ModernGhana logo
14.09.2006 General News

Raped in paradise

Raped in paradise
Listen to article

Sixteen-year-old Amanda was thrilled when her parents took her on a dream holiday as a treat for passing her Examinations. But a callously planned gang rape left shattered and traumatised:

When I close my eyes I can still see their faces -a line of five men standing in front of me blocking the disco entrance. It is their rictus smiles I remember most, an expression I knew to be false.

I recognised these men, all five of them worked at the hotel where my parents, 13-year-old sister Emily and I had been enjoying a holiday for the previous two weeks.

I trusted them, had, like all the other young people holidaying there, made friends with them, gone on tours and diving trips escorted by them.

It had been a magical time for me, the best holiday I'd ever had.

I had been very happy as a small child, but as my father, a lieutenant colonel in the Army, was given frequent postings abroad, my sister and I had later been sent to boarding school.

The trip was planned as a reward to me for achieving good marks at the examinations, and to my sister Emily for passing her Entrance exam.

After a tough year of studying, Our holiday destination seemed like heaven. The hotel was incredibly luxurious - beautiful chalets, squash and tennis courts, bars, restaurants, and a beach disco.

I felt my worries were finally over, and loved being able to make friends with the other teenage guests, and the mainly young male staff.

No-one advised us against this. We thought we would only be at risk - and even then only a slight one — if we left the hotel grounds.

I had just turned 16, and had never had a boyfriend. But for the first time in my life I began to feel more self-confident.

One of the hotel staff, an outgoing and good-looking young barman called David, took a particular interest in me.

He was about 25 and I felt very safe in his company, allowing him to put his arm round my shoulder once or twice without picking up on any sense of danger, or a hint of sexual intention.

We were friends and I'd already noticed that the locals tended to be affectionate. I wasn't interested in David as a potential boyfriend, but saw him more as a big brother.

I was flattered by him flirting with me but it was only in a gentle, joking kind of way and never once threatening. I trusted him.

Looking back, I think David made sure that by being friendly and chatty all the time - it was almost like he was grooming me.

If I hadn't trusted him his plan would not have worked and my life would have been totally different.

I would have returned home, gone to university and got on with the rest of my life. But I was naive, which he'd recognised.

His terrible betrayal came the night before we were due to return home. During the day, Mum had been hurt in a snorkelling accident, and the family, exhausted by the ordeal, went to bed early.

But my head was still too full of the day's events to sleep and I went in search of David in the hope that talking to him might help to calm me.

Catching sight of him serving behind the bar, I ran straight over to him and burst into tears. Pouring me a large drink, a mixture of dark and light rum, he told me to sit down.

Although there had been one or two evenings where I had drunk alcohol, I wasn't used to it and was very easily affected. Refusing a second rum cocktail minutes later, I sat drinking only soft drinks and talking to David for the next few hours.

By about 10pm I still did not feel ready for sleep and decided to find my friends from the hotel at the disco on the beach.

Getting down from my bar stool I felt suddenly light-headed and strange, as if I was drunk. Looking back I wonder if David had spiked my drinks.

My limbs felt so heavy that I could hardly move. Assuming it was tiredness from the strain of the day, I walked unsteadily to the disco. By the time I got there I could hardly stand. The room was empty - although the music was playing loudly and the neon lights were flashing.

Deciding to look for my friends elsewhere, I turned and headed for the door. But I found myself face to face with five men, friends and colleagues of David, and of similar age.

The music was by now really loud and the lights made it difficult to see anything except their faces. They were all smiling so much that at first I thought they were just being friendly.

But when they started moving towards me, and I realised they weren't being friendly at all. I tried to move past them, but they forced me back against the wall, kissing me and touching me all over as I struggled to free myself.

I can still remember the smell of their skin, and the acrid odour of their sweat as their bodies touched mine. Trying to get them off me I fought back, crying now and calling out to them to stop.

My voice sounded strange, unintelligible - as if the words were coming from someone else. I didn't understand how this could be happening to me. I had been friends with these men. How could they do this to me, and why?

Just days before I had been having my picture taken with them, writing down their addresses and promising to stay in touch when I got back home. But now they were laughing and holding me down, as one by one they took it in turns to rape me.

Crying and struggling I lay on the hard floor of the disco, realising there was no escape, no-one to hear or rescue me. They had closed the doors and locked everyone out.

I was a 16-year-old virgin and had never even kissed a man before. All I wanted was for my ordeal to be over. I have no idea how long the assault continued.

The bass line of the music in the background continued throbbing away as I lay there feeling that I wanted to die. I lay motionless after my attackers had finished, broken, weeping and humiliated as they stood there, still laughing at me.

When I asked them one last time: 'Why have you done this to me?', one of them said: 'David sent us.'

Hearing this felt like a further assault. David, I knew, would still be serving in the cocktail bar further down the beach. What could he have to do with this?

