here’s how it happens

women with drinking problems are particularly vulnerable to sexual assault

Charles T. Gray

I remember the penny-drop moment for the limit of the difference quotient,

\[ \lim_{h \to 0}\ m = \lim_{h \to 0}\ \frac{f(a + h) - f(a)}{(a + h) - a}, \] which gives the rise over run of a curve at a given point along the curve.

I was studying in the room I slept in, Melbourne 1997. I was sixteen.

I’d bought spray paint with my girlfriend and we’d painted optimistic daisies on the grimly mouldy walls of the front room of the terrace house squat. Rather defiantly positioned off a prominent street in North Fitzroy, my strange1 roommate would entertain us by firetwirling in the narrow street. We’d watch from the grimy couch on the verandah, and, on a good night, all share a bag of cask wine together.

In my experience, people don’t end up on the streets because of their substance abuse problems, but take up a substance abuse problem once there to self-medicate the existensial crisis that is their lived reality. Our lived reality included pooping in the backyard like animals because the skinheads who’d had the house before had somehow managed to block the toilet with human shit.

I was always considered the softcore one. The speed dealer couple who had the back room were way more intense, they were always beating each other up, but at least they left us out of it. I’ve never touched a needle, and at that point I was even still a virgin. But I learnt to drink heavily.

Drinking too much was not only mandatory, it was considered the minimum social norm to fit in. And it was the only way to experience any sense of community as a streetie.

As I tranisitioned into the bohemian days of nineties sharehousing in Fitzroy, it was still normal to drink to excess. I’d pop into pubs on the way home from visiting the pianos at the practice block.

And so it was, from fifteen to twenty-five, it was normalised to binge drink. After that was a long decade of working too much to have had much of a social life.

And so I find myself now, in my late thirties struggling to learn to socialise without abusing alcohol. After being raped this week, I am aware that it is imperative that I get a grip on my drinking problem, for my own protection.

I may have a drinking problem, but I don’t deserve to be raped.

here’s how it happens

I’m writing this down because this is how it happens. And I believe it happens all the time. In fact, I believe it’s so normalised that I’m not even angry at my rapist. But rapist I believe him to be.

Most rapes are messy, and it is very easy to interpret a woman making choices that render herself vulnerable as making her culpable for rape. But there really shouldn’t be any culpability for victims of rape. If she didn’t consent, it is rape, regardless of how much alcohol she has imbibed.

Rape is rarely a violent stranger, as was the case in the lightning rod case of Jill Meagher. Despite this, Jill’s husband is heroically able to recognise that this monster myth is by far the exception than the rule when it comes to rape.

What happened to me the other night happens to women every single night. It’s happening right now somewhere. This is how it happens. This is the most common situation. There is usaully some drinking and flirting involved. But we must dispell the myth that any of this makes a woman more culpable for her rape.

It really is and should be simple. If she did not consent, it is assault.

here’s what I know

that night

in the morning

here’s what I think

Doesn’t make it not rape.

I think my rapist is a product of his culture. I think that he was cruising for drunk chicks that he could ply with further alcohol and drugs so that he could have sex with them. I don’t think he understands that this is wrong.

I think he saw me, drunk and alone, late at night. I think he then bought me drinks as he sobered up. And, given the unusual length of my blackouts that night, I suspect he even thought it was okay to slip me a rufie to loosen me up some. I think he saw it as helping me have a good time. I don’t believe he understood he was taking advantage of me2

here’s where I am

I don’t want to give up the academic opportunities I’ve worked really hard for. I may have a drinking problem to deal with, but I will not let a rape define the next year of my life, the year I hope to finish my doctorate.

So, I am going to make strategies to assist me in not drinking a priority. And I’m going to try to work, because the only thing that’s going to bring me any peace right now is mathematical science3.

I’m leaving for France tomorrow. And if I was asked to dream up the perfect respite after something this traumatic, I could not think of something better than a research retreat trip to Europe.

All I can do is try.

one week later

Spent hours doing mathematics with the woman I now refer to as my codewife and we ended with hugging eachother and declaring it was the funnest of times.

In the middle of two weeks at @_CIRM with my codewife, @thejholloway. Operation 🔥🐦 is in full swing.

Can't think of anything more R-Ladies than this @RLadiesGlobal @RLadiesRemote. 🥐

— Charles T. Gray (@cantabile) November 28, 2018

I couldn’t think of any good that would be brought by telling anyone in France what had happened, but I have been open about not drinking.

I arranged to check in with a friend every day on slack with how I’m going, and it makes a difference have someone care. Nothing like a rape to really turn one off one’s drinking, I remarked to her. We agreed, bitter rape jokes are one of the only ways to cope with these things.

But is a piano here and stealing a hour with it each day, as well as a walk in the grounds, helps. More than anything else, the work is wonderful fun. To be around so many people that I share a passion for social good in addition to mathematics and scientific programming is unadulterated joy.

Stole an inexpert moment with Chopin at @_CIRM

— Charles T. Gray (@cantabile) November 27, 2018

I believe that those who have had traumatic lives are susceptible to proclivities that render them more vulnerable, such as my case with alcohol. And thus, the sad reality is that survivors are particularly vulnerable to further trauma. But they do not need to be defined entirely by their trauma.

I will not let rape or alcohol fully define me; but I will not deny that struggling with being a survivor still shapes parts of my life. However, I love my work; and I believe I am still capable of doing it. I believe that my work brings me peace and respite from my trauma. Why can’t work be therapeutic?

Now, excuse me as I have to write unit tests for all my estimators, finish the literature review, wrap this package, prepare my seminar for next week in the UK, get ready for the miniunconf in Sweden, rerun purrr simulations and recreate ggplot figures, and bask in the fact that I was invited to Germany for a nextgen mathematical scientists thing next year and funding was confirmed this morning.

Eat your heart out, Leo - I'm the king of the world, at Les Calanques. Merci, @PreDocDom for capturing the moment. 🥐

— Charles T. Gray (@cantabile) November 28, 2018

  1. He was maybe eighteen. He’d run away from his evangelical parents and was trying to walk away from his faith, but would wake me in the night distraught he was going to hell.

  2. I’m not sure if I’ll ever change this post from draft mode.

  3. And, of course, my \(3c^2\) gang. Dr X has been the most wonderful and supportive partner through this. We have bee


For attribution, please cite this work as

Gray (2018, Nov. 17). measured.: here's how it happens. Retrieved from

BibTeX citation

  author = {Gray, Charles T.},
  title = {measured.: here's how it happens},
  url = {},
  year = {2018}