The Negotiation

(A Survivor's Tale)

by Jennifer Alexander Robinson



Story: A narrative combining poetry and film. It is a heartbreaking fact that those of us who have suffered violent attacks remain wrongfully ashamed and silent, because of the continued arrogance of the judiciary and their ambivalent attitude to the crime of rape. I negotiated with a rapist for my life. This is my story. The fundamental premise of ‘The Negotiation' is true.

Violence/Sexual content: Rape poem, nothing overly graphic.

Author's note: Rape is rape dressed in any guise. Rape is a criminal offence that should be punishable with the maximum sentence the law can impose. Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke's controversial comments, and the arrest of Dominique Strauss-Kahn for alleged sexual assault confirmed the reality of the issues around women, race, and sexual violence remains. All survivors of rape are brave. We must continue to fight the battles any way we can. The war continues.

All rights reserved: Please do not copy or change except with the author's permission.


F or my heart Sharmila and Lianre

Special thanks to my beta reader, Jae


Summer 1976

“You passed the turning for the club, Mr. G,” I said. I turned to look at my employer and met with his cold, unblinking stare.

Mr. G did not reply. He took one hand off the steering wheel, drew his fist back and punched me in the side of my head.

Pain exploded in a mass of coloured lights behind my eyes. My vision blurred, and my head throbbed. How could this happen? The sense of impending doom and thoughts of death filled my mind.



I stifled a yawn. Last night's dream lingered in my mind as I entered the living room.

Light streaming through the yellow venetian blinds bathed the floor in wide strips of sunshine. I walked over to the window and opened the blinds fully. The brightness forced me to close my eyes. As the sun's rays warmed my face, I imagined my mind filling up with their golden glow. I scrunched my shoulders up by my ears and inhaled a deep breath. I held the position for a few seconds before I exhaled and lowered my shoulders.

An odd array of items lay on the counter of the breakfast bar. I shuffled over, pulled the stool out and sat down. I gazed at the pocket-sized photograph of my mother taken on her fifty-eighth birthday. The other things were a hand-held mirror, newspaper clippings, a digital voice recorder, crayons and a child's colouring book. I touched the colouring book and smiled. I d rew a calming breath and settled myself; then I pressed the record button on the voice recorder.

“Recording session one.” I picked up the mirror and said aloud to my reflection, “I am brave.” Conviction sounded in my voice. I replaced the mirror on the counter. “I am brave because of the dangerous situation I found myself in and from which I escaped. The incident happened almost nine years ago. I was naïve, and the event caused irrevocable harm. All colours went out of my world on that day. I can vividly remember every detail.” My mind flashed back.


Summer 1976

At the age of nineteen, during the hottest British summer for many years, I left the UK for my first holiday abroad, to Spain. My best friend Maxine and I sunbathed on the beach during the day. At night, we danced in the discotheque with the other young holidaymakers. Our money soon dwindled.

Maxine got a job in a café as a cook. I landed a job in a boutique, having worked in retail fashion. The boss, Mr. G, coincidentally owned the bar we frequented. My first day at work, he made a pass at me, which I rejected. Mr. G accepted with grace.

On the penultimate day of my holiday, Mr. G enticed me into his car.

“Maxine phoned earlier. She is waiting for you at the bar. I will drive you there,” he said.

* * * * *

“You passed the turning for the club, Mr. G,” I said.

I turned to look at my employer and met with his cold, unblinking stare.

Mr. G did not reply. He took one hand off the steering wheel, drew his fist back and punched me in the side of my head.

I gasped in shock and reeled from the force of the blow. Time slowed. I did not remember opening the car door or jumping out of the moving vehicle. I rolled and rolled along the ground; my body barely registered the stinging gravel embedding into my skin.

Tyres screeched. I heard the car door open. Before I could stagger to my feet, he was standing over me. I gazed up at him.

Unblinking, Mr. G grabbed me around my neck in a stranglehold. He dragged me back into the car.

I sat in the passenger seat, confused and bleeding. Unanswered questions filled my head. What did I do? How did this happen? Why did I accept his offer of a lift ?

Mr. G drove to his secluded villa somewhere in the hills. All the while he never uttered a word. He dragged me out of the car by my hair.

A searing pain rushed through my scalp and pounded in my brain. I grabbed Mr. G's hands in an attempt to get him to release me. He tightened his grip and frog-marched me through the house straight into the bedroom.

“Undress,” he said. With one hand fastened around my throat, he shook me into action.

I undressed with trepidation. I was shaking. My teeth chattered and my face was sticky with mucous and tears.

