When I think about my journey, I knew from the moment I disclosed at 8 years old that the relationship with my brother wasn’t right. After disclosure I realised, I couldn’t trust any of the adults in my life either. I went against the grain, as my mom wasn’t listening, I told everyone what was happening to me, teachers, friends, friends of mom’s everyone knew but no one did anything so I stayed stuck in a house full of danger and horror. The anger wasn’t lost on me, but mom threatened and scared to the point where I kept my mouth shut and my anger wouldn’t show itself for another 20 years.
The only shining light was my nan and grandad who knew something was wrong yet felt powerless to stop it. They asked questions but for some reason I didn’t want to taint the world with that word and the horrific reality of my life. Nan was so dedicated it took her 3 hours to see me just for a couple of hours after school. She got robbed the one night on her way back home, nothing stopped her.
Fast forward to reaching 20 years old and I reported to the police for the first time to be told that my brother was experimenting, and it was harmless. Then when I was 22, Nan died, the one saviour, the one person who loved me and knew what was going on even though I never told her. Three months after her death I could not stop crying, literally couldn’t stop, I found a private counsellor.
You have to remember up until this point it was easy to live in denial and avoidance. My trauma bonds had done what they do, flight had kicked in and I could barely remember what happened to me. This along with everyone around me denying my truth it was easy to pretend it didn’t happen.
And so we come to the theme of my story avoidance and acceptance, knowing something so horrific has happened to you but subconsciously never wanting to go there.
As I sat in the chair the counsellor’s emotionless face asking the standard questions she asked “Why am I here?” now at this point I would have assumed I would talk about my nan’s passing instead I said “I think I was abused”. The emotionless face turned into a puzzled one and I think without her even being able to engage her head and her mouth she automatically said “well either you were or you weren’t so which is it?”.
Between 2007 and 2020 I had two counsellors, but I could still never say the word rape I would call it anything else, a bit like the series The Walking Dead, they never use the word zombies they call them walkers instead. I would use every other word but that one.
Fast forward to 2019 at 34 years old I was off to London to take part in the national enquiry into child abuse. I told them my story, told them my point of view and the impact the abuse had had on my life. At this point, they asked if I would like to report what happened to the police to which I said yes.
During lockdown, I reported to the police, still avoiding that word. I had a brilliant ISVA who supported me the whole way. I was then offered counselling by RSVP and waited for the sessions to start. I like face to face counselling, I like how as soon as I walk in they (as in counsellors) start doing their thing, judging your mood, commenting on how rushed and flustered I usually am. I like how they comment on me tapping my fingers, I have always been impatient with my counselling, “Just cure me damn it then I can be done with all this”. How naïve of me. How impatient of me.
Counselling at RSVP was different, I had to face the word, and I have to properly accept my reality, no avoiding this time. I am actually worthy of the free counselling, actually worthy of their time and resources, as I say that I still have a tear in my eye and a choked-up throat. Finally, after all these years I am getting what I wanted when I was 8 years old. Finally having to face my reality, this is where people go when they have been RAPED. Wow there I said it, I finally said it, I finally feel it, I finally get to a certain level of acceptance.
Now the million-dollar question is, would I have got to that point if I had not received the free counselling? Would I have not to that point just by attending my private counselling alone? The answer, I don’t think so, so much to do with trauma bonds is avoidance, a lot of mine happened subconsciously too. I was going to heal from being abused but calling it rape weirdly even subconsciously seemed like a step too far. Abuse is softer, more palatable, it could mean anything. Rape is too direct, too real.
So, this is dedicated to all survivors who are navigating our acceptance of what happened to us. A thank you to the avoidance for keeping us safe and able to function when at times we cannot. Thank you as well to acceptance, for being so powerful when we make those tiny little steps towards it and giving us faith that at some point, we come to a place of peace and being able to accept what happened because I WAS RAPED.
A blog written by a former client and supporter of RSVP.
I’m sitting in the waiting room. Legs shaking, heart racing, a bead of sweat
leaves my face- Anxiety.
