Thank you to Annette for sharing her poem with us.
The fear I feel is my own fear,
Of life itself.
So afraid, because I am more aware of pain and sorrow than of joy and happiness.
I know I must not look for bad things all my life,
Accept what happiness I can,
Life’s too short not to enjoy part of it,
I must accept my good times.
Every person, whether they know it or not, has a fear,
I am more aware of mine.
Having time to sit and think sometimes does me more harm than good.
So, I must accept my life and live it to the best of my ability.
From now on I will try and accept my fears and not let them stand in my way.
We all have a person inside of us fighting to get out, to find the reason why we are here on this planet Earth.
The word fear is a very frightening, powerful word.
The biggest fear for me is life itself,
Afraid to turn another corner,
Afraid to open another door,
The fear of not knowing what I have to face next.
Is it really the fear of living I am afraid of or is it the fear of dying?
I may never know that answer.
There are always questions, but not answers, some things are best left without an answer,
So stop searching, accept life for what it is.
Hi, I’m Steph. I’m one of the newest Independent Sexual Violence Advocates (ISVAs) to join the RSVP family, joining the team in July last year.
I’ve been an ISVA for a total of 5 years, having worked across various sectors. I was delighted to be invited to join RSVP as I’ve followed their amazing work for years and genuinely felt their ethos and victim/survivor focus was beautifully suited to my working style.
I’m also a survivor. It’s what originally inspired me to do what I do. Since I didn’t have the right support it had a very negative impact on my life for a few years. Wow, I was also cruel to myself.
However, with the right therapy, excellent training opportunities and heaps of determination and hard work, I’m here. I’m an ISVA and I’m incredibly proud of what I do. I love what I do, which is sometimes odd for people to understand. They imagine my job to be a very depressing role and don’t get me wrong, it’s tough. We see people feeling very traumatised, we see their tears, fear, confusion, misplaced guilt and misplaced shame and we feel it with such empathy and compassion. We also see such strength, such determination and the incredible resilience of the human spirit.
You see, being a victim of sexual violence does not define who you are. It’s something that happened to you.
With the right support we see people not only survive but thrive. We empower and support you in whatever way you need that support and we do so with care, compassion and dedication. We’re trained to a high standard to help you understand how to report, if you choose to; the criminal justice system; civil action; the holistic support available to you and your feelings after rape and abuse.
So that’s me, Steph. A down to earth professional who says it like it is. I’ll advocate for your rights, respect you and empower you, to the best of my ability.
Visit here if you want more information about our ISVA service.
This moving blog post is by Lisa. Huge thanks to her for wanting to share her story of how she finally met the little girl who disappeared overnight after sexual abuse.
The little girl I was disappeared overnight. Gone was the happy, care free 8 year old and in her place was a sad, frightened and ashamed victim of sexual abuse.
To survive I put that 8 year old in a box, locked it and threw away the key. To think of her reminded me of the abuse and I DID NOT want to remember. To relate what happened to her to me I simply did not allow.
Denial is a powerful thing and I see now a protective thing, but there comes a time when it becomes harmful. The energy it takes to maintain that denial, to keep it hidden is exhausting and I, without question, made myself both physically and emotionally ill for many years because of it.
I did not make a conscious decision to ‘release’ that 8 year old from her box – she just got louder, desperate to be released. She had had enough of being silenced and ignored. For me she literally came bursting out at a counselling session that I had gone to because I was feeling so desperately sad and empty and thought it was time I found out why. With a single question, without any prior planning on my part I revealed my abuse. With that single reply I had unlocked the box and there was no going back.
The years since that moment have been a roller coaster and some of the toughest of my life. It has felt like I have had an open wound that every time it started to heal, just opened again. There have been times I wanted to push her back into the box, go back to denying her existence. I was not aware of the extent of the pain there would be but equally there have been times when I wanted to open the wound completely and clean away all of the badness.
