Thursday, 30 June 2016

11 years

I'm taking a moment today.  A moment to breathe, a moment to think & reflect, a moment to remember.

My sexual abuse happened over the space of 5 years.  The abuse culminated in me being raped in the back seat of his car when I was 17 years old.  It was 11 years ago today that I was raped.  For me, this date is always a difficult one.  In the past I would hide away.  I would stay in my bed, I would be flooded with memories; I would drown in the memories.

Today is different.  Today I am looking at how far I have come.  And I have come pretty damn far. 

With help from my family, friends & the police, I was able to face my abuser in court.  It was one of the most difficult experiences of my life - but I did it.  I put my abuser behind bars.  I started to heal & look after myself.  I started taking better care of myself - physically, emotionally & spiritually.  

Gone is the woman that tried to make herself invisible.  Gone is the woman that was afraid of men.  Gone is the woman with the weight of the world on her shoulders.

Instead, here is the woman that is loud and proud.  Here is the woman with a wonderful, caring, kind & supportive boyfriend.  Here is the woman that is ready to seize life and live it.

Don't get me wrong - it is still a pretty emotional day for me and I'm not quite on my 'A' game.  I listened to some music and had a cry.  But that's okay.  I have turned into a strong woman, and have come to understand that there is strength in crying.  In truth, I feel a lot better for letting it all out.  

Today I am looking back at my journey and acknowledging the strength and determination it took to get here.  Today I am realising that I am one hell of a woman with a bright future ahead of me.

11 years ago today was one of the worst days of my life.  Today, I am happy.  I am amazed at how far I have come.  Today, I am proud of myself.  

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Til It Happens To You

It's been a while since I last posted.  In all honesty, I wasn't planning on making any new posts.  I have closed the chapter on that part of my life - instead of living in the past, I am living in the now and focussing on my future.  Life is good.  Really good.

Sitting here now, I've had to stop and think about how many years ago the trial was.  Almost 3 years.  It feels like a life-time ago.  I have been living - and loving - my life.  It hasn't been smooth-sailing, there's been a lot of ups and downs.  My health isn't great - Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome being the main culprit (frequent joint dislocations, chronic pain, fatigue, migraines etc.).  Learning to live with an ever-worsening condition isn't fun, but (mainly thanks to my family & friends) it's manageable, and with physiotherapy I've managed to put the "worsening" part on hold for a while.  There have been problems with my family's health as well, and losing my Nana (this year) has been devastating.

However.  It is important to cherish the good parts of life - and there have been many good parts.   I'm now in my third year of university - finally!  The end result (my degree) is within sight!  Very exciting.  I'm no longer a social recluse - I have a fantastic set of people around me and am thoroughly enjoying going out & being with my friends (when I'm physically able to do so).  I have a beautiful Goddaughter that I love very much.  Her cheeky smile can brighten up anyone's day.  I've moved in to my own place - and am loving every minute of it.  I've been extremely lucky in that I've been able to travel with my family to wonderful and exotic places.  I've also started dating again.  And you know what?  Dating is fun!

Of course, there are moments.  These are happening less and less, thankfully.  However, I suspect they will never quite go away - what happened to me will always be there.  It's a part of my life and always will be, but I refuse to let it be the defining part of my life.  So when those moments do happen, it's important to acknowledge them, remind yourself how far you've come, deep breaths and then move on.  Of course, some moments last longer than others, and that's okay too.  But there's a fine line between acknowledging the moment and wallowing in it.  Believe me, I've done my fair share of wallowing in the past.  Whilst it was needed at the time, it is not a place I want to return to.  Nor is it a place that I have to fight to stay away from - I am genuinely happy within myself.  I love myself.  I respect myself.  I am confident and I have self-esteem.  I am a far cry from the woman I was 3 years ago.  And I am pretty proud of how far I've come.

To anyone reading this that feels like things are never going to get better, that you will never be able to "move on" (I hate that expression) - you will.  It takes time and energy and hard work, but you will.  Don't give up.  If need be, call a help-line (personally, the Samaritans worked for me), call a friend.  Talk to someone.  Reach out.  Because remember: you are not alone.

Okay, enough rambling.  This was only supposed to be a short entry!  Moving on to the reason for writing this post.

I've just watched Lady Gaga's new video "Til It Happens To You".

Luckily, there is a warning on the video so I was able to prepare myself.  But...

Holy cow.

Bloody hell.

It's a good video.  It's a really, really good video.  It's a video that needs to be seen, that needs to be talked about.  Because in all honesty, this shit needs to stop.

