This week’s Game Theory will take a slightly different approach to some of the topics that have been covered previously. Whilst what I’m going to talk about didn’t happen to me at university, I know from conversations with my peers that not only does it happen within the confines of LSE campus, but it is horribly commonplace. Please be aware that some people may find the content of this article upsetting or triggering.
will tear you
– Rupi Kaur
When I was fourteen, I was raped. Against my will, I was pinned against a bed whilst I cried and someone took it upon themselves to violate my body. Like 90 per cent of victims, I knew my attacker.
I was a reasonably ‘on-it’ teen; I was a big proponent of girl power and would proudly label myself a feminist. Then I met Sam. He was older, sixteen, and according to those weird hierarchies of high school, demonstrably cooler than myself. He took a liking to me at a friend’s party and I felt flattered by the attention. We started dating, sporadically at first, but it intensified to the point where soon there wouldn’t be a day when we didn’t see each other. I was young and naïve and in spite of the plethora of warning signs, I adored him. It is easy for me to see now that he was emotionally stunted and calculating, and revelled in my undivided attention. But I was young and foolish. He manipulated me into distancing myself from my friends and soon began coercing me into sexual acts.
After many months of reluctant blow jobs, he brought up the topic of sex. I drew a line. I was still at an age where I thought the first time was important. I imagined soft lighting and music and genuine eagerness on my part. And yet, it turned out that what I wanted didn’t matter, indeed had never mattered. After several weeks of pressure, he took what he wanted anyway. My readiness was secondary.
I walked home in a daze and proceeded to cry into my pillow, for that night and many nights after. That was the last time I saw him, save for one short glimpse on a passing bus. I stopped answering the texts and calls, and eventually he stopped sending them.
It wasn’t until I arrived at university, four years later, that I actually came to terms with what had been done to me. I spent so long beating myself up for having put myself in that position. I became depressed and anxious and had trouble opening myself up to any sort of relationship. I had no real semblance of a sex life because I couldn’t bring myself to be that vulnerable again. It wasn’t until I said the words out loud, one drunken night too many years later that I felt the weight lift. I still sometimes have trouble with intimacy, but the unhealthy and co-dependent relationships I had in the years that followed seem to be over. These things live with you.
It took me years to label my attacker a rapist, and I honestly believe that he wouldn’t think of himself as one either. He wasn’t able to conceptualise my no as anything meaningful, and therefore I can’t imagine that the experience would have had the same impact on him. These are important discussions to be having, because he is not alone. Sex education in schools is seriously lacking; how to put on a condom is only relevant if both parties are interested to begin with.
There exists a horribly familiar and particularly insidious stereotype: of the stranger, late at night in the dark alley. It is one that I believed for many years. But an NUS study of women students’ found that the majority of perpetrators of sexual violence were already known to the victim, and many are students themselves. For female UK university students, there is a one in three chance you will be sexually assaulted on campus. This means that approximately a third of the women you know at LSE have been, or will be, assaulted in their time here. And that does not even account for men and non-binary people.
Next week, LSESU will be holding a UGM on whether or not to implement mandatory consent workshops for Freshers. I know my story does not stand alone amongst my peers; rape and sexual assault are commonplace both on campuses nationally and at LSE. We are being given an opportunity to make a genuine change in a country where only 15% of incidents of sexual violence are reported to the police.
I am not suggesting that consent workshops are the sole solution to combatting sexual assault and rape on campus, but they are the first step to addressing the problem at hand.
I urge you to be on the right side of this debate.