Stop victim blaming!

 

So, I read this post today, and it really got my back up. It is about a Canadian Judge who asked a rape victim why she couldn’t just keep her knees together to avoid being raped. Not only is this disrespectful and upsetting in the extreme, but it is a prime example of a huge problem we have in today’s society. Our justice system is so geared up towards protecting the criminals, the victims are left hanging. It is disgusting. No wonder so many crimes go unreported, especially serious ones like rape, because people are too scared to come forward.

I once had a police officer tell me there was no point pursuing a prosecution because the lawyers would rip me apart due to my past, and he would very likely get away with it anyway. She suggested I save myself the pain. And before that, when I spoke up about the person that abused me as a child, for SEVEN YEARS starting when I was 6… the police spoke to him, gave him a caution and a few years on the sex offenders register… and just let him go. With ‘justice’ like that going on it is very easy to see why so few crimes are reported. It is also easy to see why vigilante behaviours start.

I understand that there are countless extremely dedicated and understanding police officers that do their best, but the justice system is stacked against them. Even the ones that are sent to prison get TV’s in their cells, 3 meals a day, access to a gym, plenty of social interaction with other inmates, a shop where they can buy anything from cigarettes to cards and sweets, clean clothes to wear etc etc. In my opinion, that is not a terrible life- in fact it is a far better life than many people are living. Sure, they might not get to see their friends and family much but aside from that they have got things easy!

Meanwhile, the victims have had their lives changed forever. For some of us, the trauma causes our minds to shatter and mental health problems like Depression, PTSD, BPD and anxiety disorders set in. And while the government are paying for TV’s for the inmates (and they get new ones if they get angry and smash the ones they have…), they are severely reducing vital funding for mental health services across the board. Leaving the victims of crime without much-needed help.

They face having their lives destroyed. And while all of that is going on, you have idiots like this judge. That poor lass, only 19 years old, was brave enough to report the crime, go through the whole prosecution service, relive the event over and over and over again, feeling the same fear and pain each time she has to go through it, then she went through cross-examination where her character was dragged through the mud… and after ALL that, she is asked, by the judge no less, why she didn’t simply close her legs. Wow… who knew rape could be eradicated all over the world if we simply close our legs?! Why didn’t these incredibly insightful men tell us this before?

This is a massive problem that needs to be addressed worldwide. YES, we can do things to help ourselves. Locking our front doors and securing our homes is a good idea. Not walking alone at night is a good idea. Not getting so drunk we make poor decisions we otherwise wouldn’t make is a good idea. But I don’t care if I was drunk, high, walking butt naked through a dark alley at 3 am on my own. NOBODY has the right to touch me without my consent. We need to be teaching our children to respect all other people from a very young age. We need to teach our children, by example, that stealing from other people is WRONG. That hitting anyone is WRONG. That trashing other people’s homes is WRONG. That hitting elderly ladies on the bus is WRONG. We need to show them that whatever language they speak is beautiful, and that they should use their words rather than their fists. The crazy thing is that all the parents too lazy to raise their children properly will be the one’s suffering when they are old and frail and their disrespectful children do nothing but steal their pension and refuse to help them out.

Victim blaming is NEVER okay. Every person on this planet has the right to live without fear… and bringing up our children properly is the only way we can improve the world.

And yes, I know that dream is unrealistic. But wouldn’t it be nice? We can make our own contributions to making the world a better place, and you never know how much a kind word and a hug could help someone. Not that long ago, I offered to help an elderly lady with her shopping bags… and had to convince her I wasn’t trying to rob her in the process!!! How sad is that? That you can’t even trust an offer of help these days. She was so grateful she kept trying to push money in my hands afterwards, which of course I refused. We need to be the best we can be and encourage our children to do the same. Only then can we tackle the bigger issues.

Have you ever been subjected to or witnessed victim blaming? I would love to hear from you. Feel free to use the comment box below or write a comment on the blog itself.. Your email address will never be disclosed to anyone else.

 

Is victim blaming ever okay? Share your thoughts below!

The Truth About: Childhood Sexual Abuse.

WARNING: This post may be a trigger point of yours. Please  don’t read it if you feel it will do more harm than good.

