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.