We are problems that want to be solved,
We are children that need to be loved,
We were willing, we came when you called
But man, you fooled us, enough is enough,
What about us?
P!nk – What About
For me, abuse raised a lot of questions in my head – and sometimes
out loud! – which I often, couldn’t find an agreeable answer. Sometimes, my
answers would be deemed as ‘wrong’ by professionals, and sometimes professionals
would give me answers which I didn’t believe or agree with. So, here are some
of my questions and the answers which I either ‘correctly’ came to myself, or
which have been provided by professionals.
When did it
The abuse I went through started
so slightly and so quietly that hearing a ‘pin drop’ would’ve been a definite
possibility. And it’s actually really strange that this is the case, because a
part of me is really validated that since it had such a tiny start, it makes
sense that no one realised what was happening to me.
When I eventually reported my
abuse to the Police (which I’ll talk about later) they told me that the
beginning of my abuse was ‘grooming’ so I guess I’ll start there…
Whilst I can’t tell you my abuser’s name, (which I’ll also talk about later!) I can tell you that he was in a position of power and that even without the abuse; he had a certain level of control and responsibility in my life. This meant two things: Firstly, that he was trusted and respected by so many people. Secondly, that those beginning instances of ‘grooming’ weren’t completely unheard of in others in his profession.
So, the trust and respect element
meant that I actually questioned my own instincts that what he was doing was
wrong because I thought ‘how could people put him on such a pedestal if he
really wasn’t a person deserving of that?’ It also led me to the belief – which
was mostly wrong – that if I was to report what was happening and he denied it,
no one would be on my side because they would never have imagined him being
capable of such a thing.
Now, to go into details which I’ve
never talked about online… Those early grooming signs were that when I was
attacked in November 2015, he assigned himself/offered to be, the lead person
to provide me with support in his organisation. Some people might question
whether that first step was grooming or whether he’d made the offer out of
nothing but good intentions and then things turned bad. I believe I know him
better than anyone, and I feel that I can safely say that hurting me was his
intention from the very beginning.
everyone miss it?
During the abuse, my attitude and
behaviour changed in a desperate attempt to leave the people in my life
wondering why and with the hope that this would result in them either guessing
or me feeling reassured to tell them. But no. One person noticed the change –
my Mum – and I told her that I was too scared of being judged (something my
abuser had put in my head) to tell her what was happening. Otherwise though, my
poor behaviour actually made things worse because it meant that my abuser
actually seeking me out to go to his office wasn’t at all strange or
Funnily though(!), when the people
who hadn’t questioned things were interviewed by the Police, every single one
of them said something along the lines of ‘I didn’t see it, but I can believe
it’ and ‘I did wonder…’ As though emphasising that they hadn’t witnessed the
abuse was a pitiful attempt to try to excuse their lack of attention to all my
behaviours which were notorious for being signs of abuse. As though saying
these things would somehow mitigate just how terrible their failure had been.
There was this quote on a documentary once about abuse and it said that the
most blameworthy people in the abuse are those who have the power to do
something to stop it but turn a blind eye and either deny or just pretend that
it’s even happening.
Key signs of abuse to look out
ü Changes in behaviour
ü Avoidance of abuser
ü Inappropriate sexual behaviours
ü Physical problems
ü Problems at School
ü Giving ‘clues’
For more information:
Why should I report
ü It’s an attempt to put measures in place to prevent your abuser
doing it to someone else.
ü It makes it possible that the abuser will then deservedly
ü It could help to make the abuse real and that can be essential in
ü Talking it through with someone else might ease any self-induced
criticisms or blame.
ü It’ll bring the notion that you’ve done all you can.
process for reporting abuse?
The UK process for abuse reports:
The US process for abuse reports:
Do the Police
really need all those details?
Regardless of how little knowledge
and understanding I had of the process and system the Police use in the UK, from
the very beginning I knew there’d be some really difficult questions. And when
I say ‘from the very beginning’ the prospect of those questions was actually a
reason for me not to report the abuse! I was so terrified of how upsetting and
intense the Police interview would be that I kind of wanted to avoid it.
However, a lot of things changed
over the years from the abuse and until I reported it to the Police, and I
adopted the belief that the idea of my report resulting in him receiving consequences
for his actions, and an increased chance that he wouldn’t hurt anyone else, was
worth going through some difficult questions.
In the end, ‘difficult’ is
probably a too light and insignificant of a word… Raw and brutal might be more appropriate.
And I’m obviously not trying to dissuade people from reporting abuse; I just
think it’s important to be as prepared as possible for what might happen when
they do. I mean, I think that if there’d been someone there telling me what to
expect, I would’ve felt a bit more reassured and whole lot less frightened.
