She wrote it three times and deleted it twice

Laurie Penny, motivated by the Assange-Akin confluence of the past few days, has written a long, wrenching piece about being raped. It was a “nice guy” liked by everyone, including her; it was at a party, where she felt ill and went to sleep. She woke up to find him raping her (although she didn’t call it that at the time).

I asked him if he had used a condom. He told me that he ‘wasn’t into latex’, and asked if I was on the pill. I don’t remember thinking ‘I have just been raped’. After all, this guy wasn’t behaving in the manner I had learned to associate with rapists. Rapists are evil people. They’re not nice blokes who everybody respects who simply happen to think it’s ok to stick your dick in a teenager who’s sleeping in the same bed as you, without a condom. This guy seemed, if anything, confused as to why I was scrabbling for my things and bolting out the door. He even sent me an email a few days later, chiding me for being rude.

He thought it was a romantic interlude, perhaps, with him poking her while she was passed out. How tiresome of her to be grouchy and in a hurry in the morning.

Everybody else in that social circle seemed to agree that by going to that hotel room and taking off my nice lace dress I had asked for whatever happened next, and so I dropped the issue. They were right and I was wrong. The man that we all knew and liked would never take advantage of anyone,  and suggesting such a thing made me a liar and a slag. Did I go to the police? Did I hell***. I thought it was my fault.

My experience was common enough, and it was also seven years ago. Looking back, being raped wasn’t the worst thing that ever happened to me, although the experience of speaking out and not being believed, the experience of feeling so ashamed and alone, stayed with me for a long time, and changed how I relate to other humans. But I got over it. I rarely think about it.

She got over it, but it had changed the way she relates to other humans – so in fact she hadn’t gotten over it.

Being raped by a man who you liked and trusted, even loved – thirty percent of rape victims are attacked by a boyfriend, husband or lover –  is an entirely different experience from being raped by a stranger in an alley, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less damaging. Particularly not if others go on to tell you you’re a lying bitch. Sorry if that hurts to hear.

You know what also hurts to hear? People telling you that your experience didn’t happen, that you asked for it. That you have no right to be angry or hurt. That you should shut up. That you hate men. That you’re against freedom of speech. That’s what hundreds of thousands of women all over the world are hearing when they hear respected commentators (I’m not talking here about Galloway or Alvin, although I’m sure there are a great many people who respect their opinions, god help them) saying that the allegations made against Julian Assange “aren’t really rape.”

And when they hear Todd Akin talk about “legitimate” rape.

I didn’t report my rape. It took me months even to understand it as rape. I stopped talking about it, because I was sick of being called a liar, and I got the shut-up message fairly fast. I tried to stop thinking about it.

But this week brought it all up again. The vitriol being spewed across the internet, the discussions in every car and cafe I’ve stepped into about what rape really means, the acknowledgement that yes, lots of women do lie and exaggerate, they’ve made me feel infected all over again. Another friend told me she felt “psychologically poisoned, sick more than angry,” I’m definitely not the only one who’s been revisiting those scenes in my head, playing them over like old CCTV footage. I’m probably not the only one, either, who went quietly back to a few friends from the old days to talk again about what happened, to clear things up. And what one of those former friends told me was: I wish I’d taken you more seriously, because I think it happened again, to somebody else.

So that’s why she wrote the piece. She wrote it three times and deleted it twice – and now it’s out there.

…this vitriol, this rape-redefining in the name of conscience and whistleblowing and Wikileaks and Julian Assange, it has to stop. It has to stop now. Non-consensual sex is rape, real rape, and good guys do it too, all the time, every day. Sorry if that hurts to hear, but you’ve heard it now, and there are things that hurt much more, and for longer, and for lifetimes. Those things need to stop. Together, if we’re brave enough to keep on speaking out even we’re told to shut up, told we’re liars and bitches and we asked for it, we can make them stop.

I hope so.