We're living in the 21st century - this should not be a common crime, it should not be an accepted crime and it should most definitely not be a crime where it is the victim that is blamed.  Ever.

Watching this video brought back unpleasant memories (to say the least).  However, for me personally, the ending is very powerful.  The message is loud and clear: unless you have personally experienced sexual assault or rape, you can't possibly imagine what it is to go through it.  For a time, it is a living hell.  However - whilst you can't understand, you can help bring someone back from their living hell, just by being there and being a supportive friend.  Don't bail when you're most needed.  Be there.

There is still a long way to go, but steps are being made.  Recently schools have started teaching young boys and girls (separately) how to avoid rape - by telling the young boys that if they see it happening to intervene.  They are teaching these young boys to respect women and to accept that no means no.  They are teaching them that rape is bad.  They are teaching them to not stand by, but to act.  And it's working.  More schools need to implement these programmes so that the survivors (both women & men) do not feel shame or blamed for being sexually assaulted.  There are a lot of mindsets that need changing.  A hell of a lot.  But slowly, we're getting there.

Because videos like this by popular artists are keeping this topic in the spotlight.  They keep the discussion going and they are supporting the ever-growing movement and they are slowly challenging the mindset of the group of people that believe that sexual assault or rape is sometimes justifiable.  No matter if the perpetrator is a male or female (or anything in between) or the victim is a male or female (or anything in between) - it is NEVER the survivor's fault.  Ever.

If you want to watch this very powerful video, here you go.  IMPORTANT: TRIGGER WARNING

Monday, 30 June 2014

Let the music do the talking

Today is the anniversary of my rape.  Instead of using words to describe what I'm feeling, I thought I'd let the music I've been listening to do the talking.

Tori Amos - Me And A Gun:  Lyrics

Linkin Park - Easier To Run

Evanesence - Going Under

Metallica - Until It Sleeps

Black Stone Cherry - Holding On... To Letting Go: Lyrics

Christina Aguilera - Fighter

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Moving on

I can't believe that it has been about a year and a half since the guilty verdict and the sentencing.  I don't know why I haven't written or posted anything on here.  Probably because before I was so focused on getting through the trial whereas now I am focused on healing myself and building myself back up.

After the trial, I was still in a pretty bad place.  Even though I got some closure, I was still suffering from nightmares, flashbacks and all the fun stuff that comes with that.  I think it's pretty fair to say that I was a broken person.  I didn't think I would ever heal.  I didn't know what else to do.  I had faced my demons, but felt like I would never actually heal.  But... a year and a half is a long time.

A lot has happened in that year.  I have grown into a more confident woman.  I respect myself.  I love myself.  I have realised that life is good.

So, what's been happening in my life?

A Weighty Issue

After I was raped, I started to put on more and more weight.  At the time I hated it, but couldn't seem to stop it from happening.  I didn't want to stop it from happening.  Looking back, it's obvious what I was doing.  I was trying to make myself unattractive - in my mind, I was raped because I was attractive.  Of course, now I know that that is absolute rubbish - short, tall, thin and fat women are raped.  It's not about attractiveness, it's about exerting your power over someone else.  But in my damaged mind, the more weight I piled on, the safer I was.

That's how I found myself grossly overweight.  I hated it, but I didn't want to lose weight and become vulnerable.  In my mind, my fat was my protection.

Which is why, when I finally started putting myself back together and regain my confidence, I was finally able to lose the weight.  I'm now 4 stone lighter and much more happy and confident within myself.  Not to mention a lot healthier!

A New Diagnosis

Last year I was diagnosed with Type 3 Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, which is a hereditary disorder that affects my joints. In its simplest, my body does not produce enough collagen (the 'glue' that keeps joints together) causing frequent dislocations and sublaxations (partial dislocations).  There are also a bunch of other symptoms, such as chronic pain (which can be extremely debilitating), joint hypermobility, poor healing, brain fog (due to lack of oxygen to the brain), muscle sprains and many others.  Walking can at times be quite difficult.  As of yet there is no cure or treatment other than medicine for the pain - which often doesn't work.
It was a relief to finally get the diagnosis, as I'd been complaining to my doctors' for years.  I'm extremely relieved to finally know what is wrong with me as, for a long time, I was told that it was all in my head.

I won't lie though: it is extremely frustrating, and I have often found myself angry.  For so long I wasn't able to enjoy life and focus on university because my head was in the wrong place - I was a shell of a person and not capable of really doing anything.  Now my head is finally in the right place, but my body is failing me.  I'm 26 but have found myself at times to be virtually housebound.  It is extremely frustrating.

