From The Men’s Room & Other Places

It’s been very stormy in our little corner of Lac Leman in the last few days. It’s a welcome change after weeks of stifling temperatures; after sun-baked days in over-crowded playgrounds with over-heated, over-tired children and over-stuffed bags bursting at the seams with water-bottles, sticky lolly wrappers, already-drying-out baby wipes and greasy bottles of melted sun lotion.

Suddenly, we’ve found ourselves rain-dancing! Hopping around, barefoot in the grass, giggling and rejoicing at feeling bursts of cool droplets on our frazzled skin. After last summer’s patch of storms, I am pleased to say that my little girl is no longer scared of them. Like me, she now matches her excitement to the increasing pressure around her, as the storm gains momentum and menacing grey and purple clouds form a canopy above her. I no longer have to close the doors, as instead she and her little brother insist on standing on our picnic table on the terrace to watch the storm’s progress in the valley, letting forth squeals and claps of delight as they do so.

I think it’s simply that now they are getting older, they can begin to sense and understand that blissful feeling of relief; when oppressive, stagnant air is cleansed and purged, making way for fresh air, fresh thinking, a fresh start. Change. It often isn’t something to be afraid of. With what can often be perceived as unsettling change, something to be feared, there comes a new-found space of comfort and possibility.

Fear and comfort are words that have come up in my life many times recently. This is mainly due to the conversation I recently had with Karl from The Dialogue Project. The interview was published online on 16 July. Many of you know about this interview, indeed many have helped me to publicise it far and wide. Many of you have listened. Indeed, I have had an overwhelming and often shocking response to it, but it has taken until now to let the dust settle a little, for me to gather my thoughts and to make some kind of sense of my feelings about the reactions I received.

The following are descriptions of some of the reactions I received. Only some, however. The actual volume of the response was overwhelming and I continue to express my gratitude to those who have taken the time to listen to the interview and who have contacted me to express how they felt…

The Victim
Unfortunately, there were some negative reactions, or at least ones that unsettled me a little…

The reaction that saddened me the most was from a lady who found herself to be incredibly emotional after hearing the conversation. She contacted me to say that I had given her a voice. Although as I reiterated to her, this was not something I was intending to do, as I believe with all the passion possible that a person’s own situation is entirely unique. It transpired that she was a victim herself and was obviously having a few issues surrounding her own situation.

What was odd, however, was that having contacted me for a couple of days after the interview was published, suddenly, and inexplicably, she was gone. She didn’t answer my messages, she unfollowed me on Twitter and simply disappeared into cyberspace.

I was shocked, saddened, but that wasn’t all. Her disappearance happened on the day I tweeted and indeed blogged about the fact I was struggling. I felt abandoned. My so-called strength was a double-edged sword. When bystanders, onlookers, friends see you as strong, as someone who bounces back constantly, it is easy to think that you don’t need any help. There was I, putting it in black and white that I was feeling vulnerable, frightened, emotional, and the very people who had previously confirmed that they had cause to understand were the very people to remain silent upon hearing my call for help.

Don’t get me wrong, everyone has choices and I utterly respect her decision to no longer correspond. However, bearing in mind that she had been the subject of some negative Twitter reaction to her tweets about being a victim, I cannot help but feel that this disappearing act was just a way of reverting back to what she might have felt was expected of her by her followers. To me it felt like something was being conveniently swept under the carpet. However, this is not my situation and I can only speak for myself. I sent her a brief, but heartfelt message finally, wishing her all the best for the future.

Those Questioning My Motive
To talk during the interview so honestly and openly of a situation where I had no power, no control and no choice, and essentially was in fear for my life and that of my Mother’s, was intensely difficult. Many have asked how I was able to do it. The answer is simple, to talk about it is easier than being attacked. I will try to explain this further. I lived through the attack, and indeed have lived through other extremely difficult life situations both prior to it and since (see below about subsequent chapters to my interview). My theory is this: live through this and it makes anything else seem like a day at the beach. There is simply nothing to fear from a conversation.

Equally, there were those that asked why? Indeed, one person asked what I was getting from doing the interview in the first place and also what were others getting from it by listening? For a brief explanation (a detailed one taking a day at least), I can only answer in numbers, essentially: 1500 blog hits in one day, over 500 responses to my interview, new friendships, new conversations, new opportunities, but perhaps most importantly, I feel that this is another piece of my life’s healing process.

I can, however, understand these kinds of questions. As I have grown up in recent years and have been on a journey of learning self-acceptance, I have had to learn to accept others. I have come to understand that just as I am intensely open and wear my heart on my sleeve, there are equally people who are intensely private and who do not. These are people who perhaps have felt uncomfortable listening to such a detailed and graphical account of what happened.

Indeed, in regard to the graphical nature of the conversation, I received one comment on how, when I recounted my ordeal, I was surprisingly unemotional.