  1. Cafeeine says

    The Assange case has seen a different dissonance, as far as I can see. Putting the actual allegations against Assange aside, the behavior against him by Sweden seems very suspect, which leads people to treat the allegations as suspect. This of course is unfair. It is possible that the allegations against Assange are sincere, that he is in fact guilty, and that Sweden is using this as an excuse to grab Assange to extradite him to the US, and the international games being played are not an excuse for rape.

  2. says

    <Putting the actual allegations against Assange aside, the behavior against him by Sweden seems very suspect, which leads people to treat the allegations as suspect.

    People who would look for any excuse to treat the allegations as suspect, most likely. But anyone who has a hard time believing male leadership in any movement is incapable of rape don’t get out much. Left, right, fundie, skeptic, doesn’t matter.

  3. Cafeeine says

    No disagreement there. I have seen comments that making outlandish claims, casually dismissing rape claims as part of the “global conspiracy against Assange”.

  4. says

    I feel terrible for her and admire her for telling her story. We need unite to help all victims of sexual crimes (women, men, children) get the help they need and to stop blaming them. I wish I could say that this story shocked me but unfortunately it doesn’t.

  5. Brian M says

    But the problem is…Assange may well be guilty. How can I know? And there is definitely the problem of the “bitchez be lyin'” philosophy.

    At the same time, there is no “may be” with respect to how the United States terror machine behaves, and it more than doubting the women at play here. I think it is not helpful to claim that this is all that is at play here.

  6. Brian M says

    But of course he should go to trial. It’s just that the skepticism about what will happen to him is more than just apologia for rape.

  7. Happiestsadist, opener of the Crack of Doom says

    What was done to me was similar, but I nearly died as a result. I didn’t talk about it for years. I’ve started slowly telling old friends from back then what happened, and why I disappeared.

    But this shit of late has been making it very, very hard to get by. Even these years later, even safe as I am.

  8. says

    I think that, yes, Assange should be arrested and tried for rape. His guilt should be determined by a court of law, and not public opinion.

    I also think there are, maybe not 100%, but reasons to suspect that there might be more in play here than just rape charges, because — and I don’t know how reliable this is — but I’ve heard that the U.S. is… interested… in Assange, and it’s not “interest” of the good kind.

    I’m satisfied to let this play out as it will, right now — “wait and see”, if you will.

  9. John the Drunkard says

    What a horrible experience, made even worse by passing under the radar of public consensus.

    How much alcohol and/or drug use was involved. Was she doped on purpose? Was the perpetrator in a blackout as well?

    No one wants to know that guys who ‘pass for nice’ might be predators. In beds or elevators.

  10. iknklast says

    @John the Drunkard:

    You’ve done it now. You’ve mentioned elevators. Batten down the hatches.

  11. iknklast says

    Just to clarify: I’m not complaining about elevators, or women who don’t want to be propositioned in them. I’ve just seen what always seems to come next after the “e” word, and it’s never pretty.

  12. says

    I’m another one who a nice guy I was dating “got frisky with” (to use his words when he confessed over AIM to me a few weeks later) while I was passed out. I have absolutely NO memory of that night past the moment he handed me my first drink, a mixed drink he prepared in the next room, so I am certain he drugged me. With what, I’ll never know.

    What I do know is that I woke up with my pants off and my underwear on sideways. I left as soon as I could and got texted about what a cold bitch I was to just leave with no explanation.

    I didn’t get pregnant. I guess that means it was a legitimate rape.

    I did not report for the usual reasons. Now I’m supporting as best I can a friend who had pretty much the same thing happen to her, who is now pressing charges.

    The author of this piece is very brave to speak out given all the dumbfuck dickbag rape-apologists/rapists out there who will no doubt pile on the blame. And the stupid people with serious empathy deficits will nod their heads.

  13. stoferb says

    I don’t know what to believe about Assange. I live in sweden and the accusations I’ve heard about him have been very confusing. The word rape was used alot in the media which gives the standard impression of a man violently forcing himself upon a woman. But when what actually happened has been told the stories are different.

