I was tidying the guest room and came across some dusty old diaries. That was the end of tidying, as I proceeded to sit on the floor and read them all. Then I came across this passage and burst into tears:
So then we went back (he bought me a rose on the way) and I went to bed. Well, to sleep on the floor. In my skimpy nightie. And then, only a little while later, I felt his lips on mine. The bastard. He took advantage of me, and I let him. I let him. And now I feel disgusted and nauseated but I can’t let him know. I got hopped on. And I hopped back. And we did it lots of times. And I cried because I’m in love with Mahmut. And I’ve told K. but will never tell anyone else. And there is a bad feeling now in the pit of my stomach. He’s ruined our friendship. I’d better not be pregnant. I’m so confused because I still value his friendship, but I feel violated.
[image of the above passage, written in pink pen, in my scrawling handwriting, inside my red flower diary.]
I then described how he dropped me off at the airport the next morning, and how an earthquake hit Istanbul that night, the 1999 Izmit Earthquake to be precise, and the rest of the diary entry describes how lucky I was that I had arrived back in Ireland just hours before, and the frantic search for a missing relative, who was eventually found safe. I was also grieving for the thousands who lost their lives that day.
And so, the events of that night got buried deep inside, and are only recently resurfacing. It has taken me 19 years to even realise I’d been raped.
ETA: As far as I remember, my friend K. (my only friend at the time) viewed the whole incident as me cheating on my boyfriend mahmut Which only compounded my sense of shame. Neither of us ever mentioned the word rape.
I don’t think he’s even realise that’s what he did. We met a few years later, as my aunt wanted to visit him and needed my help navigating the trains etc in New York, where he now lived. And when she went to the toilet, he made some remark about ‘the earth moved’, a joke in reference to that night and the earthquake. I mumbled something but was a mess for the rest of the day. Because I let him. I ‘hopped back’. I didn’t stop him. I didn’t shout. I didn’t scream. I didn’t say ‘No’. I remember thinking I should just ‘play along’ to get the ordeal over with as soon as possible. After we’d spent a lovely day wandering around Istanbul, followed by a movie and dinner. And I hadn’t packed pyjamas as it was very hot and I’d spent the last month with my boyfriend anyway. So, I was wearing a skimpy nightie. And so I thought I’d ‘led him on’. And so I’d let him.
I was twenty years old at the time, and he was nearly fifty. A family friend, he’d visited me in the hospital the week I was born. He’d seen me grow up. I did have a crush on him as a child. He was my hero. In fact, I’d worshipped him. I’d been upset when, instead of waiting for me like he’d promised (I was about six when I asked him to marry me), he’d gotten married not once, but twice. He was in between marriages on that night. He is still with his third wife, I believe.
Im not writing this because I want to see him punished. He’s in his sixties and has survived throat cancer. I’m not even looking for an apology. (Though that would be nice) I’m writing this for my own sanity, to remind myself that it was not my fault, that I did nothing wrong. That rape culture led him to believe he could take what he wanted, and that I had to let him.
Im also writing this because I now am mother to a boy and a girl. And, when the time is right, they can read this and learn that what happened to me was not what consent looks like.
I’m glad my dad died not knowing about this. It could have killed him. And mom, if you’re reading this, and this is how you’re finding out, then I’m sorry. Sorry I couldn’t tell you to your face. Sorry I couldn’t tell you before. But it’s taken me this long to process what happened, and I didn’t know how to bring it up. What you do with the information is up to you. I’ve said all I’m going to say on the subject.
[image is of the cover of my ‘red flower diary’, which has a dark red cloth cover, framed with delicately embroidered flowers.]