Tag Archives: Child abuse

Why Betrayal hurts so much

Most of us have been betrayed in some way at some point.

It’s not the act of being betrayed that causes the problem. It’s what happens in your head as a result of that.

It can lead to a desperate attempt to control everything, in the belief that if you are more alert, if you just act differently, you can prevent more hurt in the future.

Often, the intensity of hurt that you experience from betrayal can be as bad as the grief of losing someone.

It can trigger Episodic memories, taking you back to times in childhood were you were unfairly accused of something or treated unfairly. It’s that moment, where your brain, in an attempt to protect you from that hurt, learns that you need to watch everything more closely. If you can get in trouble for something you didn’t do, then everything you do could be wrong. This is not a good lesson to live with: feeling everything you do is wrong.

My biggest betrayal comes from my mother. I thought I had a good relationship with my mother. Because she is disabled, I was her carer and constant companion from the age of 10 or so (I lived with my father and stepmother before that)

The first betrayal was when she walked in on my stepfather abusing, and then walked out again, doing nothing.

The second betrayal was a year or two later when I told her he was abusing me, and she lost her temper with me and told me never to talk about it again. And the abuse continued.

The third betrayal was when he divorced her and she asked me to read the letter he wrote her, which contained explicit references to their sexual relationship.

The fourth betrayal was when I reported him to the police for historical abuse. She told me that she would do anything that was necessary to help me and then wouldn’t talk to the police. When she eventually did, she would not corroborate my story.

The final betrayal was during his trial, when my mother refused to come to court to testify. Her written statement was so bad, that it was better for the barrister prosecuting him to let the jury think my mother didn’t believe me, than read it out. At the end of the day, it was my word versus his word and he was found not guilty. My mother was the only person that could have shown the jury otherwise.

It was after the final betrayal that I stopped talking to her and broke off all contact.

I ask myself why I didn’t do it before? What sort of fool was I to ever believe her. I have questioned my whole childhood with her. None of those fond memories were true, because I thought she cared and she clearly didn’t. I feel weak for allowing her to continue to be in my life, for caring. It leads me to think that nothing I believe about our relationship was actually true.
And that could eat me up.

However I know that I can’t time travel. Everything was the way it was at the time. I do not have the benefit of hindsight. I can’t let younger me know what was going to happen later. So at every point in my life I’ve been the best version of me I can possibly be.

I am not responsible for her. My actions have no effect on her. It was not about whether she loves me or not. Nothing I do changes what she does. I am only responsible for myself, not for others.

The confusing experience of sexual abuse

Trigger warning: This post contains explicit discussion around sexual abuse. Do not read if you are at risk of being triggered.

The problem with sexual abuse is not the actual abuse itself. It is not the act of being sexually abused. Sexual abuse is not like violence or emotional abuse. It does not leave you cowering in a corner afterwards, or before.

It is this lack of explicit violence or threat that causes most of the problems.