    Many of the stories clearly makes him a sex-offender, in one account he did the very same thing your rapist did. Other stories suggest that these women think that they can say yes to sex at the time and if they regret it afterwards it’s rape. And in between it’s this obsession with a broken condom, that either got broken out of wear and tear during sex, or he deliberately broke it, or he refused to use it in the first place. Take your pick.

    Like I said, the surrounding media reports have been very confusing so it’s no wonder that many people are suspicious about the whole thing. Still ofcourse he should be in court for it. Hopefully those in the legal system have a better grip about what really happened than the confused public. Sadly that’s probably isn’t going to happen either.

  14. says

    When I posted this on facebook, one of my facebook “friends” asked: “Why do you talk about rape so much? I know bad stuff happened in your life, but not all men are like that!!”

    Yeah, I’m a total manhating buzzkill, right? But you what happens more than my posting about rape? Women actually being raped. And since talking about rape seems to bother folks more than the knowledge that people are being raped, I guess I’m gonna keep posting about it.

  15. says

    ASSANGE’S OWN LAWYER did not contradict the victims’ accounts. See for the full details. Instead, his argument is the “that’s not really rape” kind. Which is bullshit.

    My heart goes out to Laurie Penny btw. Her articles on online harassment were excellent.

  16. Jamie says

    Assange’s lawyers made one request of Swedish authorities – that they guarantee that extradition to the US was off the table. If Sweden agreed to that, he would return to Sweden to face the rape allegations.

    Swedish authorities said no. If all they wanted him for was the alleged rape, why not guarantee that the US was out of the picture?

  17. Smokey Dusty says

    @Jamie. Assange’s lawyers are lying and spinning like daemons and banking on your ignorance. Swedish authorities can not legally give that assurance. Courts are obliged to consider all extradition requests. It is up to courts to rule on extradition requests not ‘authorities’. Any assurance given by ‘authorities’ would be meaningless and illegal.

    Assange’s lawyers know this and they know you don’t and they know you probably won’t evaluate their spin skeptically.

  18. says

    Other stories suggest that these women think that they can say yes to sex at the time and if they regret it afterwards it’s rape.

    We are allowed to say yes under certain conditions. If the dude agrees to those conditions, then does not abide by them, he does not have consent. That makes it rape.

    If you tell your doctor you consent to have blood drawn with a sterile needle, and then your doctor draws your blood with a dirty needle, guess what? That’s assault.

    If your friend asks to borrow your car for the weekend, and you say yes on the condition that he returns it Sunday night, but he just goes ahead and keeps the car until August, guess what? He didn’t have your consent. That’s theft.

    Are you starting to see the pattern here?

  19. F says

    Assange’s lawyers know this and they know you don’t and they know you probably won’t evaluate their spin skeptically.

    Which is plain fucking hilarious given that, well, they are lawyers. Defense lawyers. You don’t even have to be suspicious of them, or consider them to be professionally unethical, to know that they obfuscate shit for a goddamned living. You don’t have to be one of those people who thinks particularly little of lawyers to get this.

    not all men are like that!!

    So, it’s a requirement now that every last man be “like that” before anyone may voice or address a problem with the climate of rape in which we live? And if one person speaks up when others do not, they are just a party-pooper or something?

    Sometimes I’d swear that for every thing humans do to increase the standard of living with respect to nature, we find other human ways to make life suck more.

  20. dorfl says


    What Smoky Dusty said. The Swedish government would violate the constitution if they promised – on the courts’ behalf – that we would not extradite Assange.

  21. lurker says

    ‘You don’t even have to be suspicious of them, or consider them to be professionally unethical, to know that they obfuscate shit for a goddamned living.’ (F)
    They are not the only ones. The prosecution is interested in getting convictions. The police are interested in clearing up crimes. If no-one stands up for the accused, the results can be somewhat ugly. Like persuading a psychiatric patient to confess to every unsolved murder ever plus a lot more that never even happened ( ). That’s the kind of thing you get when the defense lawyer co-operates with the authorities.

