I couldn’t believe I was lucky enough to be part of the party (Picture: Benjy Potter)
On June 30, 2019, I answered my hotel room door and voluntarily let a man in who proceeded to rape me.
A journalist, I was on a work trip to New York for World Pride and had been partying in Manhattan earlier in the day.
The atmosphere was euphoric. There were thousands of us celebrating 50 years since the gay liberation movement started at the Stonewall Riots and I couldn’t believe I was lucky enough to be part of the party.
The Cosmos were flowing, Britney was pumping and I was having the time of my life.
While enjoying the procession, I’d also been messaging a guy on Grindr. I invited him over to my Downtown room in the afternoon during a planned break from the festivities.
As we messaged, I told him that I didn’t want to have anal sex but I’d be up for oral and kissing. I made that crystal clear.
I’d never been comfortable having full penetrative sex with anyone I’d met on Grindr so it was typical for me to set this boundary before meeting someone.
He turned up at my hotel room at about 4pm and we started to kiss. Before I knew it we were both naked on the bed.
All of a sudden he began to enter me. I told him to stop. I noticed he didn’t have a condom on, and I told him to stop again.
He carried on. I tried to push him off me, but he carried on. Finally, after a few minutes, he stopped.
I thank god every day that he didn’t ejaculate inside of me and increase the risk of passing on HIV.
Afterwards we showered together. I didn’t mention to him what had happened and he left.
I was in shock, totally numb.
Eventually, I headed back to meet the other people on my trip in a daze, none of whom I knew particularly well.
I felt stupid and dirty for what had happened. I confided in a friend I’d met earlier in the trip called David about it, and he reassured me that it wasn’t my fault.
But I just couldn’t shake off the feeling that I was to blame because I’d consensually let this man into my accommodation, even though what happened afterwards was not consensual. That he’d raped me.
I took screenshots of his profile after the incident, but I couldn’t bring myself to report it to the police – or to Grindr. I still blamed myself.
And anyway, I couldn’t see how reporting someone to Grindr would do much when it’s so easy to start a new account.
When I got back to London, I went to a sexual health clinic and was put on a course of PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis) to protect myself against contracting HIV.
PEP is a treatment that can stop an HIV infection after the virus has entered a person’s body. It must be taken within 72 hours of exposure. Each pill I took for the next 28 days was a painful reminder of what had happened on my trip to New York.
After coming off PEP, I threw myself back into hook-ups, the occasional cruising club and getting with guys on nights out. After a couple of months, I was back to my old self.
I’m still on Grindr, but I try to take fewer risks by usually meeting a guy for a drink before hooking up.
The people committing these crimes must be held accountable and know that they will face the full force of the law if they break it
In truth, for the last three years, I’ve buried the trauma – not telling some of my closest friends.
But this March, when I read about the story of Jamie Wallis MP, I felt compelled to share my own experience.
In a social media post, Conservative politician Jamie Wallis came out as trans and described a horrific ordeal whereby he was raped by a man he met online and blackmailed afterwards.
I couldn’t begin to imagine what being born in the wrong body felt like, but I knew all about consensually letting someone into your personal space and then being raped by them.
The following day I shared my experience on Twitter, but felt that there was more to discuss beyond a social media thread.
Firstly, the fact that a prominent politician had experienced the same type of assault is indication that this is happening to other people.
How many people, we’ll never know. Many victims don’t feel comfortable going to the police.
I often think about the fact that I’d go to the police if I had my chance again. I’ve even thought about doing it now, three years on, but I think my information and evidence is just too weak at this stage.
So how do we go about tackling this problem? There have been plenty of conversations about app-based crimes that first lay blame on the technology.
Although I believe Grindr has a part to play, I think the focus should remain on perpetrators. The people committing these crimes must be held accountable and know that they will face the full force of the law if they break it.
Education and public campaigns are a good start.
I don’t think it’s necessarily just about educating young people, either, so the whole nation could do with a lesson on consent.
Grindr could, I believe, make itself much safer by introducing ID verification. At the moment you can sign up with just an email address and I think that gives perpetrators a sense that they won’t be held accountable for their actions.
In the same way that Facebook have a responsibility to remove hate speech on its platform, I think Grindr also have a responsibility to clamp down on sexual assault.
Sharing my experience of what happened to me in New York has opened some old wounds but talking about it and helping others is the first step on my road to recovery.
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