Having thoroughly enjoyed writing the ‘everything-you-need-to-know’ style posts in the past, when I checked through previous posts about abuse, I noticed they all seem to be in pieces… Bits of information, parts of my experience, a few tips; all just separated into so many different posts. Of course, they are that way because up to the date they were published, they were the things I knew. The things that had happened. And I’m not suggesting that I’m at a point where I now know absolutely everything about the subject, but I do feel that I’m at a pretty good stage in my mental health recovery to feel I am now able to collate all that I have learnt, and all that I know. Unfortunately, abuse is a subject where I’d argue you will never fully understand unless it’s something you’ve experienced, so posts like this – media content by survivors – can be the best resource for those who want to learn more…
PART ONE: http://www.imnotdisordered.co.uk/2021/02/everything-you-need-to-know-about-abuse.html
Reporting It: Introduction To Deciding To Speak Up
I think the two most fundamental points to reporting abuse are who you tell and when you tell them. I don’t like to have ‘regrets’ in life, but I do question my decision to have not reported the abuse immediately after the first instance of it. I say ‘decision’ and there might be some people out there who feel that reporting the abuse isn’t even an option – that they have so many reasons not to tell someone that it just became less of a choice and more of a ‘must.’ I can understand that… I mean, if I had drawn up two columns, the disadvantages or risks of speaking up would’ve made for a longer list than the one for bonuses or positives. Yet, I was still very aware of making a conscious decision between the two columns.
Now, I’ve debated about whether to write about all the reasons for me to have not spoken up… On the one hand, it might reassure others who have experienced these to know that they are not alone and to give them courage to defy anyone who attempts to devalue their rationales. On the other hand, what if I was to write something that a person hasn’t considered to be a reason but who believes it would apply to them too? It’d be as though I’d given someone reason not to report abuse and that is obviously absolutely the opposite of the message I want to get across in this piece!
Reporting It: The Frustrated Motivation
So, instead; I’m going to concentrate on all the reasons why I finally reported the abuse… The very first occasion I spoke up was to my abuser’s employer and it was out of sheer anger and frustration. My abuser had attempted to hurt my again and for some reason… it was like the straw that broke the camel’s back and I just fought. I fought even harder than I could imagine was ever possible. And I pushed him off and ran; but then he chased after me and we were sort of storming around his place of working yelling at each other until I finally shouted for him to think of his wife and children. When I turned, I saw my abuser’s employer stood, speechless. As he started to yell at me for being ‘inappropriate’ I told him what had been happening and he called me a manipulative liar before forcing me to leave the premises. Ironically, in doing so – and in his ‘punishment’ of banning me from ever stepping foot back there – he actually ended the physical side of the abuse! However, he had motivated me to be silenced for two whole years.
Reporting It: Recognising the Need to Change
The second issue that motivated me to report the abuse came after my second suicide attempt and during the second admission to a psychiatric hospital. My flight risk led me to be moved to a Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) and on it, I met another inpatient whose arms were literally swamped in white bandages. Until that point, the extent of my self-harm was for it to just nick the surface enough to bleed but not to warrant any attention; so, I found the sight of this lady requiring so many dressings sort of intimidating.
Eventually, we ended up in the courtyard (surrounded by walls and very high, barbed wire fencing) at the same time and out of nowhere, it was as though I was talking to my twin – in so far as she could finish the end of my sentences. She knew what I was going to say before I said it. She gave understanding nods that led me to believe she genuinely knew exactly what I was talking about. So, when she started telling me about the sexual abuse, she’d experienced I felt comforted and reassured to begin telling her my own experiences. And with only a few words of encouragement from her, I found the Ward Manager and told her about the abuse.
Honestly, this really wasn’t about her reassuring me that it was the ‘right thing to do;’ it was more that she taught, and showed, me that if I didn’t report it, I could end up still in this hospital – or one like it – and with the amount of damage she had to her arms because she had never reported her abuse. For some reason she didn’t have to explain to me how not reporting her abuse had resulted in her being in the position or situation that she was in now, I just felt that I knew exactly how it had and was equally confident that it would happen to me too if I didn’t change things.
Reporting It: A Bit of The Process
The Ward Manager explained she was obligated to call the Police and the next thing I remember was being asked some very awkward and uncomfortable questions by a female Officer with the understanding that the interview was being filmed. I remember her using all of these horribly personal – and in my opinion – vulgar words and when I would answer she would prompt me to use those words as though failing to do so, would invalidate my testimony and the entire allegation in some way.
