After being raped, people were very concerned about my mental health and I am grateful. Had someone else been raped I would probably have told them (and still tell them) that their own mental health needed to be the priority. However, after having been raped my mental health seemed like a secondary consideration to gaining justice. It seemed less important to be ‘happy’ and more important to be ‘brave’.
The police process was gruelling and not good for my mental health, but I’m glad I did it. I have a right to justice and a responsibility to the safety of other women. However, I also think that we need to remove any sense of shame for survivors who choose not to go to the police. I’ve written before about what a privileged situation I was in and I still found it hard, we shouldn’t shame people who don’t report rape. We SHOULD make it easier for people to report rape though.
Many people were very kind to me but did nothing to practically help me. I quickly got tired of people saying ‘I mean we can’t do anything unless you go to the police but if you want to talk about it then I’m here.’ That is generous of them but I have friends and family to talk to; I needed people in authority to actually help me.
My student services were wonderfully kind to me but it was clear that they were there to improve my mental health and nothing else. I have been sexually harassed once before and when I mentioned this to the woman I reported my rape too she said, ‘I think you should book some counselling sessions to talk about this. Why do you think it’s happened to you twice?’
Her meaning is hard to convey in a blog post but the context made it clear she was asking ‘why has this happened to YOU twice’ and translated as ‘what do you think is wrong with you?’ Nothing. Most women, especially when young and at university are assaulted. The problem is not with me or any individual survivor, the problem is with society.
Mental health should probably be the priority in most cases but I have a lot of sympathy with survivors who don’t see it that way. If everyone protected their mental health and aimed to promote their peace of mind and happiness, then I think even fewer people would report rape. Sometimes further stress may be necessary to deal with the situation.
The police process has not finished for me; it may still go to court. I have complete certainty this will be detrimental to my mental health. I have complete certainty I will survive.