Taken Back

Fight against gender violence. November 25th marks the beginning of sixteen Days of Activism. It lasts until December 10th, International Human Rights Day (see Joanne Fedler’s media blog)
My post today, a story which no matter how many ways or times has been told, needs to be repeated and listened to again and again. This is my tribute to the fight against gender violence.

 

Taken Back

CHRISTY.

The Bird and Whistle on Old Kent Road is throbbing when I arrive half an hour late, to meet my friends. Patrons, spill onto the pavement, shout conversations, laugh loudly. Inside, squished in the corner, the band is tuning up. I weave and squeeze through the packed bodies.
‘Sorry, excuse me, thanks,’ I glance around for my friends, Carla and Fizz. I spy Fizz’s radiant red curls. Her and Carla are leaning on a bar table at the side. I wave to them.
“You’re late, again!” Carla shouts.
“Yeah, sorry. My last client, old Mrs Higginbottom, is so particular on how I blow-dry her hair…
“Who?”
“Mrs Higginbottom.”
“She what?”
“She insisted I… oh never mind. How are you both?”
“Fine. I’m getting a drink. You want one, Christy?” Fizz asks.
“Sure, thanks. Just a beer.”
“I’m fine, though works been manic.” Carla adjusts her glasses. “The editor gets so wound up the week before the magazine goes to print.” She shouts.
The Bird and Whistle is where we three always come for a catch-up. Fizz loves it here, and as pubs go, it’s fine but Friday nights are party nights, not quiet catch-up nights.
“What’s the focus for this edition?”
“Going into summer, hence silly season, hence date rape,” Carla raises her eyebrows. “I mean, sure it’s the type of issue that our readers need to be alerted to, but there is so much information out there already, so many warnings, do’s and don’ts etcetera… .”
Fizz returns to the table. “Thanks.” I sip my beer.
“It’s like a flipping rugby scrum up there at the bar,” she complains. “And I’m sure I felt a roving hand on my bum.”
I turn to Fizz, “I thought you liked it here.”
“Yeah, no I do, it’s just so loud and crushed, and I sure don’t need to be felt up by some desperate sicko. What say we move on?” She gulps her drink.
“I just got here.”
“ ‘Cos you were late, as always.” Fizz snaps. “Carla?”
“Um, well, I don’t mind, either way.”
Fizz pulls that look, the one she pulls when she is determined to get her own way. She downs her drink, thumps her glass on the table and glaring at both of us, says, “I’m out of here.”
Avoiding her glare, I look towards the bar. That’s when I see him, casually leaning against the end of the bar, a drink in his hand. He’s wearing a loose-woven, dark blue jacket, a white t-shirt and a pair of faded jeans. A diamond stud in one ear, glints in the light. His lips curl into an enticing smile. His dark hair brushes across his brow. Our eyes lock. I feel a blush of pleasure.
“You coming?” Fizz tugs my sleeve. Carla, behind her, her bag on her shoulder and jacket over one arm, shrugs apologetically.
“Ah, no,” I say. “I think I’ll stay.” My eyes still locked on the guy, Fizz follows my look.
“Suit yourself,” she sniffs and pushes her way towards the door, followed by Carla.
The guy saunters over.
“Hi. Your friends have gone?” I detect an accent.
“Oh, yeah. One decided she didn’t fancy the noise and the crush in here.”
“Jacob,” he offers his hand.
“Christy,” I reply, clasping his hand.
“Drink?”
“Huh?”
“Do you want another drink?” he points to my nearly empty bottle.
“Sure. Thanks. I’ll just slip to the bathroom.” I gulp the last of my beer.
In the toilet cubicle on the back of the door is one of those notices Carla was referring to. ‘Don’t ever leave your drink unattended. Don’t accept drinks from total strangers.’ She is right, there are so many warnings out there.
Back in the bar, Jacob hands me a fresh drink. I smile a thank you. He reaches a hand to my hair and strokes it. “Such beautiful hair, shimmering, full-bodied, like you.” He looks me up and down. “Very curvy, very beautiful. I’m guessing you are a model?” his eyes twinkle.