When the Police came back to me with my abuser’s response – that he’d claimed to be innocent – I remember thinking ‘I’ve never been so disappointed.’ I mean, I don’t think I’d had any real sense of hope or expectation in going to the Police and knowing they would arrest my abuser. But believing you have no clue what will happen always ends up leaving you disappointed in some way, doesn’t it?
I suppose a part of that, was due to the fact even though I thought I knew him, I felt that if I was to make a prediction as to his reaction, I was reaching around in the dark. And I didn’t like that sense of uncertainty; it made me reluctant to even attempt to fight through that darkness. Not knowing what was going to happen next just reminded me of the actual abuse and how every day I’d go into the building my abuser worked in, I’d be wondering if I was going to be in pain when it came time to leave. Which meant that from a young age, I learnt the process of preparing for the worst and hoping for the best.
Reporting It: Why I Took It One Step Further
Failing to accept my abuser’s plea of innocence, my mental health continued to deteriorate and in 2012 a suicide attempt saw me end up on life support in Intensive Care. When I was woken from the coma, I was detained under the 1983 Mental Health Act and admitted to a psychiatric hospital over 100 miles away from home and where the average length of admission was for between 12 and 18 months.
During my admission – which ended up lasting for two and a half years – I underwent Dialectical Behaviour Therapy and was taught safe and healthy coping skills. Which proved particularly useful when I found out my abuser had hurt someone else. I can’t even begin to put into words just how I felt when I received that piece of news; and being a writer/blogger, that’s not something that usually happens to me. I can usually, almost always, find the words to explain the majority of my experiences because I recognise the importance of having the ability to do that. I mean, if you struggle to put your thoughts and feelings into words, how can anyone help or support you when you’re struggling?
Anyway, when I was told he’d hurt someone else, one of the main thoughts I had which I can definitely put into words, was that I was instantly filled with sheer desperation to report the entirety of the abuse. Until that point, I hadn’t told anyone that the abuse had gone so far as one instance of rape. Even writing the word makes me want to be sick; how could I possibly give an entire statement to the police about it? Especially after discovering on the report I had already given just how much detail they encourage you to delve into. It was pretty off-putting. Discouraging. I mean, if that had been a struggle, why would delving even deeper be any different? Surely, it’d be even harder?
One thought kept me going and motivated me to report the rest of the abuse though; and that was the notion that if I were to do it, I would have done absolutely everything in my power to stop him hurting anyone else. I believed that if after telling the Police he had also raped me; he was still free, if he were to hurt someone else then that was on the authorities. Not me. That would be their burden and their responsibility (though I recognize there was only so much that the Police could do when they had the Crowns Prosecution Service refused to press charges). I felt so unburdened and free with the thought that I’d reported absolutely everything the Police should, and deserved to, know.
Reporting It: No Regrets No Matter the Result
Since disclosing that I’ve reported the abuse, I think one of the most common questions I am then asked is ‘are you glad you did it?’ In answering this, I usually consider the advice my local NHS Crisis Team gave me that you should never regret something or regard it as a mistake if you can learn from it. However, I can completely understand that for someone on the outside, to look in, and see me put so much consideration into reporting the abuse yet for it not to result in justice… Of course, that person would wonder whether I thought of making that report as a complete waste of time. In all honesty, I wondered it too.
There was actually quite a lengthy period of time where I truly questioned what the point had been in doing something that absolutely everyone in my life encouraged me to do. The thing that even people who don’t know me, advise that you do. I mean it’s publicised as something that you almost have to do should you be in this position… Should you have been abused, you have to report it. It’s like, a rule. A law in life. So, surely listening to it – abiding by it – should manifest into some sort of benefit or reward for yourself?
Do you know, I was so convinced that expecting some sort of benefit from the entirely difficult process was reasonable, that when it wasn’t; I actually found a whole new piece of anger! I was angry with absolutely everyone – not just my friends and family or professionals in my life! I thought it safe to assume that literally everyone in the world would recommend I report the abuse and so the fact that it seemed to have not done me any favours, seemingly turned me against anyone and everyone.
After a while, I began to appreciate that just because my abuser wasn’t prosecuted (he was arrested though) and I felt there’d been no real justice, the knowledge that I’d done all that I could to protect others and for him to pay the consequences, became enough of a win for me. I won’t lie, it was obviously challenging at first; to deem it an adequate and reasonable response considering all the effort I had put into the report.