My name is called, and I walk into the room like a lamb to the slaughter, my
mind trying to distract itself from the triggers that start to occur. I hear
the muffled voice of the gynaecologist talking about the ‘check-up’ I’m about
to have, he starts to ask me questions, questions that I already know will be
asked, preparing for my cue for those words I have to say, I immediately look
away as the words escape my lips just so I don’t have to have that look, the
look of shock, embarrassment for asking me and then pity- in that order. Those
words come through hesitation.
“I was raped and sexually abused”
I also know what the reply will be, “I’m sorry I didn’t see this in
your notes straight away” This is not because I can see the future, this
is because no matter what appointment it may be this is what always
Why does everything have to be a
battle? Why can’t I just walk in without all these feelings? Why is
something so traumatic and important hidden away in the lost pages of doctor’s
notes? Shouldn’t I be able to go to an appointment such as a baby scan for
example without the reminder of the monster who took my innocence away, when
you’re trying to move 3 steps forward just to be dragged 6 steps back?
One of the experiences I had, started the same way, but this time my mom’s
with me, she stands up with me almost in sync, the face of the doctor who’s
doing today’s examination looks confused, her face full of disbelief- she
hesitates as she shows us the way. I’m instantly annoyed at the judgement, she’s
wondering to herself why a 30 year old woman needs her mom to assist her
through this simple procedure. Nothing is mentioned, I walk into the room and
the nurse has the same look on her face. They both shared a glare
Like before, the questions are asked and answered, but she’s silent. Maybe
she didn’t hear me as I lay down ready? She asks me again, I reply again and
all of sudden everything changes, their body language changes, that look I was
welcomed with has gone.
“I didn’t see this on your notes” after scrolling for a few seconds
she realises. An apology enters the room, her admitting her judgment. She
offers another appointment with extra time so I can control the pace with whomever
I feel comfortable with to hold my hand- all the steps that should of been in
place in the first place.
This isn’t the first and I know it won’t be the last. Thankfully not every
appointment is like this and I have had better experiences with a lot of help
My idea is maybe a sign that survivors can have on their notes next to their
names such as possibly a purple circle sticker- purple represents survivor of
My background in working in a hospital and on our computer system we see certain
signs about some patients background, for example we know immediately that if
a patient has a risk of illness which is contagious to anyone else, there
is a circle that is black and yellow, or a patient that is a risk of falls,
there is a little stick man that’s falling. These are somethings that we see
straight away before we look into the patients notes.
Another suggestion is something similar to the domestic abuse sign which is having
a closed fist with the thumb tucked in. For those who are unfamiliar with this
sign, this is used when you ask for help discreetly or show that you are in
distress without using your voice. Say maybe the same symbol but put your fist
to your heart when you don’t feel you’re in a safe place or not in the right
frame of mind to talk about it so automatically receptionists and doctors can
put things in place ready for you. These are just small steps but big
enough to change our experiences and may ease anxiety for many at appointments.
RSVP offers an ISVA service to help survivors through health and other triggering
appointments. Click here to find out more.
Rebecca Parsons has shared an extract of her book ‘The Unspoken: a true story’, which tells her true story of child sex abuse survival. Rebecca says ‘I know this book will bring comfort and help to those who are in of need it’.
My name is Rebecca Parsons, and I was sexually abused for four years from the age of six. Separate to that, I have also been sexually assaulted by three different men, and I have been in two violent, unfaithful, manipulative relationships which tore apart my trust in men. I haven’t known my self-worth since my dad left home before my abuse.
I intend to bring light and awareness to a subject devastating enough to raise the hairs on your arms, making you more aware of what sexual abuse victims truly go through. Shall we get into it?
So, what about us everyday people? Our pain, our hurt and the strength we have needed in order to pull ourselves through the darkest of days? You see, when we ‘everyday people’ speak up, many are quickly dismissed and face embarrassment, but when famous people speak up, it is considered brave and inspirational. Usually, you will find that they are inspirations to people who have been lucky enough to have not experienced any non-consensual sexual encounters. You see, too many ‘everyday people’ have learnt to stay quiet. If you don’t, you feel the suffering of feeling embarrassed, discomfort, resentment, unworthiness, and most common of all, not being ‘normal’. Once I had to take time off work for my own mental health. I phoned and was already crying before they answered. But I had only recently started to see my worth and put myself first before life got too much for me. I told them I would happily go in and explain my life story. I was genuinely willing to go in and open the boxes in my head, knowing how that would affect me, all to make sure they understood me. Their response:
“Well, what about us? We need to find cover.”