  1. You do not understand what is physically happening. The abuse usually happens before you have any normal sexual experiences with your body. This means, at the age it happens, you have no idea what is actually happening. You do not understand that your body is physiologically responding to being aroused. The translation of the french word for orgasm is “little death”. When you have an orgasm as a child you do not understand it. Part of you will probably think something is very wrong with your body and it’s being broken, while another part will feel the pleasure from arousal. When you have no idea at all what is happening, this is confusing and sometimes a little scary
  2. It is pleasurable. Your body is programmed to respond to physical stimulation and an orgasm is a pleasurable experience. Part of you does not want it to happen because you know it’s wrong, and the person doing it shouldn’t be doing that. Part of you is aroused, and getting pleasure from the experience. This means that sometimes, you even want the experience. This means that you interpret your role in the abuse as complicit. If you enjoy it, and even, sometimes, want it to happen, then how can it be “abuse”? Surely you are complicit? This is not true. Your body is programmed to respond to arousal, in the same way as your stomach rumbles when you are hungry. No matter how you respond, no adult should ever be sexually interfering with a child. It is wrong. Always. And you did the only thing you could at that moment in time.
  3. You were a child, not an adult. As you get older, you understand more. You understand what an orgasm is. You understand how wrong it was for the abuser to do what they did. And as you understand more about what happened, you overwrite the memories of the younger you, so eventually you think they knew what you now know. You overestimate their understanding of the situation. You forget the confusion, and uncertainty. You focus on blaming yourself. You feel shame and disgust for the role your body played in the abuse. You feel you joined in, instead of feeling like the victim of abuse. The younger you DID NOT understand things in the way the older you does. They were confused. They did the only thing they could at the time. There is no should have, could have or if only…Even if you went back and changed things, how do you know it wouldn’t make it worse? If you fought how do you know it wouldn’t have still happened but then with pain and violence? If you told someone, how do you know they would have believed you and helped? They might have not believed you, like my mother when I told her, and left you to continue being abused. You can’t know what could have happened, only what did. And you are here now. So you did the best you could. This projection of adult understanding onto childhood memories is the root of most struggles that abused adults have in reconciling the abuse.
  4. You are programmed for connection and love. As children we are all programmed to connect love and behaviour. This comes from a very primitive bit of programming where an animal needs to bond with it mother to survive when born. We have the same programming, expanded to include all responsible adults. This means that we make things about us. It also means we behave in a way that ensures we are loved. Abusers are master manipulators. They play on this need to be loved. They play on the programming where you don’t want to upset someone and get into trouble. Love is more important than anything else to our survival. So of course you were manipulated, and of course you cooperated. That was the only thing you could do at the time.

All of this means that coping with memories of childhood sexual abuse can lead to extreme feelings of self-loathing and disgust – not because of the actual acts – but because of the role you feel you played.

You were abused. You were a victim. You did not understand what was happening at the time. There was nothing you could have done differently.

As well as overcoming my own abusive experiences, I have helped many abused clients gain freedom from their abusive past. If you would like my help just email dawn@thinkitchangeit.com You CAN be free of your past.

I have learned…

When I was 6 my stepmother hit me for the first time. I had a mark on my top when I came home from school. I learned that doing something that wasn’t allowed resulted in a beating. Unfortunately it wasn’t clear what was and was not allowed.

A year later I cried one night when I heard my stepmother and father arguing loudly. She came to my room and told me she’d hit me if I cried. I learned not to cry.

We were left outside for long periods of time and I learned that my stepmother didn’t want us around. I learned not to complain. I learned not to need anything.

When my grandfather drove me and my brother to my granny’s house, I learned that my brother was older and I had no choice but to do what he told me. He told me to sit in the seat next to my grandfather. My grandfather would put his hand down my pants and molest me on the journey. I didn’t like it. It was uncomfortable, but in comparison to later stuff, it was nothing.

When I was 8 I told a lady from Social Services that I wanted to go and live with my mother, despite being warned not to. That day my father told me he was sad that I didn’t want to live with him any more and that he didn’t love me. I learned that even when I speak up for myself, it makes no difference.

When I was 10 my stepfather came to wish me goodnight. When he kissed me he shoved his tongue into my mouth and said “Not like that a proper kiss”. He went on to teach me “what boys did to girls” over the next few years. I learned anyone could do anything to me and there was nothing I could do.

When I was 12 I told my mother about the abuse. She lost her temper with me and told me never to talk about it again. I learned to shut down. I learned that I couldn’t trust what I felt. I learned to not feel. I learned that it was never safe.

When I was 18 I learned that no one knew anything about my past. I learned that I could be whoever I wanted to be. I buried the child, grew a shell and lived a successful life.

When my first child had to be delivered at only 26 weeks old I learned that my body was as hateful as I’d always believed. I learned it was outside of my control and that this time it had killed my child.

When my daughter was 3 years old and started asking me constantly if I was happy, I learned that it was not ok for my screw ups to affect her and I learned that it was time to change.

When I started Cognitive Hypnotherapy I learned that I was ok. I learned I wasn’t broken. I learned that bad people did bad things to me.

When I took my stepfather to court 6 years ago I learned that I was believed. I learned I could tell my story, and deal with a huge amount of pain.

When he was found not guilty because my mother didn’t corroborate my story, and the defence cleverly suggested it was all stuff my grandfather did, I learned that it wasn’t about me. It wasn’t my fault. Bad stuff happened and the judicial process was not sophisticated enough to deal with it. I learned I was ok.

