He liked animal planet and letting his baby nieces play with his hair. He was funny, charming and sociable. His favourite place was Magnetic Island, he loved fishing and the beach. He cared about his family and looked after his elderly parents. One night he called me an Uber home when my phone was dead, just to make sure I got home safely.
Another night he raped me.
In the days and weeks I spent after, lying face down on my parents couch crying hysterically, this was what bothered me the most. How can seemingly normal and nice people do such heinous things? What had I missed?
Do you ever really know anyone?
For a long time, I struggled to reconcile how these different qualities could co-exist within one person. And despite my knowledge of violence against women and sexual assault I still found it really hard to tell anyone. The one response I was deathly afraid of hearing spun around in my head at night on a loop:
“Oh no he wouldn’t do that, he’s such a nice guy’’.
But here’s the thing. He’s not. He never was.
One of the biggest issues with the way we as a society frame sexual assault is our persistent discussion of the ‘grey area’. Date and acquaintance rape IS rape. The people who perpetrate these types of crimes aren’t confused boys who missed a few sex ed classes. They’re predators who use manipulation, coercion and power to prey on vulnerable women. There has actually been a lot of research done on men who perpetrate sexual violence against women they know. It is a small number of men who commit the majority of these crimes. They intentionally target vulnerable, intoxicated women who are usually significantly younger than them. They socially isolate them, assault them and then justify their actions through society’s ‘he said/she said’ narrative and the rape myths surrounding intoxication and consent.
We need to start talking about date and acquaintance rape for what it is; predatory sexual violence, not your friendly neighbourhood ‘nice guy’ who’s just a little unclear on the ‘complicated’ concept of consent. Rape myths that are not challenged become internalised. When men believe that their friends or co-workers are using coercion or intoxication to get ‘laid’ then they are more likely to as well. When men believe that reducing their sexual partners to ‘scores’ or numbers is acceptable or humorous then other men who see that are more likely to as well. When men indulge in speculation on ‘what she was wearing’ or whether she was ‘promiscuous’ or ‘drinking too much’ as a means of justification for sexually violent behaviour then other men are more likely to as well. When rape myths are not challenged, rape proclivity increases and it becomes easier for predators to justify their behaviour.
And look, I get it, I’m angry.
But I’ve also spent my entire life being placid, being amicable, being nice and I’m done with it. It is not my job to prevent myself from being a victim. And it took the most horrific and traumatising experience of my life for me to realise it. But I refuse to be nice any longer, your feelings do not come before my safety.
Eventually I told people. I told my family, I told my colleagues, I told my friends and my lawyers. And the more I told people the angrier I got; I wasn’t sad anymore. Because I shouldn’t be ashamed, and this shouldn’t be my burden to bear alone. You’re probably feeling complacent now, glad that this whole debacle is behind you. I’m here to tell you it’s not, not even close. You didn’t win, and this isn’t the end.
I know what happened.
You know what happened.
This wasn’t a misunderstanding, this wasn’t a mistake.
You made a choice and now you’re going to live with it because I’m not going anywhere. This time you can’t intimidate me into silence.