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.
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.
Shannon has written this post on coping with the abuse she experienced in a relationship.
This post has been really hard for me to write and I’ve debated whether or not to post it on more than one occasion. The only other people I have shared this with is my counsellor and my Mom and I’m not ready to share the whole story yet but I’m hoping that by writing this it can make at least one person stop blaming themselves for something that has happened to them.
I was one of those girls who really believed in fairy tale romances and wanted so much for the first boy I kissed to be my husband and we’d live happily ever after. I now see this was very naïve of me. This might happen to some people but it definitely didn’t happen for me.
I was in an abusive relationship for two years. This was almost two years ago and I’m only just starting to feel like I’m taking back control of my life.
In all honesty I hadn’t realised it was abusive until I started telling my counsellor little things, and he said to me ‘you know what that was’? I said ‘yes a controlling, manipulative relationship’ and he said ‘what you’ve just described to me is emotional and sexual abuse’. It was then that it clicked.
You must think, how could you not realise something like that? And that’s exactly what I’d think if I was reading this about someone else. But I didn’t, which sounds so stupid and it’s what gets me even now, two years later. I feel so annoyed at myself for letting it happen and not walking away sooner.
Although I thought I loved him at the time, I never liked him as a person. I’d never understood why, when I was over him, it was taking so long to get over what he’d done to me. I thought it was because it was my first relationship so it was taking me longer than most people to get over it.
It wasn’t until the counsellor said what he did that it clicked.
I knew all along deep down that the way he treated me wasn’t right and wasn’t normal but I thought it was just my anxiety making me read more into it and that was what he used to tell me as well. Everything that ever happened was my anxiety’s fault and “A normal person wouldn’t be making such a big deal out of it.” His words for everything that ever happened. So I assumed that was what it was and it was something that was in my head and something that was wrong with me.
I thought I was the problem so even if I left him and found someone else the same thing would happen. So I stayed with him hoping things would change and creating a future in my head of how I wished things were. This also took me a long time to get over. I was mourning a future that never existed.
I wasn’t sure what was normal but what I was sure about is that it was not how I imagined a relationship to be. I don’t understand why I put up with it but I do know it has made me stronger and I wouldn’t put up with that from anyone again no matter how much I thought I loved the person.
I’ve always been the strong minded one of my friends. The one who people go to for advice but that’s the thing with me, I’m the best at giving advice but when it came to me being in this situation it’s like I completely lost my mind. I no longer thought for myself and instead just did everything I could to make him happy, even jeopardising my own happiness and my family’s happiness.
When my friends or someone on TV had been cheated on, I would be the first to say how I wouldn’t put up with that from anyone and “If a guy treated me like that he’d be straight out the door”. But no one knows how they will react in these situations until they’re actually faced with it themselves.
I turned from this strong minded, independent business owner, to a timid little girl whose emotions and every aspect of their life was controlled solely by this one guy. I was the girl I’d always felt sorry for and always promised myself I’d never be. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve never been the most confident person but I knew my worth, something which I completely lost when I met him.
If at the time my friend was telling me that her boyfriend was treating her like this then I would of told her to leave him immediately but it’s not the same when you’re living it. You don’t realise how bad it is until afterwards. When it’s your boyfriend who you trust 100% who is doing these things to you, you don’t question it because he’s your boyfriend.
I blamed myself a lot and thought it must have been because I wasn’t confident or experienced that these things didn’t feel normal. I now know it wasn’t me at all and they were in fact not normal, he was not normal and the relationship was not normal.
It took me a long time to accept what had happened and although I don’t think I will ever fully be over it, I am learning to deal with it. I kept this to myself for a long time afraid that if I told someone they would either not believe me or think I was stupid for putting up with it for as long as I did. I was scared I’d look weak. But speaking about it to my counsellor and telling my Mom has really helped.
My Mom couldn’t understand why I couldn’t move on and after I told her she realised it wasn’t as simple as a normal breakup. I thought that talking about it would make it feel like a weight being lifted but to begin with it made me feel worse. At the time having to relive everything didn’t help but I now see that I needed that to move on. I thought if I kept it in and didn’t speak about it then I could pretend it didn’t happen, and talking about it would make it real. It was actually the opposite and I wished I would have told someone sooner because instead of blocking it out like I used to, I have now processed what happened and have started to move on.
