Today is the day I go to the police station to give my recorded statement. Today is as good of a day as any to share my story with the world. I’ll be sharing it with the police after all. I’m anxious, French is not my mother tongue, when I went to give my provisional statement I didn’t know the word for masturbation for example. I do now, but never would I have thought about learning through such horrors.
Before you read this post I would like to add a trigger warning, this post is long and discusses rape and sexual harassment. It is not easy reading and it certainly wasn’t easy to write. This is a true story told from my perspective based on how things happened at the time, notes I wrote at the time and my memories two and a half years later. This is my #MeToo story, this is the reason I am writing a book, this is the reason I have a blog. This is the reason sometimes I drink too much, or I flinch when I’m touched or someone moves too quickly near me.
There was Ahmed though who seemed way too old to be with the rest of us, but I put it down to him having some bad luck somewhere along the line. He seemed friendly enough but there were things that were off. I had never seen him dressed because he didn’t go out he would wear pyjamas and a leopard print dressing gown. I put it down to him being at home and effectively the communal areas are still his home. I think what bothered me the most was the smell that came off of either him or the dressing gown, weed mixed with body odour and must with a hint of aftershave. Nobody said anything so I kept quiet. He seemed to be friends with everyone but I noticed that Emily refused to be downstairs with him and would leave as soon as he appeared.
Ahmed had a TV in his second-floor room and would invite a few of us over to watch films in the evening that he had pirated off the internet. I liked being around people, even though I wasn’t the most talkative it was a nice atmosphere. Myra used to complain about the smell of weed though as he’d sit in his room with two other guys passing a joint around with the window closed. I used to have to be really careful after being in there because I found the weed smell clang to my clothes and hair and working with children, it’s just not a good image. The conversations were weird though, both Ahmed and Myra were signed up for a dating site. Although it wasn’t like Tinder where it’s mainly normal photos, this was a site where the profile pictures were explicit. I had never seen so many dick pics on one screen, Myra used to pass them around and laugh about the appearance or size. I tried to laugh it off the best I could. I asked her what her willy looked like and she exploded into laughter. Ahmed offered to show me his, the other two people kept quiet.
It was around this time that Ahmed started flirting with me. I’d had a few flings in France, nothing major. Just the kind of three-month boyfriend-girlfriend thing that is always doomed to break down because there’s no real interest other than sex. Nobody had shown any interest in me for the best part of a year and I was flattered by the attention. Especially since it was in winter and I was wearing baggy jumpers and shapeless clothing in general. My skin was dry from the winter air and I just didn’t feel in any way attractive, society and the media dictated I wasn’t. He was being nice, in the mornings if I saw him he’d always offer me hot chocolate or biscuits. When I told him that I didn’t have much money for food he said I could take what I wanted from his cupboard. I never did though, I’d rather be self-sufficient and I was never that hungry. We would talk about our pasts and he opened up to me that his mother had abandoned him into foster care at a young age so that although he had Algerian origins he couldn’t speak Arabic or anything. He even tried helping me with the welfare forms which are always a nightmare in France. I found out he was there because he had split with his ex-girlfriend and the only income he had was from the welfare system. He was waiting for social housing and didn’t want to waste too much money in the meantime. The friends I had made in this shared house were above and beyond anything I had hoped for, I imagined it would be the same routine of keeping my head down and avoiding trouble. The flirting carried on in text form, he asked if I wanted a sexy photo. I didn’t even bother to reply, not that I had the time. Within five minutes I had a dick pic. I put it down to me not being up to date with modern flirting, dick pictures are everywhere online.
Very late one evening about two weeks after moving in I was alone with him in his room, from the way things were going we could have ended up sleeping together. Then I chickened out and changed my mind, I just didn’t feel comfortable. I apologised and left, he said it was fine. He carried on texting me and even told me Myra came in really early and pretended to look for me, saying she somehow knew we’d slept together. I felt very uncomfortable at this point and not long after things started getting weird. Lunchtime I liked to go downstairs and eat in the dining room. I didn’t like eating in my bedroom because the smell would stay and I wasn’t opening the window any longer than five minutes in the morning, it was still January after all. I had eaten my lunch and he was downstairs with me, when I went to take my tableware back to the ground floor kitchen he followed me up the stairs. I was wearing a red knee-length skirt and thick tights with a grey jumper. He spanked me as I walked up one step, I let it go. The next step he spanked me again, I asked him to stop. The third step once again I was spanked, I told him to stop and he told me he was only laughing. One more step and I wasn’t spanked, then the last step he did it again. I told him to cut it out more firmly than before, he said bye and headed upstairs to his room. I put it down to what had happened the other night and didn’t think any more of it.