So corny! But I love it.
“Shall we go outside. It’d be easier to talk.” I nod. Jacob leads the way through the crush. The cooler outside air outside makes me shiver. We stand by a barrel table. I sip my beer. Jacob lights a cigarette. He looks up and down the street as he puffs on his cigarette. We don’t talk. I lean on the barrel table feeling slightly queasy. I look at the bottle in my hand. I have barely drunk a quarter. I look at Jacob’s profile, those eyes, no longer smiling, have a sinister look and his mouth is down-turned as he puffs nervously on his cigarette. This is wrong, this is all wrong. A nauseous feeling swims in my stomach, my head begins to pound, and shapes blur. People, tables, cars on the street. As my eyes search the street for a taxi, I stumble toward the pavement. Jacob clasps my elbow.
I spin around, “Leave me, don’t touch me. I’m getting a taxi home, alone,” and try to pull free of his grasp.
He holds my elbow tighter, signals a taxi going in the opposite direction. The taxi turns and pulls up beside us. Jacob opens the door. I mutter, “Thanks. I can manage now,” and try to close the door. Without a word, he slides in beside me, reaches across me and locks the door.
“Where to?” the taxi driver asks.
I say my address then turning to Jacob, scream, “Get out!”
I hear his muffled laughter as the taxi driver hesitates. “She’s drunk,” Jacob says. “Can’t hold her drink.”
The taxi drives away.
He leans across the seat, his hands pawing my body.
“Get off. Leave me alone.” I push against him.
“Awgh baby, you know you want it.” His head nestles into my neck and he begins kissing my neck and chest. I push on his torso with both hands but to no effect. I slip down on the seat and now he is practically lying on top of me. Beneath the weight of his body, I try to adjust my legs, hoping to knee him. I can hear the taxi driver chuckling.
The taxi comes to a halt. “This it?” he says.
Jacob springs upright, allowing me to sit up.
“Yep,” I say. I bend to pick up my bag from the floor and quickly flick the lock the door. I yank on the door handle and stumble onto the pavement, right myself and dash up the four steps to my door. I fumble in my bag for my keys. I hear his footsteps. I hear the taxi driver shouting: “You owe me nine pounds fifty.”
I have the key in the lock and as I turn it, swing my bag at his chest catching him off guard. Swiftly, I slip through the door, slam it and lock it from the inside.
He kicks at the door several times, cursing. I hear the taxi driver’s voice. It sounds like he is on the doorstep as well. “Bad luck, mate but you still owe me nine pounds fifty.”

I wake to an intense pain throbbing behind my eyes. My room is bathed in daylight and glancing sideways towards my dresser, I read the clock. One o’clock? The middle of the day? How could I have slept so long? My clothes are scattered across the floor. Near the door, my handbag lies open, the contents spilling onto the floor. I know I didn’t undress when I stumbled into bed last night. I remember scrambling on all fours up the stairs and dragging my body onto my bed. I remember flicking my shoes off. And that’s all I remember.
Before that, what happened before I tumbled into bed? A black-and-white, grainy movie plays through my head. I’m standing on a pavement outside a crowded pub. A queasy feeling in my stomach. Blurred shapes. A guy is smoking a cigarette. I’m in a taxi. The guy is pawing my body. I can smell him. Slurpy, wet kisses on my neck and chest. I’m pushing him away. I’m at my door, fumbling in my bag for my key. I open the door and lock the door from the inside. Someone is thumping the door and shouting.
Something is wrong with this movie. This couldn’t have happened.