Reporting It: Closure
Feeling ‘rewarded’ in some way – or experiencing some sort of benefit – for reporting the abuse, doesn’t necessarily bring a sense of closure for the entire abuse. And I would never want for someone to assume that would be the case; mainly, because I made that assumption myself! I was so sure that as soon as the legal process was over, I’d be filled with a sense of relief. Almost as though I would be able to type ‘The End’ and then start a whole new book of the rest of my life.
When I didn’t get that feeling, I was so worried that meant it would never come. I thought it was either that it’d come after reporting it or never at all. I thought it’d lost all chance, possibility, potential that I’d ever feel a sense of peace and as though the entire trauma could be put to bed and never thought about again!
Thinking on it, I not only realised reporting the abuse didn’t automatically bring closure, but also that it wouldn’t have done regardless of the response I received. I mean, I realise it’s difficult to consider what you would do in someone else’s shoes, but I honestly believe that even if the Police had successfully convinced CPS to prosecute my abuser and he had been jailed at a court trial; that wouldn’t have just ended the subject. It wouldn’t have stopped it from ever cropping up in my life. Or from affecting my mental health. It actually made me wonder… how would I feel if I’d gotten the response, I wanted from reporting it and it didn’t really stop me from struggling? Would it make me seem ungrateful and unappreciative? I began believing that not being able to pursue the report, probably made my mental health struggles so much more understandable.
I think that I’ve found a level of closure somewhat naturally, over time. My thoughts and feelings around the abuse have seemed to just evolve and change into something much healthier and safer. And now I’m at a point when professionals have deemed me stable enough to undergo Complex Trauma Therapy. I guess they believe that doing so, will bring me complete closure of the subject and that it would provide me with the opportunity to talk more in depth about the abuse. Since, to this moment, the most detail I’ve gone into was with the Police.
However, I’m so happy and so stable and whilst I don’t think the therapy would ‘set me back,’ I really don’t want to even take the risk that it might! It would almost feel like a dismissive criticism of how I feel now. It’d be like saying ‘this isn’t good enough, so I don’t care if I lose it.’ And it is good enough. It’s more than good enough. And I do care if I lose this.
In my happiness, I recognize that perhaps finding closure myself, and without it being dependant on whether my abuser serves jail time, has perhaps made closure so much more rewarding and worthwhile.
Reporting It: 5 Do’s
ü Recognise that some aspects of a response to your report are procedural
ü Ensure that, where possible, you go at your own pace in the act of reporting it
ü Remember safe and healthy coping skills during the process of reporting it
ü Prepare for a variety of different responses
ü Find inspiration in those who have benefited from reporting their own abuse
Reporting It: 5 Don’ts
ü Don’t assume everyone involved is aware of the entire reporting process
ü Don’t feel pressured in choosing who to report the abuse to
ü Don’t feel like a failure if you don’t get the response, you’d hoped for
ü Don’t discourage others from reporting based on your experiences of it
ü Don’t lose hope if it feels that there’s no justice – believe that karma exists
Making the Decision to Talk Publicly About the Abuse:
I guess that talking about reporting abuse, leads really well into a discussion on speaking about abuse in public – and particularly, in the media…
If someone had told me at the physical end of the abuse that I would end up on TV, the radio, in newspapers, magazines, and on very popular social media accounts, I would have laughed them away. I mean, considering it took me six months to make that first report and then two years until the report to the Police, why on earth would I even dream of talking to the media about it?!
Even when I’d finally gone into so much detail with the Police to give the statement, I wouldn’t have imagined I’d go on to tell hundreds of thousands of people. I guess because I knew it was that I’d felt backed into a corner and pressured into talking to the Police. So now, without that pressure, I had the option over whether I wanted to go on to talk more publicly and I think that element of control actually helped me to make the decision to talk openly and honestly about the abuse.
In addition to the control over the decision, another helpful factor came from the thought process I’d developed in speaking with the Police; that doing so, would help others. In the Police instance, the people were those who were having any interactions with my abuser. In talking publicly, the people I could help were a more, vastly wide, group of people in the general public.
Five Downsides to Speaking Out:
ü Friends and family feeling insulted and disrespected that you’re confiding in strangers as opposed to them
ü Having to be strong enough to beat the taboo and stigma around it
ü Tolerating comments that you’ve ‘deserved’ the abuse and it was your fault
ü Learning to cope with nerves during live filming/interviews
ü Triggering memories of the abuse
Five Tips on Talking to The Media About Abuse:
ü Ensure you have a support system for afterward
ü Prepare yourself for an unsupportive response from the public
ü Resist pressure from the interviewers to be more detailed
ü Have safe and healthy coping strategies you can utilise
ü Remember your intentions and hopes in doing this