When I struggled last year because I felt my core was rotten, too rotten for anyone to care about the child me, I learned that I have great friends. They helped me re-connect and forgive the younger me because she was just unlucky. Bad people did bad things. She couldn’t change that.

And all through I learned that I am ok. I am strong. I can deal with anything.

I learned that no matter what you can be happy and connected with your friends and those you hold dear.

I learned that everything can change always.

And now I’m still learning. I’m learning that it’s possible for my head to be fine but for my body to hold on to the fear.

And because I’ve learned that everything can change, and because I have great friends, I am working on that now too.

It’s not what happens to us that causes the problem, it’s the meaning. It’s the meaning that hurts and the meaning is prone to misinterpretation.

You too can change.

You too can learn to see that it’s amazing that you are here, reading this with me now.

Effect of childhood on our genes

Yesterday I attended a conference about ACEs – Adverse Childhood Experiences. It was about making Scotland the first ACE aware nation in the world. It was certainly thought provoking. 

I particularly enjoyed the talk from Dr Nadine Burke Harris about the physical implications of what she refers to as “Toxic stress”. 

Toxic Stress

The stress response is a physical and emotional response designed to help us escape sabre toothed tigers. This set of responses is designed to give us the best chance of surviving when fighting or running away from a predator.

  1. The pre-frontal cortex – the thinking part of the brain – is disengaged, because it’s too slow to help us survive. Taking time to think and work out options, in the middle of an attack, is a bad idea.
  2. The heart rate increases
  3. Adrenaline and cortisol flood the body – preparing our organs for instant response. Adrenaline also impacts on the immune system. Not really possible to ask the tiger to come back tomorrow because you have a bad cold right now. Our immune system is directed to preparing to fight infection from any injuries. 
  4. The pain response is adjusted to allow us to keep fighting or running even when injured. 

This all makes total sense – when fighting tigers. 

But what if the threat is violence from a parent, that could happen every day of your childhood. 

What if the threat is emotional or sexual abuse where you are being hurt but not necessarily physically. 

In these situations, the body reacts in exactly the same way. It treats the thing that hurts you emotionally in exactly the same way as if it was going to hurt you physically. 

Epigenetics

In itself this is bad enough, but this toxic stress has an effect on your genes through Epigentics. 

Image result for musical notes and notations

The way Nadine described Epigentics was great. If your DNA is the music notes on a piece of music, Epigentics are the musical notation that tells you what to do with the notes such as speeding up, slowing down and pausing

Epigenetics are like a series of little switches that activate and deactive things in your DNA

Because of these Epigenetic switches, right through into adulthood, when the threat is no longer present, the physiological response can remain.

This can lead to physical issues such as diabetes, asthma, heart disease, weight issues and chronic pain conditions such as Chronic Fatigue and Fibromyalgia. 


All is not lost!

There are two ways to address this:

  1. We can work we children to offset the effect of any adverse experiences and prevent them from becoming toxic stress
  2. We can work with adults to re-programme the interpretation of the childhood experiences and switch the Epigenetic switches off again. 

Hold on to your past – it defines you.

When I was 3 I told that my grandfather was molesting me. Nothing changed and it continued until I moved to live with my mother at 8 or 9 years old.

When I was 12 I told my mother I was being abused. Nothing changed and the abuse continued for some time after.

3 years ago I faced my abuser in court and he walked out of the court free. The jury found him not guilty. Nothing changed.

Before I went to live with my mother, I was starved and looked like a skeleton, beaten to the point of being covered in bruises and neglected. School knew. Social Services knew. Nothing changed.

At 14 years old my brother ran away for the first time. He was returned home. At 16 years old he ran away again and this time they couldn’t bring him home.

I stayed.

I went to university, got a degree in computing, met the man who would become my husband, and went on to have a very successful career, eventually ending up on a 6 figure salary in BT. I had a wonderful house, husband and daughter. Everything was amazing.

Except I was still the broken little girl inside. It was all a pretence.

Then I found cognitive hypnotherapy and everything changed.