Under my heavy duvet, I am naked. My hand moves over my breasts, across my abdomen, my hips, and my fingers run through my pubic hair. It is sticky. There is a faint, stale fishy smell. I lightly press my fingers into my fleshy thigh and feel a dull ache. A hotness rushes through my head. Oh God, I’m about to spew-up. I swing my legs onto the floor and dash for the bathroom at the end of the hallway. Kneeling against the toilet bowl, I hold back my hair from my face with one hand and clutch the side of the bowl with the other. I plant my face over the bowl. My stomach heaves. I gag and a spittle of puke dribbles out. My stomach heaves again, but there is no spittle this time, just a sour taste in my mouth. I flop back against the wall, grabbing a towel from the rail. My body feels battered like I’ve endured a punishing work-out at the Gym. My head, as heavy as a bowling ball, throbs. Waves of nausea wash over me. I’m panting. An erratic beat thumps in my heart.
I grip the edge of the toilet bowl and pull myself up. My legs tremble, threatening to buckle beneath me. I cling to the washbasin, turn on the tap and douse my face with cold water. I look down at my naked body, alarmed at what I see. A pattern of bluish marks under my breasts and on my fleshy, inner thigh. I feel a dull ache from my vagina.
My head flops over the basin, my body convulses. The grainy movie returns. A blurred shape in a doorway pauses, looks over its shoulder, smirks. Swivels around and reaching for the bed clothes pulls them over the lifeless shape on the bed. The movie fades with a screeching wail.
The pitch of the wailing sound increases. I clutch my ears trying to block out the noise. Where is it coming from?
I raise my head and swipe the back of my hand across my face. Red-rimmed eyes gaze back at me from the cabinet mirror above the basin. I smash my hand against the image. I turn and swing open the glass shower door. Inside the cavity, I turn the handle towards the red marking, allowing the scolding water to gush over me. I turn it a notch more. Hot, as hot as I can bear. The water rains down. Vigorously, I soap every inch of my flesh. With the small scrubbing brush, I scrub my abdomen, my thighs, my arms. The pain is intense. I turn the handle another notch. The bathroom steams like a heavy winter fog.
When I emerge, I wrap the towel around my torso, and returning to my room, yank all the bedding off my bed and scoop my clothes from the floor. I go downstairs to the laundry at the back of the kitchen. I stuff the machine full with bedding and clothes, pour in the soap powder and turn on the machine. Back in the kitchen, I notice the door to the outside yard is ajar. I know I locked that door before I went out last night. I always lock that door.
I stare at the door. I slip into a chair, then I remember: as I was leaving to meet the girls last night, Alison raced into the kitchen with a plastic bag of rubbish. She went out the door into the small yard.
“Tom’s picking me up shortly in a hire car and we’re driving to the Midlands. Two nights away then Tom has to get back for his friendly rugby match on Sunday.”
“Nice,” I said in reply.
“And you know that Andy and Chris are away for the weekend? You’ve got the place to yourself,” she said over her shoulder as she pushed her bag of rubbish into an already full bin.
“Yep, it’ll be peaceful.” I laughed. Then, as I left, shouted, “Don’t forget to lock that door, will you?”
I jump to my feet, cross to the door and bolt it.
My thoughts are interrupted as a familiar sound drifts down the stairs from my room. It’s the tinkle of Skype. I race up the stairs to my room, clutching the towel around my body. My laptop is open on the dresser. I take hold of it and nestle on my bare mattress with my back against the wall. I click on the Skype symbol and the video icon. My mum’s cheerful face fills the screen.
“Hi love, thought I’d give you a call. Have you had a good week?”
“Yeah, good, okay, I guess.”
“You look as if you’ve just got out of the shower. What time is it there?”
“It’s about one thirty and yes, I have just got out of the shower.”
“Goodness! Half the day’s gone. Did you have a late night?”
“No, not really. I’m not feeling so well.”
“You do look rather pale. Have you caught a bug?”
“No. Mum, I think something happened last night. I’m alone in the house for the weekend and…”
“You’re breaking up. I can’t hear you. You’ve probably just picked up one of those twenty-four-hour things.”
“Mum, no, it’s not that. It’s…”
“Sorry love. Your words are all jumbled. Crawl back into bed. You’ll be right in no time.”
The call is dropped.
