1. You owe nothing to other victims. It is not up to you to fight on behalf of all women who’ve been raped or to pursue a conviction to stop him from attacking others. You have to protect yourself first and foremost and if that means moving on from it in your own way, there is no shame in that.
2. You are going to lose friends. There will be some who don’t know how to be around you at such a desperately sad time. There will be others whose true colours show as they choose to believe you must be lying to comfort themselves that rape doesn’t happen without a victim being at fault and could therefore never happen to them or they could never be accused of it. This is heart-breaking but you need to let the bad apples go because the love you’ll receive from the real friends is worth a thousand times more than the pain a bad friend will inflict.
3. Your life has changed. Being raped changes, at the least, your outlook on the world. Don’t fight this new version of you, embrace her – she’s survived one of the worst things that could happen to a woman. She may not be who you’d planned to become, but she’s a badass motherf*cker and should be respected as such.
4. Your heroes might let you down. Those who you look up to and lean on the most may not know how to help you through this. They’ll try to be there, but their efforts might not be what you need. Try not to resent them for this. They’re trying their best and will themselves be hurting that you – their loved one – has had to endure such a horrific ordeal.
5. Men are good. There’ll be a point where all men seem as though they pose a threat. You’ll watch them striding about their daily lives, never looking over their shoulder, unhindered by judgemental stares or slut-shaming. It will seem as though they’re practically waving their patriarchal privileges in your face. But remember that most men are good. Most are disgusted by the thought of rape. Yes they might clumsily say the wrong thing sometimes and yes you might find it infuriating to see them failing to acknowledge the very real struggles women continue to face. But most men are good people with their own troubles and challenges to tackle. By allowing a monster to shape your view of all men, you will be denying yourself the pleasure of knowing the fantastic men out there whose care and generosity will dwarf the pain he has caused.
6. You’re stronger than you know. It might feel as though you’ve been broken or that you’re one small inconvenience away from a mental breakdown. Just know that you’ve survived one of the worst things that could ever happen to a woman. You got through yesterday, you can get through today.
7. A guilty verdict won’t give you all the closure you need. While the word “guilty” is a million times easier to hear than “not guilty”, you cannot look to it to bring ultimate closure. The healing process continues long after a verdict is given, and you will continue to suffer bouts of the darkest sadness. Only time will make this easier.
8. A not-guilty verdict does not mean you’re lying. It means there just wasn’t enough evidence for the jury to say that “beyond reasonable doubt ” they can unequivocally confirm it to be true. Their gut feeling may well be that he is guilty, in their heart of hearts they may know it to be true. But frustratingly they just couldn’t point to enough evidence to prove it “beyond reasonable doubt”.
9. He knows what he did. While it might feel as though you’re living a life-sentence with the memories of what happened forever etched in your mind, remember that he knows what he did. He may not be honest about it, he may not show remorse. But he will know what he has done and that self-loathing and shame which he is publicly denying will haunt him for as long as he continues to pollute the world with his presence.
10. It’s lonely but you’re not alone. Your friends and family might not be able to relate to how you’re feeling, despite their genuine efforts. This can make you feel like the loneliest person in the world. But you’re not alone.
When I was in the first stages of recovering from rape, I wanted nothing more than to talk to somebody who could relate to the tempest of inexplicable emotions my life had become. I even watched films with a rape in the plot to see if I could relate to the characters’ emotions (I do not recommend this, not one struck the right chord and, funnily enough, it didn’t comfort me in the slightest). That is why I have taken up residency in this little corner of the internet, so that other victims can know that while our experiences may be different, we are here for each other. No questions asked, I believe you. And if you want to get in touch to vent, then I’m all ears.