I chose to keep fighting, I have persevered with the primary reason that being to free my 8 year old once and for all. To give her a voice, to tell her she is safe and to let her find the life she deserved.
Me and her are in the process of getting to know one another. I am trying hard to take care of her – showing her she is loved and has nothing to be ashamed of. She is slowly helping me break down the walls I built to surround me, shutting out the world. I realise now that she is not weak or bad but in fact brave and courageous and she sees in me that she survived. Most important of all I am no longer leaving her behind…instead we are walking hand in hand, to a better future and the one we BOTH deserved.
We would like to thank an anonymous survivor who has asked us to share this poem. It explores how difficult it can be to reach out for help as doing so means acknowledging that the abuse was real.
*The poem contains material that will trigger some survivors. Please do take care of yourself when reading this poem; particularly paragraphs 3,4 & 5 that are in blue italic font.*
Why do I need the help when it should be for others?
There are those who need it more, deserve it more, not me
Feeling I can’t function, even with a long to do list, my mind it has again wandered
Recalling, remembering what he did to me all those years ago
Trying to grapple with the fact- it did happen
Not wanting to believe this, not wanting it to be true
My mind goes in to overload-‘He got away with it because I did nothing!’
Even though I know that this is not true
I did what I was told each time but just once resisted
Yet I was the child, wanted to be loved, kept safe and not challenge him
I remember too many details- like it was yesterday
Snippets of time returned into the present from over 30 years ago
The following lines might trigger survivors of sexual abuse.
I can still feel his hands on my body, smell the aftershave he wore
and the newness of his leather belt against my bare skin rubbing it sore
I can hear the whispers of his voice in my ear that he was pleased with me
That I would be ‘his princess, his best girl’
if I smiled at him as he touched me deeper inside rather than cry as that didn’t impress
But most of all I recall the fear of when, 8 years later I said no to him
The anger on his face, raised voice, now not ‘gentle’ with his intentions
The violence that followed, the pain of penetration inside my body, going in deeper, further this time with his rage
I submitted- although stripped and pushed against a table it was hard not to
A cigarette butt jabbed into the back of my leg
“That’ll teach you to say no next time I want it!” are the words that filled my ears with dread
His grasp around my waist and arms left bruises, I was so sore between my legs
My body bled for yet another time that year
Yet the fear of that afternoon stays with me…. Just no longer locked away inside
I don’t like the remembering yet I’m finding it so hard to let go
Of feelings, of images and the sensations of him inside me and on me
Did I imagine this? Could I imagine this? Where would these ideas come from?
I don’t want it to be real- I need it to be other people’s experiences not mine- not me
I want them to leave me alone
Carefully packaged away they were, until one day it all just came out, from one thought-
Like a bomb going off in my head it was- the trauma so terrifying, so real, I was distraught
It’s been a long journey these last 12 months and a roller coaster ride I am on
Yet I am getting better- I have moved on so, so much
it’s just difficult at times for me to see the progress when I am in it.
I sometimes wish my family knew- to share this pain and feeling of unworthiness I carry,
Yet at least for now I know, it’s only me that has to have this burden and worry.
Just me, not them feeling shame and despair.
And I now know, however alone I feel, I am not alone
There are those that listen, support, believe and help the path ahead seem clearer.
Those who help when I feel ‘unhealable’ and explain the reasons I feel like I do.
To know my journey is progress forward not giant steps back and it is restorative.
This piece of writing has been submitted by an anonymous survivor.
Like a sailing boat, at the mercy of an ocean with no breeze to help it travel, I am in a state of drifting limbo.
Spending time gathering the courage to talk to someone, to pick up the phone, then not knowing what to say when it’s answered- the long list made of things aching inside not able to be verbalised and then I stupidly reduce it to, ‘I’m okay’.
Okay? What is actually okay is that it’s not okay. It is actually alright to admit that life is not okay!