However, I have terrific friends that snap me out of my self-pitying mode and remind me to enjoy the good times in life.  When I can go out, I do.  When I can't go out, my friends come to me.  Unfortunately I have lost some friends who couldn't understand why I often cancelled at the last minute (not easy to socialise when the pain is so overwhelming you literally can not move), but my close friends have been nothing but understanding.


I've restarted university and am currently in my second year - again!  I'm determined to finish my degree this time.  I'm enjoying it immensely.  However, EDS does not make it easy.  I've missed a lot of lectures due to dislocations, pain and fatigue.  (It's unclear yet what's causing the fatigue, but the doctors are trying to figure it out).

I am extremely determined to pass this year, but it does sometimes feel like the world is against me (that's when my good friends knock some sense into me and tell me to get on with it already!).  The university have also been extremely supportive and are allowing me to spread my exams out.  I know that with hard work and determination I will get there in the end.

Family & Friends

My family and friends have been amazing throughout these past few years.  They have been patient and kind.  They have let me rant, they have let me cry.  They have given me a hug - or a push, depending on which one I needed!

Slowly, I am being helped to knock down the wall I had built around myself and to take off my mask.  I now find myself actually smiling and laughing - not putting on a mask, but actually smiling and laughing.


It's been a long and hard road, and I'm not all the way there yet.  I still have a lot to unlearn.  As a child, I learnt to put on a mask - to smile and pretend that everything was fine.  I learnt to be quiet and keep my opinion to myself.  I learnt to blend in.  I learnt to try and keep the attention away from me.  Putting on a mask and keeping people at a distance became a natural part of my everyday life, as did fearing men.

I still find it difficult to be around and to trust men.  I still have tendencies to keep men at a safe distance.  Because of this, I also have difficulties in forming close friendships with men.  Aside from family, I never formed a close bond with a male that wasn't sexual.  To me, men were synonymous with sex, because that was what I was taught.  It's not surprising really; becoming sexual at age 12 with  a man in his 30s is bound to mess up my view on healthy friendships between men and women.  Alongside learning how to be good friends with men, I'm also starting to get myself out there and start dating.

I'm also learning to take off my mask and knock down my wall.  It's not easy though, in fact, it's extremely scary.  They have both been in place for so long, I can't remember being without them.  I learnt to hide myself - my body was fair game, but my mind was untouchable.  The thought of being without my mask & wall is frightening, but I know it's the right thing to do.  Yes, it is terrifying, but it is also freeing.  And why should I put on a mask and hide away?  I have nothing to be ashamed of, and I no longer need to protect myself like that.  In fact, keeping the wall and mask is no longer helpful, it's actually damaging me and my relationships with other people.

Another thing I've been working on is not being such a people-pleaser.  I'm a pretty laid back person and am generally pretty happy to go with the flow.  But I became a doormat.  Again, I was taught to do what I was told and to keep him happy.  That translated into every part of my life.
Any question that I was asked (be it "what movie do you want to watch?" or "where do you want to eat?" or "what song do you want to listen to"), I would always respond with; "I don't mind, you choose".
I didn't want to rock the boat.  I didn't want to disappoint anyone if I made a choice that they didn't like.  I still have difficulty with this, but I'm learning.  After all - why is my happiness and wishes worth less than that of others?
I'm learning to actually speak up for myself and to ask people to meet me half way, instead of me bending over backwards for other people and being taken for a mug.

So yes, I still have a long way to go.  But I am definitely on the right track.

For so long I felt sad and angry because I felt like I missed out on having an innocent childhood.  I wondered what I would be like if I hadn't been sexually abused, if I hadn't been raped, if, if, if...  Then I realised something.  Looking back was not helping me.  Instead of focusing on the past, I should be focusing on the future.

Yes, what happened to me was pretty awful and will probably always stay with me.  But there is no turning back time, no changing the past.  Instead, I am learning to look to the future and focus on who I want to become now, instead of who I was back then.  And I have to say - I am liking the woman that I am turning into.

It is important to not let your past define who you are.  Of course you will always be affected by it.  But your past does not define you.  Your past is your past, but your future?  That is all yours and it is up to you to decide what you want to do with it and who you want to become.  Because you know what?  Life can be pretty damned amazing if you actually let yourself feel and live it.

"Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards" - S Kierkegaard. 

