You can be raped by your partner. You cannot consent to sex when you are drunk.

I was drunk. Black out drunk. I had gone to a work function and had two glasses of wine, but didn’t realise that the wine had been open for at least a week and I reacted badly to it. 

A work colleague managed to phone my boyfriend and get me a cab to his flat. I don’t remember much of it. The next thing I knew I was on his bed and he was putting me into pyjamas. I remember telling him I felt awful and that I wanted food. Then I blacked out. 

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When I woke up again, he was on top of me and inside of me. He kissed me, but then I blacked out again. I woke up later, but I didn’t remember having sex. Then we ate takeout and eventually went to bed. 

I had a very bad night and woke up several times to vomit. I obviously had alcohol poisoning. We broke up a few months later for reasons I won’t go into, but it was very difficult for me. I had forgotten about what happened that night. I don’t know if it was a mental block or just because everything was so hazy. 

That was until about three years after the incident when I about a man who decided not to sleep with a woman at a party because she was drunk. Some of the other men who were there teased him about it. He made it clear that he didn’t sleep with her because she could not consent and it would have been rape. 

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Then I realised that a man who I was dating and trusted and loved had sex with me when I was too drunk to consent. I immediately felt sick and betrayed. I was angry. But I also kept making excuses for him. Maybe I did consent? Maybe I told him I wanted to have sex before I blacked out? 

Then I realised how ridiculous that was. No one who is that drunk can knowingly consent to sex. I was literally blacked out and he raped me. It was not sex or making love. It was rape. 

I spoke to Barbara Williams, Counselling Coordinator at Rape Crisis, about what the options are after being raped, especially if you realise it so long after it happened. 

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Barbara assured me that it was still possible to lay criminal charges even though so much time had passed. The legal journey would be a difficult one due to lack of physical evidence, but it is still possible to lay charges. 

“Many survivors pursue with the criminal charges because they feel it will bring closure for them and being on a road to recovery, they feel it adds to their healing,” she says. But what about counselling? When should a survivor go to counselling? The simple answer – when they’re ready. 

“The first thing to remember is that a survivor should always be part of the decision to access counselling as not all clients present for counselling at any specific time. Some access counselling immediately after the rape, some weeks or months later and some even years later,” says Barbara. 

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Barbara says that often loved ones of the survivor will contact them about counselling, but they need to speak to the person directly to assess if they are actually ready. “When the survivor is involved in the decision to access counselling it helps her to restore control over her life and also attempt to take the power back that has been taken at the time of the rape incident,” she says.

Barbara stresses that their model of counselling helps the survivor take charge of their own healing. They offer 12 free face to face sessions (although this can be extended if needed) and survivors can return at any time for more help if necessary. They can also speak to the counsellors about laying criminal charges if they want to.

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I also spoke to Revanidhi Kullan, Attorney (LLB), about what the law says around intoxication, consent and rape.

She told me, “South African law defines rape as: ‘Any person who unlawfully and intentionally commits an act of sexual penetration with a complainant without consent.’  “Consent cannot be given in the following instances: if the complainant is asleep or unconscious, under the influence of alcohol or drugs, they have been threatened (or someone they know is threatened), below the age of 12, mentally disabled or a victim of abuse of power or authority.”  

I was drunk, there was no consent, so it was rape.  

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Revanidhi also told me that previously you had 20 years to lay charges against your rapist, but “a welcomed decision by the Constitutional Court in 2018 led to a draft bill in 2019 proposing sexual offense cases will no longer prescribe, regardless of how long ago it was committed.”

I have not confronted my rapist. I don’t know if I ever will. I am still working through what happened. I decided not to press charges because I wanted to spare myself the heartache and drama that comes with it. 

If this has happened to you, or if you know of someone who it has happened to, contact Rape Crisis when you or they are ready and let them help you start healing from this awful trauma that happened to you. 

Call their 24-hour helpline here 021 447 9762 or visit their website for more information.

If you or someone you know needs help, you can contact one of the organisations below:  

Gender-based violence Command Centre: “Please call me” facility: *120*7867# Emergency line: 0800 428 428

POWA helpline: 0116424345

Tears Foundation helpline: *134*7355# Or visit them by find the nearest office

* The name of the writer has been changed to protect her identity as a survivor.

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