Huge thanks to the survivor who anonymously wrote this blog talking about how she began to have an improved relationship with her body again. She sums up how abuse and trauma is embodied, it is carried in our minds and also in our bodies. She talks about how it’s been vital that she had the chance for her body to heal too and how running has allowed her to connect with and feel back in control of her body again.
At RSVP we have several ways you can reconnect with you body again, from offering tai chi, walking, singing and more at our peer social groups and coffee morning, and through a running group offered by our sister organisation GINA. The group is very small and meets on a Saturday morning at Cannon Hill parkrun. Drop Lisa an email at: firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re interested.
Like a lot of survivors, for many years I’ve had a poor relationship with my body. When I thought about it all, I hated it. I felt it had let me down because of the way it responded to some of the things that were done to me. I punished it; I filled it with alcohol, put it in dangerous situations and cut it. Eventually, it dawned on me that my counsellor had been right all along when she told me these were short-term solutions that were ultimately harming me, so I started to run.
At first, “running” consisted of jogging for a few seconds with an extraordinarily patient friend and it’s no exaggeration to say that I looked like one of those nature programmes where baby elephants try to take their first steps – only they have less swearing. Afterwards I had to pretend I was thinking about answers to my mate’s questions (difficult ones such as; are your shoelaces undone?) to hide the fact that I couldn’t speak. Fortunately I’m menopausal- which at least explained away the excessive sweating.
In a short space of time though; seconds of running became a minute, then two. Then I joined a Couch to 5K programme where I was encouraged and coached to run 5 kilometres by some of the most friendly and supportive people I have ever met. That was 6 months ago and I have recently run 10 km for the first time.
Running has been a revelation. My relationship with my body is improving. Rather than letting me down it has powered me to achieve things I didn’t know I could. Now, my heart pounds because I’m running up a hill, not just because I’m feeling anxious again. I’m tired because I ran, not because I sat up all night drinking.
I can feel my calf muscles straining and know that they are mine, that I am my body and my body is me. I can feel aches and pains and interpret them and act on what they’re telling me. For the first time I am learning that other people can talk about my body to me and it is not a threat, there is nothing to fear. When they talk about the shape of my legs or the way I hold my chest it is not a prelude to something awful. It’s another human being seeing me as I am learning to- a whole, complete person that’s doing something amazing and wants to do it better.
When I feel the ground under my feet, it’s impacting on myfeet that belong to me, no-one else. They’re my lungs inflating, it’s my chest rising and falling. And I can stop anytime I want to…
Don’t get me wrong – it’s not a panacea. I still get bad days and I can get triggered with the best of them. But now I have an option; instead of reaching for the bottle or hiding in the house, I can go for a run. It can be 60 minutes or it can be six but it leaves me feeling good about myself and in control of what I do. Plus to date, running has yet to give me a hangover.
I still swear at my mate when we’re jogging together though!
This poem was written by Ann. Thank you so much to Ann for sharing your words with us and other survivors.
No tick tock,
for air or breath.
Now it’s here
marching in my brain.
Alone with no
it won’t wash,
it won’t quash,
It’s part of me
I can’t cut free.
That second I slipped
I’ve woken up,
I smell of fear
I am not the same.
It’s cost me dear
I played the sickest game.
I can’t give in.
into a little girl,
wind up my mind
into a spool,
as such a fool.
for someone else
who’ll set me free
from being stone
and facing this
on my own.
Strength in numbers,
strength in me?
It’s in here somewhere,
let it free.
“Hard to trust?”
I don’t deny,
I might stumble,
I might cry.
But most will
let me share their boat
safe from sinking,
help me float,
only we can share
it gives me strength
to know you’re there.
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.