It’s been a rough couple of days. In my previous entry titled “Mistaken Memories” I wrote about a gang rape I suffered in 1972 when I was 15 years old. At the time I was a runaway and had hitch-hiked to Kings Cross in Sydney. Forgotten details of the rape and surrounding events came back to me this week for the first time and painted a vastly different picture from the one I have remembered for the past 35 years.
In the days since then more memories have surfaced and they are altering the whole picture yet again! Some of them I had forgotten, some I remembered but never understood, some I had interpreted much differently to how I am interpreting them now. Together they paint a whole new picture entirely. One that leaves me feeling a lot happier about the state of the world and the nature of men.
After I wrote the previous entry I thought that chapter of my life could now be closed and put away but my mind would not let go of it. Memories of that time continued to surface and I found it hard to relax or sleep.
The memories came thick and fast and seemed to make no sense, just as they made no sense to me at the time they happened.
My boyfriend making comments and asking questions that didn’t make sense to me because I had no profession, did not make a lot of money and had no idea what a brothel was.
A car pulling up in front of me and a woman jumping out and grabbing my wrist.
Memories of Ross, his girlfriend Lee, and the hotel manager hiding me.
Lee “breaking up” with Ross and taking me to live with her for a few days “until the heat dies down”.
Moving in with Ross and Lee telling me to let her know if he did me any harm and she would sort him out for me.
Taking 200 pain-killers and Ross visiting me in hospital to demand a phone number so he could call my mother to come and get me. I thought he was sick of me.
For a long time the memories made no sense but then I began to put them in sequence and some of the details I had forgotten came back to me.
When I broke up with my “boyfriend” after finding out he had known I was going to be raped when he took me there I ran, crying, to my friend Ross. I had not told him what happened to me the night of the rape. When he wanted to know how I got the bruises on my arm I told him I bruise easily. Now, broken hearted, I told Ross everything.
My boyfriend followed me when I ran off after breaking up with him. The hotel manager held him at bay while I was telling Ross what had happened. Ross went white which I knew meant he was very angry. He whispered to the hotel manager and they both turned to my boyfriend and marched him into the managers office.
I heard them arguing but I could not make much sense of what they were saying.
“She’s living in a f***ing brothel” I heard my boyfriend yell, “what were we supposed to think?”
“She’s a f***ing KID”, Ross yelled back and the manager murmured something.
“You’re joking,” my boyfriend said, “she can’t be that naive!”
Someone murmured something else and my boyfriend started yelling again.
“Bullsh*t she is. She said she was 18, she looks 18, what the f*** is she doing here then?”
Ross and the manager spoke again and my boyfriend seemed to be telling them off but I was not able to work out why. As he left my boyfriend told them it wasn’t over, not by a long shot, he was going to sort this out quick smart.
The words brothel and prostitute were used a lot so I thought they must not be arguing about me after all. I didn’t know what a brothel was but I did know I was no prostitute.
Soon after that the woman Ross was living with took me aside and said she had something to tell me. She said the strip club men were threatening to hurt Ross if I was not told the truth about her, Ross and the place we were living.
As Lee was explaining it all Ross joined us. They explained that Lee was a prostitute, all the girls in the hotel were prostitutes, and Ross was their bodyguard. They said the hotel was not a normal hotel, it was a brothel, a place for prostitutes to bring their customers.
Ross apologized for telling me the girls had a lot of boyfriends. He said he had not wanted to upset me by telling me they were prostitutes and all those men were customers. Once they were sure I understood they said they needed me to write a note for the strip club men so they could prove I had been told the truth.
I remember writing “I have been told I am living in a brothel and that a brothel is a place where prostitutes have sex with customers.” Then I had to sign it and Lee had to take it to them and verify it was from me.
Lee and Ross “broke-up” after that and Ross became my boyfriend. Lee said he would be good to me and, if he wasn’t, I was to tell her and she would sort him out.
After the note had been delivered the strip club men began to offer me a job and, finally, a cash sum through Ross. It was after I had refused all those offers and confirmed that Ross had made the offers to me that the woman tried to grab me off the street.
