This has not been easy to write, not only because it’s traumatic for me but also because I have struggled with how to put this into words. There are people who will read this who are my friends and family who had no idea that I have been through what I have been through. It’s not exactly something that you drop into casual conversation.
When I first started this blog, back in 2014 I had this in mind and I have since fought the need to publish it out of fear. Not only to protect the feelings of people who love and care for me but to also protect myself.
What I didn’t realise is that by not publishing this it’s not protecting me at all, it’s destroying me and keeping me in victim mode. And that means I’ve been in victim mode since I was 16. That’s nearly 20 years of guilt, shame and being absolutely terrified.
When I was 16 I was raped.
It has taken me nearly 20 years to write these words. I have uttered them to a handful of people. Three of which were medical professionals.
“Rape is not a dirty word”
Saying it out loud was tough but writing it down gives it something and makes it real. Somehow it eternalises it and that’s what scares me. Once it’s out there it’s out there forever. And that has petrified me for years.
I was worried about it from every angle; would people believe me? Does it matter if they didn’t? What if the person who did this to me reads it and contacts me. Yes, I know how stupid that sounds.
There are so many factors surrounding this that it made me feel unable to share it. The pity and the shame. But again, these thoughts were just keeping me in victim mode.
Even as I write this now there is a voice in the back of my head telling me that I cannot tell the world this story.
Every single aspect of this trauma tortures me every day. Sometimes to the extreme, sometimes with less force. The person that raped me was a friend of a friend, I knew him, he was known to me, he wasn’t a stranger. I wasn’t grabbed down a dark alley. Rape isn’t always being pinned down and screaming for help. Sometimes it’s numb and paralysing. You want to scream but the horrific realisation of what is happening is too much. And although you wish you’d kicked and screamed, you didn’t and that adds to the shame.
One of the most difficult parts of this therapy for me is coming to terms with the fact that even after it happened I continued to have a relationship with this person. And that is more difficult to admit than the rape itself because to so many that will not make any sense.
It doesn’t make sense to me, or at least it didn’t then. Now it does.
I could not admit to anyone what had happened. It was too shameful, so instead, I lied to myself and told myself it hadn’t happened. I kept that secret for two years.
I was a teenager holding that trauma in for two years. It ruined my life.
This abuse made me reluctant to pursue my dreams for fear of being ‘outed’. As daft as it sounds I was scared that if I followed my dreams of wanting to become an actor then all of this from my past would eventually come flooding out to ruin me. Stupid, I know.
I have thought about writing this a thousand times but the thought of it has left me feeling dizzy and anxious, I don’t want to be a victim. And not being able to talk openly keeps me in ‘victim mode’.
At 18 I started thinking about what I wanted to do, where I wanted to go. I decided to apply to Camp America and also imagined, maybe quite naively, that I would go work at Disney World. Unfortunately, my boyfriend at the time was against the idea as he said we wouldn’t survive the distance. If I’d have been stronger at the time and not had my confidence stolen due to the assault, I might have just gone anyway. However, the application form for Camp America knocked my already shaky confidence again. I remember filling out all of my hopes, ambitions, explaining why I wanted to go there and why I would be an excellent camp counsellor. Then it got to the part where you had to disclose whether or not you had suffered any mental health issues and unfortunately I had. I was suffering from depression, I was having counselling and I was taking anti-depressants. Being so young and ignorant of the whole situation I automatically assumed I would be turned down and I didn’t bother to apply at all.
Eventually, that relationship ultimately broke down and I carried on with my life and the burden of the assault buried deep in the back of my mind.
I was slowly building my confidence back up, I’d gone back to college to study science and I even started towards my degree with the Open University.
Then it happened again.
A fairly similar situation, this person was not a stranger to me. He placed himself into my life, became my friend, gained my trust and then betrayed me in the most horrific way.
All of that strength and confidence I had started to rebuild was stripped away. And I was back in the mind of a scared 16-year-old with nobody to turn to. Except for this time I was 27 years old, a single parent, a strong independent woman. But none of that mattered, he’d ruined it.
Again I didn’t talk about it through fear of not being believed, of being made to think I was to blame. I told one person and I don’t think they actually believed me and so I locked it away and carried on. Until about 3 years ago, I finally opened up to a therapist and I spoke about everything.
It has however taken me until now to speak openly about it. I don’t know my reasoning, I have obviously found strength from somewhere. I feel that now is the right time. I don’t want to be a victim anymore and now I’ve finally let this go out into the Universe, I’m not.
The actions of those two men no longer have me imprisoned. I’m not scared of them anymore, they are nothing to me.
And I’ve made that decision. I’ve built my strength back up, my confidence is taking a bit more time but I’m working on it. I do not want people to be afraid of speaking out about sexual assault and rape. It’s not shameful and most certainly not your fault.
I know this will have been a hard read for some and I’m sorry but if you’ve got this far, thank you. Trust me I know how you feel. This was the most difficult thing I have ever written and I’ve written archaeology essays!
Honestly, though, I feel as though a huge weight has been lifted and if you’ve been in a similar situation this could really be that next step in your own personal therapy, even if you don’t share it with anyone, just getting it down in words, on paper can be so cleansing.
I’m not sure I’ve actually said all that I wanted to say, but for now, I’ve said all I need to say ❤
You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ – Eleanor Roosevelt