Nothing changed what had happened, of course. It was me that changed inside. My internal story changed. The meaning behind the events changed.

One day a friend suggested that I should let go of my past as it didn’t serve me any more. I got really upset.

Who would I be if I had not experienced my life?

I am where I am not just because of who I am, but also because of the experiences I went through.

 

If I wasn’t the person I am, I wouldn’t be here writing this, helping people, trying to change the world, one person at a time. I would be like my brother, a drug addict struggling to keep going each day.

If I hadn’t gone through the experiences I did then it would be unlikely that I would dedicate my life to helping others escape the demons of their past.

So I don’t want to let go of the past. It made me who I am.

I sometimes learn new things about my past. Recently I reconnected with a relative (there are very few people from my past allowed in my present life). I learnt things about what was done, and what people new, that floored me a little. I felt angry and upset. I asked why no one protected me, as I have done many times before.

But this time it was different for me. I didn’t ask what was wrong with me. I didn’t feel even more evil and broken.

I felt upset. Genuinely upset that people would treat a little girl that way.

And I felt in awe of the person that I am. The person that got through that. And the person I have become as a result of that.

So don’t let go of your childhood experiences. You need them. They go with your personal qualities to make you who you are today.

Don’t give up on yourself

This weekend I was at Regents University in London for a course run by Quest Cognitive Hypnotherapy. To get to the Uni, you walk through Regent’s Park. It’s a stunning park right in the centre of London, close to Baker Street, and behind Madame Tussauds.

I have experienced many moments in this park.

  • There was a conversation with Trevor Silvester about how I would one day look back on my childhood experiences and be thankful for them. I remember that conversation. It seemed a ridiculous thing to say. He could tell it unsettled me and quickly switched to a distraction. But I remembered it. And, of course, he was right. I am in that place now – but only just!
  • There was a moment just a year or two ago, where those of use who were qualified came together for an annual Cognitive Hypnotherapy event. I felt so different. I felt like I didn’t belong. And I felt sad, because I always felt different. I sat on a bench with a Starbucks over the lunch break. I left everyone else behind to chat. I isolated myself. It was just me and a squirrel that wanted what I had (no way it was getting my Starbucks!). I have since learnt to accept my differences – even like them. I can be comfortable with people I don’t connect with, in the same was as those I do. Not everyone is my tribe.
  • There were many Saturday mornings where I walked along, having had a session with Trevor on the Friday, desperately trying to process the barrage of emotions and thoughts that flooded me following yet another fundamental shift.

As I walked through the park on Saturday, I felt a deep, calm peace.

It occurred to me that I was unrecognisable in comparison to the person that first walked through the park just over 6 years ago. So much so, that you would swear it was not the same person.

There have been many times in the last few years that I have felt that I have reached the limit of change. Often, with things that I still was unhappy with. I would try and accept the version of me that I was. I would try and convince myself that some things just couldn’t be changed.

But I didn’t believe that to be true for my clients, so how could I accept it for myself?

And like that 18 year old me that didn’t take the bottle of tablets, there was a part of me that still fought; a part of me that still believed there was something better for me.

And then another shift has happened. In many ways, this was the most profound shift yet. And I realised that I was wrong: everything can change.

Bowling

I often tell my clients that this process is like bowling

Image result for bowling images

When you go bowling, you don’t know how many pins you are going to knock out of the way until you actually roll the ball down the alley. You have to bowl, and wait.

Each session we bowl.

You also can’t take the bowling ball and go round the back to get the back pins first.

You have to start with the front row.

So sometimes you feel that you have gone backwards. You uncover a row of pins, and because the others have been cleared out of the way, they feel significant. It feels like that was the main problem all along.

But as with bowling, you can only get at the back row once the rows in front are gone.

Don’t give up

So my message to you is: don’t give up on yourself.

Keep bowling. Keep going. If you are not happy with anything, it can always be changed. It might take a while, and it might even catch you by surprise, but everything can change.

And remember, whatever you think, the fact that you are reading this blog post means that you have not given up on yourself yet!

We’re all screwed up – including me

It’s not secret that I have had my struggles.

It’s also no secret that I had a very difficult childhood. In fact, people who have heard the story have said I should make it into a film. It is a bit ridiculous!

