I was the one who was taken away and who sat in an overly air-conditioned room for four hours. I gave “my version” of what he had done to me and on the same night I was taken to five different hospitals to go through rough examinations.
At the police station they had asked me: “Are you sure you want to report this as a rape? You will have to go through the ‘victim procedure”. They told me what it would consist of and that it would last for at least 16 hours. I felt as if they were giving me my last chance to admit I was lying and take it all back. As if I was causing the problem and wasting everyone’s time with this inconvenience. As if the procedure was a threat, a test.
The procedure consisted of both vaginal and anal examinations, plenty of blood work, and injections with thick needles. The vaccine was heavy and caused my brain to hurt and made me blind for three minutes. I had to take pills – both emergency contraception and pills that killed infections. The emergency contraception made my skin break out badly, caused severe cramps and made me bleed for 10 days straight. The other pills, for preventing possible diseases such as HIV, fucked up my ph balanced so I had infections in both mouth and vagina the following three weeks. In case I might forget about the rape, I was reminded of it every time I had to pee.
Sometimes I wish I hadn’t gone through it. The most traumatic part of the rape was how it was handled afterwards, but I couldn’t bare the thought of him doing the same to another girl. So I reported it, and when I heard that he was free to go, my heart broke. Now he could do it again and reporting him felt like a waste. It made my situation even more difficult to deal with and I was left traumatized and more hurt than ever.
I had a travel blog at the time, so over the following days I wrote down the whole incident and posted it. It went viral and I received over 400 personal messages telling me how horrible it must have been and how strong I was. Ironically it made me break down even more. The reactions I received from people were like tiny mirrors on my own situation, and I could no longer pretend that it was one long nightmare. It made me realize how serious it was.
I went home to Denmark for a month and got psychological help. One month later I was out traveling again.
I decided to still wear the dress I had wore the night I was raped. I did this for several reasons, but first and foremost for my own healing process.
I had to reclaim my body and the dress was one of the ways that help me do this.
The dress is a concrete object that I am able to separate from rape myths, victim blaming and stigma. I was not raped because of the way I was dressed, or because I was drinking and dancing.
I was raped because of a rapist.
When I wear this dress I wear it with pride. Each time I wear it I am showing myself, him, and the entire world that he didn’t get to me. He didn’t get to fuck up the way I choose to dress or to present myself and my body to the world. It has been my way of reclaiming my body and I have become even more body confident after the rape. I now truly understand that my body is entirely mine and nobody is allowed to touch, control, harm or criticize it. My body is my business.
I am wearing the dress I was raped in as a walking statement. I am wearing it to create awareness. To show you and other rape survivors that it truly doesn’t matter what you wore, what you did or how you reacted – it is only about your consent. I am wearing it to kill the idea that when women dress up or down we give up control and allow men to feel entitled to our bodies.
This is how I handled my rape and recovered.
I am not saying you should go out and turn your rape into a heroic story. I am not saying you should turn your anger and trauma into a drive and fight and put yourself in that headspace all the time.
I know, that for many rape survivors, this is simply not an option.
For many rape survivors, it is about surviving, one day at a time.
For many rape survivors, it is about getting through the day only revisiting the trauma a couple of times.
For many rape survivors, it is about being able to fall asleep at night.
But I am saying you can get through this, with the right help, the right support and by knowing that it was truly not your fault.