  22. Rrr says

    Yay, let’s all spin this thread too out of all recognition! Swedish media are buzzing with the evergreen tale of that confessed-but-now-innocent serial killer and surely nobody wants to keep talking about the subject at hand, so why not give Ophelia a gently steering hand in the “right” direction, eh? Try this?

  23. says

    The word rape was used alot in the media which gives the standard impression of a man violently forcing himself upon a woman. But when what actually happened has been told the stories are different.

    You know what’s wrong about this? The “standard impression”. That’s what’s wrong. That nice men don’t rape (especially nice white men. Skandinavian women have a serious problem getting believed if their rapist was a “nice Skandinavian guy”. )
    Having sex with somebody who’s asleep/passed out is rape because for it to be non-rape there has to be consent. Sex is the opposite from general law, you know. In general law, everything that’s not explicitly forbidden is allowed. In sex, everything that isn’t explicitly allowed is forbidden.
    And yes, women (and men) are allowed to make consent conditional. Like condoms only, vaginal only, oral only. Consent to one thing doesn’t imply consent to another thing.

    Swedish authorities said no. If all they wanted him for was the alleged rape, why not guarantee that the US was out of the picture?

    Because it would be breaking the constitution if governments give guarantees about what courts have to decide? Again, if all abide to the current laws, it’s pretty near impossible that Assange gets shipped to the USA. If they don’t intend to do so:
    A) Why play this legal game at all?
    B) Guarantees would be totally unimportant anyway.
    He should be more worried if they promised to break the law because that would make them untrustworthy.

    When I escaped being raped*, I told exactl one friend. I got the “why were you so stupid and parked your car there?” talk. I never told anybody else. Probably another woman wasn’t as lucky as I was, I’ll never know.

    *I have all reasons to think that was his intention. Why else would a guy follow a lone woman into a dark carpark and start running after her when she starts dashing for her car?

  24. lurker says

    Nahh. Just find the ‘lawyers are lying bastards who keep obviously guilty criminals from getting their just deserts’ trope annoying, and pointed to a Swedish case just in case someone imagines the authorities there are not like the ones you know and can be trusted to do the right thing.

  25. Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle says

    She is so brave.

    That’s all I can think as well. I’d never be able to do what she did. Definitely not under my real name.

  26. Pen says

    I actually wonder how many women have not been the victim of at least one of the following:

    1) rape
    2) attempted rape
    3) sexual assault
    4) sexual harassment

    I can say yes to the last three on the list. Are there any lucky escapees out there?

  27. astro says

    Ok. This is my final take on this.

    Let’s say Assange is completely guilty of the rape charges and that we can be shown beyond all reasonable doubt that he is. Even then, knowing what we know about the way Sweden and the UK are hedging and threatening and the fact that the U.S has ongoing endictment against him, aren’t we kinda morally obliged to respect his amnesty? The punishment that would ultimately be meted out for his non-crime/ free-speech journalism would be way worse than the punishment for the very real rape charges. Is anyone suggesting that we should pile that on top of whatever sentence he would serve for rape? We have Bradley Manning’s case as a warning as to what the U.S. is capable of. Assange and Manning are inextricably linked and it’s hubris to think that Assange would fare any better.

    So the question is. Is it ok to go through the procedures of convicting someone of a crime if we know that he will ultimately be convicted for a ‘crime’ that is not a crime and treated horribly with no chance of legal recourse?

    I just think we need to drop this instance for a while. If he is quilty of rape (which I’m inclined to believe he is)we are simply not in a position to do anything about it until some kind of guarantee is given that he won’t be sent to another country if he stands trial. I understand that the Swedish criminal system has to arrest first before making charges, but obviously it’s that pracice that should come under scrutiny.