Surely he would not have betrayed me like this? But then I looked at his friends' sneering, contemptuous expressions and knew that he had. Finally they turned and left, leaving me alone at last.

For a few minutes I lay there weeping before picking myself up and half-crawling, out onto the beach. Realising it was not far off morning, I found a hammock where I lay down exhausted until dawn.

I knew I couldn't face my parents. I could not, did not, want to tell them what had happened. How could I, when my mother had been so ill the night before?

I had also been warned not to be alone on the island and could not help feeling I was responsible for what had happened.

Totally traumatised by my attack, it never even occurred to me that my parents could go to the police and have my attackers arrested.

I blamed only myself, hating myself with an intensity I had never experienced before. Returning to the chalet I shared with my sister at about 6am, I climbed into bed and pretended to be asleep.

When Emily woke up I told her I was tired and would prefer to stay and rest than come to breakfast.

After she had gone I got up and showered, washing myself until my skin became sore, in my efforts to make me feel clean again.

But showering was not enough to remove the deep sense of shame I felt. My attackers had left no visible marks on me, but the psychological damage they had caused was far deeper and more pernicious.

Suddenly I knew what I had to do. Leaving the chalet I searched the hotel until finally I found David on duty in the bar. Walking straight up to him I asked him simply: "Why did you do it?"

Staring back with utter contempt in his eyes, he said: "Because I wanted to find out if you were a slut." He then turned and walked away, leaving me in tears.

No one noticed there was anything wrong with me, as they too were silent and exhausted from the strain of my mother's accident the previous day.

I know some people will be amazed that I didn't report it to the police, but put yourself in the shoes of a distraught teenager in a foreign country, and believe me, it is the easier path to stay silent.

I cannot remember much of the flight back or even the next few weeks. I felt as if I were sleepwalking.

Enrolling at a new boarding school that September to start my A-levels, I made up my mind to try to forget what had happened. But I couldn't. My days were haunted by flashbacks, I lost a lot of weight and found it difficult to concentrate.

Still I couldn't bring myself to tell anyone about the rape, thinking that my self-hatred would fade of their own accord. But I was wrong. Over the following two years I completed my A-levels and applied to university.

I also made new friends including a boy from a nearby village in Kent. Although I really liked him, I was terrified to be alone with him.

I could not, did not want to let any man close to me ever again. But during all this time and for the following eight years I did not tell anyone I had been raped.

By the end of my first term at university the strain had become too much. As a result of the attack the whole outside world now felt threatening.

Even going to the local shops would throw me into a panic. Without knowing the real reason for my problems friends persuaded me to see a doctor who at first prescribed a course of anti-depressants, and when these failed to help, advised me to leave the university.

My father, by now very worried about me, urged me to go with the rest of the family to America, where his next posting was to be.

Not having any plans of my own, I agreed, and to my surprise, enjoyed the business school I attended there, able, if only for a brief time, to forget my previous unhappiness.

But returning to England two years later, in 2000, brought back all the old feelings of self-hatred.

It reminded me that however much I tried to move on, inside I remained the same cowering schoolgirl I had been on the night I was raped.

Throwing myself into a job in a large engineering company, I started spending longer and longer hours at work. Dreading the thought of returning home alone at night, I started drinking heavily.

Then, in the midst of my unhappiness, and to my amazement, I was introduced by a friend to my present partner, a 25-year-old landscape gardener.

He was a man I instinctively felt I could trust, a man I at last felt safe with. Only towards the end of that year did I finally manage to confide in James that I had been raped.

I could not bring myself to go into details, but I felt it only fair to try to explain why it was so hard for me to start a physical relationship with him - I'd still never slept with anyone except for when I was raped.

Deeply sympathetic and understanding, James encouraged me to speak to a psychologist, who diagnosed post-traumatic stress disorder. I gained a lot of support from a website - - where survivors of rape can share their experiences.

As I started to feel stronger, I felt less afraid of a physical relationship, and since James now understood my anxieties he was able to react sensitively enough to make me feel more secure.

That was three years ago, and James and I now have a one-year old-daughter, Zoe, and are making a life together as a family.

I would like to have lots more children with James, and I look to the future with hope and optimism once more.

Yet even now I find myself haunted by the past, and find it difficult to relax when we are intimate, or to enjoy a restful night's sleep without suffering recurrent nightmares.

Remembering what happened during the holiday I have often felt guilty that by not reporting the crime, I may unwittingly have enabled my attackers to rape other young women.

I've never even found the courage to tell my sister or my parents, but, if by telling my story now, I can encourage other victims of my attackers to come forward, I would urge them to do so.

Only by speaking out can women ever truly fight back against rape. Perhaps one day I will even feel brave enough to return to the island to face my attackers - and set myself free from the past for good.

ModernGhana Links

Join our Newsletter