My dad trained me to be raped, by minor and persistent infringements which he would not withdraw or desist in, no matter how I protested. He taught me saying No had no importance. I had no sovereignty over my body. For he would still cup my butt in his hand, rove his eye over my breast and comment on it. This started when I went into puberty and in later years the family made the excuse that he had done it to all of us: but not my brothers, no. Or, they said, he had always done it, as a mark of his harmless affection. But I remembered. It started when I grew hair and curves. It never happened when we were children.
I was – I am – spirited, and fought back. When I told him to stop he looked invariably surprised and injured. “Oh, but darling, it’s only a bit of fun.” He would say, “I’m only tormenting you, pet.” I tried carrying my breakfast into another room when he sprawled at the table with pubic hair showing through the loose fly of his pyjamas. I tried sewing up the fly of his pyjamas in a scarlet thread. Right into his seventies he used to call me and my mother “my two girlfriends.” No amount of rage on my part could ever get him to let this go. In my teens I tried again and again to talk to my mother, who kept insisting I had a ‘dirty mind.’
Dad used to come in at night to ‘say goodnight’ – always to me, never to the boys – and would fall asleep on my bed. When a boy at university when I was 17 started raping me regularly, these attentions from my father, creepily, stopped. It was like he had handed me over. After nearly a year I found the courage when this boy’s violence intensified to overcome the shame and tell my mother. I begged her not to tell Dad. They broke through the flimsy lock I had begged for on my bedroom door and beat the crap out of me. Calling me a slut and a tart. They stripped the sheets off me while I cowered. In the bed where I’d passed out from sexual pain so many times one held me down while the other walloped. Next day a neighbour my own age crept round, she had waited til Mum went out. Was I ok? she asked. She described how she had listened in agony, thinking she ought to call the police. She said, very quietly, “I thought they were going to kill you.”
For years afterwards every time my father visited he would bring with him stored up stories of women who, supposedly, had concocted malicious fictions about rape as a way of destroying the careers of blameless men.