Friday, 28 June 2013

This affects men too

This video is amazing.  It's just under 20 minutes long, and it is fantastic.  (If you don't have time to watch all of it, start from about 3.50 - however, the entire video is amazing, so if you have the time - do watch it all!)

For those that say that men can't be feminists - watch this video.  For those that say that gender violence is a "women' issue", watch this video.

For those that want to stand up for what is right - watch this video.

For those that think feminism has no place in modern society - watch this video.

For those that think that men aren't affected by our patriarchal society - watch this video.

Don't really know what more to say - but watch this video (especially if you're a man).

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Victim Blaming

I should never have to write a post about victim blaming.  Our society should support victims, should listen to them, and should help them.  Instead, our society says "it's your fault for getting raped.  You should have known better.  You shouldn't have put yourself in the sort of situation that leads to rape."

Our society never blames the rapist.  In fact, our society sympathises with rapists.  You only need to look at the reactions to the Steubenville rape case recently.  The public supported the rapists - after all, they're just young boys that don't know the difference between right and wrong.  How could they possibly know that repeatedly having sex with an unconscious girl was rape?  How could they possibly know that urinating on said girl was abusive?  How could they possibly know that laughing about raping her and filming themselves raping her was wrong?

There was a huge public outcry.  Not, I might add, to demand justice, but to demand leniency for the rapists.  Those poor boys have had their lives destroyed.  Those poor boys are now in jail.  Those poor boys.

What about the poor girl?  She was raped.  Those 'poor boys' forced themselves on her.  They took advantage of her.  Their lives were destroyed?  What about hers?  She has to live with the knowledge that her peers are calling her a slut and wishing that she would die.  People took to twitter to wish her dead.  People said that the boys had learnt their lessons and it wasn't worth ruining their lives over.  Even celebrities backed the rapists, by claiming it was the girl's fault for drinking too much.

That's right, of course!  By having a few drinks you're telling everyone around you that you want to have sex, that you want people to have sex with you while you're unconscious, that you want to be urinated on and that you want to be filmed being abused.  Silly me, how could I forget? 

After all, you have to be so careful nowadays.  Don't wear revealing clothes - but don't look like a prude either.  Don't sleep around - but sleep with enough people so you're not a 'tease'.  Don't walk home alone, don't walk home with acquaintances - in fact, don't walk home at all.  But don't take a taxi either - because the taxi driver might not be able to resist you.  Don't make yourself 'too attractive' so you won't attract the wrong kind of attention.  But don't look ugly either - because if you don't fit society's idea of attractiveness, then you're lucky to get raped in the first place.  After all, only attractive people get raped.

I know, how about instead of having all of these do's and don'ts for potential victims, we have only one rule for potential rapists?  DON'T RAPE.  There, simple.

I'm sick and tired of hearing people blame the victims.  WE ARE NOT AT FAULT.

And it's exactly this attitude - this victim blaming - that stops rape victims from coming forward.  It's why I waited 5 years after the abuse ended to finally tell the truth.  It's why I never said anything while it was happening.  Because I knew that I would be blamed.  I was 12 when it started, but I knew that it was my fault.  Because, after all, only 'sluts' (I hate that word) get raped.  Only bad girls are abused.

I waited for years because I was afraid that no one would believe me.  As it turns out, it was right that I waited.  It took those 5 years to build up my strength and courage.  As a young victim, I would not have been able to handle the backlash that was sent my way.  Close friends asking me 'why I didn't just put a stop to it'.  A friend's boyfriend asking me 'who would want to rape you?'.  Someone even told me that they think most rape charges are false and that the guys (ie RAPISTS) are hard done by.  Being told that the rape charges were being dropped as it was a case of 'he said she said'.  The child abuse chargers were accepted, and we went to trial.  At trial it felt like I was raped all over again.  My life was scrutinised.  I was accused of being a liar, told that I was making things up; that it was a fantasy in my head.

(Please not - I am SO glad to have finally told people.  Because most people stood by me - my family, my friends that mattered, and the police.  I was believed.  I was able to finally start healing.  I stood up to him.  I took my power, my life, back.)

Every day, survivors are having to stand up and fight to be heard, to put the blame where it really lies - on the rapist.  We are having to explain what it means to be raped.  We have to explain, over and over and over again, why it is NOT OUR FAULT.  We are having to shout I DID NOT WANT TO BE RAPED.  And time and time again we are ignored.  Time and time again people stand by the rapist.  