When I started writing this blog, I did it for a few reasons. I was never under the illusion that every post would be easy to write, or read for that matter. But I know some things need saying. When my family was first forced to face this particular subject, information wasn’t so easily available. It might have only been (just under) a decade ago, but it was a different time really.

Of course, this post is about me, and my story. We are still discovering new knock-on effects from what happened, and the story has yet to end. But, unfortunately, knowing how often this happens means I know we need to speak out more about it. Yes, it is embarrassing, it brings up bad memories, and it isn’t a nice thing to read about, but it is definitely something we should all be acutely aware of.

There are varying ‘degrees’ of abuse. However, the worst thing we can do is to try and judge what an ‘appropriate’ response is. It is dangerous to think someone is ‘over reacting’ to what happened. Since I started writing this blog, and in fact, since I started talking about what happened to me more, lots have people have shared their story with me. And the way people cope varies massively. I know a young man who has suffered for years with PTSD  which is the result of a family member giving him an overly friendly a long kiss every time they met (only special occasions). Those kisses had not only terrified him, but had left deep emotional scars. It went on for 2 years.  I also know of a lady that was raped. She got into counselling quite quickly, managed to get a conviction against the person who hurt her, and now, ten years on, she has come to terms with what happened and has had no long-lasting emotional damage. She is able to talk about what happened and even laugh at certain bits of it. So, the truth of the matter is no matter what your personal opinions are, people will always react in very different ways to different things.

Me and another family member were both abused by the same person (a family friend). With the other family member, it happened once. With me, it was going on for 7 years, and started when I was just 6. I do not feel sharing the details with you will make any difference to the rest of the story, so I feel no need to make you read it. Needless to say it was more serious than some stories I have heard, and less serious than others.

Fast forward a few years, and I was acting out in a massive way. Looking back, I know it was because I couldn’t say they one thing I needed to say. I lied almost constantly, I wore black, I had no interest in the way I looked (in fact I actively tried to make myself look ugly so that he wouldn’t want to come near me). I stole from my parents, I fought with my siblings, and I did all the things children do when they act out. I know my parents (the whole family, in fact) really struggled to cope with the way I was behaving. Worse than that, because I simply didn’t know how to deal with what was happening, I started overdosing. If you have read this blog before, you may be aware that my overdosing got so bad that I now have to live with half of my liver damaged beyond repair.

Despite my parents desperately trying to get me help (despite not knowing all of the problem at that point) they were met by near continuous brick walls. It very nearly broke them completely. Skipping forward a few years again, I finally got round to telling a family member  what had happened to me. It was at that point the family member said it had happened to them too.

We spoke to the police, we both did video interviews, and the end result was the offender getting nothing more than a caution and a few years on the sex offenders register. We were fortunate enough to have a lovely Police Officer who was very kind to us. She was honest about what the process would entail, and she even came to see me again a few years later when my name was passed across her desk for something else.

I have been to counselling session piled upon counselling session, I have been to therapy, had a forensic examination of my head (that was fun), attended group therapy, got help from a Charity that helps disadvantaged youths, started speaking out about what happened, and about mental health problems in general. At the end of the day, despite the hardships (and there are a lot of them) I have been able to do some pretty amazing things. I was even nominated for a Pride of Britain award and was nominated to be a Young Persons Ambassador.

But there is no happy ending to this story. Not yet anyway. I still have nightmares. There are some nasty physical side effects, I cannot orgasm with anyone other than myself, I don’t particularly like being touched, I don’t enjoy intimacy, I over react to the small things. I nearly fell apart this year because my daughter turned 6 because I was so scared something bad would  happen to her. I can’t relax properly, I see danger in everything.  I don’t trust people, I suffer massively with guilt (I hate myself for not speaking out sooner, saving my sister). And I doubt everything. I had a friend kill herself shortly after my daughter was born, and I wonder if she did it because the same thing happened to her (the family friend was in her life too, in a very similar capacity… friends with an older sibling). I have to watch my family live with the consequences of what has happened. One of the biggest things is that I can’t look after my daughter, so she lives with my parents. Something they struggle with too. And they have to watch me suffer, they know when I am in pain and they know they can’t stop it.

