Somewhere on the other side of this wide night
and the distance between us, I am thinking of you.
The room is turning slowly away from the moon.
This is pleasurable. Or shall I cross that out and say
it is sad? In one of the tenses I singing
an impossible song of desire that you cannot hear.
La lala la. See? I close my eyes and imagine
the dark hills I would have to cross
to reach you. For I am in love with you and this
is what it is like or what it is like in words.
– Carol Ann Duffy
This morning I woke up after hearing something slam onto the hallway floor. Investigation showed it to be from Amazon, and I knew exactly what the brown package contained: After Silence, the account of journalist Nancy Raine’s rape and her recovery. I naively hopped into bed and cracked open the spine. 46 pages later, after reading some of her exquisite prose which I related to so deeply, I was a wreck.
After 46 pages I knew I couldn’t read any more for the time being. I put it to one side and got out of bed. Except I didn’t. The tears which had come and gone as I read her words suddenly started to flow continuously, and I wrapped my duvet around me to create a cocoon. I let my head run through all sorts of things that I don’t normally let myself think about. I had expected reading that book to be a challenge, but that since it would resonate, it would be worthwhile. I didn’t expect it to be accompanied by such an overwhelming sense of vulnerability. I thought it would make me feel stronger, in the company of this Amazon of a woman. Instead, I felt intensely alone.
At 22, I looked over the side of my bed at the floor of my room, willing myself to get up and step onto it. There’s nothing special about that piece of floor, no terrifying memories or even associations. I looked at this unthreatening expanse and curled up even more tightly, as my grief trickled down my face. I couldn’t imagine being able to get up. Except then I moved one leg against the other, and became painfully aware that I was naked. I always sleep naked. But then, suddenly, I was horrified by my nudity. I could feel the absence of underwear acutely, felt the air against my vagina and was panicked by how vulnerable I was. How could I have left myself that open? I rushed out of bed and pulled on the bulkiest clothes I could find—thick tracksuit bottoms and a hoody.
I went next door to my flatmate’s room, crawled into her bed and lay there as she comforted me.
This is what it is like to have been raped, or what it is like in words.