Yet… I want to believe everyone else needs the help, deserves the support more than me. That by me being on the phone, another person, more valuable, more fragile, could be accessing deserved help and feeling more able to set sail, to travel on to a better place.
Me, the one that cannot even articulate a conversation or who cuts off a call when it is answered, freezing in the limbo of a sailing boat with no breeze- not knowing what to do, to say, how to respond. Just at the mercy of emotion not held tight enough on a lead from within.
Like a sailing boat, bobbing up and down, drifting into unknown and unchartered waters I carry on. I cannot stop the emotions I feel and the effect they have on my daily life. I am unable to control the swells that rise up like the seas inside me- that I feel I should be able to cope by now, yet I am so out of my depth, lost in a vast ocean- an unfamiliar place, lost, lonely and so afraid.
So I reach for the phone again. I even write my list of what I am so longing to verbalise, to share, to release and I yet, again, I cannot. I have failed.
I speak of nothingness, of all the things I really deep inside have no need to talk about. Yet aching within are the things I so wish the other person, the listener, could ask, could hear, has the power to search deep inside me and unlock the fear within.
I wait again, for another call, this time determined to say the things that are grappling with me inside my mind. I am tired of talking now- mostly by text, by writing not being able to be set free by verbalising it. I don’t want to waste resources. I don’t even know why I need to call, to be heard, to just be in conversation with someone who knows and understands- not is repulsed by my experience or too shocked to then see me face to face.
Like a sailing boat, at the mercy of an ocean with no breeze to help it travel, I am in a state of drifting, or limbo yet I have travelled some distance when I look back.
I have journeyed through storms and survived, become more resourced to cope and move on, on my own. Feeling in a state of nothingness is better than being in crisis. Bobbing up and down on the waves is better than trying to survive a storm lashing from within.
I will continue to sail… one day actually raising to sail to go it alone, saying what I feel and being okay with that.
Huge thanks to Martina for submitting this poem about eating disorders. It’s very thought provoking and we’re sure that other people affected by sexual trauma and eating disorders will relate to the feelings and questions that Martina evokes here. Our thoughts are with her and anyone affected as they endeavour to deal with the traumatic effects of abuse.
Life Without Shame and Without E.D.
You are my very best friend but also the worst of enemies
At times you make me feel so good but at times you make me feel disgusting
If I were free of you what would it leave?
Would it be a big gaping whole you used to fill?
Or would it be peace where the black hole used to be?
If I were free of you what would I be?
Would I be at peace?
Or would the war within me rise up and take over?
The anger that lies beneath but stays dormant and hidden deep inside just bubbling away silently. Silently.
If I were free of you who would I be?
Would I feel more powerful for overcoming you and fighting you?
Or would I feel weak for giving in and stuffing my face with the thousands of calories they want me to have?
Do I try and know that I will become this bigger person on the outside while the numbers rise rather than fall?
Or do I carry on, but carry on feeling tired, worried and disgusting with every look in a mirror or every reflection in the glass windows?
I don’t know but what I do know is I don’t want to be me anymore and feel the memories of my past.
The panic of what feelings of memories evoke. Not wanting to be touched or hugged or kissed.
Not trusting any man but been desperate so desperate to be settled get married and feel a love like never before.
Change is down to me. Do I want it enough? Is it really for me or is it to keep those around me quiet and off my back?
Why would I want to stay in this rut when I could gain so much more? Is it all so engrained like the lines on a tree trunk that no amount of hard work will ever remove this horrible disease and these horrible memories?
I just don’t know any more time will tell but right now I’m treading water and just about staying afloat.
Shannon continues her writing on the impact of abuse. You can read the first part of her blog here
I’m sat here looking at my notebook, the book I wrote everything down in when I was having my counselling and it’s like I’m scared of it. I’m scared to open it and reveal the things I’ve tried so hard to forget about.