  28. says

    Just reading some of the parts here that were posted, it kind of brings back some horrific memories of my own. I wrote my own story that seems to be so similar that they could practically be the same thing. The only difference was that I was actually dating the guy, and I never got over it. There are still people who accuse me of being a liar, and there are some places that I have to avoid going too so that I don’t start a fight. I wonder how many of those people that she had to deal with, still think she was a liar?

  29. S Mukherjee says

    Listen, Astro and anyone else banging on and on about how much peril Assange is in — can you please not derail this thread with discussions about Assange? I repeat — THIS BLOG POST IS NOT ABOUT ASSANGE AND WIKILEAKS. It is about how society always tends to dismiss and laugh away the concerns of women who have suffered from sexual assault. That’s what Laurie Penny is talking about in the quoted article. Women (and men, if they dare to speak up) face so much raging contempt and hatred whenever they try to discuss it, that most victims of sexual assault end up suffering in silence, while their attackers go free to do it all over again.

    And Astro, IF Assange is guilty of the crime, then no, I will most certainly not ‘drop it’. If there is the danger that he will face further punishments, then he should have thought of that before committing sexual assault (IF he is guilty).

  30. Rrr says

    Ok. This is my final take on this.

    I understand that the Swedish criminal system has to arrest first before making charges, but obviously it’s that pracice that should come under scrutiny.

    So, do you honestly think that this is the proper forum for that scrutiny? And if so, do you honestly think that this is the proper thread, concerning people who have experienced actual rape threats/situations within that forum for such a discussion? Please take your takes elsewhere. Thank you.

    Oh, I see someone else has already addressed this issue while I was typing.

    My own take is that Swedish legislation is a matter for the Swedish legislature, i.e. Riksdag. And execution of Swedish law is a matter for Swedish courts.

  31. says

    Ach, sorry, I fell down on moderating duties here, and the thread got derailed from the beginning. Oy.

    This post was not about Assange. Yes Assange is why Laurie Penny was reminded of her experience, but that’s not a reason to make the whole thread about him.

  32. Me says

    I can say yes (multiple times over) to at least 3 on the list as well- 4 if you count the time I just laid there while my boyfriend did me after I repeatedly said I wasn’t into it but finally just gave up and let him stick it in me because it wasn’t worth the argument. He told me he’d never felt more like he’d been fucking a whore than he did when I refused to respond in any way. I told him it clearly wasn’t anything like fucking a whore because if I’d accepted money beforehand, I probably would have pretended to enjoy it. I still don’t know if that counts as rape, because it’s possible I could have gotten him to stop if I’d been willing to get violent. Whatever, I don’t even care what you call it- it sucked. He sucked. Anyone of any gender who thinks what he did was ok sucks too. It’s that simple.

  33. yessenia says

    @ me, you said no. That’s what matters. That’s what makes it rape. . Your hypothetical ability to fight him off is totally irrelevant. If a person on the street demands your wallet, the fact that you just hand it over without a fight doesn’t transform it from a mugging to a gift.

  34. says

    Pen @29 — I can say yes to the first three. Thankfully, I’ve never been sexually harassed.

    I… won’t go into detail, I’m just going to leave it at The Jackass (to whom I was engaged at the time) thought my body was his to use whenever and however he wanted, regardless of how I felt about it. He was twice my size and able-bodied — how do you fight that off?

  35. callistacat says

    Luckily I’ve only been subject to 4). Every female friend I have have been through different combinations of all four. And every one of the perps have never been charged with anything and are free men. And I live in the U.S.A where women have it so good were actually spoiled bitches for having so much freedom and privilege. I have to wonder how someone can live with that, knowing they have sexually assaulted someone. Do they feel any guilt at all? There must be some part of them that is being eaten away with guilt, even if it’s below their conscious level.

