Look from behind a person and it’s unclear of the story, unclear of the circumstance and unclear of the place. Look from behind me and you’ll only see the sense of managed calm and reflection, a graceful need to poise each tale beneath. For the majority of the time, I have found that ignorance is bliss. Ignorance is bliss in times of drama and petty confrontations. Ignorance is bliss when you believe enough in yourself that you are way more worthy than how others treat you. Ignorance is bliss when recovering psychologically from times of hardship and emotional distress, yearning to move on and rise above the inner turmoil your mind can play on you. But, ignorance is not bliss when something so absurd and disgusting trends the news-line, that is so, so relatable and every-day, and can happen to any one of us. In this instance, it is only right we step in, no?
But that’s easy to say. I’m personally not one to campaign, to dispute, to argue for, or against. Nor do I choose to flood my own personal stories over someone else’s. But when something takes places that is not only wrong, but also personally relatable, it brews a fierce inner grasp to a responsibility of needing to make things right – to rattle the brains of those so blinded and occluded in their actions and words. Because in this instance, I believe her.
Hearing the recent news of a 17-year old, who took her own life shortly after her underwear was used as evidence against her in a rape trial, simply shook me. For anybody it doesn’t shake, sickens me. “You have to look at the way she was dressed”, they said. But someone tell me, how does our appearance, our skin, our innocence, make this happening any less repugnant or objectionable? What about the girl who snagged her tights en-route to dinner, or the young lad who wore his tight-fitting Kleins instead of his mother’s-bought baggy boxers? What about the woman who wore her hair down after a long day at work, or the overworked guy who unbuttoned his top collar to let off some steam? What about the kid who wore yellow socks instead of white? So what? How, in any way, shape or form do these appearances make an action of invading someone’s own bodily space any more plausible? This, was not consent.
It pains me to hear of so many stories of those, both women and men alike, who hide in the dark after such hideously victimising crimes. To learn that many keep their agonising secret brewing so quietly for so many years makes me want to help cut those wounds open, and let their rightful justice seep out to open eyes, ears and arms. Why? Because I feel their pain. I thus, did not want to be one of them. You can feel sorry, you can sympathise, but you know that these things will never happen to you, or even anyone to your nearest acquaintances, but that’s where you are wrong. That’s where we are all wrong.
In the summer of 2016, I was just another one of them. The recent passing of my Grandma, following an unlawful death – a medical error in hospital, and a catalogue of clumsy admin errors in my formatted examination papers in the first year of university, meant I had to resit the first of my summer exams. I had little time to reconcile, to justify the last few weeks of events, and the mistakes made – none of which were fault of my own. A logical instinct scooped me back up into the trusting hands of a private tutor to pick up the pieces in time for my resit – a professor of Chemistry, Biology and Physics, who claimed to also be a Cambridge professor and teacher of Medicine. It was too good to be true.
It still feels very odd when trying to relive the exact processes and phases leading up to my classes, as I sit here chewing my nails mindlessly at the uncertainty of what to share with you all next. Fact is, the details in between are irrelevant. Emails were exchanged, location of the study periods confirmed, and the trust that at least my determination and willingness to do the best I could in these next set of exams were cemented, concise and driven.
An hour into the tutoring session I had established this was not the tutor he described himself to be. There was no professor of Medicine, no lecturer of Physics and no graduate of Chemistry. My tutor had now become suspect without my realisation. What’s more, without my consent. Words became interrogations, fast-paced questions, difficult to understand, whilst firm hands were felt in places undiscovered to even myself. A pitted feeling of thinking to yourself, in slow motion, is that mine? Is this my territory? In your head you are screaming out what you truly want to say, but back in the void of reality you are hushed to silence and numb to movement. I had frozen, and, still to this very day, I forever hate myself for not calling out there and then. But, until it happens to you, you will never even dream of considering what actions you would make. Just in the same way as the need to overthink your choice of dress, your choice of socks, your choice of shoes, your choice of underwear, is completely unnecessary and far from your oblivious radar.
I didn’t keep quiet. I went straight to help. I went to court. And I went to court until justice was served. And this took a whole year. But in between all of this, I too was questioned by a defence lawyer. Was I sure that this had happened to me? Being blind and deaf was I sure I hadn’t mistaken anything or overreacted because I couldn’t quite see or hear as much as him? Surely, with poorer eyesight I mistook where his hands had gone and were going. Surely, with my hearing-aids I misunderstood his increasingly aggressive tone of interrogation and questioning. No. My sense of touch and sense of awareness are in no way impaired. And I am in no way any form or figure of stupidity. And nor is anybody, anybody, else. Because we did not consent. But that won’t make us victims.
I can only hope that the courts have opened their pus-filled eyes to the real fate here. I hope that full justice is given and I hope that just by sharing my process of events, reasoning and outcomes can help at least that few to come forward in light of these atrocities. Ignorance is bliss in most occasions, but here it is certainly not. Speak up – and you’ll have full consent to do so.