Rape is unfortunately one of the plagues that tarnish our society, and its existence threatens the safety of the community and traumatises individuals.
Speaking for the first time about her shocking and heartbreaking story with Lovin Malta, one Maltese woman has revealed she was raped twice in her life before she turned 17. Today, she is 23.
“In my life, unfortunately, I have been raped twice. It has taken me quite some time to use that word in reality, even though in my mind I knew that that was what actually happened,” the woman said as the story began to unfold.
Contrary to popular belief, rape can take many different shapes and forms. But the bottom line is that if it was not consensual between the two participating partners, then it is sexual assault.
“It’s hard to fathom and understand what the word rape really means, as I think as a society we’ve grown to think that rape must be violent when in reality it can be both violent and non-violent,” she said.
“The first time I had sex, I didn’t. I was 13. It was supposed to be the first day of me experimenting sexually,” she said.
The woman had met with a boy who was 17, a few weeks earlier. Together they had decided that their next meeting would be a date, and they planned to go for a swim.
“We were swimming in the sea, and he pulled me closer. I wrapped my legs around him and we started kissing. He removed one of his hands from my back and started to touch me, which eventually led to fingering. This was a new sensation to me as a 13-year-old, and it was a bit uncomfortable in the beginning,” she explained.
“At one moment he stopped, then after a few seconds I felt almost the same thing, only just it was a bit more painful so I assumed he inserted another finger,” she explained.
In a matter of seconds, she was realising that this was not at all the case, and what actually was happening at that moment.
“Then, I actually realized what was happening, and I told him ‘stop’. I wasn’t prepared for this and clearly didn’t want to. He kept going and I told him again and again, ‘please stop’. His grip got stronger and he told me ‘just a bit more’,” she unveiled.
“At that moment I froze. I looked all around me and saw people just having their swim like nothing was happening because at that exact time I felt disgusting and ashamed to scream and get someone’s attention,” she said.
Of course, not everyone reacts to rape in the same way, and commonly victims are accused of not asking or shouting for help as the event is unraveling.
“Some people may say, ‘you could have called for help’. To those, I say you never know how your body will react in these situations. Some shut down, lose their voice, become so disoriented as to what is happening that they seem as if they are giving in. To those I say, thank whatever god you may believe in that it never happened to you,” the woman appealed.
It’s already heartbreaking enough to go through this at the tender age of 13, let alone to go through it again just a few years after, while still underage at 16.
“The second time I was raped, I was 16 years old,” she continued.
The woman explained that at the time she had been going out with a guy for a bit over a year. Everything seemed ok, until a visit to Gozo without any parents present, her first time doing so.
“At some point, we were in the bedroom and he started kissing me, but I wasn’t in the mood for anything else. When I told him this, he told me ‘so you said yes to multiple other guys and to your boyfriend you’re telling no? No.’ He turned me on my stomach while I kept telling him to stop,” she explained.
A victim of rape can be so traumatised from the experience, that they might even reach the point to think that what happened to them is their fault in some way or another, or that they are deserving of it.
“Eventually, I just gave up and thought that that was what I deserved for having slept with other people. This came from months of him telling me that he was disgusted with me because of this, but that he loved me. When he finished he just left me there and went back to his friends downstairs. I had to suck it all up because I had no idea how to get back home to Malta on my own,” she said.
“It took me years to fully recover from both of these events. I thought I was ok with what happened until I was 23 years old,” she explained. Trauma can often disguise itself and be suppressed deeply within, only for it to surface again one day. Years later, she is still haunted.
“I was with my boyfriend from that time and we were in the bedroom having a laugh when things started getting a bit intimate. I was not in the mood and in a playful way he said ‘says who?’. I understood that it was nothing harmful, but at that exact moment what happened to me before came rushing back and it was like I was feeling the shock all over again,” she said.
The victim continued to explain how she needed to go to therapy because of this, among other reasons, and spent three years on SSRIs, which are a form of antidepressants. However, she appealed for other victims to have courage and to never shy away from asking for help, and offered a message of hope.
“It’s okay to need help and it’s okay to not have to go through it on your own. Nowadays I am at peace with what happened. I know that I didn’t deserve it and that there is nothing wrong with being sex-positive,” she said.
“There’s a quote that I incorporate daily in my life that helped me get through a lot of things: ‘forgive others, not because they deserve forgiveness, but because you deserve peace'”.
If you have suffered sexual assault, whether it was recently or not, and would like free, professional emotional support or legal assistance, get in touch with Victim Support Malta on + 356 2122 8333 or send an email at [email protected].
If you want to share your story on sexual harassment please reach out to [email protected]