So, I’ve thought long and hard about this blog post because it feels like such a momentous occasion; fifteen years since the abuse ended. It’s such a milestone, one that needs the blog post about it to be as equally special and important… So, I hope that what I say will improve your general understanding of abuse and its aftermath, and that in doing so, will provide a better chance of someone feeling really supported and that their experience is appreciated and validated…
“Why am I letting you comfort me?” He stared over her head. “Because I’ve made sure you have no one else to turn to”
For so long I thought that the abuse I went through had started on a particular date, but during the eventual process of reporting it to the Police, they told me that the days prior to that first abusive act, were the actual beginning. I was groomed. Manipulated so that when the abuse did start, I experienced contradictory thoughts and feelings.
My first real interaction with my abuser was after I had been attacked on my way to school one morning and I began having panic attacks and flashbacks. So, my abuser offered to be the designated person for me to go to when I was struggling. Since the Police have labelled this as grooming because they believe he was planning the abuse the whole time; I feel kind of stupid for not being even the slightest bit suspicious. But I guess that’s why he made that suggestion – because he thought that in doing so, either no one would guess what he would go on to do, or no one would believe me if I reported the abuse.
It wasn’t just about other people though. Having my abuser be a bit of a confidante for me at first meant that when he did start to hurt me, my first thought was that I deserved it. I mean, why else would he turn from being such a kind, thoughtful person to being my worst enemy? It had to be my fault because I couldn’t believe someone could be capable to make such a U-turn in their personality, behaviour, and attitude. It meant that in providing me with that support the first few times I voluntarily visited his office before the abuse started, I initially struggled to feel resentment or hatred towards him. It was almost as though he’d created his own little protective shield.
I remember not long after the abuse had started, a member of my family became very poorly, and my thoughts and opinions of my abuser were so manipulated and completely twisted out of shape that I went to him to talk about it and to cry! But when he told me that my relative deserved to die and that there were children dying in Africa so I shouldn’t be so upset; I think that was the real turning point in my inability to hate him and I actually felt embarrassed for not being angry sooner! I mean, how stupid and naïve could I be?!
“The loneliest moment in someone’s life is when they are watching their whole world fall apart, and all they can do is stare blankly”
F. Scott Fitzgerald
I think my abuser recognised the change in my attitude towards him when I finally began fighting back – not always physically; mostly verbally. It was one of the reasons why, when his colleagues were interviewed by Police, they all said that they had suspected something purely from our behaviours towards each other in public. I mean, we would go absolutely off it – he’d be shouting so loud this stupid big vein on his forehead would be popping out, and I would be red in the face.
In noticing my anger, I think he began to worry that if I was really that furious then maybe there was a new, heightened risk/chance that I would report him. So, he began tearing down all my relationships with the other people in my life who had the potential to be the ones I would go and tell. He started with my Mum and began threatening that she would get hurt if I spoke up. Then, he moved onto my friends and began telling me that if I told one of them, he’d be dishing out punishments to them left, right, and centre. So those two possibilities of help were demolished with my urge to protect my Mum and my friends. Then, finally, his colleagues. This time, he told me that they actually all knew what he was doing and that they all agreed I deserved it.
With the very little media stories about abuse and rape back then, I already felt pretty alone and intimidated, so when he left me with all these doubts and fears about my relationships, I felt even more vulnerable and detached. It was like he was the only person left in my life and so how could I do something like report the abuse? It would mean he’d be gone too and then I’d have no one left!
“Most misunderstandings in the world could be avoided if people would simply take the time to ask, ‘what else could this mean?’”
Shannon L Alder
My abuser tearing down my relationships and any trust I had in others, didn’t mean that I just stopped wanting help from the people he had either threatened, belittled, or manipulated. What it did mean though, was that I couldn’t just choose someone, go up to them, and tell them what was happening to me. It wasn’t going to be that simple.
So, in knowing that I couldn’t tell anyone, I tried to show them instead. I channelled my new-found hatred and anger towards him into my attitude and behaviour choices. I began talking back to teachers at school; I would be so rude and defiant that I was disrupting classes and was actually described by my teachers as being ‘insolent’ on a number of occasions. My school rebellion affected my friendships with people starting to label me as dramatic and attention seeking. Irony is, I actually really was seeking attention – I wanted someone to notice this change in me more than anything – but that wasn’t how my friends were using the term. They seemed to be getting really sick of me and after a while, I stopped caring about seeing them or keeping in touch and our relationships kind of dwindled for a while and without them, the bullying started.