After giving a written statement
of what happened, I had to have a video interview. And I think I remember the
room I had to go in and it being exactly like it looks in movies and things,
with the child-friendly décor and toys in one corner to provide a lighter, more
comforting touch for young children. I remember there being some tissues and I had
to reach for one before I’d even sat down. I was already crying just at the
fact that I was in one of those rooms you see on TV. And then I cried because
of why I was in that room. And then I cried when I saw the toys because it gave
me a stark realisation that there are such young children going through this
experience too. Then I cried at the thought that there are people in the world
who are so terrible that me – and all those who’d come before, and all those after
– have to be in a room like that.
From the moment my abuser first
hurt me, I became awkward around all things related to anything even remotely sexual.
So, going through the Police interview… well, the second they began asking
questions along that theme, I felt actually nauseous and overwhelmed with tears
and a red face from embarrassment of talking about those details. Thankfully, I
had a very lovely Officer who firstly, explained why these questions were
essential to the case and the evidence they would have against my abuser.
Secondly, she allowed me to use which ever words I was comfortable with and
then would just confirm they meant what she thought.
care whether I fought back?
This is an aspect of the abuse I
experienced which I’ve actually very rarely spoken about because in all
honesty, it makes me kind of uncomfortable. Not because it’s triggering of
upsetting memories; but because it’s an aspect of abuse which can end up being
the defining aspect of it. Like, no matter who you tell about the abuse, chances
are you’ll be asked whether you fought back; and I think that the answer to this
– very wrongly – gives people a reason for their opinion on the abuse.
Basically, it can seem to be a big
deciding factor on whether you are believed. As though punching and kicking
your abuser in a bid to escape, defines the reality of the abuse. As though whether
or not you hurt your abuser in some way makes you deserving of being believed. And
this could go both ways – some people are more likely to believe you if you
defended yourself because they believe that symbolises you had given no consent
for what was done to you. And sometimes, if you haven’t fought the abuser, it
can promote a sense of you truly being a victim in the heads of others.
I think that the most important
aspect of this, are that absolutely no one is entitled to form an ‘opinion’ on
the abuse based on your response to it. Like, they don’t deserve to voice their
thoughts on that because it’s not their story. It’s not their journey, it’s
Self-defence movements everyone
What if no
one believes me?
I think that every case of abuse
is different – even where it’s the same offender, so it’s hard to find
something which all survivors might have in common or be agreeable on. I think
that thoughts around being believed as to whether the abuse even happened, are definitely
something which survivors will all mutually consider at one point or another.
The persistent promises from my
abuser that if I were to report it no one would believe me, were kind of
pointless because I already really felt that way. A big reason for this, was
that I knew how respected he was, and I knew I was just thought of as a ‘trouble-maker’
or ‘attention seeker.’ I also knew – even at that age – that there were so many
instances of rape or abuse survivors reporting their experiences and not being
believed – particularly by the Police.
Knowing this, and two years later,
making the decision to report the abuse to the Police, was terrifying but over
those two years (and I’m in no way recommending someone take that long to make
a report!) I had a lot of time to think through the possible response I might
receive and how I would cope with that. At the time of reporting it, I had
already attempted suicide and been detained under the 1983 Mental Health Act and
was in a Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) so it was kind of a case of ‘how
could it possibly get any worse?’
There are so many reasons why I’m
glad I reported the abuse, but one huge reason was that I was literally
believed by everyone! Of course, my Mum believed me(!), but there was also all
the psychiatric hospital staff, and then the Police, and then the colleagues of
my abuser (whose response I talked about earlier). And when the Crown Prosecution
Service (CPS) decided that there wasn’t enough evidence to prosecute my abuser,
I found some comfort from the Police saying that it was frustrating for them
because they believed me but couldn’t do anything else about it.
No one doubted me or questioned the
validity of what I was saying. And that comforting, reassuring notion of being
believed? Well, I think it really contributed to saving my life because every time
I thought of suicide in response to memories of the abuse etc, I would tell
myself that at least I was believed and often; that was enough. And in being so
trusted, I still remember all the statistics of those who are not, and so I
recognise how… lucky and fortunate I am to have been believed.
think I’m responsible?
I think that people consider
responsibility around the abuse because aside from whether they believe it to
be true, it’s the most obvious, questionable aspect of abuse.
Responsibility is something which
is very focused on by so many different people both during, and after, the
abuse. I think that it’s mostly about the survivor considering during the abuse
whether they’ve done anything to be deserving of it; but it can also involve the
thoughts of the Police and any witnesses or other people who were even just
around at the time.