A few nights later I was in his room with Myra, Ahmed and two other men living in the house share. I was unlucky and stuck sitting next to him, I tried using the excuse of not having my classes to get away but it didn’t work. He held onto my wrist and when I feigned being tired said it was okay if I fell asleep there. I was too shy to assert myself and leave. He kept trying to caress me in the dark, I took his hand off of me and glared at him but I didn’t have the courage to shout or hit out. In his other hand, he held a joint that he was passing around the room, I was pressured into trying it. Almost instantaneously I felt calm, zen and passive and I think this was planned to combat my silent protests. It must have been the second or third joint because Myra got up and said she was fed up with the smell, she pulled the roof window open. I sound like a real stoner but I noticed how bright and beautiful the consolation of Orion was. The beauty was short-lived though because after that they all complained they were cold, two blankets were pulled out and shared between us. I was stuck with Ahmed, I protested pointing out I was from a cold country and I wasn’t cold, he grabbed me and pulled me under. From above the blanket I doubt they could see the tight grip he had on me. I wasn’t comfortable but if I tried moving too much he tightened his grip on me, by this point he was taking it too far with his caresses and I wanted out. When I looked at my phone to check the time my battery was dead, so I finally had a valid excuse to leave. Even then he tried to make me stay, he said that he had his phone if I was desperate but Myra told him to let me go. I must have been so relieved as I ran down the stairs and into my room, it was short lived though. After a quarter-hour, he came and knocked on my door asking when I was coming back. I lied, I said I’d seen the time and I was going to bed because I had work in the morning. I was so lucky it worked and I didn’t have to open the door, and soon as I was sure he had gone I went to the basement and had a shower to wash the smell away from me. The realisation that I would have to cut myself off from my housemates hit hard, but it was okay. I had caught it early, I would stay polite saying hello from time to time. I wasn’t that deeply entwined with them so I reasoned that I wouldn’t be missed.
Myra would still phone or text from time to time as would Ahmed, but I only gave bland replies saying I had a lot of work to do with my studies. In truth I wasn’t that busy I just wanted to avoid everyone because I found there were overstepping all my limits. By the end of January, I was miserable. My Grandma was only getting worse and had been expected to die at any point for about a week. I didn’t really want to be around people but at the same time, I didn’t want to be lonely. Netflix only provided so much distraction and knitting wasn’t easy because I wasn’t concentrating well. One night when there was a lot of noise downstairs and I thought I’d feel a bit better around other people. When I went down Ahmed was there with his ex-girlfriend and their two children. There was also Myra and some other housemates. I just sat down and tried to keep quiet, Myra said I could have dinner with them, I convinced myself it would be okay. I ended up talking a lot with Ahmed’s son, he was 8 and had a 3DS which he was trying to teach me how to play. I played dumb and said I couldn’t figure out the controls and he was having a lot of fun teaching me. I felt a lot better, he was showing me some drawings he’d done earlier and said he’d like to do more drawing. Although he only had a ballpoint pen I had colouring pencils and I asked if he wanted them. I said I’d go up and grab them, but he wanted to see my room. His parents were okay with it so off we went, I thought at the same time I’d grab some knitting to do. Then Ahmed appeared at the door saying his son was wanted downstairs. I was stood at the foot of the bed away from the door and Ahmed had both hands between his trousers and his underwear, I tried to play it cool, but I was very uneasy. His son walked off happy with my pencil-case. I asked if it was okay to go downstairs now, but Ahmed locked the door behind him and pocketed my keys. He said he hadn’t seen me for a week and claimed he had missed me, he asked if I wanted to do anything with him (or to him depending on your translation) and I bluntly said no. He walked around my bed to my wardrobe which I hadn’t closed, I moved away but and ended up next to the window, I considered climbing out of it, but it was closed and so were the shutters. Ahmed and started going through my underwear, he knocked something out of the wardrobe and I bent down to pick it up. In the time it took me to get back up he had pulled out his penis and grabbed the back of my head and neck trying to drag me towards it. I tried to wriggle away, I tried asking him what he was doing but as soon as I opened my mouth to speak he was trying to force himself in there. I bit down and he got angry because his grip tightened. The thing is I wasn’t biting as hard as I could because I didn’t want to hurt him. I tried pulling away, but he shoved me down and pulled me towards him saying he was almost finished. He tried to force himself into my mouth a few more times but when he realised it wasn’t happening he just carried on by masturbating. After the longest and worst few minutes, I have ever had to endure he ejaculated on my face forcing it as close to my mouth as possible, I spat what got in on the floor. I have never been so grateful for premature ejaculation in all my life, I had never been so disgusted either. After that, he asked for a tissue to clean himself off, pocketed it and said he’d see me downstairs in five minutes reminding me that his son would be waiting for me. I wiped off the damage with another tissue that I chucked in my rubbish back that was by the door and in a daze went back down.
An hour or two later I got a message from my Mum that we had all been waiting for with dread since October. My Grandma was gone, peacefully in her sleep. It came through during dinner, but I used it as an excuse to excuse myself from the conversation and lock myself safely in my room. I took the chance to wash my face and brush my teeth in the kitchen opposite my bedroom in the hopes none of them would see me. I didn’t feel better, but I did feel a bit cleaner. I couldn’t sleep that night. I don’t know if it was because of my Grandmother’s death or if it was because of Ahmed being a jerk. The following morning was a Monday, I had to be out early for class and I had to be on form for babysitting. I was in bed tossing and turning and trying to sleep but I just couldn’t. I got up about 4am and tried to make instant coffee as quietly as possible. I took the opportunity to go downstairs and have a proper shower, but I still didn’t feel clean. I was trying not to think about what happened, I was putting it down as my fault because I didn’t shut him down when he was flirting. I had spent the night trying to convince myself it was okay and nothing major happened, but in the shower it hit me. This was the first time I cried over it. I had been sexually assaulted, I didn’t consent and that means he should have stopped. I actively said no and that meant he had to stop. I bit him and he didn’t stop. Up until this point, I had felt more or less numb, just dirty and ashamed.