I remember receiving messages online calling me everything ranging from comments about me being underweight to the general ‘loser’ and ‘stupid’ you hear a lot of. And then they claimed to be my ‘worst nightmare’ when I asked who the person sending them was. I remember eventually telling a teacher and them saying that I really had to speak with my abuser and that he would get it stopped. I begged for the teacher to tell my abuser their self, but I was practically frog-marched to my abuser’s office and then the words about the bullying came tumbling out so fast because of my sheer desperation to end the interaction with him. The next thing I knew was that the bullies were lined up in a room and my abuser yelling at them and just like that, it stopped. And I remember crying – not from relief, but from the notion that now I needed to be grateful to him! That everyone would expect me to thank him and show him some respect and appreciation.
Whilst the anger went into the actions and things, I also exhibited some of the most common signs that a child is being abused; I began showering daily and for hours at a time, I lost my appetite and became underweight, and I started self-harming. And still, it was missed. I felt like I was standing screaming for help, and everyone had headphones on and were listening to the soundtrack of their own lives. And it made me furious. Furious with the feeling that no one was taking in notice. I mean, I didn’t imagine I could get any more furious until the Police told me that when interviewing my abuser’s colleagues, they all made statements along the lines of “I did wonder” or “I didn’t see it, but I can believe it.” And I just wanted to scream at them “why the hell didn’t you do anything about it then?!” If it were me, if I had suspicions about a child being abused then you’d have to shut me up – I’d be reporting it to all the relevant people! And hearing that they’d suspected something but stood back and let it happen, made me question just how far the abuse – and my mental health – would have gone if it’d been stopped sooner.
“There are many who don’t wish to sleep for fear of nightmares. Sadly, there are many who don’t wish to wake up for the same fear”
During the abuse, I remember having such a varied and misshapen view of sleep too. I mean, at first, part of me would absolutely relish bedtime because it meant escape from the upsetting reality of my life. Plus, I very often dreamt that I was either telling someone about the abuse or getting revenge in some way. But I think that the period of time this lasted for was really to do with the fact that I was still in a level of shock and still maintained some aspects of a real naivety.
Firstly, I couldn’t believe that the person who I’d been thankful for after the attack and who I had trusted and respected for almost a month wasn’t really that person at all! Almost in an instant he just suddenly wasn’t in any way deserving of or worthy of any sort of idolism or appreciation. He deserved no kindness or gratitude. Irony is, having so much hatred and negativity towards him was actually quite tiring. It was draining to use my heart to hold disgust and then to almost lose sight of the good in absolutely anyone else was just so completely exhausting. But that’s when the dreams of revenge started to occur, and I started to look forward to night-time.
After a short while of that, I started to really resent sleep because it meant that I could have all those hours of comfort, reassurance, and nothing resembling pain, but then they were over and I was awake, I was feeling not at all validated, completely alone, and in pain. Living in a nightmare. I imagine it being a little bit like a plane crash; one minute you’re flying steady, safe, and happy and then you drop and there’s a crash and everyone and everything around you are ruined.
Pull me underground
Don’t know if you notice
Sometimes I close my eyes
And dream I’m somewhere else
Rag ‘n’ Bone Man ft. P!nk - Anywhere Away From Here
That realisation that sleep was an escape from the abuse but that meant it made me more reluctant to wake up, was probably the first warning sign of the fact that I was going to become suicidal. I mean, I know there’ll be people out there who dread waking up to their life and don’t end up trying to kill themselves… But I think that for me, it was just this point where I wish I’d talked to someone about it and which I believe that in doing so, it could have changed everything that happened with my mental health. And maybe I wouldn’t have become suicidal.
Back then though, mental health wasn’t something that was really talked about at school, with friends, or in the media – so I didn’t know of a single person who had tried to take their own life or who had succeeded in their attempt. This lack of understanding and education on the subject added reason to my failure to seek help so early on in my mental health’s deterioration.