I can say that, when you listen to the audio, you will hear me describe how my tummy is tight and there is an uncomfortable feeling in my chest. I was NOT unemotional.

But actually, as regards the mechanics of the attack, it is simply that I have largely dealt with it. Yes, I have had my nightmares. I still get them at times. But I find describing the in-depth details of the attack as easy as describing a recipe or discussing what happened on Eastenders last night. It has taken several years of counselling to get to that stage, but I’m there.

I would hope that this is something to be proud of, it is not something that belittles my ordeal or indeed that of any other person who has suffered at the hands of an attacker.

The Men’s Room
I suppose the most surprising wave of reaction I received came from men. I was in awe and delighted at how many men contacted me after the interview and were keen to give their viewpoint.

I don’t know why I was so surprised. Maybe I felt that my interview might be taken as me “jumping on an anti-male bandwagon”. Nothing could be further from the truth.

I have never had a problem specifically with men. I love men! When I feel confused as a woman, I envy their logic and their matter-of-factness. I often envy their detachment; and by that I do not mean a lack of passion – but their ability to compartmentalise aspects of their lives. It is a skill I often wish I had.

I sometimes wish I had the ability to see the world in black and white, as I feel that many men have the ability to do, instead of these confusing hues of charcoal and grey that I find my vision filtered with.  Again, this is simply my perception.

At the risk of sounding patronising, however, I often feel sorry for men. Particularly in situations when someone they know has been raped.

To some of the men I spoke to, I wanted to swap roles and be their protector. Indeed, with some I was; I was the comforter, the consoler, the one to tell them it was all OK.

But I am more than qualified to do that, because I am the character in the story and I am OK. I have survived.

The Protectors
One close male friend simply couldn’t listen to the interview for longer than 5 minutes because he felt so angry. He sent me a message apologising, but explained that he felt almost violent. He just could not face listening any longer. No apology was necessary.

An understanding of the wave of angry male reaction came from a really helpful conversation I had with Jason, my partner. He told me:

“As a man, it is entirely normal to feel angry. When I listened, I was clenching my teeth as I thought of what that man did to you. It was extremely harrowing and difficult to listen to. You have to understand that as a man, I felt ashamed. I find it hard to tolerate that “one of my kind” would do that to another human being. It offends and angers me. And, of course, I wanted nothing more than to be transported back over twenty years, just so that I would have a chance to protect you”

The Fearless
One of the sweetest, nicest reactions I had was from a man that I correspond with online quite frequently. He is a married man with a child, hopelessly in love with this wife, bearing the strain of being a new Dad; a thoughtful, funny, intelligent guy. I would say that he and I have become close, in that I have shared things with him that I do not with others, except Jason. I do not know what our connection means, as I don’t really analyse it. I simply think of him as a good friend.

He contacted me halfway through listening to the interview, explaining that he was upset and had to take a break before carrying on.

Later he contacted me and said, “I have an overwhelming urge to tell you that I love you.”

He continued, “I don’t know how I feel, it’s a confusing combination. I feel sick. I feel sad. I feel strangely elated too. I want to talk to you about it, but I don’t. I want to look into your eyes. I want to hold you.”

He clarified, “It feels different to the love I feel for my friends and family.”

He then went on almost apologising for this reaction, as if he shouldn’t have said it.

But I understood what he meant. And I told him I loved him back.

There have been times in my life when I have developed relationships with people of any age or gender and have felt an overwhelming rush of love for their spirit, for their outlook, for what they represent, for who they are.

I would hate to have to go through life being unable to express love for someone. I loved his honesty and the fact that he was not scared to tell me. It made my day.

After all, if we cannot express love, then why are we here?

Saving The Best Until Last
Finally, and perhaps most poignantly, Karl received some reactions from close friends and colleagues who voiced concerns about the true state of my emotional well-being.

They asked him, “How could you possibly know that she was ok with doing the interview? She might have said she was, but how do you really know?”

There is no easy answer to this, as to understand fully, you would perhaps have needed to be a fly-on-the-wall during our conversation.

How can I explain? We shared something that day, almost from the very moment he got off the train at Villeneuve station. It was an understanding. Only the two of us can ever know how special that conversation was. Of course, I dearly hope that the connection we shared and the naturalness of the situation translated onto the audio. Perhaps my apparent ease in describing how I was violated, perversely translates into me being “unemotional” as previously described?

There are many questions that will remain unanswered…

Perhaps the questions Karl received regarding this lead me to the most important point about doing the interview in the first place.

I chose to do the interview.

This was a situation to which I had choices open to me and I made my decision with strength, forethought and in a time in my life when I am finally happy, on solid ground and, perhaps most importantly, surrounded by love.

I also made the decision with a very open mind as to the reaction I would receive and what might follow in terms of publicity after the interview was published online.