Go back to bed? Knowing that the door was unlocked and that he got in, knowing that he was right here in my room, in my bed, doing what he did to me, I couldn’t possibly go back to bed, not now, not today. Not ever.
I sit a while longer, not knowing what to do. I wanted to tell mum but what would be the point. What could she do living so far away? There’s no point in upsetting her and making her worry.
I get off the bed and slowly unravel the towel. The welts from my harsh scrubbing are raised and tender to the touch. I dress in a baggy t-shirt and a pair of loose gym pants. My hair is still damp and I roughly run a comb through it.
Back in the laundry, the wash cycle has nearly finished. I make a cup of tea and drink it, leaning against the bench while I wait. I hear the machine whirl the last whirl and stop. Dumping the wet washing in the plastic basket, I stand, unable to move with the basket in my hands. I am frozen to the spot. I have to venture into the tiny backyard to hang out the washing; the very yard where he’d have climbed over the wall from the street and entered the house. I begin to shake. A loud thump on the front door, quickly followed by another. Someone is shouting my name. I dump the basket on the kitchen table and dash into the front room. I peak through the gap in the curtain in the bay-window. Carla is standing back from the door, her hand to her eyes, looking to my room above. I open the door and lurch into her open arms.
“Oh my God, Christy. What on earth has happened? You look like a complete wreck.”
“Why are you here?”
“You promised to cut my hair, remember.” She has hold of my arm and we walk through to the kitchen.
“Did I? I don’t remember.” We both sit down.
“I don’t think you’re in any state to cut any one’s hair today. What’s happened?”
“It’s the washing. I need to hang it out but I can’t.” My voice sounds faint.
“What? You’re not making any sense, Christy.”
“The washing. I had to wash everything, my clothes and the bedding. I had to wash it all away but now I can’t hang it out.” I reach towards the basket sitting on the table. “I can’t step into the yard because… .”
“Oh my God, it was that guy, wasn’t it?” Carla clamps her hand over her mouth, her eyes widen.
***
The clinic is an unassuming building on a side street, tucked between a bookstore and a liquor outlet. Carla knew about the clinic. She had interviewed some of the nurses for her date-rate article. An atmosphere of hush envelopes the sombre space. I glance around the small reception area, conscious of how I must look – tangled hair, no make-up, loose t-shirt and baggy track pants. Nothing makes sense. Why am I here? Wooden chairs line one wall, a water cooler gurgles in the corner beside a closed door, a magazine rack jammed with tatty magazines is next to the cooler and a tub of children’s toys is tucked between two chairs.
A young red-eyed girl, no older than thirteen or fourteen, a large tartan blanket wrapped around her narrow shoulders, is huddled in the corner clinging to an older woman whom I guessing is her mum. The woman, stout with a worn worried face, absently strokes the girl’s arm, whispering all the while.
The nurse behind the reception desk looks up as Carla and I enter. She greets us with a smile.
“Yes, girls. How can I help?”
Carla, her arm tucked under mine, steps closer to the desk. “It’s my friend here,” she pauses. “I think she’s been assaulted.” My body stiffens: assaulted? My mouth is dry, my head throbs and I choke back a wave of nausea. My legs buckle. Carla holds me tighter.
“I’ll take your friends’ details. Then a nurse will speak with your friend and she’ll need to undergo an examination by the duty doctor, okay?”
The door beside the cooler swishes open. A nurse carrying a clip-board enters the room. “Maureen?” she kneels beside the young girl, one hand resting on the girl’s knee. “My name is Cathy. I am here to help you. Would you like to come with me?” The young girl looks quizzically at her mum. Her mum nods and helps the girl to her feet and all three go through the door.
Carla completes the paperwork with the reception nurse. We sit and wait. Soon, another nurse comes through, introduces herself as Rachael and leads Carla and me through the door and down a long corridor. We enter a room on the left with a screen, a bed and a small desk.
“Christy, this is Maria, the duty doctor. She’ll be examining you today, okay?”