I remember being in my abuser’s office once but, for a change, I wasn’t with him. I was with his Deputy and was told to sit on one of the little cushioned chairs around the coffee table against the wall opposite their desks. And I was thinking ‘this is the comfiest I’ve ever been in this room.’ But it was ruined by the fact that his Deputy had called me into the office to shout at me for being ‘rude’ to my abuser. I remember her saying “I don’t know who you think you are to believe you can talk to him like that!” and I felt my gaze drift to the large window which looked down from the first floor onto some grass. Almost suddenly, I began wondering whether I would die if I jumped from it. The window wasn’t even open – in fact, I didn’t even know how to open it(!) – so it wasn’t exactly a practical thought or something that could reasonably be carried out. But it was a thought.
Another round of bullets hits my skin
Well, fire away, ‘cause today, I won’t let the shame sink in
The Greatest Showman – This Is Me
In the weeks leading up to the end of the abuse, my relationship with my abuser was… fraught. Dangerous. I mean, if anyone got in the way of one of our arguments, they’d find themselves in an absolute mess. I mean we would both lay into anyone who stepped in to attempt to end our rowing. Which is why, I think, his colleagues made the comments about suspecting the abuse because in my abuser’s job, it was really inappropriate to talk to someone of my age (sixteen by that point) in that way.
There was one instance in his office – where the majority of the abusive acts took place – and he called me a bitch just as his Deputy walked in. She just looked to each of us and then her eyes set on my abuser, and she raised her eyebrows as though urging him to explain his choice of words and the reason his face was bright red, and the stupid vein was popping out again! And I won’t forget what she finally said when he abruptly turned away from her as though refusing to answer her questioning look: “Aimee, this is what happens when you act the way you’ve been acting recently. If you’re going to speak to people the way you have been, then at some point, you’re going to get that back!” I remember asking her if she was defending him and she replied, “of course I am!”
I promptly left the office and made a huge fuss of slamming the wooden door so hard that I glanced back in surprise when the glass window in the door didn’t smash from the force of my angry handling of it.
That incident was a real turning point in my strength against my abuser. It made me so completely frustrated and that seemed to channel into some sort of power and defiance towards him. Which meant that our arguments became a whole lot more dramatic and disruptive for everyone in the building. It meant that when we’d start arguing people would literally scatter and rush off; not wanting to hear or witness it and fearing they would somehow become involved in it.
“The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off”
Through the change in the arguments, on April 20th 2007, my abuser and I got into the fight of all fights! Just days before it, he’d finally taken the abuse to its worst in hurting me to the largest extreme and in doing so, I finally recognised that unless I spoke up, this was going to continue. And whilst I couldn’t imagine a worse act than what he had done to me the few days earlier, I hated the thought of that act being done over and over again. I knew that was a very real possibility because if he continued to ‘get away with it’ why the hell would he have any reason to stop?!
So, we had started arguing in his office and before I knew it, I was racing out of the room, along the corridor, and down the stairs with him not far behind me. As we went down the stairs, we continued shouting at each other and just as we practically fell through the double doors into a corridor, I was shouting “think of your wife and children!” And when I spun round out of surprise for his lack of response, I saw him staring at his boss whose office was on that corridor practically opposite the double doors.
“I’ve had enough of this!” his boss yelled so furiously I actually saw spit fly out of his mouth “this is the last argument you two have! What right do you have to say something like that?” he asked me. And it was the strangest sensation… It was like… Like, my body hadn’t finished running away but since I’d physically stopped moving, the words just tumbled out; like they were still trying to run. So, I just blurted out what my abuser had been doing to me for the past six months and his response? “Get the hell out of here you manipulative little liar!” And he literally pushed me into the reception area and yelled to the receptionist to call my Mum and tell her to come get me.
Whilst I waited for my Mum to come, I remember crying so hard I couldn’t breathe and the whole time inside my head was an actual panicking mess! I was frantically debating whether I should tell my Mum the entire, truthful story or go back to my reluctant, difficult silence. But the mere thought of telling my Mum what had been done to me made me feel actually nauseous. I mean, I’d firstly have to tell her that I’d been keeping this massive secret for so long, and I worried that would break her heart. And then I’d have to tell her what he’d done, and I worried she’d be off hunting him down!
