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not a victim

I've gathered all the posts here which contain more than a passing reference to the violence and sexual abuse in my past.  I am lucky enough to be able to use words to slide the memories and experiences out of my head and onto the paper ~ or screen, in this case, and for me it's therapeutic, but I am very aware that others might struggle with reading these.  I hope that you're able to take a look ~ I don't tend to be explicit, but if you'd like to know more before reading, just drop me a line and I'll do anything I can to help.

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The other point that I wanted to make was that I haven't separated these off because I'm ashamed or embarrassed, because I'm neither of these.  I know my openness about what happened in my childhood can make other people feel uncomfortable, and I wonder what I can say to let them know that it's okay ~ really ~ it's okay.  Until sexual crime is no longer a taboo in our society, individuals will fear being stigmatised ~ not wanting to be known as 'that girl who got raped' is an effective deterrent to reporting sexual assaults of all types, and it shouldn't be.  Rape is never, can never, be the 'fault' of the person that was raped.  Language featuring highly for me in this area too ~ I'm not a victim, I'm not a survivor ~ I'm not 'the woman that was raped', any more than I'm 'the woman who just bought bananas in Asda', or 'the women who grew up in Sussex'.  I flat out refuse to let what someone else did to me to define who I am.



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I've never heard a woman describe having a cervical smear test as a pleasant experience, but when your history includes sexual assault it's difficult to explain how genuinely traumatising it can be.  But on Friday, I achieved a victory over my own history - it was something that might seem insignificant to most people,  but I'm trying to celebrate the ups these days,  so here goes.

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My father (and my lip involuntarily curls in disgust as I grudgingly let that word flow from my mind through my fingers and onto the screen in front of me) is a violent paedophile.  In July 2000 he was convicted of multiple serious sexual offences against a child, and was sentenced to fifteen and twelve years, to run concurrently.  He served eight.  On the Sex Offenders Register for life, he cannot have unsupervised contact with children, including his grandchildren by my brother. 

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I grew up knowing that certain behaviours were unacceptable. 

One did not put one's elbows on the table. 
One did not wear shoes in the house. 
One did not answer back. 

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I wish I didn't give a damn.  I wish I could honestly say that I don't give a shit about you,  about the way you treated me,  but that's not true. 
I wrap my arms around Petal, holding my daughter so close to me, so tight, and breathe in the smell of her hair.  I feel her arms squeezing me, see her face smiling at me, hear her I love yous,  and I'm jealous.  Jealous that I only got one side of this, jealous that - while I question my parenting at times - I didn't even get this much mothering.

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I remember being told that I was a charming child - friendly,  polite,  eager to please.  Until.  Until.  He said until I was five.  I would imagine it was more a case of until I realised that I could not trust that every word spoken by every adult in my world was not the absolute truth. 

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My statement went to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), along with my doctors notes.  This was back when your doctors notes were in a brown envelope ~ remember that?  I was told that the margins there were several annotations...

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So I went back to Crawley, to the social worker who had driven me away from that house three years earlier.  She introduced me to Jane from the Child Protection Team, who was fantastic.  Thinking back, I can appreciate the way in which I was encouraged to take  control of ...

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Once I was out, I never planned to go back ~ as far as I was concerned, it was time to start over.  I moved to Bristol to attend university, but for all my idealistic daydreams, being by myself was more difficult than I had anticipated.  Everybody else had somewhere to go for the holidays, family to spend christmas...

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Happy Mother's Day.

Just one sentence
but so many lies

Happy.
Were you ever happy?  Really?  Inside?  Or only on the outside, only when people were watching?  That was all that mattered after all, the way it looked, the way we looked...

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The last time my father spoke to me, he was on the doorstep of the foster home I'd been living in for over a year.  His forehead  furrowed and his head tipped quizzically to one side as he looked me in the eye and quietly asked "I just don't understand . . . why are you so bitter?"

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What is it like, to spend sixteen years being a parent, and then for  that to be over?  Not in a tragic, terrible way, where you can be furious at the stupidity and carelessness of a drunk driver, or cry bitter tears at the cruelty of an agonising terminal illness...

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I remember the first time I realised other families didn't work the same as mine.  I was eleven, and having tea at a friend's.  Sophie and I were both from a fairly 'well to do' background ~ to everyone on the outside, we were an ordinary family.

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