Maria pulls on a pair of those surgical gloves, the rubbery-latex ones. “Hello, Christy. I’ll be taking some swabs from your mouth and your vagina and Rachael will photograph any bruises for our report. Is that alright?” I nod. “But first we need you to pee. Can you do that?” In the adjoining toilet cubicle, I pee into the plastic cup she’s given me.
I change into a hospital gown, behind the screen.
“Pop onto the bed and try to relax. I’ll be as gentle and as quick as possible.” Carla, standing at the head of the bed, takes my hand and squeezes it.
After the swabs are taken, Maria examines my body.
“Christy, can you open your legs a little?” Her subtle hands poke at my fleshy thighs.
“Here and here,” she says to Rachael. I hear the click of a camera and Carla’s muffled gasp. The hands move to my torso.
“Good, Christy. You’re doing good. Nearly finished.”
I feel the wetness of the tear roll down my cheek. Carla brushes it away.
“All done. You can get dressed now.” Maria helps me to sit up. “The police will be here shortly. They’ll need to ask some questions and will require a statement from you.” She flicks off her latex gloves and moves towards the wash basin.
“The police!” I blurt to Rachael as Maria leaves.
“You need to report this,” Rachael says. “Whoever did this to you Christy, needs to be caught before he does it again.” She leaves the room.
Behind the screen, I’m trembling as I fumble to get dressed. Carla places my T-Shirt over my head and pulls it down. She holds my track pants open for me to step into them. I slump to the chair, allowing Carla to ease on my shoes and tie the laces. Rachael returns with two police officers and a tray of steaming mugs of tea. The tea is placed on the desk and introductions are made. The police-woman, Suzy, sits opposite me at the small wooden desk. Carla slides into the chair beside me and takes my hand. Joe, the male policeman, stands by the door. Suzy, notebook in hand begins the interview, rapidly firing questions – so many questions – while assuring me I’m doing fine; I’m doing the right thing.
Where did you meet him? Were you alone? Had you met him before? What does he look like? Would you recognise him if you saw him again? Did he have any distinctive markings like tattoos or facial blemishes? A diamond stud in one ear. What is his name? What did you talk about? How much had you had to drink? Where are the clothes you were wearing? How did you get home? Did you invite him in? No, I shut him out and locked the door! Then how did he get in? Smash a window? No. Are you sure you didn’t invite him in?
It is all my fault. I’ve been so stupid. I caused this to happen.
“That’s all for now, Christy but if you think of anything, no matter how unimportant it may seem, let us know, okay?” Suzy says snapping her notebook closed.
I nod in response.
“We’ll need to send our forensic team to your house,” Suzy said.
“A forensic team?”
“Yes. They’ll dust for fingerprints, search the house for evidence and the side path and yard. Even a small scrap of evidence can be useful for catching the perpetrator.” Suzy pauses.
“Is there somewhere else you can stay?”
“She can come to mine.” Carla squeezes my hand. “I’ll take care of you.”
“What about my flatmates? They’re all away for the weekend and they know nothing about what’s happened.”
“We’ll inform your flatmates.”
We are snuggled under a fluffy blanket on Carla’s sofa, munching our way through a packet of chocolate biscuits watching a chick-flick. The wall heater is on full-bore, the windows are steamed up but I’m cold, so cold I can’t stop shaking.
Carla’s phone rings. She answers it and looks at me, then begins to pace the room. “That’s good then, isn’t it?” The caller talks some more.
Sitting down, she takes my hand. “The police have found something, a cigarette butt. None of your flatmates smokes, do they?”
“No. But he did.”

ROBERTA
When I returned from my early morning cycle, I Skype-called Christy, bursting to tell her my good news – I have an interview on Monday for the deputy principal position at my school. I love living in Tokyo. Such a safe, vibrant city. So much to explore from ancient culture to modern eccentricities.
But Christy and I didn’t get to talk for long. The connection was weak and the call dropped. Something wasn’t right. She wasn’t her usual bubbly self and right before the connection dropped, she said something. No, it’s not that, it’s….
