In February R (who doesn’t want to be named), 21, was raped after a casual sexual encounter turned nasty. She was living as a student in Asia, and she contacted her parents to tell them what had happened.
“My mum asked me if I wanted her to come and visit me for a couple of weeks – I said ‘Yeah, it would be really nice to have you here’. But both of my parents ended up coming for a couple of months instead,” she says.
Her parents were living in Europe at the time, and while they were supportive of her in many ways after the assault, R explains that she felt as though she was being blamed for a situation that had been beyond her control.
“They felt like they couldn’t trust me to not get myself into that situation again, so they kind of stayed on in Asia so they could watch me,” she says.
It’s shockingly common for women to be blamed after they are sexually assaulted. A 2005 study by Amnesty International found that a third of people believe flirtatious women are partially responsible for being raped, while in 2015 a government study found that more than a quarter of the public believe drunk victims of rape and sexual assault are at least partly responsible for what has happened to them.
But for R, feeling blamed was just the beginning of her ongoing struggle with her parents. They convinced her to move back to Europe with them as they had overspent, and they felt anxious about leaving her to fend for herself whilst being so far away. R was initially hopeful about the move.
“At that point our relationship was kind of okay. They were letting up on a lot of stuff. They weren’t getting mad at me for going out at night, for instance, which they had in the past. So I thought it could be okay,” she says.
However, things quickly started to curdle, and R, who was searching for a queer community in Europe to engage with, began to feel isolated. She was already somewhat of an outsider looking in, and her parents’ attitudes towards her sexuality were not helping. Like many with LGBTQ children, instead of acknowledging the consolation R might find in the queer world, they tried to push her away from it.
“They were like, ‘All this gay stuff, stay away from it, it has nothing to do with you. I don’t know why you feel the need to meet these queer and trans people.’ I told them it was my community, but they said I needed stay away from them because it was extra drama on my plate.”
Her parents’ perception of the community wasn’t exactly negative, but rather they thought it was filled with sadness. Through spending time with queer and trans people, they naively thought R would over-empathise and suffer through the pain of her peers. Instead, it has been them, mainly her father, who have been causing her pain, and have inspired her to turn to the online WoC community for help.
“The tipping point was last week when my dad got mad at me for no reason and lashed out about something. I kind of over-reacted and yelled at him and told him about abusive parenting,” she says, acknowledging the nuances of her relationship with her dad – whom she clearly loves, but struggles to get along with on a day-to-day basis.
“Every time we have these confrontations they end with him saying ‘Look at what the way you behave led to’, which is my assault. He says the way I think I won’t make any money, and that him and my mum needed money to help me, which is kind of bullshit. I need him to not be the one paying for everything in my life.”
It was a member of the WoC community who suggested that she should attempt to move back to Asia by raising the funds through a crowdfunder. She had repeatedly asked her parents for support to move back to her home city so that she could heal on her own terms, but had been refused funds, and couldn’t work to get the money because of her immigration status. Although R is ethnically south Asian and was born there, she had lived and studied in west Asia since the age of eight, and wants to return to her final year of university there in 2016.
“I don’t have any money of my own right now, and I can’t make any money while I’m here,” she says, “at least not legally and I kind of don’t want to risk it.”
The main purpose of the crowdfunder is to pay for her flight back to Asia, but R thinks if all goes to plan she’ll have “a few hundred dollars left over” to help set up her new life. While it’s an unusual aim for a crowdfunder, it’s certainly not the weirdest one out there. This year a Londoner crowdfunded a Greek bailout fund on Indiegogo, while lonely singleton Tom Packer wanted to crowdfund 13 dates so he could ‘find love’, and almost 7000 people donated over £30,000 to a man making a potato salad.
Unlike her crowdfunding peers, R isn’t taking the challenge of moving home to Asia lightly, because her situation is very real, and, as she terms it, “almost unbearable”. She’s applying for jobs and looking for accommodation. She also has a collection of long-term friends who have offered to help her to get her feet on the ground.
R says that despite her differences with her parents “a lot of the time they are able to be reasonable and just talk”, and she has broached the idea of her gaining financial independence and moving away from them in the past. Although they are unsupportive of her move, she doesn’t think they will attempt to prevent her if is able to buy her own tickets to Asia.
“They were like, ‘Okay, we can’t stop you from doing that’, which was good,” she says, laughing. With €395 already donated to the crowdfunder, she plans on buying her flights home as soon as she can.
*Update: Yesterday R got in contact and told me: “It turns out that my flight to Europe was booked as a return ticket, and after a very long conversation last night my dad has let me know he’s willing to let me use it to fly back to Asia. As soon as the date is set, I’m going to be lowering the amount of money I’m collecting on my crowdfunder to $1000 (for the first month back in case I don’t have a job immediately).