Are you kidding me? All my life I have tried to keep things hidden for fear of sounding selfish. The one time I was willing to explain it to somebody, so they see I was not mentally stable, they think about themselves and their business! I thanked her – for what, I was unsure of – but I felt rage boiling within. From that day, my mindset changed. Never again would I allow myself to feel like that. I know how scary seeking help is. I know how scary it is to relive your past. I also know that many people might think they are over their trauma, but perhaps at one point they will need this book, because something has brought their torment to the surface. I am here. For you all, I am here. I am going to show you just how much you can do and what you can overcome, because you are brave and strong. You’re still on this earth, right? That tells me how strong you are instantly. Another reason for this book is so that partners of loved ones can hopefully get a greater understanding of what they are going through. And parents of children who have been through this: this book is also for you, to help you understand and to be understood yourself. If you’re a stranger to all of this, then perhaps you just want a better awareness of this horrible abuse which seems to happen everywhere and never disappears. I began to work on myself, knowing that my self-worth had to change, too! From that point on, I committed to putting myself and my mental health first. After all, I have a beautiful son to live for. So here I am, writing the true story of behind a victim’s eyes. For the beautiful people who can relate to this book in any way, well this is for you and I’m here to tell you that I’ve got you!
Many thanks to Mani, a volunteer trustee Board member here at RSVP, for sharing her blog post about her arranged marriage.
A foreword from Mani:
“I spoke about my experience because in my culture we are taught not to talk about anything. I wanted to share my experience for myself and also to help others find a voice. To be a voice for change and to allow us women to be heard.”
“I don’t really remember my wedding day, I remember sections, I remember bits I’ve seen on my photo album but don’t remember actually being there. If there was ever a moment I had an out of body experience it was then. I just remember thinking I looked hideous, my hair was very flyaway in the wind and it was annoying me. I don’t remember the pheere (circles/vows for Sikhs) we do them four times and I can’t remember a single one.”
Then on the honeymoon:
“I vaguely remember checking into the little B&B we booked in Ambleside, it was a pretty place, I probably won’t ever return. That day we went for a walk about the town, we returned to our room after dinner, whilst he was showering I fell asleep. I remember waking at 2am, he had set my alarm to wake me up and well we did ‘it’, it wasn’t exactly consensual on my part and whilst I didn’t immediately use the ‘R’ word for what I went through, it left me traumatised. I hadn’t realised what I had gone through until about four years ago (so six years after I was married) that just because you’re married does not entitle your husband to your body.”
To read Mani’s full blog post, please click here.
More amazing work by Mani can be found at manismadness.com and via her social media channels: @ManisMadness
Today, instead of sitting with my therapist in person, I had my first session over the phone. I’d known for a while that it was likely we’d need to stop face to face sessions at some point, but I was anxious at the thought of it. I was worried that there would be long, embarrassing pauses, or we’d talk over each other, or I’d get embarrassed and introduce the cat.
But mostly, I was worried that it wouldn’t be… enough, that it would be a poor substitute for seeing her in person and that I would lose the momentum I’d built up in sessions. I’m used to my therapist’s physical presence when we meet, to her calmness and the sense of safety I have when I’m with her. Would this be replicated in a phone call? Could it be?
Twenty minutes prior to the call, I showered and changed out of my social distancing casuals and into something smarter and less comfortable. I have absolutely no idea why I did this. It’s not as if my counsellor has ever enforced a dress code!
Then I sat downstairs, obsessively checking my mobile every few seconds to make sure that the battery really was full, and I hadn’t just imagined it. When she didn’t call the absolute second that we’d arranged, I convinced myself I’d got it all wrong, was a complete loser, nothing would ever go right… then the phone rang. And I jumped.