And, I made the decision knowing that it would be extremely hard for friends and family to listen to. But I felt that, so long as I spoke from my perspective only and in no way tried to convey that I was a voice for anyone else, no one close to me would feel the need to voice any serious objection to it.

I am sorry for those of you that felt uncomfortable. I am sorry that you had to experience those feelings. But I remain without regret at doing the interview. The rape happened, it wasn’t nice, but it happened.

To sum up everything, as to why this interview took place, I will say this:

To take back my power and control over twenty years after it was stripped away from me, is a very healing thing indeed. It is not something I have been able to do properly until now. I needed to be heard as Jane the adult, Jane the Mother, Jane the almost-healed.

And, to me, THAT is the entire point.

14 thoughts on “From The Men’s Room & Other Places

  1. Hi JP. I love your concise, generous and heartfelt writing, an admirable clarity and warmth; rare combinations. I will listen to your conversation, when the right factors come together. However, I do know that I will put it off for as long as possible. Sorry.

    Be tweeting bollocks later. Franky. x

  2. So many hows, whys and whats. They may as well ask the length of a piece of rope. It seems as if some people need justification of what people say or write before it can be “REAL” for them,or acceptable.
    Keep on doing what you do, which is, of course, for you, which is why you do it xxxxxx Monkeystreehous – being serious for a change

  3. Hi Jane,

    I am one of your newer followers on twitter. In fact, I came across your interview from a re-tweet by someone else I follow. I listened to the whole interview, and was in awe of how you managed to tell your story with such poise. I did send you a quick comment on twitter, but I didn’t comment on your blog, because I didn’t quite have the words to say what I wanted to say. But having read this blog, I feel I should find the words to somehow say how I feel.

    It makes me sad that people would question your motive. Why shouldn’t you speak about it? People who are injured in robberies, or people who survived 9/11, or 7/7 are heroes when they speak out. Nobody questions their motives, but pats them on the back for being brave enough to do so. I don’t understand why a rape survivor speaking out is any different. Unfortunately, that is the problem we have in society. People can’t stand to hear the horrible sordid details of what happens when someone is raped. Yes, it’s hard to hear, but living through it, and having to live with the memories for the rest of your life is harder. If more people spoke out the way you did, it wouldn’t be such a shock, so I for one applaud your honesty. Rape is so alienating, and hearing someone speak out, and knowing you are not alone in how you feel, makes it somewhat bearable, so that alone is motive enough in my opinion.

    I am also really sad that someone questioned the fact that you were “unemotional”. God, that makes me angry. I was amazed at how composed you were, but it was more in awe rather then questioning it, and I hope this other person meant the same thing.

    Everybody reacts differently, and just because you are not falling down crying hysterically, doesn’t mean you are not affected. I too was raped a couple of years ago. I was walking home, and was attacked by two “men”, if that’s what you would call them. It took a lot of therapy for me to be able to speak about what happened. For so long, I would have a panic attack just trying to even say the words, let alone describe what happened. Then I went through a phase of talking about it, but it was like I was re-counting something I’d read, not actually something that had happened to me. And I still do that a lot I think. When I talk about it, I talk about it like it’s somebody else, because sometimes, that’s the only way I can speak about it. Reading how you are now at a stage where you can speak about it so easily, gives me great hope and I thank you for that.

    I really admire your honesty, and I’m sure I can speak on behalf of many people when I say you give great hope. I hope you don’t allow a few ignorant people put you off speaking out in the future because I think more people like you, will make it less of an ordeal to do so.

    Thank you xx

    “ps, sorry for the long comment”

    1. Hi G
      Firstly, please don’t apologise for the long comment. I am delighted that you spent the time doing so.
      Secondly, I am so sorry to hear of what happened. I cannot imagine how awful it must be. I guess having been attacked by only one man, logic just “said” to me that all men couldn’t possibly “be like that”. But two? I would find it very hard to trust men after that.
      Of course, there are many, many wonderful men out there and many have expressed very caring viewpoints towards me about my experiences.
      I am pleased you sought therapy. I did too. Not only at the Doctor’s initial referral, but also at other times in my life when I knew I was struggling. It’s a useful tool. Of course, talking with friends, family etc is good too, but it is difficult for them to get distance.
      I am pleased to say you are right in that I am not “falling down crying” about the attack any longer. I still have my “moments” and as explained in the interview it is forever part of my “psychological make-up”. But now that I finally like myself (all the good bits and bad bits), I can deal with it far better if it crops up again for any reason.
      Let me know if you ever need to chat. You can contact me at contact@janeprinsep.com
      I am an uber-geek so always “around” in cyberspace somewhere.
      Once again, thank you for the comment.
      Jane xx

      1. Hi Jane,

        Thank you for taking the time to write back, and thank you for the kind words. I think all our experiences are unique, but we all go through a similar hell, and ultimately, we all suffer a similar aftermath I think. And yes, I think I do find it very hard to trust men even now, a couple of years later. I have not had a relationship since in fact. But I don’t hate men, I just find intimacy very difficult since. But it’s something I plan on working on and am determined to not let it affect the rest of my life. I know it will take time, but I also know it is possible to overcome. You were so young when it happened to you, and I really really admire the way you are coping. I don’t think I could have coped with it at such a young age, I was in my twenties and barely survived.You haven’t’ let it destroy your life and that is so inspirational. Reading your partners comment below was really lovely. And he made some very interesting points in what he said. He makes a lot of sense, and I’m glad you have such a great support in your life.

