She remembers the feeling of stumbling, of being too drunk. She gets into what she thinks is a taxi, asks to be driven home. But the man in the car does not drive her home, instead he takes her to an unknown place and rapes her, according to Aagard.
“He laid on top of me. I said I wouldn’t. He pulled off my panties.”
– I wanted to depict the abuse and the traumatic period that followed, says the Danish writer Eva Aagaard.
She has written the book “The Year without Snow”. It is strongly inspired by the rape she says she suffered in 2019.
In the book, we meet Miriam who, like the author herself, finds it difficult in the days after the abuse.
– It is not possible to wipe away what happened. It will be with much the rest of life.
Before she was free and unharmed. After the rape, she is not at ease.
– What happened has left an impression on me.
Eva Aagaard warms her hands around the coffee cup. She caught a cold on the trip from Copenhagen to Oslo.
– Could the novel character just as well be called Eva?
– No, I wanted a separation between what happened to me and what happened to Miriam in the novel. Although I have used my own experiences, an autobiography is not booked.
She thinks that a fictional depiction can in some cases be experienced as closer to reality than the truth.
– I don’t remember the details from my own investigation at the rape center, but as a writer I knew exactly what Miriam was thinking and went through in the same situation.
Aagaard orders detailed descriptions of the physical and psychological strain Miriam is being subjected to.
– The reader becomes a participant in Miriam’s head. It was important for me to be able to tell the story as best as possible.
– It must have been a bad book to write?
– I was in a bad mood when I wrote, but it wasn’t the writing that hurt, it was dealing with the trauma I was inflicted on.
When she needed it, Aagaard could not find literature that addressed sexual assault in what she perceives as a nuanced and truthful way. It became a good reason to write about it myself.
– In books, rapes are often summed up in one sentence, à la «she closed her eyes and the terrible thing happened». This type of description makes it difficult for victims to understand that they have been subjected to an assault, they do not know how a rape can be perceived, Aagard believes.
Aagaard pushes the hair behind one ear. Tells that rape is often associated with physical fighting, while the most common tender response is to become passive. You can be subjected to an assault without the use of violence. Aagaard felt it was necessary to give victims of abuse a language.
– I wanted to put into words the traumatized state Miriam and I found ourselves in, using language that both victims of abuse and others can understand.
Don’t ask to be raped
Were you too sexy clothes? What is a fault signal? Can she stop drinking alcohol? The thoughts revolve around the head of the novel’s character Miriam in the days after the rape. It seems as if the Danish legal system and people around her also have difficulty understanding what happened.
– It’s not like girls ask to be raped even if they get too drunk or wear a short dress, says Aagaard.
– Most of us have been in situations where we have engaged in what some call risky behaviour, i.e. a way of behaving that would be dangerous if we encountered an assault. But it’s not about us making ourselves vulnerable, it’s about someone taking advantage of the vulnerability.
Uses own experiences
At the same time, an intense debate took place in Denmark. It was a debate to incorporate a consent on consent clause into the Danish legislation. The same debate is now underway in Norway.
– I couldn’t interfere in the debate at all, since I had felt the injustice so strongly and intensely myself, says Eva Aagaard.
After a post on Twitter, a journalist from the Danish newspaper took the policy contact and asked if she would write a debate post on the theme.
– It was a personal post, she says.
Among other things, she reacted to the use of words in the debate.
– Many people use the word sex, and I react to that. Rape and sex are two different things.
In the debate entry, Eva Aagaard writes about how she was met by the Danish police when she considered reporting the rape:
“We want to talk to you, then we want to talk to him and then we want to close the case”, she said, and said that a defender could easily accuse me of living. She asked few in-depth questions about the incident, nor did she ask about the examination from the hospital that documented my physical injuries. When she had listened to my description of how I had said no over and over while a man I did not know initiated intercourse with me, she concluded: “I can understand that you have a bad conscience about having sex with some foreigner after a Christmas party.”
Politiken submitted Aagaard’s criticism to the police inspector, who acknowledged that the former have not been good enough to meet rape victims, and has therefore introduced a number of measures to improve. They could not comment on the specific meeting Aagaard describes because this was investigated by the Independent Police Complaints Authority.
In the reader’s post, Aagaard writes that she ended up reporting the case at another police station. The case was dropped.
Amendment of the law
Aagaard became a strong voice in the “no is no” debate. Last year, the debate led to a change in the law which recognizes that it is unacceptable to force someone to have intercourse in Denmark, even if they do not dare to resist.
In short, a consent law stipulates that all parties must consent to sex, something which in practice also means that you must be sure that the person you have sex with is also able to answer for themselves.
– The new Danish consent law is a step in the right direction, but we must also change the culture that makes women who have been victims of abuse suspicious, says Aagaard.
In Norway, according to today’s criminal law, rape is defined as “obtaining sexual intercourse through violence or threatening behavior”, or by having sexual intercourse with someone who is “unconscious or for other reasons unable to resist the act”. The rape provision mentions nothing about consent.
The Criminal Code Council has completed a comprehensive review of the sexual offenses chapter in the Criminal Code. It is assessed how a consent law can and should be designed. In addition, one looks at the development that has been international, in the direction of a further lack of consent to greater weight. It is also considered an alternative to the consent-based rape definition.
– The council must submit its report before Christmas, and the work to follow up the report will be a high priority, says communications advisor Andreas Bjørklund.
Life has changed
Eva Aagaard was born in Copenhagen. After studying in both Århus and Bergen, she is back in her hometown where she lives with her husband and two children aged six and three and works as a freelance journalist.
– How are you today?
– I’m fine, even though my life has changed forever.
– What would you say to others who are in the middle of what you yourself have experienced?
– I can only speak from my own situation, and I want to say one thing: Tida helps. It does not heal all wounds, but it is possible to get well again.
Neither Aagard nor the police know who the man who accuses the abuse is.