Sterre wishes to remain anonymous. The girl in this picture is not Sterre. Foto: Connor Wilkins
Sterre (21) was raped by someone she knew after a night out.
‘I had gone out on the town for the night with a friend. We had a great time, and when it was time to go home in the early hours of the morning, I ran into Dennis. He was part of my social circle. We were headed in the same direction and he asked me if he could hop on the back of my bike. In the end I sat on the back and he cycled. Even then he was touching me. Please don’t, I said, and pushed his hands away. I felt like I had been clear, no, I don’t want this.
Like an object
Because I had to cycle home alone for quite a distance, and Dennis’ house was on the way there, I asked him if he could take me the rest of the way home. When we got to his house to pick up his bicycle, I asked for a glass of water. Once we got inside he tried to kiss me. I said no again. Please don’t. He knocked the cup of water out of my hand and pushed me onto the sofa. I knew instantly this wouldn’t end well. He threatened me, put a hand around my throat. He started to kiss me again. I kissed back out of fear. Maybe he’ll stop then, I thought. But Dennis didn’t stop. He pulled my trousers down and raped me. I tried to push him off me and told him to stop, but he kept on going. I focused on a spot on the wall, where there was a picture of Dennis and his family, and I waited for him to be done. Suddenly I no longer felt like a human being, but more like an object, something to be used.
After that everything was a blur. I kept thinking, how could this have happened. How? But I immediately knew: I was raped. The crazy thing is that Dennis took me home afterwards.
That night I couldn’t sleep, my mind was spinning and I had to vomit because of the stress. The next morning I went outside. I walked through town for ours to collect my thoughts. Then I finally called my sister because I knew I had to tell someone or the bad feelings would only get worse. Thankfully my family is very close, and we always support each other. My sister came home immediately and together we told my parents. That was tough. They looked shocked, sad and broken and I had never seen them like that before. Very painful. But at the same time they showed a lot of compassion for me. They took me seriously straight away and asked what I needed.
My mum and I went to the police together that day. I didn’t want Dennis to get away with rape. But ultimately, after hours of talking and a forensic examination at the hospital, I decided not to report the rape. This was mainly because the police told me that my case would probably end up at the bottom of the stack, due to lack of evidence. It was a case of ‘he said, she said’. I already struggled greatly with the interview at the police station because they wanted to know all the details. What went in what? That sort of thing. I did not want to go through that again.
For the first few weeks after the rape, I woke up feeling very sad every morning. I kept thinking, why me? I was bullied in the past, and now I had been victimised again. Why always me? I also don’t understand Dennis and why he did this. He has two younger sisters himself. Surely he would not want something like this to happen to them?
I went through a really hard time and did not want to live anymore. Not because I was ashamed of what had happened, but because I thought I did not belong on this earth. I was able to turn things around when I remembered a helpful thought from my past. In the years I was bullied I would often think, I’ll get something positive out of this negative thing.
And I’m trying to do that again. By sharing my story I hope to help others and turn something ugly into something beautiful. I hope to help break the taboo on sexual assault. I want people to be aware of the fact that this can happen to anyone and that you can really hurt someone with your reaction. In my case, there were actually friends who said that they wouldn’t have minded being fucked by Dennis. I also got one million questions, for example, why did you go with him? Why did you kiss him? Most people have no idea how hurtful it is what they say. Of course I asked myself those questions, too. Should I have done things differently? Could I have prevented it? But no, I clearly said no to him. And no means no. I do not want to blame myself for the fact that someone else raped me.
Talking about what happened to me was very helpful. Thankfully there were plenty of people around me that I could talk to. The psychological help I received was also very useful. I did EMDR. It’s very tough, because you experience the moment of the rape all over again. But it did help. I’m not there yet though. I can struggle with physical contact at times. During sex with my boyfriend I can have a panic attack. Then it feels like it did that time, with Dennis.
I still see a psychologist, also for other things from my past. I also try and make my life as enjoyable as possible, by doing fun things with my friends and by reminding myself again and again that I matter. That is also what I’d like to tell other survivors. Be proud of yourself, of who you are. You are important. And please know that there is always a light at the end of the tunnel, even if you cannot see it yet.’
After an unwanted sexual experience it is good that someone is there for the victim. Your support can make a difference. But what is the best thing to do? Check out our tips for loved ones.
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