This is something I thought about
numerous times, but it’s important to recognise that it wasn’t just about me
blaming myself, it was also about what my abuser was telling me at the time. He
would regularly and sincerely, tell me that my bad behaviour was the reason for
what he was doing. That he was ‘asking for it’ from every time I argued with
him or disrespected him in public. As though this made us even. As though what
he was doing to me was revenge in some way (something which I’ll talk more
about later in the post), like he was getting his own back for all the times I
questioned his authority in front of others. As though my rudeness was changing
everyone’s opinion of him, so he was doing this to have the opinion of me
To me, him doing these things to
me for all the reasons he told me, illustrates he had the capacity to know what
he was doing. He knew it was wrong too because it was as though he was trying
to reason with himself and convince his self that what he was doing was totally
reasonable when you considered everything, I’d supposedly done to him. And for
him to have that capacity, and to still commit the offence, should say everything
about whose responsibility the abuse was.
Why didn’t I
tell them sooner?
The incredibly supportive response
I received from the Police and my friends and family, were just one
contributing factor to me questioning myself as to why I hadn’t reported the
The thing which not many people
know is that after six months of the abuse, my abuser’s employer caught us both
having a very personal argument and when he began scolding me, I finally told
him what had been happening. He branded me a ‘manipulative liar’ and had me
leave the building. So, I think that bearing that in mind, it’s pretty
reasonable and understandable why I would wait a further two years before
talking to the Police and making the abuse more common knowledge.
Whilst I believe it was an
obviously valid reason to keep quiet, I do wish that I’d found the determination
to still speak to the Police. I was going to say that I wished I’d found the
courage or bravery, but I don’t think they’re the right words; because I
believe that whilst it’s so important to recognise the strength it takes a
person to report abuse/rape etc, it’s equally important to recognise that those
who don’t speak up, aren’t in any way failures or weak.
Whist I remained quiet, I later
found out that my abuser had gone on to hurt two others (in addition to the one
person before me); and the thought that if I’d spoken up sooner maybe those
people wouldn’t have been hurt, will stay with me forever. However, I try to
look it as that I can’t be responsible for what he has gone on to do. If he’s
chosen to use my silence as motivation to continue with his behaviours because
he wasn’t receiving consequences for them, then that’s on him. I blamed myself
so much during the abuse and I saw the damage that could do to my life, so I’m
not interested in going back down that road again!
What if he
says he’s innocent?
Aside from being believed, I think
the terror of the uncertainty around whether your abuser will claim to be
innocent or plead guilty, can be a very important aspect in reporting the
When I was first told that he had
denied my allegation and claimed to be innocent, I think after feeling really,
really, really angry(!), I felt embarrassed. From the beginning of the abuse, I
obviously considered reporting it, and my usual decision that he would deny it
if I did, was a pretty strong, firm, foundation. However, when I actually reported
it, it was different. Out of nowhere and without even realising, I found myself
with a very naïve, hopeful feeling that maybe he would admit it. And I could have
almost laughed at myself for it. Like, was I really that stupid?!
Feeling so worthless at the
thought that he wouldn’t even admit to it meant that sometimes, once the abuse
physically ended and I had reported it, I used to consider whether his denial
was actually worse and more insulting than all the things he actually did to me
and all the physical pain he had caused. I mean, at least during the abuse he
was acknowledging what he was doing. Whereas him denying it ever happening? It’s
actually kind of infuriating because it left me thinking ‘I wish I could
pretend it hadn’t happened!’
In a bit of a… unique way; for him
to actually say he didn’t do all the things he did, it was kind of a slight
against me. As though what he’d done was worth nothing to him. As though he
didn’t care. He could disregard it completely. I mean, whilst the abuse was happening,
he persistently assured me it was ‘ok’ and that he would leave his family… And
I obviously didn’t believe him, but for him to be so callous as to deny that? It
was just more evidence that he really had never cared about me at all. It wasn’t
the abuse which was fake, it was him and his mouth!
It took – what feels like – forever
for me to learn to cope with his denial and claims of innocence. In the end, I
think the most monumental change came from adopting the thought process that
what goes around comes around. Karma. It felt as though it meant that him
denying it and seemingly ‘getting away with it’ would lead him to ‘slip up’ and
be witnessed or caught out some time, and then he’d be in even more trouble for
all the lies he’d told.
do I actually want from the people I’ve told?
ü “You didn’t deserve it!”
ü “You’re allowed to feel this way!”
ü “I’m here if you want to talk.”
ü “I don’t care what he says, I believe you.”