It’s what? What was she trying to tell me? Not a flu bug as I suggested but what? What could it be? Has she lost her job? Has she been mugged? I’ve tried calling several times throughout the day. I’ll try one more time.
I turn on my laptop and call. No answer. I pace from my bedroom to the lounge to my small balcony. Why doesn’t she answer? What has happened? Not knowing, I want to scream with frustration. How else can I get in touch with her? Her flatmate Alison, and Carla, her old friend from school. I know I have their numbers somewhere. I rummage through the messy kitchen drawer where everything gets tossed, searching for my tatty notebook. Not there. The top drawer in the bedside cabinet. Nor there. I flick back through the months on the calendar, hoping to find one of the girls’ phone numbers. Nope. Jacket pockets, tote bags, school duffel bag and finally, I find a scrap of paper in my jeans pocket. ‘Alison’ followed by a number.
I’m shaking as I punch in the numbers on my cell-phone. It rings five times, ten times, twelve: ‘You’ve reached Alison. Sorry, I am unable…’ I throw my phone in the corner, crumple to the floor, and head in my hands, howl.
To hell with the interview – my daughters’ well-being is more important – the school is probably just humouring me in granting an interview. Everyone knows that Thomas Nicholson who has been there forever will win the position. I switch on my laptop and search for flights: Tokyo to London.
I book a flight leaving late this evening. I check trains times for the airport, hurriedly pack a bag and leave.

CHRISTY.
The police rang this morning and spoke to Carla. A visit to an address in the early hours where the suspect was believed to be staying, was unsuccessful. The occupants of the address did, however, supply a strong lead.
“I’ll be back by mid-day. Promise.” Carla hugged me on the doorstep as she left for her office.
Alison arrived a short time ago bearing coffee and sticky buns and a change of clothes for me.
“Oh my God, Christy. When we pulled up outside the house yesterday and saw the yellow police tape, I didn’t know what to think. I didn’t want to get out of the car. A young police officer was on the front steps and he explained what happened. I can’t believe it. I can’t imagine what you’ve gone through. How are you?” I take the buns and coffee from her and lead her through to the kitchen. I put them on the bench and hug my shocked flat-mate.
“I’m okay. Carla’s been amazing, spoiling me rotten. She even made me a huge bowl of chicken soup last night, just like my mum did when any of kids got sick,” I smile. “And the police have a strong lead from the people who live in the house where he was staying.”
We sit at the table, sip the coffee and nibble the sticky buns. Grateful for the company, I try to concentrate on what she’s telling me about her weekend in the Midlands.
“It’s like another world… the lush green countryside… quaint villages… and we stayed in this sweet little B and B that… .” She stops talking mid-sentence.
“I’m so sorry, Christy. I’m so sorry I forgot to lock the door. None of this would have happened if… .”
“Stop,” I say. “He’d have got in somehow. He was determined and… .” her phone rings.
She searches her bag for her phone and answers it. “Hello?” Pause. “Yes, this is Alison. Christy? Yes, I’m with her.”
She passes the phone to me, whispering, it’s your mum.
“Mum? Where are you?”
“Are you okay?” Mum asks. I burst into tears. Alison whips back the phone. She walks into the hallway, talking in a hushed voice.
“You’re at the airport now?” Alison returns to the kitchen. “You wait there. I’ll txt when we arrive, okay?”
She sits the phone on the bench and grasps my hand.“Are you up to going to the airport to pick up your mum or would you rather stay here and wait?”
“What did you tell her?”
“I briefly told her what happened and all things considered, you’re doing okay. And that the police are close to catching him.”
“Do you really believe that? Do you really believe the police will catch him? Those people in the house might have been … .”
“Yes, I do believe it,” she grasps both of my hands in hers, “and so should you, so how about you have a quick shower and we get out to the airport? I’ll let Carla know what’s happening. Now go and shower.”
As I sit on the train with Alison, knowing I’ll soon see my mum, I begin to relax. And, I begin to believe that the police will catch the guy.
