TW: sexual assault.
The last thing Laura Currer remembers before leaving a bar, during a night out with two male friends, was being told to ‘drink up.’ She had started the night on top of the world. At 22, she had completed a business masters and was moving cities for a new job. But as the group moved on to the next bar, her memories of the night out, in Newcastle, run blank. Instead, she woke up six hours later, the light of an August Friday morning flooding a strange flat, where she was being raped by the two men she had trusted 12 hours earlier.
“I woke in a state of utter confusion,” she says. “I was so frightened. My memories of the night had dropped off and my brain couldn’t compute what was happening to me.”
She pushed the men off her and took a taxi to her parents’ home: “As I sat in the back seat, tiny clues to those six hours flashed through my brain — things I’d heard but couldn’t see, an awareness something was happening to me but an inability to move or speak because they’d spiked my drink.
“For most people, raping or sexually assaulting someone is such an impossible thing to imagine that you immediately look for reasons, things you might have done, to explain away something that was never your fault at all.”
Laura, now 28 and training to be a psychotherapist specialising in trauma, has lent her voice to the first ever awareness campaign for NHS sexual assault referral centres (SARCs) which provide practical, medical and emotional support to those who have been raped, sexually abused or assaulted. It comes as a survey of thousands of survivors revealed that more than half (56%) didn’t seek help after the incident, and 44% didn’t know how to get help and support.
When Laura walked through her parents’ door, at 6.45am on that Friday morning, it was her mum’s birthday: “It was completely unlike me not to have come home but I couldn’t get the words out when they asked me what had happened. I just kept saying sorry. I remember sitting while we had a party for mum that night, thinking, as soon as I tell them, their worlds will be decimated. Things will never be the same.”
She had reached out to a friend, over coffee that day, who helped her to realise the enormity of what had happened: “That was the first time we used the word rape.” She told her parents, after the party, and they began researching where to get help. Laura remembers: “Mum and dad worked in the police, then the NHS and the law; even they didn’t know where to go.”
“I remember mum taking me for a drive. I Googled, ‘Where do you go after being raped?’ SARCs didn’t come up. You’re traumatised and searching for help but you don’t know what you’re looking for.”