A jumbled mass of thoughts raced through my head. Since the age of fourteen, I dreamt about a three-year-old girl at a play desk, colouring in a book. I wanted to live to one day have a child of my own. My mind jumped to my mother. I did not want my mother to read about her daughter found on a rubbish tip.

I had to survive. I processed the frightening situation. For some inexplicable reason, the voice in my head said, War is negotiation, and the art of war is the management of people.

A sudden, icy calm replaced the fear in my heart. I stopped struggling.

Mr. G's hands loosened their death grip from around my throat.

“I will not tell anyone, Mr. G. I will not say a word. You are a businessman. The police will take your word over mine. You know what they think about black girls. I am going home tomorrow.” I saw something register in my dead-eyed assailant.

Mr. G kept his hands around my throat. He pressed my head into the pale blue coverlet.

I suppressed the gagging reflex. I lay perfectly still. Mr. G smothered me with his sweaty body.

In the strange room, my strangled breathing accompanied Mr. G's panting and rhythmic rocking.


I visited the garden of my mind,

Earthy green mounds,

White flowers in a line,

Struggling against the thorns,

Tearing up my insides,

Picturing Mother at my graveside...

Vicelike grip at my throat,

I refuse to die...

As I choke,

I separate,

Mind floats,

Tears blind,

Thoughts of loved ones left behind...

Frozen body,

Icy resolve,

Hell's mouth waits,

Another statistic...

Vocal salvation my exit,

Grey matter,


My name is...SURVIVOR


“I waited for you at the bar. Are you okay? What are you doing so long in the shower? I am coming in.” Maxine barged through the door. She gasped. “You are bleeding. Your skin is raw. What happened to you?”

My legs gave way beneath me. I sank to the shower floor, crying hysterically.



The dryness in my throat brought my mind back to the present. I paused the digital voice recording and got up. After drinking a glass of cold water, I returned to my seat at the breakfast bar. I resumed the recording.

“For years after the attack, I remember being grateful I escaped with minor physical injuries. Mr. G would have killed me. I negotiated for my life. He recognized the reality of my situation. I would not report the rape.

A period of self-hatred followed. I ran and ran, away from everything emotional, physical and sexual during the wilderness years.

Two years later, in 1978, I met my husband and connected with his fists. I became all too familiar with pain. I hid the bruises on my body under clothing. I covered the dark circles under my eyes with makeup. I did not recognize my gaunt reflection.

My life seeped out of every pore. I was a dead woman walking. I forgot who I was. Was this it? I doubted my purpose on earth. I hid my true self. I became invisible and continued with a second-class life.

Out of the abject misery of my marriage, my dream came true. In 1980, a rainbow brightened up my life. I gave birth to a baby girl. She gave me the strength I needed. I got divorced three years later and left the marital home. My daughter and I started a new life. End recording.”

My partner entered the room.

“I am finished,” I said.

She walked over and sat beside me at the breakfast bar.

“Can you imagine what it is like to negotiate for your life with a rapist? That was the first question I asked you,” I said.

“I remember. I said no, but I am not afraid to listen if you want to talk to me about it. I believe we all have the ability to overturn our darkest moment by exposing them to the light,” she said.

“Yes, you did. I fell in love with you in an instant.”

My four-year-old daughter entered the room.

“Hello, sunshine.” I picked her up. “Would you like to say something?”

“Yes,” she shouted into the voice recorder. “I love my mummies.”

“We love you too, sunshine.”

“Please, can I have my new colouring book?”

“Of course, darling.”


Present 2011

“Recording session two. I read an article about the vicarage rape, which happened in 1986. The trial judge passed a lenient sentence down on the rapists. He commented that the trauma the victim suffered was not fatal as she survived. Rape was less serious than robbery. She convinced the robbers who raped her to spare her life. The victim was a heroine who should be commended for her bravery, dignity and strength in the aftermath, instead of further victimization by the law. I empathized with the victim. People are uncomfortable with hearing or witnessing others' ugly truths. I negotiated for my life. I am a survivor and a heroine. This is my way of releasing a traumatic incident into the world and out of my system. End of recording.”

I was in a room with ten women, sitting in a circle on soft, comfy chairs. Their ages ranged from eighteen to mid-fifties. I collected my digital voice recorder from the pile of cell phones on the table.

“The recording is my contribution to the Negotiation Survivors' Group's inaugural meeting.” I took a deep breath. “Would anyone like to ask me any questions?” I smiled warmly. “No topic is off limits.”


Am I the victim?

Or am I the offender,

Was it my fault?

That led to frenzied assaults,

On my body and thoughts...

This feeling of carrying the burden alone,

Removes the blame,

Which is society's own...


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