I’m not completely back to myself yet and obviously certain things trigger the thoughts again but I’m the best I’ve been in a long time. I’m now on the waiting list with RSVP after being referred there by my counsellor and having an initial assessment appointment with them and I can now see my life moving forward rather than being stuck in the past.
I have also started a blog in the hope that I can help someone who is going through or has been through a similar thing to me – www.myquestforinnerhappiness.com
We are delighted to add to the voices of women across the world on International Women’s Day (IWD), by releasing the final part of this two part blog of Lisa a survivor. IWD marks the achievements of women and is run annually on March 8. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender equality. Here Lisa talks about how the experiences of childhood sexual abuse changed her life and how she became empowered again.
By Lisa, a survivor.
At the end of my counselling I felt something had changed but I needed something more so after much deliberation, I made the decision to report my abuse to the Police. I had always thought there would be no chance I could tell the Police – it had been too long, there would be no evidence, they wouldn’t believe me. But when I met my ISVA for the first time, she showed me that it was possible, that I was the evidence and that I mattered! She was incredibly honest which I appreciated – there would be no guarantees but all I wanted was a chance to be heard so with her support I took that step.
That step led to the hardest 20 months of my life – a rollercoaster of emotions, everything from fear to hope to depression to jubilance. I was warned it would be tough but nothing prepared me for it. I am fortunate that my case did eventually reach court, and resulted in a guilty verdict with a prison sentence – I feel fortunate every single day since especially knowing sadly how few cases follow the same path – but whatever the outcome had been, if I went back I would do it all over again and not for the guilty or the prison sentence, but for the one thing I had not expected, which has been the most powerful outcome. That is how speaking has empowered me…my abuser stole my innocence, my self worth and as a result I have lived decades in fear, imprisoned in my own hell. I lost what was my right, to feel I was worth something. I didn’t talk for so long because I simply didn’t think I was worth caring about. But slowly and surely in speaking out I have a voice again, I no longer feel silenced by my abuser and I AM NO longer ashamed.
My journey continues – for me the counselling allowed me to talk, the trial gave me justice – I now need to find my peace and the abuse to no longer define me. I am sure it will continue to be difficult and emotional but I know I can do this because I am worth fighting for – I am much braver and stronger than I ever thought and I am not alone.
I wish for everyone else who is walking the same path, to find their strength and empowerment because no matter what anyone has ever done to us, we are worth fighting for!
The first part of this blog was published earlier today on IWD.
We are delighted to add to the voices of women across the world on International Women’s Day (IWD), by releasing the two part blog of Lisa a survivor. IWD marks the achievements of women and is run annually on March 8. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender equality. Here Lisa talks about how the experiences of childhood sexual abuse changed her life and how she became empowered again.
By Lisa, a survivor.
At 8 years of age my life stopped in a moment; with a single act he changed my life, my future and I wasn’t even aware of it. I knew something terrible and frightening had happened but I didn’t know what it meant on so many levels.
This single act and the others that would follow over the next few years, changed not only my life but me, or perhaps more specifically it made me hide me, suppress me, hate me… so much so that it took me nearly 4 decades to allow that little girl a voice. Little did I know where giving her a voice would take me.
It took me three attempts to visit RSVP; I would call up, have my assessment but when it came to starting counselling I would stall. I would feel such shame and embarrassment. I had survived by denial – it wasn’t healthy but it was what I had to do to be able to get up each day. And I existed of sorts. But over the years the existing had become harder, to a point I couldn’t deny it to myself any longer.
So finally I stepped into that counselling room and spoke. I didn’t know where it would lead, I had no great expectations and I was scared of it making me worse. But what I didn’t realise was that in taking that step, I had taken the first step towards taking back control, towards beginning to value myself and towards finally telling my story and it being heard.
I didn’t immediately notice any change in myself – each week would be hard walking into the building. Some weeks I would want to talk, others would be hard to find the words. But there were moments where I would stop and realise I felt something different, felt a little braver. I was allowing the 8 year old me to talk and with that felt I was beginning to face the nightmares that had haunted me for so long.
Continued in final part, part two. To be published later on IWD.