One year ago, I was raped by someone I knew. I say “knew” in the past tense rather than present because I have not seen this man since. But this blog is not going to be about him; it is going to be about me and you. With Easter weekend approaching, I have been thinking more than usual about what happened to me last Good Friday, how I felt in those following weeks, and the choices I made afterwards. I cannot fairly say that I am the same person I was before this happened to me and I still face my setbacks now and then, but I feel happy, calm, and excited about life again which is something that I would have found very difficult to believe last April. I am writing this blog for you to tell you what I needed to be told by a fellow rape survivor back then: recovery is possible, you can and will get there, and then you have your whole life ahead of you to look forward to.
It is true that thinking back to those first couple of days is painful. The actual assault, the time spent in hospital followed by the sexual health clinic and the rape crisis centre, undergoing a traumatic medical exam, being injected and made to swallow pills while feeling too numb to register what they were, vomiting up the medicine and then having to take it again and again, the exhausting police statements and the probing questions: whether it is biologically possible or not I have no idea, but all of these memories feel as if they physically hurt me when I replay them in my mind. When I finally walked out of the crisis centre, I asked the crisis team, “what do I do now?” and they responded with, “now you get back to living your life”. At the time, this response completely flummoxed me. It was as if I had been sitting in a bath, someone had pulled out the plug, and then I had been simply told to then continue to have my bath without the water. I felt like the crisis team had been insensitive and unthoughtful in saying this and that they didn’t understand that getting “back to living my life” was completely impossible. I would like you to know though that it is not impossible. Difficult, maybe, but not beyond your capabilities. Although the bath may leak at times and the water’s flow may be inconsistent, you can still put the plug back in and fill the water back up.
If you are reading this, you may be (as I was and still sometimes am) seeking answers and reassurance as to how you fill back up the bath. In the first few months especially, I searched and searched desperately to find helpful blog posts. Back then, the anxiety, shame, self-loathing, self-blame, and depression could be unbearable. I hardly slept, I struggled to eat, I could not concentrate, I had random bursts of anger and then of tears, and each new blog post I found from other rape victims cemented my belief that I was “damaged goods”. Each writer echoed my own thoughts of hopelessness, and I believed that there was no way out of the deep, dark hole I had been thrown into. Instead of helping myself climb out of this hole, I then spent around six months self-destructing and burrowing myself deeper into it. I thought that if I could not take control by healing, then I would take control by being the one to inflict pain on myself. I thought that this would somehow cancel out the pain that someone else had caused me. Obviously, it did not. I do not mean that I physically hurt myself, but I took dangerous risks with no care at all about any consequences.
But then time passed and September came. Suddenly, I had a new focus and a new method of gaining self-control: a new job. Obviously, I am not advising that you change jobs if that is not possible or helpful, but what I am saying is that I have found the key to recovery is to find a positive and healthy way to gain back that all important feeling of being in control. You may have heard this before, but it has been said that rape is not about sex for the attacker: it is about power. In rape, the attacker gains this power, and the victim loses it. Rape makes you feel small and worthless, but if you find a way to gain this control back, you can build yourself back up. You may start with something small, but it will help. Once your feeling of self-control returns, your feelings of self-worth, happiness, calmness, and everything else will start to come back too.
I hope this first blog post has given you some comfort and has given you some inspiration. Watch this blog for more updates in the weeks and months to come about how I have come to heal, and how you can help yourself too x