Cognitive Hypnotherapy has been the thing that freed me up.

Even though the actual number of sessions of therapy I’ve had is relatively low (8 in total over the last 7 years), I have been able to find an amazing level of peace, happiness and contentment with my life. But it’s not been a short journey. Every day has been about learning.

Recently I was getting very frustrated with myself.

I still hated myself. I couldn’t look in the mirror without sneering. I wanted to be someone else. I found it impossible when people said nice things. It was actually upsetting. How could they be so cruel as to say something that was so obviously untrue? It wasn’t fair.

I knew this wasn’t right. It was frustrating. How could so much else have changed but not this?

I also knew I had some behaviours that weren’t right. I would never ask a question in a meeting or at Uni, because I assumed that nobody would pay any attention to what I said. When courses didn’t sell, and videos didn’t get many views I would think “Of course, why would anyone listen to me?”. When someone disagreed with something I said in a forum I would back off and not argue my point. I physically would shake and dwell on what I said and what they said.

I know enough to know that isn’t right, and, more importantly, I don’t have to accept it.

And then I got help from a fellow therapist. And we changed the hurt child girl so she was happy.

And things began to change.

I went to my daughter’s school to talk to them about an issue. I could have avoided it but I didn’t. I felt calm when I was there.

I started engaging in discussions on forums.

I went to the doctors about a lump above my stomach. I’d done this before and they dismissed it but I knew it was not right. I had been putting off going but I made the appointment and stuck to my guns to get a scan.

I went to the hairdressers and closed my eyes and relaxed while I was having my hair washed. Something I have never done before.

To many these may seem like small things, but to me they were huge signs of change.

And then I had an opportunity to do a talk to our local ACES group (Adverse Childhood Experiences). I want to become the sort of public speaker that talks at large events. Ultimately, I would love to do Tony Robbins style conferences (obvious they will be Dawn Style by then). I know that I need to share my personal story – what brought me to this point – if I really want to connect with people. I know I have a hell of a story.

I’ve always been able to write this but never talk. This was because of my mother telling me at 12 years old never to talk about the abuse again. But she didn’t say to never write about it lol!

In the past, when I’ve tried to talk, my subconscious has shut me down. I lose the ability to speak or move. So I’ve avoided telling my story.

On Tuesday I went along to this group event with a plan to talk through my story. ACES is all about resilience, and the impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences on our physical and mental well-being. I know that my story shows how it is possible to be happy no matter what. I know I am a better therapist because what I’ve been through shows that it is possible to overcome anything. This was a good audience to start with.

My passion is to help everyone realise that we can all find happiness, no matter what has happened in our childhood. I have never made it so personal before.

I have never told my life story to anyone out loud, from start to finish before, let alone a room of strangers. I spoke to about 15 people. I told them everything from when I was 6 right up until I took my abuser to court. I told the whole story. I explained how if I’m ok, then anybody can be, if you just have the right help.

It was liberating. I felt so free afterwards. I had told my story and I was fine. That’s all it was – a story. Something that I could use to help other people. It did not leave me shaking (although I was a little nervous when I started talking!). It did not stir up nightmares. I did not go into the ‘no-speaking’ state. I was absolutely fine.

I felt exhilarated and I feel so lucky to have been given that chance.

So now I’m working towards a new TED talk next year. A talk that will draw on my experiences both from childhood, and from working with over 600 clients.

“Our past creates us but doesn’t define us – lessons from over 600 clients”

(if anyone can think of a better click-bait style title please let me know!)

This is my next step and I can’t wait.

5 lessons from taking my abuser to court

**Trigger warning** This article is about child abuse. Please don’t read if you thing it might trigger you

I picked up the phone and called the NSPCC. “I want to report a case of historical abuse” I said. I was terrified. I had been shaking for days just thinking about making that phonecall.

For years I had wanted to do this. I didn’t even know if he was still alive. What I was almost positive about was that he’d abused others. What I was really worried about was that he still was, and would be in the future.

But up until a few years ago, I couldn’t even tell anyone what had happened, let alone publicly admit it. I always felt guilty for that. When I blogged about my Cognitive Hypnotherapy journey, I never said what had happened. Although most people could read between the lines and guess.