I wrote Abuse – Part 1 over a month ago with the intention of writing Part 2 the following week but when it came to it I just wasn’t ready to put pen to paper. That chapter of my life has finished and writing this post means I have to reread the pages I’ve tried so hard to forget about. But I know it’s something I have to do.
What I’m writing about in this post is from my point of view and what’s happened to me. I’m in no way saying all guys are like this or that this only happens to girls. Abuse can happen to anyone, at any time and at any age so what I’m writing applies whether you’re female or male.
I wanted to write this post as there were things that happened to me in my first relationship that I thought were normal and I know other people who have been through similar who also thought it was normal for their partner to treat them in such a way.
I’d never been in a relationship before so I never knew what it was supposed to be like. If I wasn’t happy about something I’d always question myself on whether I was overreacting or if it was my anxiety making me look in to things. I’d ask my friends and family for their opinions on things that happened as I never trusted my own judgement. This used to cause so many arguments as he’d say I was getting people involved in our relationship when it should be kept private and would comment on how I could never think for myself.
I know it’s a confidence issue with me that I’ve had for a long time and something I need to overcome. I need to learn that if something doesn’t feel right for me or if I’m not happy about something then I should trust my own instincts. And this is something which I’m still working on now.
It sounds silly but I had never been around this behaviour before. I’d seen it on TV and in films but I always just thought these things don’t happen to people like me. You never think it will actually happen to you.
I thought I had my life sorted. I’d got what I’d always wanted. The first guy I’d properly dated and the first guy I’d ever kissed, turned in to my boyfriend, who would then turn in to my husband. My life was going in the exact direction I wanted it to. I’d always had a life plan and it was actually going to plan. He had a nice car, good family, well paid job and lived in a nice area. I used to think to myself I can’t believe how lucky I’ve been to meet someone like him. I never for one minute thought he’d be the type of person who would do this to me. But as the saying goes looks can be deceiving and no one knows what goes on behind closed doors. People aren’t always as they seem.
I’ve put together a list of things that happened to me and I hope it can give other people the strength and courage they need to recognise that these things are NOT OK.
◾Telling someone that the only way you’ll know if you like them is if you sleep with them. It’s the only way you can know if there’s a connection – NOT OK
◾Telling someone whose virginity you’ve just taken that they’ve put you in the lead as you and your friends are having a competition of how many people you can sleep with. Then texting your friends to tell them what number you’re on now – NOT OK. This happened to me the first time I slept with him and I cried so much and he found it funny and just left me crying. He knew how much I wanted my first time to be special and he ruined that experience for me
◾Telling someone what they can and cannot wear. Whether it’s clothes, makeup, shoes – NOT OK
◾Calling someone names or putting them down just to make yourself feel better – NOT OK
◾Using sex as a way of getting what you want. For example, whenever I said I was thinking of going out with friends, he would always say if I did then he’d go to a strip club. He knew that this was a major trigger for me as I had so little self-confidence and he knew that him going to the strip clubs made me feel even more insecure. So he’d get his way and I’d end up not going out with my friends – NOT OK
◾Putting a tracker on someone elses phone without their permission or without them knowing – NOT OK
◾Breaking the lock on the bathroom door so you can watch someone shower without their permission – NOT OK
◾Making someone feel bad about themselves just before they go out when you know your comment could ruin their day or night – NOT OK
◾Lying that you’ve been tested for an STI when you haven’t, which puts someone’s health at risk – NOT OK
◾Copying someone elses personal documents, for example, from their laptop, without their permission – NOT OK
◾Having and showing your new partner naked pictures on your phone that other girls have sent you – NOT OK
◾Knowing you’ve done something wrong but then turning every situation around so the other person is always in the wrong instead – NOT OK
◾Telling someone they look ridiculous when they’re having an anxiety attack – NOT OK
◾Saying things like “You must’ve gone off me” or “You must be cheating on me and that’s why you don’t want sex”. Using these type of statements in order to get what you want – NOT OK