So, when my Mum arrived, I told her that I’d just been told to leave and that I had no idea why. She said to the receptionist that she wanted to speak to my abuser’s boss, but they told her he was about to go into some sort of event and had said he’d send a letter and that I wasn’t to return to the building until she’d received it. And I remember very briefly worrying that his boss would tell my Mum what I’d said and then she’d be finding out something which – if she had to hear it – I wanted her to hear about from me. That worry was so fleeting though because I knew that he wouldn’t want to risk telling her. He’d know that if he did, he’d be risking her doing something about it. And that wasn’t what he wanted. He wanted for it all to be swept under the carpet.
“Everything and everyone that you hate is engraved upon your heart; if you want to let go of something, if you want to forget, you cannot hate”
C. Joy Bell
A while after leaving the building, my Mum received the letter detailing the conditions under which I could enter the building again. One of these was that if I were to undergo my GCSE exams there, it had to be in isolation. Ironically, this meant that I was assigned an Invigilator to supervise me and so I had a credible witness when my abuser began attempting to interrupt. He spent months doing a number of things to mess with my education and exam results, and in the end, I had to continue my study in a completely different building!
Now, for me, there are limits to things. There are limits to what a person can or can’t do to someone – and sometimes these limits don’t coincide with the law – sometimes they’re about personal thoughts and feelings. So, for me, I had come to see that my abuser was going to continue to affect my present for some time, but I was adamant that he would not destroy my future; and the exams he was interrupting, and manipulating were so important for my further education and career goals.
The very real danger that he could seriously ruin my life left me feeling so much more hopeless. I mean, the actual physical abuse had completely stopped, but it was like that wasn’t good enough. Of course, it meant a lot and I was grateful for my safety, but how could I really enjoy it when he was still butting in and doing whatever he could to jeopardise things? It meant that whilst I’d gotten used to the hatred, I’d been feeling towards him for the past few months, there was a whole new anger, hate, and disgust. And it caught me off-guard so that I really didn’t know how to cope with it.
That uncertainty and the notion that I was completely unprepared and incapable, was a huge contributing factor to the fact that I began drinking (yes, underage). Whilst the rest of my group of friends were drinking to have fun and to be silly, I was drinking to forget. And the act of downing bottle after bottle of cheap cider seemed to really release some of my anger and hate. It felt like I was sticking my fingers up at my abuser and everyone who’d ever defended him.
Drinking so much that memories of the abuse were bearable, numbed me to the fact that the hatred was – as the quote says – engraving upon my heart. It was becoming a part of me. It was starting to define my attitude and behaviours, and if I wasn’t careful – I realised that it would take over my entire life.
“If you spend your time hoping someone will suffer the consequences for what they did to your heart, then you’re allowing them to hurt you a second time in your mind”
Shannon L Alder
When I had the wake-up call that stopped my drinking, I found myself left with reality… For two years, at least(!) because after those years, I began experiencing auditory hallucinations. I stayed silent about them for ten days out of that same fear as all those years ago around being locked in a hospital and forced to take medication, then I finally attempted suicide (both because of their command to do so and because of my own thoughts and feelings). But it wasn’t until my second suicide attempt, that led to me finally reporting the abuse to the Police.
I was moved to a Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) for the first time and as staff explained how secure the ward was (I had been running away from the previous ward) I became more and more terrified that I would never get out. Then, a girl with bandages covering her arms came and sat with me in the walled and fenced courtyard and for some reason we began talking. She told me what had happened to her when she was younger and I told her what had been done to me, and she encouraged me to report it to the staff. It was kind of like… a light at the end of a dark, scary tunnel; because it felt as though maybe finally talking about the abuse would help get me out of there a whole lot more quickly than any amount of medication or therapy!
When I told the Ward Manager, she explained that she was now obliged to call the Police and gave me the option on whether she or I told my Mum. In all honesty, I can’t remember making a conscious decision to agree to talking to the Police… I guess I just thought that now people knew, telling the Police was the next step. Almost like it was just a natural stage in an assembly line in some sort of a production factory! And that notion really wasn’t helped with the fact that there are actually a number of stages to a Police investigation into an allegation of rape and abuse. But despite not fully understanding the procedures, one thing that remained in my mind whenever I began to question my strength in continuing through those procedures; was that I wanted justice. I wanted my abuser to face consequences that were equal to his destructive, disgusting, traumatising acts.
When the Police told me he was denying everything and that even though his colleagues gave statements that they believed it could be true, no one had seen it so there were no witnesses; I surprised myself by feeling shocked at his response. I mean, I’ve always said that from those six months of the abuse and all of the intense arguments and talks etc. I feel like I know him better than anyone, and I had honestly thought that he’d finally admit his guilt.