There is so much evidence out there that clearly show that as a society, we criminalise a rape victim and support the rapist.  You only need to look at that time a judge stated in court that it wasn't a real rape, but just a technical rape.  Or read the statistics that explain why cops don't believe rape victims.  Or read this beautifully written blog entry written by a rape survivor, explaining how she was raped.  Or read this disgusting article blaming Nigella Lawson for being the apparent victim of domestic violence. Or type in Google 'rape victim blamed' or 'rape victim shaming'.  The results should disgust you.

I just do not understand why, in this day and age, we are still victim blaming.  We are enlightened in so many ways, and yet we are still failing so miserably.  We are putting the blame on the victim, instead of on the person that committed the crime.  In what kind of world does that make any sort of sense?

Thursday, 20 June 2013

There is hope

It's been a long time since I last posted.  I've been focusing on enjoying life and living it, instead of trying to analyse how I'm feeling and why I'm feeling that way.  It's been nice to get out of my own head for a while and just roll with things.  And you know what?  I've realised that I am actually enjoying life.

I never thought it would be possible.  I was convinced that I would be in the throes of depression, insomnia & PTSD for the rest of my life.  I was convinced that I would always suffer from flashbacks & nightmares.  Luckily, I was wrong.  Flashbacks are few and far between - it's been over a month since my last one.  Likewise, I haven't had any nightmares about my abuse & rape in a long time.  My sleeping has also improved tremendously.

I spent about a month trying to kick my insmonia's ass, and I have!  I forced myself to get up early in the morning and refusing myself any naps during the day.  I forced myself to go to bed at a reasonable hour at night and didn't allow myself to get up when sleep eluded me.  Instead I forced myself to stay in bed until I finally drifted off to sleep.  This did mean that for about a month I was a wreck, surviving on only a few hours of disturbed sleep a night.  But then something wonderful happened - I started to sleep for 4 hours at a time, then for 6 hours and now I generally sleep between 8-10 hours a night.  Amazing!  I've had insomnia since I was an early teen, so being able to sleep through the night is fantastic.  I'd forgotten how good sleep can be! It's wonderful.  Mind you - if I had been at university or at work I wouldn't have been able to kick my insomnia's ass, as I was barely functioned during that month and could not have worked or studied.  It makes me realise how right the university was on insisting I take a year out.

So - I am now finding myself in a much happier place.  My smiles are real.  My laughter is real.  I am not acting, I am not pretending.  I am actually happy.

This isn't to say that I don't have my down days though, because I do.  My depression and PTSD aren't quite cured yet either.  They're the best they've ever been, but they're still there.  Also, every now and then a smell or a sound or a phrase will remind me of him and what he did to me.  However - I think about him less and less.  Days (even a week) can go by without me thinking about what happened.  Hopefully this will continue, until weeks or months have passed between me thinking about him and the abuse.

I also still flinch and jump a lot.  I still find physical contact quite difficult and I still have trust issues.  I'm working on it though.  (As a side-note, if you know me in real life and want to help - lots of physical contact is a good thing; hugs, touch on the arm whilst talking etc).   

So, you ask, what have I been doing with my time?  Well, I am now a qualified first aider (hurrah!).  I have been mourning my best friend (it was a year yesterday that she died).  I've been sorting things out for the move (in a few months I'll be moving in with a good friend of mine).  I've been working through my issues with my psychologist  I've been socialising with my friends and I've been going backwards and forwards to various doctors. I was recently diagnosed with Type 3 Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, which is a hypermobility disorder.  Unfortunately, one of the main symptoms of Type 3 EDS is chronic pain, which means that some days the pain is so severe that all I can do is lie in my bed and try and find a position that doesn't hurt. However - at least I'm not spending days in bed due to depression!!

So, what I want to say is this: there is hope.  Things will get better.  It takes a lot of time, a lot of effort and a lot of support, but eventually things do get better.  The changes start off small - they're barely noticeable, until suddenly you realise that your laughter is genuine, or you've gone a couple of nights without a nightmare or you realise it's been days since you last thought about your abuser.

I know how that sounds.  People told me that eventually my life would continue and I would move on, that I would forget about the abuse.  I never believed them.  I just could not imagine myself ever moving on from my childhood.  But I'm here to tell you that it's true.  Life does get better.  Of course there will still be days when it's pretty bad, where all you can think about is the abuse.  But those days become fewer and farther apart.  And whilst I don't think I will ever forget about the years of abuse, I do believe that eventually it will fade into the background of my mind.

There is hope.  Life does continue.  It will get better.  I'm living proof of that.