But I’ve come a long way in the last few years.

I was ready.

In May 2015 I travelled to North Wales for a trial that I was told would last 2-3 days. It spanned 4 days in the end. It was the culmination of 2 years of hell as the police gathered evidence, submitted through the CPS, got court dates and moved things forward.

He was found Not Guilty.

No one expected that. He even turned up in court, on the day of the verdict, with a large suitcase.

I had failed in everything I set out to achieve. It was not high enough profile to get publicity. Nobody except him knew what went on in court. He is free to continue whatever he wants to do, unchecked and un-monitored.

It was a horrendous process, but I changed a lot because of it – often, believe it or not, in a good way. I would like to share with you 5 key lessons I learnt from taking him to court.

1. It takes a lot for an abuse case to get to court.

Most of the 2 years was spent waiting.

Waiting to find out if they would progress with the case.

Did they have enough evidence? How could they possibly take someone to court on my word alone?

I initially gave a verbal interview where the police officer took notes. It was then passed to a specialist unit and they said I could have done a video interview that would be played in court so I wouldn’t have to read out my statement. A way better option it seemed! So I travelled to Wales and spent 3 hours re-living every painful detail while being questioned, on video.  It was horrendous, but possible, thanks to all my help from Cognitive Hypnotherapist, Trevor Silvester.

I thought that was going to be the worst part, but I didn’t realise that I would have to watch the video, in court, with the jury and judge watching the video and me. One of the worst experiences of my life!

I did a written statement interview, a video interview and answered a number of follow up questions.

I did it alone. My mother’s friend, who I originally told about the abuse, refused to give the police any statement.

My mother, who knew all about it but had never believed me, did not corroborate my story.

And yet, the CPS accepted it as a case based on my evidence. The CPS prosecuting barrister reckoned it was a very solid case with over 90% certainty of a guilty verdict.

It took 2 years to get to court and had to go through many checks to make sure there was enough to work on.

So now, when I watch TV and here about high profile people in court for abuse, what I know is that it doesn’t happen lightly. It takes a *lot* for a case like this to get to court.

2. We need a better jury system.

Before I went to court I met with the CPS barrister and the police officer who was leading my case. They talked to me about behaviour while I was on the stand.

They said that although the barrister was asking me questions, I should answer to the jury. I should make eye contact with the jury and speak to them. They said there are usually a couple of jurors that will engage with you.

I wasn’t worried about this. I am used to talking to audiences and picking someone out to connect with.

My trial took place the same week as a major drugs trial. There were armed police all round court. It was quite dramatic. That trial got first dibs on the jurors as it was scheduled to last at least 8 weeks – way longer than usual.

My trial was delayed because my jurors were what was left after the drugs trial had its pick.

Of the 12 jurors, 10 were about student age. Over the few days, every single day at least one of them slept in and the start of the day was significantly delayed.

The jury was bored and indifferent through the trial. They had to listen to some pretty harrowing stuff but seemed totally indifferent to it. I managed to only make eye contact with 1 juror – a middle aged lady. The others were looking down and some were even yawning.

How are these people supposed to make a ruling in a case such as this? How are they supposed to separate evidence from subjective opinion? How are they supposed to know what abuse is?

In my opinion, a jury should have a court official that helps them with interpretation of evidence and statements during their discussion point. Or we need a more American system where a jury is selected. It is supposed to be a cross section of your peers. My juror was far from that.

It is because of this particular make up of the jury that he was found Not Guilty. Everyone was certain. Even the judge suggested he was guilty in the summing up. The police officer could barely bring herself to tell me the result. No one could believe it. But it was the jury’s choice.

3. I was believed.

In the early days, after I reported it, I was amazed that the police interviewed me. I always questioned the truth of my story, even though I lived with the memories and their impact every day. When they submitted to the CPS for approval to take it to court, I was sure it wouldn’t be accepted.

I was ready to not be believed. Again.

When it got to court I was stunned, and thrilled. They believed what I said. For the first time I had spoken out and been believed.

By the time I got to court I no longer needed any validation of my story. I knew how much I’d had to go through to get that far. I realised court was just a technicality. Everyone was just doing their job.