So, to hear that he was claiming to be innocent really knocked me for six. I mean, it not only meant that I had the wrong expectations, but it also made me feel like maybe I didn’t know him at all – and that was confusing and painful. Being able to anticipate his answers in our arguments and predicting what he was about to do when he'd call me into his office were kind of… Comforting? Reassuring? I don’t know… It’s like when you’re going to the Dentist for a filling or something – you know what’s going to happen; and that doesn’t change how difficult it is to cope with it, but it does allow you some sort of knowledge. Some sort of reasonable and realistic expectation. But then the Dentist turns around and says, “I’m not doing that procedure at all; I’m doing a different one!” and you had no inkling that would happen. No insight.
In my abuser contradicting my report, it meant that the Police couldn’t do anything more about it, and they voiced how frustrating that was because they said that they believed me but that the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) thought there wasn’t enough evidence to go to court. And I remember feeling so completely hopeless and defeated. As though I’d been climbing a steep hill and I’d lost my balance and was falling back down it. So, to get through that, I clutched onto my Nana’s little sayings about how what goes around comes around and what’s meant to happen will happen. I realised I needed these beliefs because without them, I felt worthless. I felt that everything that had happened to me was all for nothing because he wasn’t going to pay the consequences for his behaviour.
“I feel bare. I didn’t realise I wore my secrets as armour until they were gone and now everyone sees me as I really am”
Losing the biggest, most important secret I had ever kept, and feeling that doing so had been so completely pointless, gave me the notion of extreme vulnerability. I mean, I’d spent over two years hanging onto that secret and over that time, it had kind of moulded into me – my heart, my head, and my entire life. It had almost become a definition of me. As though it was all that I was. And I actually think that’s pretty fair to say and feel, considering just how monumental it (the secret/abuse) was. But it turned out that telling the secret, became a whole new definition of me – the girl who had been abused. People knew now…
I once heard another psychiatric hospital inpatient saying that as suicidal as she often felt, she didn’t want to be known as the girl who had killed herself. She didn’t want to be just another statistic and another argument to prove people’s view that mental health services are failing people all the time. So many people are slipping through their nets and it’s not good enough. And the same goes for the abuse. I mean, I’ve heard so many ‘jokes’ about people in my abuser’s job abusing children and I don’t want my experience to be some sort of punchline.
My greatest annoyance about people knowing though, was the recognition that now they would have to choose. That because my abuser had claimed to be innocent, and I was maintaining that he was guilty, if someone heard what had happened, they would have to pick a side. A person they believed. And after months of my abuser pointing out that no one would believe me if I told, I felt fairly confident that people would choose his side. I mean, he was respected and powerful in his job, and I was just a young girl who hadn’t done anything with her life yet. What reason would people have to completely change their opinion of him based on something that couldn’t be proven?
In choosing his side, it didn’t just mean they believed him, it meant they disbelieved me. It meant they thought I was lying. That I had made the whole thing up. And it’s easy to say ‘don’t care about what others think of you;’ but how can you not be upset by the notion that some people aren’t on your side in the most important battle of your life?
Losing that secret and finding out who was really on Team Aimee was a huge moment in my mental health journey because at first, it left me feeling as though I had no real excuse to continue self-harming or attempting suicide. As though telling people about the abuse and not breaking down or falling apart when some of them didn’t believe me, should mean that my mental health was suddenly better and stable. Like keeping the secret was the only reason why I wanted to die. And I actually ended up having my most safe period in the community when this belief came, and I began working with a lovely Psychologist.
But of course, purely reporting the abuse wasn’t the ‘fix’ for my mental illness. Whether it was a secret or not, the reality was I had been abused and I would have those memories with me forever.
Cut me down
But it’s you who’ll have further to fall
David Guetta ft. Sia – Titanium
People talk about being ‘on the bottom’ when they’re at their most poorly with their mental health, but it was like just when I thought I had reached it and was feeling the most terrible I could ever feel and in the most horrendous situation, things would get worse. It was almost cruel because just when I would be thinking ‘this is the worst it can get’ and finding comfort in that, I’d discover it was a lie and that actually, there were so many more lower levels that would test my mind and body in ways I could have never imagined I would even survive.