    One of the first times I became aware of pro-rape culture was hearing about a case where a model was raped by a photographer at the beach where they were doing a photo shoot. The prosecutor dropped the case because the victim had lunch with the rapist at a restaurant prior to the shoot. I had dinner at this same restaurant when on a date a few months before, and it freaked me out so much that I actually called the local rape crisis hotline and asked if they could explain to me why this case was dropped. I was very shaken, I don’t think the woman I talked to believed I wasn’t a rape survivor. She said it had to do with how strong the prosecutor believed the chances where for a conviction based on past cases with similar circumstances. That didn’t make me feel any better. Before that I always assumed everyone was against rape (except for the actual rapists).

  36. Me says

    I’ve been sitting here regretting sharing my experiences, even as briefly as I did… worried that it sounds too “victim-y”, fighting the urge to post a follow up comment explaining that I don’t consider myself damaged and I don’t blame anyone for who I am and what I have or haven’t done with my life… wanting to explain that I didn’t post just for any kind of attention… wanting to take it back and tuck it away where it won’t be judged.

    Fuck that. That’s all… FUCK that.

  37. says

    I think you did a great job. Don’t worry about any of the judgments that people might have about it. I think that these stories need to be told, and people need to hear them. Even if they judge at first, if they hear enough of the stories, maybe they will change their minds later. It can never hurt to at least try to get people to understand.

  38. Wendy says

    @Me – Breathe deep – don’t let anyone delegitimatize your rape. YOU know it was a violation, because you felt violated. Coercion is not consent.

    I wrote about my imperfect victimhood just yesterday, and linking to it here has led to 92 views on my blog, and several supportive comments, publicly and privately. As I commented on my blog:

    It was utterly terrifying to write my story. I’ve told it to several people (including 4 therapists), but there was something unique about writing it with the express purpose of publishing it, and then ACTUALLY PUBLISHING IT. I cannot express to you the level of freedom and elation I have felt since I posted this, on Facebook, and here. Brute Reason has also given me the opportunity to share it as a guest post. SCREAMING my story as a legitimate rape. REFUSING to be told that I’m just a slut. It’s an amazing, powerful feeling.

  39. says

    Me @ 40

    I’ve been sitting here regretting sharing my experiences, even as briefly as I did…

    I’m glad you did share. The more people speak up, the tougher this problem is to ignore. And sometimes it’s good to hear that other people support you. I certainly do.

    I’ve never experienced anything like that myself, but an acquaintance had an experience eerily similar to Laurie Penny’s. It was gut-wrenching to hear about at the time, and something I would never wish on another human being.

    The fact that those experiences aren’t rare is…. deeply crushing.

  40. says

    1) rape
    2) attempted rape
    3) sexual assault
    4) sexual harassment

    I was going to say I’ve never been raped but then I remembered my first boyfriend and the shrooms in Tennessee.

    The main one that sticks out in my mind is when I woke up in the middle of a sexual assault that would have become a rape if I had been as drunk as they thought I was.

    And I’m one of the lucky ones!

  41. says

    Hey, I’m a lucky one.
    No rape and the guy who most likely tried to never got to put a hand on me [/sarcasm]
    But even I find it a huge relief to have a place to tell where those people who try to tell you that you are probably demonizing a poor guy, or that your other experiences weren’s harassment and assault, and that you should just grow a thicker skin are met with fierce opposition, arguments and snark.

  42. kaboobie says

    Pen @ 29

    I am very fortunate to have escaped all four. But I do not for a second assume that my experience is typical. I listen to women and I have empathy. That seems to be what the average “chill girl” lacks.

  43. Nora says

    I’m one of the lucky ones, having experienced “just” the last two. There was an incident when I was a teenager that might have escalated but for the appearance of witnesses. I was so naive I didn’t recognize the danger I was in until many years later.

    Thank you, Me, for sharing your story. You are helping to educate the ignorant.

  44. stoferb says

    I don’t think fear of extradition should scare away Assange from sweden. He should come here, face trial and take his punishment if he’s guilty. And if he’s found innocent he can flee to the embassy of equador, there is one here too you know.

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