She had moved to France for a six-month internship – and had been excited about forging her own place in a brand-new city and country.
However, just three weeks after moving to Paris from the UK, Sara Roebuck was violently sexually assaulted inside a nightclub. She’s now waived her right to anonymity in order to go public with her ordeal and outline a powerful “anti-rape manifesto”.
Roebuck’s attacker locked her inside a room for 20 minutes, pinned her down, and “grabbed and constrained and yanked and hurt every part of me that in no given universe would I have consented you to touch”.
It was only when he noticed her tampon that she managed to escape.
A year after the incident, Roebuck faced her attacker as he lied to a jury about the events of that night, claiming that she did not speak French and that he had been unable to understand that she had not given her consent for him to touch her.
Roebuck was given the chance to speak, and, declining a translator, delivered an impassioned speech in fluent French. His lies exposed, her attacker was sentenced to “a significant duration of his adult life” in prison – but Roebuck was still rocked to the core by the encounter.
After leaving the courtroom, she penned an open letter to her attacker and to victims of assault all over the world – and it has since gone viral on social media.
The letter lays large the realities faced by rape victims, slams those who accuse women of “throwing the rape card about”, and calls for a change in how we view women’s sexuality.
“You said that what you did lasted a few minutes, not that you locked me in a room for twenty minutes whilst you tried to take off my clothes, whilst you launched my body onto a sink, whilst you tried to rape me,” she writes.
“You said that you were on top of me on the floor because I dropped my drink and slipped, not because, after I managed to push you out from in between my legs, you twisted my body and pushed me onto the floor, pinning me and holding me down with the weight of yours.”
Roebuck adds: “The only thing blocking you from succeeding in what you tried to do was the thing that led you to violently assault me - my sexuality.
“What a concept, the fact that the thing that repulses men, even though it symbolises and embodies female fertility and sexuality, was the thing that saved me.”
Roebuck goes on to ask those whose first instinct is to accuse rape victims of lying a very important question: “Do you have any idea what it entails to report a rape?”
She continues: “There are no words in either the French or English language I can source to describe the aftermath of returning home on my own and of the day after. The way that I peeled off my dress in front of the mirror and looked at the hand prints, marks, bruises start to develop across my back, legs, arms, shoulders, hips… the strength that it takes to find a police station open on a Sunday, to arrive and splutter out in a foreign language, ‘I need to report a crime because a man tried to rape me last night.’”
Roebuck recalls how she spent fourteen hours “being passed backwards and forwards from police, to special services, to medical personnel”, and was forced to recall everything that had been done to her the night before.
She painstakingly details how she was observed by two doctors who specialised in rape attacks, how they checked her vagina “for lesions, cuts, marks”, and how they inserted “foreign tools to swab for DNA, skin cells, fluid, sweat, anything scientific” to prove that she was telling the truth.
“That is what it is like to report a rape,” says Roebuck. “And I can tell you now that no person would ever willingly put themselves through that process. It is humiliating, exhausting, terrifying, heart-breaking, and it is just the beginning.”
Roebuck’s recovery has been slow. Yet, despite her initial fears about sharing her story with the world, she felt compelled to write her letter as a way of helping herself and others to cope with “the poisonous and violent reality of rape”.
Directing the second half of her letter to “women like me”, Roebuck says: “This does not define you. This does not outline you. This does not do anything to you other than to know that you survived this. You deserve to know, from me to you, that you are beautiful, and wanted, and you deserve every single ounce of happiness in your life…
“You are a lioness. You are fearless. You are unstoppable… you will make love, enjoy, and appreciate your sexuality, and you will connect with someone who cares so deeply for you, the love will fill you and never leave. But, before that, you’ll be great on your own. You’ll do your thing, just as you want it… [and] you’ll live.”
Roebuck concludes her letter by insisting that she refuses “to be defined by this” – and goes on to pen an anti-rape manifesto for men and women everywhere to abide by.
She hopes that this will help “anyone still struggling with the fact that no matter what a woman does with her life, she does not live asking to be raped” to finally understand the meaning of consent.
Her anti-rape manifesto continues:
- As a human being, I have a right to live my life without my sexuality as a woman being used as justification by men to touch me or sexually benefit from my body.
- As a human being, I have the right to go out.
- As a human being, I have the right to drink, to talk to people, to wear what I want, to go where I want, unaccompanied, alone, with a group, with no group, to live my life.
- As a human being, I have the right to have sex if I want to, and that right is identical to that of a man.
- As a human being, I also have the right to say no.
- If I am unconscious, if I have consumed alcohol, if you are naked with a condom on your penis and I have already said yes but then I change my mind, that does not translate to consent and sex beyond this point is RAPE.
Roebuck’s letter has since gone viral on social media, where it has been praised by many as being “one of the most inspiring things” they have ever read.
“I am so proud of you for doing what I couldn’t,” wrote one Facebook user. “It’s a lonely, horrible, f**ked up ‘club’ to be a part of, but people like you give us all strength. We leave a part of ourselves behind, but we can all rebuild.”
Another added: I am so sorry you had to go through this, and you’re a badass strong person for sharing your story.”
Read more: “I was kidnapped as an ISIS sex slave”
Speaking to Daily Mail Australia, Roebuck explained that she wrote the letter as a way to capture the whirlwind of emotions she had avoided for almost a year.
“After carrying the burden of the attack on my shoulders for almost a year, pushing it down, not thinking about it whatsoever and just getting on with my life, then I received the letter inviting me to attend the tribunal,” she said.
“From this point on, all of my emotions and thoughts and ideas started to swirl around my head, which was fuelled by an entire year of avoiding the subject.
“I thought that, if someone else reads this and feels just as empowered as I do right now, if it encourages someone to open up, to go through what's happened to them, then I have a responsibility to those people, and I must publish it.”
Images: Facebook / iStock