1000 Stories for Change #5: The Rapist in the Workplace

[anonymous submission] 

Last night I couldn’t sleep.

My head was full of thoughts and ideas, not all inspiring or motivational. In fact most were anxiety inducing.

I remembered an attack I experienced when I was 19 years old, when a colleague I began dating felt it was his right to have sex with me however he wanted to – regardless of my womanly emotions.

He is tall, gangly and much bigger and stronger than I will ever be without the help of steroids.  He didn’t pull a knife, or handcuff me, and he didn’t jump out from a bush or from the shadows of an alleyway. In fact, it happened in a hotel room in Melbourne’s CBD in 2010. He wasn’t a stranger, or a “funny uncle”. He was the young man I was dating from my work place, on Collins St in Melbourne.

Drunk before I arrived at the hotel, I remember the large bottle of Smirnoff Vodka he had just about polished off when I arrived after work that evening – I had thought we would spend the evening out in the city having dinner in a chic Melbourne restaurant, maybe Italian or Indian cuisine followed by a movie, or game of pool or bowling. That romantic evening idea was crushed when I realized just how drunk he really was. Varun didn’t block the door to physically stop me leaving, but he made it very clear I was not to leave the small, cold pale blue room. There’s no way of describing this accurately except that I knew if I tried to leave, that he would physically stop me – and where was I going to go? It certainly wasn’t any safer for a young woman to be out on the streets of Melbourne at night, alone. I had no friends nearby, or family. I was safer in the hotel room than on the streets with nowhere to go.

Varun would not leave the room – and he would not allow me on my own, even so I might have some dinner. Not even to the 7 Eleven on the street below to get a day old sandwich or pie. As the evening progressed with his random, loud and slurred proclamation’s, I grew increasingly uneasy with the situation. Tonight was supposed to be the night we might sleep together for the first time and enjoy sex – not only was I disappointed in his drunken state writing off what could have been a romantic evening, I was as all women are, aware of an underlying, ever present sense of danger.

Slowly, with each passing hour he started to sober up. The process hindered by his own stubbornness not to leave the leave room and get some food in his belly, or at least water. This strange time between sobriety and intoxication is when things escalated.

We began to become intimate – consensually and awkwardly. Kissing, running a hand up and down the others back feeling their muscles and bones, the outline of their body. He took off my t-shirt and coarsely fondled my breasts, squeezing and pinching. I asked him to be gentler. His mouth ran a trail of rough kisses down my neck with small and sharp bites, making his way down to my breasts, and nipples, biting each over and over and I cringed in pain, recoiled from him but could not escape. I did not want this to continue – it hurt.

Varun, leaned over me on the hotel bed. I was against the headboard and Varun towered over me between the only escape from that room – his arms were long and strong – there was no way I could out manoeuvre him, I wasn’t faster or stronger than he was and I couldn’t reach my phone to call anyone, let alone police. My only option was to “go along” with it. Let him do what he wanted and leave when I could – if I could.

Varun proceeded to insert his penis in my mouth – and forcefully push himself over my face. He was largely endowed, and I gagged over, and over again. I had trouble breathing, my jaw hurt, and I remember how he tasted – foul.

After a while, who knows how long, he removed his penis from my mouth and began to put on a condom.

I want to say that during this entire evening, the word rape did not enter my mind. I did not know I was being raped and assaulted, like many other women out there we don’t immediately think we have been raped or sexually assaulted until it happens within a very tight socially acceptable idea of the man jumping out from an alleyway or the bushes, holding a knife to your throat or a gun to your head.

Varun proceeded to penetrate me. In spite of how I felt emotionally, my body responded the way it was designed to – with some degree of pleasure. At first, it was gentle as he found his rhythm and I suspect, enjoying himself. His hands roamed my body grabbing, not caressing as a lover might. Roughly groping and twisting, pinching and squeezing my breasts.

As he became more comfortable, he became more frantic. Varun pushed himself as hard as he could inside me – being that he had what would championed as the epitome of masculinity, also known as “a big dick” this was incredibly painful, and something my body was not designed to accommodate.

I cannot describe to you the sensation accurately enough of being penetrated so roughly by another, while knowing that fighting back is not an option. It felt like being split in half from the inside. Hot searing pain ran up my entire body into every crevice.

He flipped me over, onto my hands and knees and before I could stop myself from doing so, I asked him to stop. I asked him to stop, it was hurting too much. He needed to be gentler. In that moment, he did stop, just long enough for him to remove the condom without my noticing or consent and long enough for me to catch my breath – until he rammed himself back into my body, penetrating vaginally and with much more power than before. I felt I would break in half – I remember have the thought, this must be what it’s like to be ripped limb from limb.

Again, and again I asked him to slow down. To be gentler.

Again, and again these went unanswered, unacknowledged.