And: well, the first few minutes were a bit weird. I paced up and down the room whilst we chatted lightly about the week and I tried (for some reason) to imagine where she was sitting. Then, I sat down on the sofa and talked…
And talked. And it was fine, better than fine in fact. I probably said more in that call than I do when I’m sitting in front of her and I surprised myself by telling her about something I’d been wanting to for a while, but hadn’t been able to find the words.
I’m pleased to report too, that her skills in person were replicated, seemingly effortlessly. She knew when to let me be silent and when to gently push. At one point astonishing me by asking what was making me cry when I swear I wasn’t making a sound but just had tears in my eyes.
We’re doing it again next week and the one after and the one after that and so on until this crisis has passed. After which, I will return to seeing her in person. Until then, though- phone appointments are meaningful and supportive and, well… enough.
Thanks to Nisha (not her real name) for writing a 3 part blog & choosing to share her journey in the hope that it would help other people subjected to sexual abuse. Here she talks about her nerves about counselling but how it helped her take steps forward too.
Part 3-Freeing the Prisoner in My Mind. Reflecting and Looking Forward.
I still remember my first session at RSVP. I was so nervous, my mind was racing, heart was pounding, and palms were sweating. To add to the emotions, being Asian myself and having an Asian counsellor made me anxious. I felt I would be judged but this was far from the truth, there was no judgement. In fact I think as I’d been honest and open from the start with my counsellor, it helped to clear any fears I had and put my mind at ease. It also helped to build a better relationship between myself and my counsellor. Each week I looked forward to my session, even though at times it was challenging. I had come to realise I didn’t know myself enough and that was hard for me to accept. I guess it was also difficult as I was trying to deal with so much of my past but also my current circumstances at the same time.
Thankfully, my counsellor took time listening to me and allowing me to let out my tears and frustration. Talking helped and felt like a weight off my shoulders. I was finally taking positive steps forward. No matter how small the steps, they were still steps in the right direction.
Despite all the challenges, the journey was teaching me so much. I learnt it was ok to reach out and accept support and professional help; it was just too much to deal with mentally by myself. I learnt how important it is to make time for myself; to hear myself think, to reflect, to feel, to understand and to release. I learnt the feelings I felt during this whole process are normal; the fear, the pain, the nerves, the anger, the self-doubting and confusion. Yup, all normal. I learnt the different strategies that helped me; RSVP social support groups, various counselling therapists, holistic therapies, listening and following inspirational people, opening up to close friends, journaling and daily affirmations. I also learnt a great tool for helping with my anxiety; the scare scale – placing current anxiety on a scale of 0 – 100 (100 being the worst thing that could ever happen).
One important lesson I also learnt was to never give up and to trust the journey. I am still on my journey but I am many steps ahead to when I first started. I am learning so much along the way and I will continue my journey to freeing the prisoner in my mind.
From the bottom of my heart, thank you RSVP for all your support.
Thank you to Nisha (not her real name) for writing a 3 part blog and choosing to share her journey in the hope that it would help other people subjected to sexual abuse. If you’ve missed part 1, click here.
Part 2: Reliving moments to take steps forward
(Written just after the abuse)
It seems as though I have everything
But truthfully all is hidden within
Nobody can see or feel my inner pain
The fake smiles and cheerful front is all a game
My mind is now full of blight
And the sorrows come from behind like light
Only when it’s dark
Peace is at the heart
Could sleeping permanently be the answer?
As life just feels like cancer
A slow dying process
But with great sorrows causing mess
I feel so empty
I have nobody
Nobody cares and nor do I
All is not visible
I have nothing
The months at RSVP were a rollercoaster for me. The abuse I’d once boxed, locked, thrown away the key and built a brick wall around was starting to come down and unlock. So easily came the old familiar sting of how lost, alone and hurt I once felt. Flashbacks and nightmares started to become regular again, filling my mind and body with rage and fear. Muscles ached from the memories of being held down tight. Mirrors became unbearable again as the reflection stared back at me in disgust. Confusion, doubt and self-blame sickened me to my core. The hurt, the tears, this man had taken away my self-worth. I felt anger and resentment for not getting justice but also disappointment that I’d allowed this abuse to affect me many years later. The once bubbly, confident girl had disappeared. The once social butterfly had retracted and hidden away, becoming untrusting of others, especially men. I needed to truly find myself again. At times it felt like I was on a downwards spiral. Moments of reliving my pain, to moments of my behaviour being out of character. Dealing with these memories and emotions created a sense of turmoil but I was not alone anymore. My counsellor listened to me without judgement and helped me to see where I was going. I felt safe and supported. I started to understand and somewhat accept what had happened to me.
