2020, almost 8 years after I have been raped by my former boyfriend for the first time, and 5 years after I made it public by writing the open letter, I want to summarise what I have taken from the accountability process that I initiated.

It matters that and how people speak about sexualised violence

The reason I spoke about my experiences of abuse was because someone else had done it. The letter of a person publishing her experience of rape and violence opened up a space for me to talk about the questions bothering me without having to raise them myself out of the blue. It created a debate in the left scene that offered me a way out of the silence and isolation that I had seen myself stuck in. The open and supportive positioning of my political organisation towards cases of sexualised violence and my flatmates reading anti-sexist books on this subject, finally gave me the confidence to open up about my own experiences.

Shifting the blame: to be questioned and silenced

The reasons why people thought I should not talk about my experiences were diverse, but almost all of them were accusing in one way or another. People questioned my experiences as well as my intentions of speaking up. Some suggested I was on a personal revenge trip and unable to think reasonably. Some suggested sexualised violence was a private matter and should not take up so much space and time. Others (or sometimes the same people) were worried that it could destroy the social or political cohesion and yet others raised concerns about the negative consequences that an open letter would have on the perpetrator, his surroundings and the broader left scene, as well as other victims/survivors. Instead of the fact that my ex-boyfriend had raped me, the act of speaking up was being made to be the problem and seen to be damaging and harming people. This is ridiculous.

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This is a report from the contact group that was set up to keep in touch with the perpetrator in this case of sexualised violence, and make sure he carried out the demands made by the victim and their support group. 

At the time of writing this, more than four and a half years have passed; in this time he has not carried out any of the demands  set out in the letter. We are writing this report so that others can learn from what we have done. Ultimately we think that processes around sexualised violence cannot take responsibility for changing or rehabilitating perpetrators. The only person who has the power to change the perpetrator is them, and many perpetrators (including the person in this case) are unwilling to do so. Too many processes around sexual violence echo the abuse that has already been carried out, in that they put all of the focus on the perpatrator while neglecting the victim and how they can be supported. For us the role of a contact group is about validating and upholding the victim’s perspective on sexual violence. This is done by enforcing as far as possible the demands of the victim, and making sure that the perpetrator is challenged with the victim’s perspective.

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Initially when I was told by the victim about X raping her multiple times I was shocked but I wasn’t surprised. It made sense and filled a lot of gaps.

My Experience of Rape in Relation to this Case

The years preceding this case I had spent a lot of time exploring my experience of rape at the age of 18 and the subsequent reactions and fall-out of friends and family. In 2012 I started to be open about my experience to friends in Birmingham. In the summer of 2012 X and another friend were the first people in Birmingham (aside from my partner at the time) I told about my experience. Unlike my partner, X had a really strange reaction and tried to change the subject as quickly as possible. He often did this if he didn’t want to talk about something but I felt particularly let down by his reaction on this occasion. In hindsight I recognise that my disclosure to him was shortly after the victim had left Birmingham after months of sexual abuse from him.

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I wanted to write my own personal account of the process because I think I did not do the right thing in this case initially. There are lots of reasons for that, which I will explain, but I also think learning about my initial reaction and how I changed my mind would be beneficial to those who might be experiencing a similar type of situation. This is because I think it is likely you will have reactions that are similar to what I had – perhaps motivated differently but of some comparison. I would argue that, for this reason, it is worth preparing for this and also being open to the possibility that people may change their minds – or that they may not.

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There is a lot I have learned from being a part of this community accountability process. I would not be the same person if the process had not taken place. I am incredibly glad that through all the difficulties and pain that is involved in engaging in the struggle against sexual violence we were able to build something important.

The process helped me to name my own experience of sexualized violence rape. Being socialized as a woman in our society for me to some extent meant that I needed somebody else close to me to talk about the possibility of rape being committed by somebody you know or even had been intimate with before. For me, it meant taking two years to realise and accept that it is not just a forgivable mistake to be woken up by somebody having anal sex with you after you fell asleep next to them. It took me two years to accept that it wasn’t just the fact that I had made it clear before that event that I did not want to have anal sex which made me feel so strange. It took somebody else opening up about rape to make me consciously engage with the fact I had an ongoing injury that required surgery and to acknowledge the flashbacks I had tried to disengage from. It took somebody else to be so brave to take up some space and demand for some questions to be asked for me to be able to consider that what had happened was rape and that it deserved some time and care from myself and others around me.

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My own involvement in this community accountability process against sexual violence began in September 2015 and remained pretty much constant until this website went online in June 2020. Though the process was more or less active at different times during this period I can say that it was a physically, mentally, and emotionally draining experience throughout and I stand by the conclusions reached in the group reflection. In this personal reflection I would like to elaborate on the reasons for my own involvement and some of my feelings regarding the left wing community in Birmingham. I would also like to outline what I believe the value of this website is and draw attention to a few key points which I believe should be considered by anyone else who attempts to be involved in a community accountability process.

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