Tears filled my eyes. It hurt so terribly. His groping became rougher, reaching around to my breasts he grabbed them harder than before, squeezing tighter, pinching my nipples. To this day, I can feel the same pain rippling through my body. Eventually, he orgasmed inside of me – his semen dribbled out of me a little. I removed himself from my body, and it was then I could move – but my body was trembling all over like jelly and it didn’t want to move – the dull throbbing pain of his penetration left me in such a state that movement of all kinds caused deep pain that stemmed from the core of my femineity. Slowly I turned my head, only to see the condom discarded on the floor, empty. Bigger tears filled my eyes, and somehow, my body moved itself to the bathroom where it collapsed in a heap on the floor and the tears flowed. I curled myself up into a ball. I did not know what I had just experienced was called rape, or sexual assault, or indeed a form of kidnapping.  

I knew for sure that his removing the condom and choosing to ejaculate inside of me was something I did not consent to, and my mind raced with the thought of pregnancy. Varun came over to me and asked why I was crying – I told him clearly, he was supposed to wear the condom. What if I was pregnant now? Why did he do that?

He shrugged and said we would just simply go and get a morning after pill In the morning. He didn’t understand why on earth I was so upset with him, he wasn’t crying so why should I?

I showered. I felt dirty. I scrubbed myself as hard as I could and tried in vain to get him out from inside me, but I’ll never know if it worked – probably not.  The rest of that night is something of a blur in my memory.

The next morning I had to go to work – Varun insisted on accompanying me to the pharmacy, but refused to enter with me to obtain the morning after pill. The process of obtaining this one little pill in Australia is humiliating. The Pharmacist on duty is required to ask personal questions and you are expected to answer honestly – and endure something of a small lecture on safe sex practices and contraception.

I took the pill as soon as I could, and I was ravenously hungry. Every movement of my body hurt and I felt my body was stiffening, hardening. Varun refused to let me buy myself breakfast evening from a 7 Eleven or McDonalds – he remarked I was fat enough (I was a size 14/16, about 90kg) and insisted we walk together, but not be “seen” together. This version of Varun was a far cry from the flirtatious and helpful colleague I knew in the workplace. He told me that back in his homeland of India, his family were wealthy. So wealthy they employed house-keepers just like me. It didn’t occur to me until recently what this might have meant – at the time I found the idea of a wealthy Indian family employing Caucasian Australians as house-keepers very unlikely out in the Punjab – I now know he meant women whom he could rape at will with no consequence.

Varun called and texted constantly, at all hours. When at leisure, it was usually drunk calls and texts. During business hours, a little less erratic but still constant. He knew my living situation was precarious and strained at best, and he insisted we move in together – he frequently sent me photos of cheap houses to rent in Dandenong and made enquiries on my behalf – even though I had said no. I remember seeing the photos and thinking most of the houses were close to uninhabitable.

I could not avoid seeing him without quitting my job – a job I enjoyed and was valued in, and unconsciously I began to try putting barrier in place that would mean I saw or communicated less with him. I stopped working a particular time slot when he and I were usually scheduled to work together, but not before he would take me to the staff toilet and abuse me again. I slowly stopped responding to his calls and texts – but that made it worse. He re-doubled his efforts, and began accusing me of being a neglectful girlfriend, and then cheating on him.

I could not escape this man, and I did not know what happening to me is very typical of domestically violent relationships. I had nobody to help me understand this, nobody to help me get out and extricate myself.

I saw Varun once more, at another hotel in Springvale where he raped me again for at least the third time I can remember. I was in an area of Melbourne isolated from anyone I knew except he, with no means of escape – where on earth, and how on earth would I go and get there? The train station was a long walk away in the middle of the night, but I had the strongest urge to leave – there was something about this night that has stayed with me to this day: gut instinct.

After he finished raping me and tidying himself up, Varun wanted to leave. A very out of character thing coming from a man who texted and called me at all hours of the day and night, and insisted I moved in with him. Something about this roused the strongest urge in my gut to make sure he didn’t leave. Somehow, I knew that if this man left the hotel room, he would return with a group of his friends to use me however they wanted to. It was in that moment one of the easiest decisions I had ever made – I had to do whatever I needed to, to keep him in the room, to stop him leaving. I said if he left, I would go home too – what was the point, after all? He insisted I stay, because he had paid for the room and wanted his money’s worth. We argued about it, and I know later that night he had sex with me again and he stayed, not leaving the room once.

It’s only now with the support of a specialized mental health worker that I’m able to safely remember, and process what has happened to me in this time of my life. For almost a decade, I never thought of Varun and what he did to me, and I would not have called it rape until I was educated in a broader definition of rape and domestic violence actually is.  Altogether, Varun was part of my life for only a few short months, but in that time he managed to break me – from that first night in the city hotel room, Varun sent a clear message to me: my body did not belong to me, it was his, and for him to do whatever he wanted. That message stayed with me for a long, long time, and for a long, long time like many survivors that message translated to their body being a plaything for any man to use as he saw fit.

I’ve spoken to police about this and although there are details I have omitted to protect myself, and those around me that I love, there is not enough of a basis for me to press charges at this time, and I’m not sure I will – the process of pressing charges against another is a long and harrowing experience I am already going through on a separate case.

But this here, is to hopefully provide some real insight to what a rape looks like in Australia – because it’s more than a man jumping out of some bushed. Its gender inequality at its height and peak, an exercise in power over, shame, humiliation, degradation and blame.

Ashleigh Rae