Rape, sexual abuse; it’s something a lot of people do not like to talk about. But I wasn’t ashamed anymore. RSVP had taught me to love and accept myself, to believe in me. The flashbacks slowly started to settle and mirrors became acceptable with time. A glimmer of hope now stared back at me in the reflection. The social groups at RSVP also helped me tremendously, I was able to confidently socialise with others in the group and made some lovely friends. With a fellow survivor, I took pride in being part of a skydive fundraiser for RSVP, raising over £1400. Jumping out of a plane at 10,000 feet high I felt the cold air rushing against my face as I was free falling. For a few moments I closed my eyes feeling so grateful for all the support RSVP had given me. I was now able to tell myself how proud I was of my progress and that I would never stop moving forward.
RSVP for me really was an eye opener, realising there is hope, no matter how hard the journey.
Thank you to Nisha (not her real name) for writing a 3 part blog and choosing to share her journey in the hope that it would help other people subjected to sexual abuse.
*Please note that the blog may trigger in parts. Practice good self-care when reading it and also know that it is okay to choose not to read it. If you do need support because you are triggered please speak to a person or organisation that you trust.*
Everyone has lessons they have learnt through life experiences. I know how incredibly valuable it can be to share this knowledge with others in similar situations. My journey to healing started with RSVP and it has taught me so much which I will forever be grateful for. So here I am today, sharing my journey with you all in the hope it helps in some way.
Part 1: Accepting help
It’s 2009. It had been 7 years since the incident. Hmmm “incident”… I question if that’s the right word. It’s almost like I don’t want to link the words ‘I’ and ‘abuse’ together. After all, I had carefully swept all that under the carpet in the hope for it to never surface again.
After giving birth to my first child I started to feel low. Outbursts of tears, feelings of tension and anger in parts of my body, unexplained mood swings and sleepless nights. Where was this hurt coming from I questioned myself. Maybe I was going through postnatal depression? With time spent indoors during maternity leave and watching daytime TV, there had been triggers that brought back old unwanted memories. I could still feel the weight of his body holding me down, making me feel trapped with no control. I could still remember the glance I’d seen of myself that night in the mirror, the look of let-down staring back at me. The image of blood on my sheets was still stained in my mind. I knew I needed help but overwhelming feeling crept in. The noise from the traffic of thoughts made it harder to make sense of anything. It seemed self-harm was my only form of release.
Luckily I was pointed in the direction of RSVP whom I had some counselling sessions with. The initial contact with them was a nerve-racking moment. A part of me felt embarrassed and silly. I mean, maybe I was blowing the whole thing out of proportion? Maybe I was wasting RSVP’s time? Maybe they could be helping someone else who had been in a worse situation than me who really needed the support? But deep-down I knew something didn’t feel right and I had to trust the journey. The months during the counselling were a difficult time of my life but all the staff at RSVP were reassuring, kind and supportive. From the one-to-one counselling sessions to the social groups, RSVP supported me in a way that no one else ever had. I was able to let out my emotions knowing I was in a safe place. I was now able to make sense of my thoughts and I could see there was light at the end of the tunnel.
I knew I needed to deal with this trauma and this was the way forward for me. I couldn’t file it away in the cabinet of my mind anymore. I needed to process it and empty the trash. I knew it wouldn’t be easy but I had to face it at some point. I knew to reach my goal of being free meant putting in the hard work. I knew I’d experience some pain but this time I wouldn’t be alone.
I’d have the support of RSVP.