Believe it or not, I am one of the lucky ones. I have a very, very supportive family (even if they do despair sometimes).  They would all move heaven and earth if they thought it would help me. They have made it their business to learn about the mental health problems I have, and they have had to spend a long time learning about me (I change all the time)… they know when they can push me, when to back off, what to talk about and what to keep quiet. There was no manual to teach them that, it was hard work and a lot of desperately trying to see things from my point of view.

Sometimes things aren’t what they seem. Sometimes there is a reason when children act out. Sometimes there are things you simply wont be able to understand. But the best thing you can do for your children is to keep the lines of communication open always. Let them know that certain parts of their bodies are private and that no one else can touch them, and do it in a way that doesn’t scare them.

There are lots of scary things out there. Most of them are far closer than you think. Being aware of the dangers you face is a good thing, you can then act in an appropriate way. And if you happen to be a little neurotic like me, having people around you that can tell you when you are moving from protective to restrictive in a negative way will help keep you grounded.

The truth about PTSD

ptsd

I have a lot of mental health problems, but PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) is possibly the scariest. Not too long ago, it was thought that PTSD was something exclusive to soldiers that have seen war. In more recent times, that thinking has changed. We now know that any traumatic event can trigger PTSD. In my case, it was a culmination of rape and 7 years of abuse. It can be the result of a huge range of circumstances, such as a car accident, loosing a loved one, being burgled etc.

What makes PTSD so bad? One of the main symptoms of PTSD is having flashbacks. For most people, the memory  of past events is enough to bring a huge emotional reaction. Flashbacks are different in that they are not like normal memories. They take you right back to the event/s like it where happening all over again. And you have no control over them.  Sometimes a smell or a sound might trigger an attack, often nothing seems to be the trigger. For me, I am worst at night. There has even been an occasion where I was screaming so loudly in my sleep a neighbour phoned the police thinking I was being murdered.

Because of this, you have no chance to move on. There is no opportunity to try and forget, and the pain doesn’t fade given time, as each flash back is like it happening all over again, leaving the memory raw and exposed. Imagine you were injured badly enough that you had an exposed nerve. In ‘normal’ people, the wound would eventually scab and heal, and whilst the wound site will never look perfect again, you are able to function normally. With PTSD, the nerve remains exposed, and you can try and protecting with dressings and bandages, but there are times when you accidentally knock it causing extreme pain.

Another part of PTSD is anxiety. It is a worry deep in the pit of your stomach that the same things are going to happen again. For me, I do not cope at all with crowds. And when I say crowds, I can mean as few as 4 people if there is a lot going on. This makes trips to the shops almost unbearable. I do most of my shopping on-line so I can avoid crowds, but there are times (such as the doctors surgery) where crowds are unavoidable. Thankfully I am on medication that helps with anxiety, and when it is a familiar setting I am usually ok. I still need support when going to new places though, and unfortunately for my dad, he is often the one stuck with driving me to appointments.

Unfortunately, there is no miracle cure for PTSD. There is no tablet that will erase the symptoms. There are therapies that have high success rates such as Psychotherapy and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, both aimed at re-teaching how to think differently and giving tools to cope with everyday situations.

But even going to therapy is not a quick fix. I have been in intensive therapy sessions at the Priory, I have been through extensive counselling, psychotherapy, CBT, DBT, mindfulness and even hospitalisations, and I still suffer with flashbacks, and I have yet to learn how to cope properly with life. The important thing for me is to not give up. I know these therapies work for a lot of people, so I refuse to let the set backs dictate my life. And I hope if you or a loved one are going through the same thing, you wont give up either.

PTSD should never be taken lightly, nor should you try to rationalise the ‘side effects’ of the disorder. If your or a loved one is going through this, be prepared to accept this is something that you cannot fix, and the sufferer needs professional help. As hard as it is to accept, there can be life after PTSD.

I will let you know when I get there, and I will share my ups and downs. Not for sympathy or because I want attention, but because I know how hard things can be, and how easy it can be to give up. The end result of me repeatedly giving up is cirrhosis of the liver… a side effect of around a decade of self harm. And of course, when I do succeed (and I WILL succeed) I hope it gives hope to the rest of you out there.