Will any punishment
ever be good enough?
Another important aspect in
reporting abuse is the wonder and question around what you’d actually like to
come from it. I think that this consideration is completely understandable, but
it can have a huge impact on your decision to report the abuse, and sometimes
that’s not for the best…
For me, whilst the abuse happened,
I didn’t put much thought into punishments, but probably because I was pretty
firm on the idea that I wouldn’t be reporting it. So, when I did find myself
reporting the abuse, it was mainly through my anger and hatred towards my
abuser that I started to wish really nasty, horrible things on him. But I felt validated
when I thought back to at least one instance of something he’d done to me. As
if two wrongs make a right!
anger ever go away?
I thought that this question perfectly
fitted to the punishment one… Especially, after saying that a huge motivation for
my ideas around punishment were based on my anger around the situation.
Even from the very early days of
the abuse, I had this white-hot anger deep inside of my head and my heart. I
mean, it was burning. Seething in there. I mean, looking back; I’m honestly
surprised it didn’t win. That it didn’t eat me – and him(!) – alive! Like, how
did all the professionals actually manage to tame it, and to make it so that I
could live through it?! Or at least so that I could live long enough to find a
way to change it. I mean, when I used to self-harm, if I didn’t put much
thought into it then the wound would be far less likely of needing medical treatment
than it would if I kept my abuser in my mind.
I honestly believe that the anger
didn’t become manageable or anywhere near positive until I created, I’m NOT
Disordered in 2013 (six years after the abuse physically ended). I had always found
writing cathartic and therapeutic so it probably shouldn’t have been such a big
surprise as it was when I found the sudden ability to direct my angers and
frustrations into my blog posts. Into the format of them, the images for them, the
lyrics and quotes I would use, the creativity of the entire pieces… All of that
was fuelled by the anger and hatred.
Finding a positive, safe release,
really illustrated that it could be ‘ok’ to experience whatever feelings you
held around your abuse; because it wasn’t about experiencing them – it was
about coping with them. It was about discovering their purpose and really
utilising that for your own good. And believe me, I’m not saying that’s something
which is easily done – by any means! – I’m just saying that it’s possible.
There’s every chance that you can turn that dangerous, negative, uncontrollable,
and overwhelming anger into something good. Because I did it.
Five ways to cope with the anger:
ü Scream into a pillow (sounds stereotypical, but it can help!)
ü Write out literally all your thoughts and feelings as they come to
ü Play angry songs as a means of validation.
ü Engage in a calming activity e.g., breathing exercises, mindful colouring
ü Talk it through with someone.
Would my suicide
mean he won?
I figured that talking about the
possible end of my life – which I made it happen more than once – would be an
ironically appropriate question to end on!
Each of my four most serious suicide
attempts were largely a result of the constantly derogatory auditory
hallucinations, but through my recovery, it has become clear that the abuse played
a much larger part in it than I recognised. After years of assessments, it was
finally realised that I should be treat for two different diagnosis: Personality
Disorder and Transient Psychosis and that meant that professionals acknowledged
they each needed different treatments. So, when the medication worked for the
hallucinations (and yes additional medication also helped with some of the
Personality Disorder symptoms), it was time to turn to Dialectical Behaviour
Therapy because the memories of the abuse and the unbearable triggers were
still there to motivate me to continue self-harming and to attempt suicide.
Every time I would self-harm or do
something which landed me in an Accident and Emergency department, so many
people would tell me that my abuser wasn’t ‘worth all this!’ As though I would
suddenly stop feeling that way if I believed that to be true! And it wasn’t
about me thinking he was worthy of basically taking my life… It was more about
arguing with those people who – I felt – were diminishing and dismissing the
importance of the impact he did have on my life. It was an impact which I
wanted everyone to comprehend. And self-harm and suicide felt like the only
ways to illustrate the gravity of it.
With my recovery, I have finally
learnt though, that I don’t need to prove anything to anyone. I don’t need to
have someone who doesn’t even know me or my abuser, sit there and say they ‘understand’
or that I don’t deserve to die, before I can believe it. I just have to know
those things for myself. And in this realisation, I also discovered the belief
that no, he didn’t deserve to have the ability to say that I was dead because
of him. And in this, I reached the conclusion that I would not let my abuser
rob me of any more years than he already has. Because no, he will not win.
Five ways to stay safe when you’re
ü Engage in a self-soothing activity to remind you that you’re
worthy of nice-ness!
ü Use a distraction to get you through until the feelings have at
ü Seek help or support (UK helplines below).
ü Avoid unprescribed drugs and alcohol.
ü Consider the impact and repercussions/responses of you making a