When I told Ross about it he said it was probably a police woman who thought the money I had was stolen. Some time later he came to me and said he had found out it was not a police woman after all. She was from the welfare department. He said the strip club men had told the welfare people about me because they were determined to get me out of the Cross.
He said he had been told there was a raid planned on the hotel to find me so we needed to get me out of there for a few days. He said Lee was willing to take me in so I went there for about four days and I did not leave the house while I was there. After four days Lee came back and said the coast was clear, the hotel had been searched, I could return.
Three times after I went back one of the girls came running in and said the cops were on the way. All hands would immediately mobilize to hide me. One time I hid under a bed while one of the girls and a customer posed very graphically in the bed. That resulted in a hastily closed door when the room was checked and a lot of laughter from the girl and her customer.
Another time they hid me in the managers office under the check-in window and the third time they took me to the managers room. For some odd reason they never searched his room.
For a while it was fun and exciting but I was no longer able to leave the hotel. Ross said if any of the strip club guys saw me they would call the police and they would come looking for me again.
I asked Ross why the strip club guys hated me so much and he said he didn’t think they hated me. He said they just wanted me out of the hotel and out of Kings Cross. He said they were of the opinion I should go home and they were determined to try and force me to do that. I thought they were trying to punish me for getting angry with them.
The days passed and I grew bored with not being able to go anywhere so I got more and more depressed. First they raped me and now they were hunting me – it didn’t seem fair.
One night I swallowed 200 pain-killers and Ross found me. He called an ambulance and then had to coach me on what to say when I got to hospital so I would not be handed over to the welfare people.
Once I got to the hospital they pumped my stomach and kept me overnight for observation. I was a very unhappy little girl when Ross arrived to visit. He said the strip club men were right – it was time for me to go home. He made me give him a phone number so he could call my mother. He said there was no sign of the heat dying off and it would only get harder and harder to hide me. He said either he called my mother or he told the police where I was.
I gave him the phone number and he arranged for me to go home. I left Kings Cross believing they were all either sick of me or hated me.
Now that I am able to recall all these details I am putting together a very different image of those events.
It looks to me, now, as if those men thought I was 18 and working as a prostitute. No doubt group sex was a fairly acceptable price for a prostitute to pay to get work as a stripper and they thought I was just being coy about not being a working girl.
It was made very clear to me that it was those men who told the police and welfare about me and who were going out of their way to try and get me picked up.
Those men were well aware that I was firmly convinced they had all raped me. Once they were told how old I was they would have known sex with me was a criminal act so why would they put themselves at risk of being charged by calling in the authorities on me?
Is it possible they were horrified by the obvious damage they had done to me and, once they found out how young I was, equally horrified about the risks to a child living in a brothel?
Could it be they collectively put themselves at risk of being charged with raping a minor to get me out of what they saw as a dangerous place?
I remember Ross telling me the 500 cash they wanted to give me was so I would not have to move in with him but he also told me they wanted me to use it to go home.
Maybe they were lying when they said they would pay me 500 a week to work as a stripper. I suspect, now, they would have handed me over to the police or welfare and made sure I was sent home!
Maybe, just maybe, they were just a bunch of sleazy men who got into a situation that led to them doing something truly horrific without realising what they were doing.
Maybe, just maybe, when they found out the facts they tried to make sure nothing like that would happen to me again. Maybe they feared Ross would turn me into a prostitute if I was not removed from there and they wanted to protect me from that.
Maybe they were just stupid men who did a terrible thing then tried to put it right.
Maybe the world is not quite as ugly as I have always believed and maybe men are not really as collectively bad as I have believed they are for all these years.
It’s a lot easier to deal with the traumatic memories if I believe the men thought they were forcing a grown woman who was making a living selling her body to have group sex in return for a well paid job than if I believe they callously, knowingly, gang raped a child.
I think that is how I will choose to remember that part of my life from now on. It makes the world feel just a little safer, and nicer, than I always thought it was before.