        Something you said about therapy really hit home with me. The fact that you sought out therapy, not just after the event, but later on when you were struggling. My therapy ended suddenly due to my therapist getting sick, so I never really completed. I have decided to go back and finish with another therapist, so thank you for helping me reach that decision. 🙂

        Last week kind of made me think about going back. It was the anniversary of my rape, and I have been struggling a little because of that. It’s a hard one to explain to people around because I don’t think they fully understand the impact that date has. I know you can appreciate what it’s like, I think only other survivors can.

        Thanks again for being so open and helping survivors everywhere. xx

  4. Your strength is pretty amazing and the variety of reactions doesn’t really surprise me,there will always be people being difficult and having a go at you, even though it’s ultimately their choice to listen or to read your stuff.

    Keep up the good work and keep going x

  5. Hi Jane

    I felt moved to comment on this blog post, I hope my comments don’t offend.

    I feel very upset each time I think about the rape, I feel anger and frustration. I wish I could help you in some way but know there is little I can offer, I also know that you pretty ok about it all now and my intervention would be useless.

    The bit I hope will not offend is also the bit that has stopped me from commenting before on the subject.

    As much as rape should never happen to anybody at any time there is and always will be people out there who think its there god given right to violate people.

    I feel comfort in the fact that you have now dealt with you issues to the point where your able now help people!

    Things may have been very different! You may not have been able to cope and you may have ended up being permanently unhappy.

    But not you, you have a great family a great home and a great life, it just shows people that there is indeed life after rape!

    I look forward to your next interview post’s.

    Regards

    QP xx

  6. I have just been reading your beautifully written piece. I feel ashamed to have to tell you that I haven’t listened to the interview. I just can’t bring myself to do it for my own reasons. I can’t bear to hear about what you went through as a child.I was date raped as a 38 year old woman. I blame myself for allowing it to happen because I was newly divorced, vulnerable and needy. I never contacted the police and never will because it took me ages to actually realise and come to terms with what he actually did. Ripping off my clothes and not listening to the word “No”
    I remember telling my friends not to let him come back to the house with me. They thought I was just drunk on the back seat if the car, they had no idea he had put something into my drink. They knew I had liked him for a while and thought I had at last reeled him in. I have never told my husband because he knows this man. In fact he is married now with children and is living in South Africa. As you know I lost my son four years ago and the enormity of this tragedy overshadows anything that happened before and as you said in your piece about living through something and it makes anything seem like a day at the beach that’s how I feel too. I completely understand those words …completely . Well done Janey your words have compelled me to write these words and I feel slightly better for doing just that. Much love, stay in touch xx

    1. Karen
      I am so sorry this happened. You know what? Since my interview and all the media interest surrounding it, I have been staggered at just HOW many women and men have had awful experiences of rape and sexual assault. Too many!! It’s almost like it’s the “norm” when of course it shouldn’t be. Well done for writing that down, I am sure it must have been hard for you. I do understand about not listening to the recording. I would just say, however, is that there is a happy ending. Although we all miss you here, I am so pleased because you seem so much happier where you are now. It was obviously “meant to be”.
      Lots of love
      Janey xx

  7. Hello everyone, I am Jane’s partner and want to try and share the views that seemed to help her understand some of the reactions that her male friends had to the interview.
    Men don’t normally have the psychological wiring to deal with a concept as emotionally charged as rape. We like to deal in absolutes and where there is inequity we, at least some of us, feel duty bound to try and restore balance. This is the same root that causes so many misunderstandings between men and women. A good (male) friend says “There is never a logical solution to an emotional problem” and we, unfortunately, always seek to provide a solution based on logic.
    When unable to solve an emotional problem a man may react to his inadequacy in many different ways but perhaps the most common is anger: Shame, fear, disgust even love can all turn all to readily into anger. Often the target will be himself or in the case of abuse it may be the offender but sometimes, sad times, it will be aimed at the victim.
    What I am trying to say is that we all react differently but men seem to be closer to their baser emotions and can easily lose control. I guess this is the reason there are far too many cases of rape in the world, too many people unable or unwilling to exercise control.

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