Trigger warning - the following story is a true account from one of our members and may be very disturbing to those who have been victims of rape or abuse. Kezi's name has been changed to protect their identity.
Just after my 19th birthday, two men tried to rape me.
I wasn’t walking home late at night, I wasn’t drunk, I wasn’t wearing a short skirt or “asking for it”, I wasn’t in any of the stereotypes that, what I assume were well-meaning people, often tried to put me in after the event.
I was asleep in my room at university.
I will spare you the intimate details, but they were drunk, smashed down the front door of our hall and I heard my friend scream. I knew from her voice that she was in the bathroom, which meant she was most likely naked, with only a towel to get back to her room.
The others had teased me when I moved in; laughed that I always went to the bathroom fully clothed, but it had felt strange walking down a corridor in a towel when I knew I might meet any one of the 11 other tenants or their friends without warning.
And so, I opened my door - to what? Distract them? To see what was happening? I don’t know why really.
When the policeman asked why I had opened it, I realised I had no sensible answer. I think I was going to ask them what they were doing because you know - that would have helped.
I am an activist, not a reflector- I hadn’t thought about anything other than that she would be naked, and they would be big. Or they sounded big. Or very loud at least.
They were actually all of the above.
They were both in the first 11 rugby team. One was a “prop” (the massively strong guys who hold up the scrum) and the other was a “winger”. When I opened my door – the winger fell into my room - he’d obviously been leaning on it, and I think it took us both by surprise.
“Do you want some of my sausage?” he said.
Almost courteously I declined saying, “No, thank you”.
So incredibly British, so polite. “No thank you.”
And that was it right there. No consent given.
And then his friend, the prop, joined him, and so it began.
I’ve read many books, heard endless speakers, and been to countless meetings, where they tell you - that in any situation in life - you always have a choice - YOU can choose what to do!
But even after 32 years of reflection, as far as I can see, the only choice I had was whether to close my eyes or not.
I chose to keep them open.
It was a good choice because it meant I could tell the police their names, which were helpfully embroidered, in full, on their tracksuit tops and bottoms (just in case I missed it the first time around).
I was 8 stone 2. The prop was 17 stone. (I’m not telepathic - I know this because the police told me later).
One held my arms above my head, whilst the other one “took a turn” then they swapped positions. Only fair that they should both get a go.
The morning after, one of them pushed a handwritten letter under my door (the front door lock was still broken) apologising “if they scared me” and saying “sorry, we were drunk” as if that would somehow make it all absolutely fine. They had both signed it. Something they would later regret.
There are many, many things that I’d like to say but I don’t have the space and I’m sure you don’t have the time or if we’re honest, the inclination to read an enormous tome. So, I’ll write some bullet points.
There is no typical rapist. There is no typical abuser. People who commit sexual violence come from every economic, ethnic, age, ability, and social group
There is no direct link between experiencing sexual abuse and becoming an abuser.
Men can also be raped and sexually assaulted by women as well as men. It is far less common but does happen.
Victims do not “often lie about rape because they regret having sex with someone.” False allegations of rape are very rare. The vast majority of survivors choose not to report incidents to the police. One significant reason for this is the fear of not being believed.
Those of you who believe (like Kezi did) that you should wait to be married to have sex and voice this openly - please add in a caveat for those people who have experienced sexual abuse and so have no say in the matter like Kezi.
And equally, those of you keen to emphasise that sex is a pleasurable experience (which under normal circumstances it should be), just be aware that arousal occurs entirely without permission or intention - it is an automatic physical response like sweating. It just happens and, yes, it can and often does happen during rape. This can cause massive confusion to the victim later, as they try to understand why their bodies responded in that way when pleasure was the furthest experience from their minds at the time. So do mention this too.
Survivors of sexual assault/rape can get flashbacks during sexual intimacy even with very loving, gentle and understanding partners. For decades afterwards. Encourage counselling and or therapy.
Cervical screening after sexual assault (and even using a tampon or having consensual sex) can be difficult, if not impossible, as the vaginal muscles can tighten up automatically whenever it is attempted.
62,000 women reported rape offences in 2020. Less than 2% of offenders were convicted.  This needs to change!!
acet UK works with adults-who-work-with-young-people and directly with young people themselves, teaching them about relationships, good ones and bad ones, positive and negative. About consent. About what it means to be a man. Or woman. About self-image and identity and who we really are. Really are, inside, not what we look like. We talk about what they want from their relationships - not just romantic ones but friendships, family, and foster care relationships too. And yes, we talk about sex.
You see all of the people involved in this true story had little understanding of the consequences of their actions. Whether it was the boys themselves, the other students that Kezi lived with, the friends and colleagues (who did not know what to say so said nothing - in fact some went as far as avoiding Kezi completely), the tutors who carried on as normal, the university leaders who refused to “get involved” saying it was domestic issue (it wasn’t), and the bar staff who carried on serving these men even though they were clearly inebriated. All of them would have benefitted from someone talking to them about relationships and sex. All of them would have benefitted from thinking about, How important relationships are; What consent is; How most people do not “like it rough”; How to listen; What to do if you see abuse; How to support someone who is being or has been abused; How to report if you are abused/ raped. How to have self-control and why it’s important; How to resist peer pressure.
And to know that thinking “stranger danger, i.e. the idea that most people are raped by strangers, does us a disservice. Only around 15% of rapes are committed by strangers as in this instance. Around 90% of rapes are committed by people known to the victim, and often by someone who the survivor has previously trusted or even loved. 63% of victims are attacked inside a building and 37% inside their own home. 
If you are youth worker, please talk to your youth. If you are not confident to do so, why not sign up to our Relationships and Sex Education course here? If you are a teacher, talk to your class - you could do our course specifically for you here. If you are a parent, talk to your children - especially your teens. In detail. Frequently. Without them having to bring it up.
Have those “awkward” discussions, don’t speak at them - engage in conversations with them, listen to them. What are their worries, what happens in school, at the bus stop, on the bus, at their friend’s house? When do they think something bad could happen? Could they (or you!) do something differently? When and at which points? Is there ever a “point of no return”? Talk about respect, and what that means. What could they do to keep themselves and their friends safe? Do they know where to get help and support? Again, if you aren’t confident to do this - get support.
We CAN change the rape culture we live but it starts with talking about it.
If you know anyone that needs help:
Local Rape Crisis Centres
Many local Rape Crisis Centres provide confidential helplines.
They have local or Freephone numbers, so they’re low cost or free to ring, and will usually be able to call you back if you’re worried about the cost of a call. Some also provide email and SMS (text) support if you prefer to get in touch that way.
The National Helpline is a telephone helpline provided by Rape Crisis South London.
It is open between 12:00-14:30 and 19:00-21:30 every day of the year – call 0808 802 9999.