Feeling at this very low point meant that when I made my final disclosure about the abuse to the Police a few years after the first one, I actually felt safe. I mean, yes, I was in a psychiatric hospital when I spoke to the Police, so I guess my chances of self-harming or attempting suicide were somewhat hindered, but that’s not the safety I’m talking about. My safety at that time, was in the fact that having made a suicide attempt that landed me on life support in Intensive Care not long earlier, I felt confident in the knowledge that no matter what he did or said, I couldn’t be knocked down/back any further than I already was. I mean, he could deny everything until he was blue in the face – he could even blame me for it – and I literally could never imagine my mental health being any worse off.
Whilst this notion was in some ways comforting and reassuring, and it felt like a huge motivation for me to take it as the ‘right’ time to finish telling the Police everything that had happened; it was also saddening. And not because of the sheer fact that it meant I was really poorly, but because whilst I was sectioned under the 1983 Mental Health Act and detained in a psychiatric hospital over 100 miles away from home, my abuser was being promoted in his job! Into a position that was going to allow him more opportunities for unsupervised contact with vulnerable children. It was like, he was in the one in the wrong, but I was the one dealing with the consequences. The punishment.
One important lesson I learnt during my mental health recovery has been the impact responsibility can have. I learnt how essential it is that you take responsibility for your actions despite having the knowledge that others may not do the same. It was a difficult thing to come to terms with – especially when you operate on the ‘treat-others-how-you-want-to-be-treat’ kind of ethic. It makes it frustrating to think that some people consider themselves to be ‘above’ social niceties and just general good manners! But the important contradiction to this is to recognise that you don’t want to be one of those people. One of those who thinks they’re exempt. So, ignore what others are doing and focus on your own behaviour and attitude. And believe that they’ll get their comeuppance.
When I thought about my abuser and his career success, I felt some of that old, more intense hatred return and relished the thought that finishing my disclosure of everything he’d done to me, could have the potential to bring him down a peg or two.
“Don’t judge yourself by what others did to you”
My abuser’s decision to continue with his claim of innocence in response to the final report, was a hugely contributing factor to the way I began to see myself as a whole. I mean, judgment, stigma, and discrimination are hugely controversial and argumentative talking points around all things related to abuse and mental health. Sadly, this means that when both of those topics are huge aspects of your life, you’re almost double as likely to come up against the misunderstanding, rude, and sometimes ridiculous, judgments of others! But the judgments you make against yourself where your mental health and your experiences (abuse or not) are concerned, can actually end up being a whole lot more dangerous and damaging than those that others come up with.
In the beginning of the abuse, I held so many negative and unhealthy judgments about myself with disproportioned blame and unfair thoughts. I held myself responsible for a lot of the things that were done to me, and even when I finally began to consider that it wasn’t all my fault, I still criticised myself for not reporting it and for not being strong enough to fight back.
Already having these unhelpful thoughts and feelings about myself meant that when I had to face his denial again, it led me to recognise that I was still really holding onto the unhealthy anger towards him. I mean, that thought of him possibly facing consequences again really motivated me to delve into the most painful of my memories and bare them all to the Police; and that made me question what sort of person that made me.
I wondered whether that was malicious of me to be wishing punishment on someone else…?
Or was I petty for still talking about something that had actually finished over half a decade ago?
Or maybe it was manipulative for me to do what I could to impact and influence his life?
Questioning my own integrity and my morals and ethics was – on the whole – a massively challenging time for me in my mental health recovery. I had thought I couldn’t feel any worse and at the time, I would probably say that I did end up feeling worse after his denial, but looking back? I can see that time as difficult but productive. That it (questioning and judging myself) was a process I really had to go through to get to where I am today because it became the greatest opportunity to discover who I was and to finally begin to accept and like that person.
One of the greatest judgments I’d made which had the biggest impact when I battled it, was around the blame of the abuse. I had slowly come to realise that part of my reluctance to portion all the blame on him was the fact that even if I did, it wouldn’t change the fact that he likely wasn’t going to face any repercussions. Whereas, blaming myself would mean that I could inflict the punishment on me. That the abuse wouldn’t go without notice. It wouldn’t be ignored in the same dismissive way it felt when he denied it all and took no responsibility.
