Daily Life

Real Life: "Do you think I ASKED for it?"

I was horrified at what the policeman was suggesting...

Elka Tolhoek, 21, Karana Downs, QLD, shares her real life story

WARNING: The following deals with difficult subject matter, including descriptions of sexual assault.
Swiping my train ticket, I headed towards my usual platform and waited for my ride home.
Just then, my phone beeped.
It was a text from Paul*.
Want to come round? it read.
I'd met him on Tinder a week earlier and we'd been chatting on the phone and texting ever since.
I'd been single for a while and was keen to meet new people, more for friendship than anything else.
Paul came across as a normal, easy-going bloke I'd enjoy hanging out with.
I'd been clear that all I wanted was friendship with him and he seemed fine with that.
"Paul came across as a normal, easy-going bloke I'd enjoy hanging out with."
And now I was going to meet him in person for the first time, so I jumped on a different train in his direction.
Paul, who was in his 20's, met me at the station near his house and walked me to his place.
We made some popcorn and settled in front of a horror flick.
About 15 minutes in, he shifted a bit closer and then reached over and slid his hand up my thigh.
I smiled nervously and pushed it away.
"I'm not interested in that," I said.
I'd been clear during our conversations that I wasn't after any kind of action.
But again, I told him point blank that I wasn't interested in him romantically.
"That's cool," he shrugged, turning back to the film.
When the credits started rolling, I stifled a yawn and glanced at the clock. I hadn't realised how late it was.
"Why don't you stay over?" Paul said. "Save you catching the train in the dark."
"But again, I told him point blank that I wasn't interested in him romantically."
He'd been fine when I told him I wasn't after any funny business so I didn't see why not. He had a way of making me feel at ease.
Later, after borrowing some clothes to sleep in, I crawled into his bed, put my glasses on the side table and dozed off.
Next thing, my eyes shot open. It was morning and my arms were pinned above my head. Paul was on top of me. I couldn't see without my glasses but I felt he was naked.
"What are you doing?" I urged, panicking. He didn't say a word.
I struggled to move my arms but he held me down even harder.
"Stop!" I yelled, trying to break free but he was too heavy.
He pushed up my top and started viciously biting at my chest. I shrieked as I felt the skin tear.
"Paul, don't," I screamed as I felt a bolt of pain sear across me.
Then he forcefully shoved his fingers inside me.
Somehow, I mustered the strength to dig my feet into the bed and scramble out from beneath him.
Panting in terror, I fumbled for my glasses and put them on. I turned to see where he was, but he'd vanished.
Then I heard the shower start running.
I have to get out of here.
Before I did, I grabbed the driver's license from Paul's wallet and frantically scribbled down his details. Although my mind was a mess, there was no way he was getting away with what he'd just done to me.
I pulled my top over my bloodied and bruised chest, where Paul had bitten me, tearing my skin open and bolted to the train station where I headed to the nearest police station the next suburb over.
By then, I was sobbing uncontrollably.
A policewoman took my statement.
"We'll also need to document your injuries," one officer said. I was driven to a forensics facility to have my wounds photographed before finally being allowed home.
I desperately wanted to clean myself. But no matter how hard I scrubbed, I couldn't wash away the horror.
Over the next few days, the police kept calling me in to retell my story and they copied texts from my phone.
"At this point we don't have enough evidence to prove that your injuries were non-consensual," an officer told me.
"Then, with shaky hands, I dialled his number."
What? Did they think I'd asked to be savagely bitten and beaten?
He explained it would be my word against my attacker's. "You could try to get a recorded admission from him over the phone," he suggested.
I trembled at the thought of hearing Paul's voice.
But I realised it might be the only way he'd be punished, so I reluctantly agreed.
An officer took me to a dark interview room and gave me a special earpiece which would record the conversation.
Then, with shaky hands, I dialled his number.
I'd been instructed to try and get him to admit that he'd sexually assaulted me without putting words in his mouth.
"Do you think you were a bit pushy and aggressive the other night?" I asked, my voice trembling.
"Uh, yeah," he said flippantly.
"Do you agree that you ignored me when I asked you to stop?"
I hoped it would be enough. Paul was brought in for questioning but he exercised his right to stay silent and requested a lawyer.

Then came a sickening blow.

"Unfortunately there still isn't enough evidence to take this to court," an officer told me.
Because Paul hadn't admitted what he'd done using the actual words, "sexual assault" they didn't think my case was strong enough.
Broken and exhausted, I gave up.
Later, I found out that I should have been given a forensic exam to retrieve DNA evidence from my body and clothes. It was just one more sickening disappointment.
After that, I kept the assault secret and tried to get on with life.
Then, a few months later, during sex with a guy I was seeing, he took the condom off midway and kept going.
What's he doing? My mind started racing. I was so panicked I just lay there without a word.
I felt horribly violated. Again.
I later learnt that what he'd done was called "stealthing" - the non-consensual removal of a condom during sex - and it's actually illegal.
But after the trauma of reporting my assault last time, I didn't go to the police.
Instead, I'm sharing my story to explain that sexual assault doesn't just involve rape, it's any type of unwanted sexual behaviour and people need to speak more about it.
I encourage everyone to have open discussions with their partners about what is and isn't okay.
I don't want anyone going through what I did.
*Name has been changed

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