This week is National Sexual Abuse and Sexual Violence awareness week.
I spent my whole life feeling like I wanted to die. I felt there was something very wrong with me. Before I was 9 I had been neglected, starved and beaten. When I was 9 I moved in with my mother and her new husband. Between the age of 10-12 I was sexually abused. How broken must I be that no one loved me? How evil must I be that all these people could do was hurt me?
As an adult I tried to hide what had happened to me. I would have been horrified if someone had guessed that I had been sexually abused. I didn’t even tell my closest friends. When I did speak to them I was shaking so much I could barely speak. When I met my husband-to-be at University we would stay up through the night talking. I told him a lot of what happened,.
My life was spent in hiding. The real me locked away in a black place with an outer shell, an android version, living my life. I was very successful. I married the guy I fell in love with at Uni and we moved in together. My career grew until I was in a senior role working at an international level. This was still not me. It was still the android. I hated myself so much. I was scared of everything and everybody. A simple trip on the underground in London would have me on edge. Someone touching my shoulder in the office would make me freeze.
I believed anyone would be able to do anything they wanted to me so I kept a very solid F**k off shield to prevent anyone getting close. It worked well. Too well. I felt alone and unlikeable.
When I got pregnant with my son I was terrified. People were looking at me and touching me again and I would just freeze every time. He was born prematurely and died after 30 days. Now, to add to all the reasons I already had to hate my body, I had killed my baby and I hated it even more.
Despite this I got pregnant again. This time all was fine and my daughter was born. She was amazing. I was determined not to screw her up in the way I had been screwed up. When she was 3 she started asking me if I was happy. No matter how many times I told her I was, she kept asking. I realised that I was in serious danger of screwing her up. That was not going to happen. It was ok for me to be screwed up, it was not ok for her to be.
So I found a Cognitive Hypnotherapist in London called Trevor Silvester. I was wary. In a room with a strange man who would ask me to close my eyes. Not going to happen. During the abuse I would close my eyes and hide in my head. He could do what he wanted to my body but he would never touch my head. Not true but what I believed.
So I took a friend to the first session.
After the first session there was a release. The critical voice in my head was quiet. I began to believe that maybe I could be ok.
Over a few sessions loads changed. For the first time in my life I could say I was happy. I stopped wanting to die. I realised that everything in my life had led me to this point and I trained to be a Cognitive Hypnotherapist myself. Still, I dreaded that anyone would learn about the sexual abuse. One day, while walking through the park with Trevor on the way to my Cognitive Hypnotherapy course, he told me that there would come a time where I would remember what happened in a different way. I would realise that it had helped me become who I was. I started shaking at the thought. It seemed at that time, that people knowing I had been abused would be the worst thing ever.
I blogged my journey, but only from my head and thoughts. I never wrote about what happened. Trevor mentioned that people would be able to work it out. I was horrified. Then, after a couple of years and a few more sessions, I realised it didn’t matter if people knew. I had reached the place where I knew it was never about me.
I contacted the NSPCC and reported my abuser for historical abuse. They passed it on to the police.
Within a week 2 police officers came to my house and did an initial interview. It was awful. Really really awful. Little did I know that it would be nothing in comparison with what I would have to go through over the next 2 years. I eventually did a face to face interview, and later an interview on video. I spoke through details of what had happened in a way that I never believed I would. There were a number of occasions where I shut down and was no longer able to speak. But I came back. And I did it. All thanks to the help from Trevor. I had reached a point where I could talk about everything.
The CPS were almost certain they would get a conviction on the basis of my video evidence. They were amazed at how much I was able to talk about. I don’t think they’d met anyone who could do that before. They even asked about the Cognitive Hypnotherapy – curious about the impact it had on my ability to speak.
In May last year I went to court. I had special measures – screens between me and him so I never needed to see him. I sat in a video room while the jury watched my video evidence. Apart from switching off my son’s incubator, this was by a long shot the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. I had to sit and relive every single detail of being abused while others watched. But I did it. So that we could get the verdict. So he could be prevented from abusing others. I am almost positive he has abused others and have carried the guilt of this my whole life. I should have spoken out. I should have protected others. But I couldn’t. If he had been dead I wouldn’t have needed this process. But I wanted to protect others – and maybe act as a voice for those incapable of speaking out.
The day of the trial there was another major drugs trial going on. My jury was made up of the rejects from that trial. 8 out of the 12 jurors were student age. There were only 3 women. The trial lasted 2 days + the verdict. For both days there was at least one juror turned up late because they slept in.
As I was questioned they looked bored and uninterested. The barrister told me to direct my answers to the jury. But only 2 of them made eye contact with me.
When I came out of giving my evidence, I shut down. I couldn’t talk and I shook violently. It had taken everything I had to keep it together while talking.
During the trial, both defence and prosecution brought evidence from my early childhood. I learnt about the school saying my brother and I were covered in bruises, and skeletally thin. I heard how social services and the school were fully aware of the neglect.
His defence could not say it didn’t happen because my video evidence was so convincing. So instead they took a minor indecent exposure incident with my grandfather and suggested that I had mis-remembered and that it was actually my grandfather who did all that stuff.
That was enough for the young and disinterested jury. They didn’t have to say it didn’t happen, they could just say it wasn’t him.
Despite my abuser coming as close as possible to admitting guilt during his testimony, despite him being so convinced he would be found guilty that he turned up to the verdict with his suitcase, the jury found him not guilty.
Initially I was devastated. After all of that he would walk away free.
But I realised that wasn’t true. I no longer worry about being believed. I believe what happened and I know it wasn’t about me. It was about him and how sick he is. He had not got away free. I had 2 years of hell – so had he. He was convinced he was going to jail. He has been called out. He is no longer free to do what he wants. I doubt very much he will do it again.
And me? I am free. All that stuff in my head no longer serves a purpose. I had a run the day after I gave evidence and imagined it all disappearing in the breeze. There are no more painful memories in my head. They serve no purpose any more so have lost all meaning. I am truly free.
And the Not Guilty verdict freed me up even more in a strange way. If it was guilty I would have used my story to reach out to others. To help people. After all, that’s what I do these days. I help people. The problem is, every time you tell your story, you live it. You have to. To talk about it you need to access your memories. Every time I talked about it I would relive it. So if it had been Guilty I would have been reliving my story constantly.
But it was Not Guilty. So I don’t. I am truly free.