"On May 31st I was raped in Itaewon"

I do not know how to start this gently, so I am just going to come out and say it: on May 31st I was raped in Itaewon.  I was out drinking with a friend at G--- Bar (ladies night) and the last thing I remember was doing shots with a man whom I had just met. The next thing I knew I was waking up (in a blurry state of mind) in a dirty love motel and he was raping me. I was unable to do or say anything because I was still very drunk, or drugged, and then I passed out again. The next day I woke up wearing only a t-shirt of his, with vomit in my hair and bruising on the top of my left foot. I had a massive headache and was very confused about what had happened the night before. Immediately I was told that I had vomited and I urinated on myself.  I asked him if we had sex.  

His first reply was no.  I told him that I remembered having sex to which he then confirmed that we did. I could tell that he was also feeling uncomfortable.  At this point he told me I still had my wallet with me and that he had used a condom. Like he had done me a service and I should be thankful for his assistance.  I quickly got my clothes on, which were soaking wet, and went home.  At this point I had not labeled the act rape.  I just wanted to get out of his vicinity as soon as possible. I was so hung over and confused. I had not registered what happened to me.  This is not an unusual response from a person who has been sexually assaulted. Often victims feel that they are somehow responsible and hold themselves accountable for the violation. I experienced a very textbook reaction to the situation.
Later that day, it hit me that I was raped. This harsh realisation came to me when I was retelling the incident to some of my friends. I had to hear my story from a third person perspective. I knew that if another person was telling me this exact story that I would tell them that they were raped. Coming to that realisation was a very difficult process.  I felt very dirty and extremely violated. I did not want to admit that I was a rape victim/survivor.  I did not want to have a personal relationship with that word, a word I had feared for most of my life.
I had R----’s Kakao information (phone number) from the previous night so I messaged him saying I felt that he took advantage of me and that I was in no state of mind to consent to sex. He wrote back saying I was passing out on the street so he took me to his motel where I vomited all over myself and urinated in his bed. He became very defensive and claimed that he had nothing to do with me sexually. He felt that he was entitled to a thank you and not an accusation. This was disturbing for many reasons.
With the support of my friends I went to the one-stop center (sexual assault clinic) at the police hospital. I initially did not want to go.  I wanted to shower and pretend that nothing had happened. I thought that I was to blame. I did not want to retell my story because I was terrified that I would not be believed. That I would be held accountable for the incident.  I did not want to experience the shame that comes hand in hand with victim blaming. I feared that I would not be taken seriously because I was unconscious for the majority of the rape.  All of these reactions are very common for victims of sexual assault.  After I did go and decided to press charges I felt empowered. I had taken control back.
One week later, I saw R----- in Itaewon, which sent chills down my back. He was just walking around like everything was normal.   His normalcy was so unsettling because he appeared to be unchanged by what he did to me.  Meanwhile, I was experiencing anxiety, mood swings, fear and depression.  My sense of safety and security had been taken from me.  I was having dreams of him violating me and me being defenseless to stop it.  I also had dreams of people telling me that I should not drink so much or wear that tank top; of people saying that they hoped I learned a lesson from all this.  R---- seemed as though he was taking a leisurely walk on a sunny day without a worry.
I am an advocate of women’s rights and identify as a feminist. I am passionate about empowering and advocating for women; educating others on the very real inequalities that exist between men and women; and educating others on the impact of rape culture.  I am currently in school for counselling women and would one day like to support victims of violence.  I have feared rape my whole life. I have taken precautions to walk down busy streets at night instead of short cuts. I have asked friends to come to public bathrooms with me. I have had terrifying nightmares about rape since I was 12 years old.  I am well aware of the high incidents of rape, and that most rapes are unreported.  I have friends who have been raped by strangers, boyfriends and acquaintances.  I know that most victims of rape experience re-victimization because of a justice system that was created in a rape culture that blames the victims.  Even with all of this knowledge and my feminism my initial reaction was ultimately the fear of judgment.
While most of my friends were supportive and reassuring I still encountered discouraging comments.  I was told that I was too drunk to really know what happened, that I should not go to the police because there were too many grey areas. I was kindly reminded that I had been sexually irresponsible in the not so distant past.  Essentially, I was told that because I engaged in consensual sex I put myself at risk of being raped.  Essentially, I was being told a woman who is drunk equates to a woman who gets raped and that is just the way the world works.  Recently, I was asked if I felt part of the club now. This is not a club that women desire to be a part of.  I don’t get a free t-shirt and a spot at some imaginary victims’ table.   I am not a “rapable” woman, nor did I or any other victim want this membership.  I was even instructed not to tell my father because it would upset him too much.  Like it was something that happened to him and not to me.  Like I needed to shield him from being ashamed of me.  Like I am damaged now and it is best to keep quiet about it and move on.  All of these reactions by people I love and who love me are examples of how deeply embedded rape culture is in our collective consciousness.
I am writing about this incident openly because I want other women who are unsure if they were raped or are afraid to disclose for valid reasons know that they are not alone.  They are not to blame,  it is not their fault and feelings of confusion are normal.  Sex without consent is rape.  A person who has sex with you without your consent is a rapist.  Just because you drank too much does not mean that you somehow asked for rape.  Just because you have sex does not mean that you put yourself at risk of rape.  Just because you talked to a stranger at a bar does not mean you want to have sex with him.  The responsibility of this dehumanising act lies with the rapist.  Why do we still have to tell grown men and women that rape is not the victims fault? Why is this not common sense in 2014?
I am not damaged goods, I am not a part of a rape club, and I am not defined by this incident.  This act happened to me, but I will not allow it to limit me.  I believe some people would feel more comfortable if I decided to stay home and never to go to another bar again.  That I should learn my lesson and suffer the consequences of constant fear, depression and isolation. That I should act like the victim of rape they see on TV or in the media.  My strength makes people uncomfortable and skeptical of me.  But it is my feminism and my belief in myself that helps me to heal.  My world has not been shattered only readjusted.
I am not a victim or a survivor first. I am woman who has been a victim and a survivor of rape.  I am not ashamed because I know that the shame belongs to R----.

One-stop center at the police hospital is a resource every woman in Seoul should know about.   If you are sexually assaulted find the strength and a friend to go to this center.  They will give you antibiotics to prevent infection, a physical examination, blood and STD tests, a counsellor to talk to and the choice of reporting the incident to the police.  This service was 100 percent free and the staff were professional as well as sensitive.


Update: Those interested in further information about police response to sexual assault might be interested to read Raped and alone in a foreign land