In learning that the fact I was blaming myself was that it was must easier – effort-wise – to do so, I finally began considering that just because it was easy, that didn’t make it at all right. In fact, sometimes the hardest things are the best ones. The right ones. The fair ones. So, I made the decision to tackle that judgment and to portion the blame on my abuser with the understanding that I needed to accept and believe that karma would get to him eventually. And to be honest, reporting the rest of the abuse to the Police helped this because it also absorbed me from the judgment that I had been selfish in withholding this information at fear of the response I’d get and without consideration of how it had the potential to protect others. So, whilst my abuser is still ‘free’ and working in that very dangerous role, I know I’ve done absolutely everything in my power to prevent him from hurting anyone else.
“The truth is, unless you let go, unless you forgive yourself, unless you forgive the situation, unless you realise that the situation is over, you cannot move forward”
In finally lifting the blame I’d placed upon myself, the next stage seemed to be tackling the element of forgiveness that seems to automatically hover around abuse like a bad but curious smell… I mean, it’s not just what the abuser and the survivor consider; it felt like everyone I ever told/who found out about the abuse asked – or hinted around wanting to know – whether I had forgiven my abuser. It’s kind of like when you break a bone and people will ask how painful it is.
So, to answer the question: I will never forgive my abuser and I don’t think anyone should have the audacity to neither ask me to, nor expect me to. Which is why I chose this quote, because it recommends forgiving yourself for all that you’ve done and not someone else for their involvement in the situation. In all honesty, I think that even if I could forgive my abuser, the way I held myself accountable with the abuse would have the most important and positive impact on me, my mental health, and my ability to move forwards.
I found forgiving myself for the elements of the abuse that I thought I had done wrong in – mainly failing to report it as soon as possible – really difficult because there was a lot of acceptance to be done. And when my mental health was at its most poorly, I struggled so much to accept reality because of a huge fear that if I did, I’d be even more persistent in my suicide attempts. So, being kind of out of practice in terms of accepting things, one piece of work I did in Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) around ‘radical acceptance’ really helped me to see the positives of acceptance and why doing so, was really important.
I learnt that unless I accepted the abuse as being a part of my life, and unless I accepted that it was over now, I would never move on from it. And it was so difficult to recognise that something which had a massive defining impact on my life was just ‘over’ like that. I almost felt like arguing that something like that doesn’t just ‘end.’ It’s kind of like when they do mental health awareness dates and so many people talk about the fact that mental illness doesn’t just go away after one day. Well, even when abuse had physically ended, it doesn’t disappear and become forgotten about.
I was once in hospital after self-harming and a Healthcare Assistant asked why I’d done it and I told her what had happened to me and she said “I was abused too, but I’m not going around doing what you are. You’ve just got to get on with it!” And I remember saying that everyone experiences abuse and trauma differently and so, everyone copes with it differently – and that’s ok. I just think that it’s so important that we don’t spread that message that a person who experiences abuse should just ‘get on’ with their life. We should appreciate and validate all the people (including me) who have struggled or who are struggling, to do that. There should be no interpretation that to still be trying to cope years later makes you any weaker or less capable than the person who learnt to cope within days!
Appreciate your journey and recognise that abuse or trauma might always stay with you in some respect, but you can control just how damaging or positive that can be.
I told you I would prove you wrong
And now I’m here and I’m standing strong
Jess Glynne – Ain’t Got Far To Go
My abuser told me I was worthless. He called me stupid. He said no one would believe me. And he said these things so many times that I challenge anyone to not have started to believe them – of course I thought he was right! Of course, I trusted him! He’d destroyed all my other relationships with people who there was any remote possibility that I would believe them. He had made me believe that he was all I had left. I felt that I had no one I could turn to and say, “is he right?”
Looking back, I’m actually grateful for that now. I’m grateful because it meant that finding the strength and determination to prove him wrong, came solely from me. I mean, of course there have been some incredibly helpful and supportive people in my life and in my mental health journey in particular; but ultimately, it was me who made the decision to fight back. It’s like that thing about how you can throw all the help and advice at someone, but if they don’t want it or won’t listen to it…
So, being safe and happy, having my own home with my bunny and cat, and having a mental health blog with over one million readers and all the opportunities and collaborations etc I’ve done (and ones which I have coming up!), leave me feeling like I’ve made it. I’ve proven him wrong and I’m standing strong.