◾Not allowing someone else to have social media – NOT OK
◾Telling someone if they leave you, you’ll crash your car and kill yourself and they’ll be to blame. Making someone stay with you by threatening to do something like this – NOT OK
◾Putting you in a situation that you would never put yourself in or that you don’t feel comfortable being in – NOT OK
◾Making someone feel guilty if they don’t have sex with you every time you see each other – NOT OK
◾Blaming other people for your mood swings – NOT OK
◾Saying you’ll leave someone if they don’t do exactly what you want when you want, always threatening this as a way of getting what you want – NOT OK
◾Physically hurting someone deliberately and then passing it off as a joke – NOT OK
◾Continuing to have sex with someone when you’re fully aware the other person is lying there crying – NOT OK
◾When the other person has already told you NO but you continue anyway, and then say afterwards “You have to stop doing that because it makes me feel rapey” to which I asked “If it makes you feel rapey then why do you carry on?” and his reply “Because I knew you’d enjoy it once you got into it” – NOT OK
◾Showing no remorse for any of your behaviour and even going as far as laughing about what you’ve done – NOT OK
Some of the above I’d of probably laughed at before and I definitely would have questioned why you’d stay with someone who was treating you like this. But it’s not that simple. These people are manipulative and when they tell you it’s your fault, you believe them, no matter how strong a person you are. They know exactly what to say and how to manipulate the situation so it’s always your fault. I was always really strong minded and I thought I knew exactly what I would and wouldn’t put up with. But they have a way of getting inside your head so, how strong you are, doesn’t even come in to it.
I now know that there were a lot of signs which I should have noticed but as they say love is blind and sometimes you see the signs but choose to ignore them in the hope that things will change.
I realised after talking to one of my friends who had been through a similar thing to me that it’s like these people have an instruction manual that they all read. A lot of the things that happened to me also happened to my friend in exactly the same way. The things he said to her were word for word what my ex said to me.
I remember seeing an advert for Disrespect Nobody and I laughed at first. I said to my friend “Why would you need to consent to sex every time if it’s with your boyfriend. That’s kind of your job to do everything you can to make him happy”. I know a lot of people who feel and think the same way that I did. I now realise that this isn’t the case. It’s your body, it’s your decision and you should only do what you want to do.
If it causes an argument or even a break up then you need to think is this person really the right person for you anyway?
Any form of putting someone down or deliberately hurting another person is abuse, no matter how small it is. It is not ok and we should never have to just accept it.
I was naive and saw the world through rose tinted glasses, I still do for some reason, only ever seeing the good in everyone. But I won’t let someone else change that about me as I believe it’s a really nice quality to have. And I know one day I will find someone who appreciates this about me rather than using it to their advantage. I’m in no way over what happened but I am slowly starting to accept it and move on.
If you’re reading this and thinking that it sounds similar to the situation you’re in, please don’t just brush it under the carpet or make excuses for the other person. It’s not ok and you don’t have to put up with it. It’s also not your fault so don’t ever blame yourself.
Just know that you are not alone and there is always someone who can help.
We would like to thank the survivor who has asked us to anonymously share their poem. This poem explores how taking time to be with yourself can empower you to take back control of the choices you make and the direction your life takes.
Poetry can be used as a way of expressing emotions that might otherwise be difficult to express. We hope you enjoy the poem.
Gaining back control
Heading out of the harbour’s safety
At the helm and feeling more in control
Looking out into the unknown
Repaired hull, the damage has left scars
These will heal with time,
with time spent feeling empowered
Time spent recognising my own needs
and no longer dismissing them,
No longer ignoring the hurts, the pains of time gone by.
Heading out of the harbour
into the cloudy peaks of unchartered waves
Realising I am not alone
The ocean that is life is ahead of me
Complete with it’s tides of calm and storm
Yet, I am not now alone
I have support around me
I stand at the helm yet I am not isolated.