At the airport, Alison leads the way to a coffee shop where my mum is waiting for us. Mum is perched on a tall stool beside a bench table at the outer edge of the coffee shop. An over-night bag sits on the floor by her feet. Her eyes, red and tired, look beyond the thronging bustle of people. She looks frail and frightened and several years older than she is. What have I done? My poor mother, what have I done to her?
“Mum,” I shout as I cut through the stream of scurrying people dragging their wheelie cases.
“Watch it!”
“Hey lady, we’re all in a hurry here.”
“Don’t mind me, bitch.”
On reaching her, my arms wrap around her thin shoulders. We hug tightly, weeping and sobbing. Gently, she lifts my head from her shoulder, holds my face in her hands then smothers me with wet, salty kisses.
“Hi. I’m Alison.” Alison extends her hand. Mum unleashes me and clasping Alison’s hand, whispers a thank you.
“Is this all you have?” Alison picks up the over-night bag.
Mum nods.
“Okay, let’s get out of here.”
Alison moves swiftly, navigating through the crowd back towards the train station. Mum and I, holding hands, hurry to keep up. On our left is a Waterstones book store, a luggage place with the usual array of suitcases and bags, a souvenir shop, toilets and a money exchange booth. A lively conversation with a customer at the money booth attracts my attention.
The attendant behind the grate looks frustrated. “But Sir, you need to understand that the rate… .”
The customer, a young guy leans closer to the booth window and thumps the counter. “You lot are all the same. You’re greedy sons-of-bitches… .” He turns to leave, a contorted expression on his unshaven face. I notice the diamond ear stud in his ear. I stop. I tug on mums hand.
“It’s him.” My voice is hoarse. “Mum,” I say louder. “It’s him, it’s the guy.” He looks in my direction. Fear clouds his face. He hugs his over-night bag to his chest and barges through the crowd. I drop mums hand and push through the crowd in pursuit.
“Mum, Alison, it’s him. It’s the guy.” People stop and stare at me.
“Stop him! He’s a rapist!” I’m gaining on him.
An airport security guard strides towards me and places a hand on my shoulder. I push it away and continue my chase.
“Ma’am, please stop.” The guard grabs my arm in a firm hold. I tug and kick at him.
“You don’t understand. That guy… .” I splutter. “You’ve got to stop that guy.”
Another security guard arrives and takes my other arm. Mum and Alison have caught up. The second guard talks into a walkie-talkie thing attached to the lapel of his jacket.
“The toilets! Quick, he’s gone into the toilets. You’ve got him!” I struggle against the tight hold of the two security guys.
Alison, her phone to her ear, is talking rapidly.
“Ma’am, we need you to calm down. Come and sit over here… .”
“You don’t understand. You can’t let him escape. He’s a rapist!”
A crowd is forming, stunned looks on their faces.
“Ma’am, please. We’ll have to arrest you if you don’t calm down.”
Alison taps the first guard on the shoulder and passes her phone to him. She grabs mum’s arm and marches towards the door of the men’s toilet. With their arms outstretched, they plant themselves across the door.
The guard with the phone nods at the other and jerks his head towards the door. He sprints towards the toilet.
People in the crowd, whisper and point.
My heart is racing. The toilet door bursts open, bashing Mum and Alison aside. The guard catches the guy by the elbow. He grapples him and pushes him to his knees.
“Let go of me. She’s a crazy woman. You can’t do this.” The guard whips a pair of handcuffs from the back of his belt, shackles the guy and leads him away. The crowd disperses.

***

At Carla’s magazine office, a week after the airport incident, I am being shown the layout of the finished article. After intense badgering from Carla, I agreed to tell my story to accompany her article. The process was painful – reliving that night when my life changed forever.

I know what happened on that awful night, has changed me.
I don’t know what the future holds for me.
I know I will have moments of doubt and uncertainty, but one thing I am certain off is that this will not define who I am.
I am not a victim.
I, and only I control my life.
I have taken back.

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