Elly McDonald


Why y’all disgust me: and other unwise confessions


A woman claims a man raped her. It was 33 years ago. She was 16, he was 17. She claims he walked her to her room, forced her to perform oral sex, then anally raped her. The woman lives on till age 50 then ends her life. The man by then holds a top political office.

… there’s no point me recounting other details, firstly because there is legal debate, secondly because y’all know “all” about it: there is social debate, all over social media.

It’s a feeble hope, but I want that chatter to STOP.

Feeble, because what I want is irrelevant. That’s what I learned growing up in rape culture.

As a teen in the ‘70s, I learned that pretty much any boy could stick parts of his anatomy in various of my orifices, providing there were no witnesses other than his mates (who might be co-participants). I learned that the hard way, if you’ll forgive my turn of phrase. (*Please* forgive me, lol.)

That’s why, guys, y’all disgust me. Particularly those of you on social media who are my age and a bit older, the boys who grew me up. Don’t tell me you and your mates are not vulnerable to the same and similar accusations as those levelled 32 years later against that man you say did dreadful things. Don’t tell me you never did anything like that. I don’t believe you.

In fact, I could make almost precisely the same accusations against a different very high profile man. There was no consent. There was no request. The difference, other than profession and political tendencies, is that the very high profile man I could accuse is very much loved. Even by me. And that though I was surprised, shocked and embarrassed, I did not experience what happened as “rape”.

Don’t snigger if you think you know who I’m talking about. You probably don’t. And some of you need to turn the mirror back on yourself.

The woman who claimed rape then ended her life was a star student academically at school. Her life was blighted by mental illness. Those who urge further investigations into her alleged rape – despite the police investigation being dropped for lack of evidence and a separate police investigation into the circumstances of her death – claim she developed mental illness in consequence of rape and that the alleged rape destroyed her life.

That might be the case.

It might also be she was someone who was genetically susceptible to mental illness and would likely have experienced problems anyway, in the usual course of life or in consequence of a different trigger incident.

We can’t know. For sure we can’t, if we don’t at least wait till the coroner’s findings into her mental health treatment(s) and the lead up to her death.

This is not about me – it’s about YOU, y’all – but it’s a fact I was a star academic student at school and at university. I didn’t go on to experience the kind of “success” that was predicted for me. Instead, I experienced mental illnesses throughout my adult life. I could still provide lucid testimony on any episode in my life. But I accept I am mentally ill, managing it as best I can, and I understand I most probably have this lived experience because mental illness is my genetic heritage. It didn’t happen because of anything anyone did with their dick.

[We give too much power to the penis. We live in an era now where the penis is said to have the power to blast lives. Is that not AFFIRMING patriarchy? What’s this huge obelisk obstructing my vision? Can it be a prick? Just my opinion. Don’t mind me. My opinion is irrelevant.]

I don’t think being raped ‘should’ obliterate a woman. I don’t think being mentally ill obliterates a person. Neither ‘should’ be a source of shame. But we behave as if rape reduces someone to a un-person, and as if to term somebody “mentally ill” is to zap them with the un-person laser. (I see a Dalek waving his plunger at me.)

Does a mentally ill person never distort their recollections of events? Are people with mental illness never delusional? Let’s get real here: do people generally never distort memories? Are people generally never delusional? Even, do people never lie?

You say you never lie. Or never an *important* lie. Same as you say you never raped. Never insisted on or intimidated someone into unwanted sex. I still don’t believe you.

The principle is: believe the woman who claims sexual assault. I support that principle. But that does not mean I support uncritically every allegation. Allegations need to be investigated. If investigation is unable to provide evidence then the legal presumption of innocence must apply. 

You say you never lie. Not about something important. Never did that in an emotive situation.

I know over the years I’ve been honest, to a fault, about what I believe I’ve done and what has been done to me. I accept my interpretations and my memories could be distorted. I also know, for a fact, that on one occasion I told an out an out lie, on something that mattered, a lot, to a man I had been sexually involved with. (No, none of you know him. You haven’t met him.) I was 20. I am still ashamed.

If someone says: the person making the allegation is a woman, so must be believed; the man she accuses is vile in other publicly demonstrated respects, so must be guilty of this charge; the woman’s mental health history is irrelevant, and it’s insulting to bring it up OR the woman’s mental health history is this man’s fault, so is acutely pertinent as damages done… I say: STOP.

You don’t know. We don’t know. It’s a sad thing but we never will. 

Something happened 33 years ago. The man says he can’t recall any such event. The woman ended her own life. No one now knows what happened.

Author: Elly McDonald

Australian-born, with English mother, has lived in several Australian cities and in London. Travelled widely. Way way back when, published widely as a poet and short story writer. For the first 20 years of my working life I worked as an entertainment journalist, publicist, PR consultant and in advertising and media agencies. In the second 20 years, I worked in marketing roles at non-profit organisations then retrained as a teacher, primarily teaching English to non-English speaking, newly-arrived refugees. Also did miserable McJobs, and a long, happy stint at an art gallery.

3 thoughts on “Why y’all disgust me: and other unwise confessions

  1. I am so glad you’re writing… I don’t want to say again because I’m not sure you stopped, but I’m glad you’re writing for you!!! I don’t know how to say this essay affected me but it did, perhaps on a level I’m not even aware of. Forcing oneself on someone else is a form of theft — the taking of dignity, submission against will, pushing ones face into dogshit. But what is going through the perpetrator’s mind. Is it justification? Or logical thought? Or is it hatred or meaning to demean? Is it misunderstanding or innocent play that gets carried away by some hormonal rush? We can never know…


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