I now make choices about the direction I steer
Choices that I am not coerced into
Being in control of events and decisions
I navigate this new path into the unknown
I navigate it because I want to, for myself
Because I choose to take this journey
To re find myself, my true identity
The inner part of me that cannot be taken away
Cannot be destroyed by the perils of the sea.
That part of me is now starting to be at the helm
Beginning to resurface- to take back and gain control.
We are extremely grateful to the survivor who has written this poem, anonymously, about a recent event where she felt triggered, showing the disconnect she felt between being a victim and being a survivor. Both RSVP and the survivor hopes that the poem makes a positive difference to other survivors who have experienced the difficulty of being triggered, by the smallest of actions of others. We’re sure that many people will relate to these words and the difficulty of ‘the space in between’ following sexual trauma.
Writing can be a way to explore, navigate and reduce distressing and traumatic feelings. Writing this poem particularly helped the survivor when a bank holiday meant that she could not attend her counselling session. We hope the poem will also encourage other survivors to see how writing can be used as a way to manage difficult situations, and express painful feelings, whether they are accessing counselling or other kinds of support, or not.
Thank you to the survivor for giving her consent for this poem to be shared. You can read more of her work here.
I’m frightened, so frightened, and I’m so tired of being scared
It’s not the darkness that I fear
Not those things far away; or those that are near
Those things don’t scare me, it’s something more real
The casual comment, the look, the word
And I am back there again
In the place where I can’t feel
The space in between
I talk to her and she makes me feel safe
Her calm and her words a walled embrace
But it’s fleeting, not truly real
Because I can learn to play strong, can almost convince me
That I can be that one
But the fear will come again
And remind me our work’s not done
I don’t know why this happened
I’m not sure what I did
But I know that I don’t own me, and I think I never did
I can live with that, can be with that
Make that the life I live
And it will work until I come across
The spaces in between
It’s not the violent storm, the drowning rain
The punishing snow or hurricane
There are always ways and means
To manage those nightmares, but it seems
Those things can’t hope to affect
The still, dead, calmness
Of the spaces in between
She was so small, so tiny, so much fun
Till the darkness came for her
And told her what she must become
To be two people; the happy, the cheerful, the fun-filled one
I don’t want to know the other one, accept that she is real
But we seem destined to meet
In the spaces in between
I want to take a hammer, an axe, a knife, a gun
A weapon to make things clean
I want to take those things to purify
The spaces in between
Thank you to the survivor who anonymously submitted this poem. Writing can be very personally restorative after sexual trauma, as well as ‘speaking’ to those who read it. We hope this poem helped the author and will help other survivors too.
For now we look in a mirror dimly
But then face to face,
We look at ourselves, what image reflects back?
The memories gone by, excited images of the past
What else can we see when we delve deeper still?
Incidents not wanting to be recalled, now looking back at me
Incidents of despair, hurt, fear and the unknown
Situations that I didn’t like, fractured pictures, images mixed together
Clear memories once locked away, at the surface-
but I was never facing them alone.
What else can I see, right deep inside, in me?
A beautiful soul, kind spirit, peacemaker- that’s part of me
My inner me, not damaged by the world,
Kept apart, at one in God, His spirit in me
How do I move on, from an unclear reflection?
Focus on the good, the pure, and the wholeness of creation
Memories gone by, some clear, some fade
People join on the journey to help make clear the way.
Where does it lead, this path that contains despair?
Not to hope, kindness and peace- it’s not welcomed there
Time to let go, to look the other way
To choose the mirrors I look into and others I can turn away
Bridges built around my box can slowly be taken down
I want to see the inner me not crushed into the ground
My boat will make it to harbour’s rest,
It shall be restored-
not tainted by memories that are there still, some not yet removed
One day I can ask the questions-
If by then I do still want
But for now I will rest in assurance that
My life does hold value not hurt.
For now, I look in a mirror dimly- but then face to face
Now I know in part, but then I shall know fully, just as I am fully understood.