In the end, the defence barrister was pretty clever. He used a minor molestation situation with my grandfather (something that has caused me no problems in later life). He asked the jury to believe that it was actually my grandfather that had done all those horrible things, not my abuser. The jury didn’t have to say it didn’t happen (my evidence would have made that impossible) they just had to say it wasn’t him.

And the only person who could have proved that to be incorrect, my mother, chose not to show up in court for me.

I came out of the trial knowing I was believed for the first time in my life. And for the first time in my life I felt sorry for what the younger version of me had been through.

4. Your story does not have to haunt you forever.

I have carried my story in my head for many years. It plays over and over again. It was almost like it need to be told. It pushed against the edges of my mind. It became more graphic and detailed as I learnt more. It gained depth and meaning.

When I told it in court, in all it’s horrific detail, it let the story out.

Other stuff from my childhood, stuff described by prosecution and defence as horrific, added to the depth of the story.

But after the trial, the story no longer served a purpose. It had been told.

And because of the Not Guilty verdict, I could fully let it go.

If it had been Guilty, I would have used my story to help others. I would have lived it again and again each time I told it.

But now it’s on a shelf and not in my head. I don’t need to add anything to it or ever need to read it again.

It is possible to be free of your story, no matter what happened.

5. I have the best friends.

When I went to Wales to record the video, my friend came with me, just to keep me company. She was brilliant. She asked nothing of me. She just was there for me. She wandered round for hours while I was in with the police.

She came with me again when I visited court a week before to see how things would work. Due to the nature of the case, I had special measures. I had a screen so he couldn’t see me and I couldn’t see him. I was kept in a special private room in between appearances so there was no chance of bumping into him.

Another friend, who has 3 kids, came down with me for the week of the trial. She stayed with me while I sat in a private room and watched the video of my testimony. She sat through the rest of the trial and told me what he said and what happened.

Another friend, who I only know online, attended his initial plea court appearance and then sat through the whole trial, giving me feedback on what was said. She even attended the day of the verdict when I had to head back home, because the trial had overrun and gave me the verdict before the police.

Another who lives all the way down the south of England, and I haven’t seen for many years, offered to leave her daughter with her granny and come with me to court.

If wealth is measured in friendship and the people around you, I am by far the richest person alive.

From my hubby, to my real life friends, to my virtual friends, everyone was phenomenally supportive. I often found myself in tears from the depth of support and love I felt

And so…

It was, by a million miles, one of the hardest things I have done in my life. I wanted to be the voice for others he’d abused, because I could be. I wanted to save others from his abuse in the future. Because the verdict was Not Guilty, it meant that I achieved nothing I set out to achieve.

I should have been permanently damaged by the experience.

But the opposite was true.

I was freed up by the experience.

I stood up for myself and others.

I was believed.

I was loved.

I am free of my story.

I am a specialist in sexual abuse

There are many different types of sexual abuse. There is no one type that is worse than the other though. You see, the problem with abuse is not what actually happens, but the meaning you take from what happens.

It’s the meaning behind it that causes the pain in later life, that triggers you in some way. Things like:

  • I should have told someone
  • I should have fought back
  • I should have been able to not respond
  • It was about me not them

Or if you reported the abuse to someone

  • They don’t love me because they didn’t do anything when I told them
  • It must be me that was in the wrong because the person I told didn’t act in the way I hoped/expected

A lot of this pain comes from comparing what you now know, as an adult, with the way you thought as a child. We often project adult thoughts onto our child selves. But you see, you don’t think now like you thought then. You don’t think now, like you thought last year.

We are always the best version of us that we can possibly be, under the circumstances.

As a result of this pain, those who have been abused often have a number of issues, that are symptomatic of having these memories in their head. One or more of the following may be familiar:

  • hatred of body leading to self harm and/or weight issues
  • anxiety – hyper vigilance in every social situation
  • fake persona – living a false life, pretending to be a person you are not to hide the person you feel you really are.
  • depression – a belief that you deserve all the bad things that happen to you in life.
  • Lack of trust in your own feelings/body leading to promiscuity or full withdrawal from physical contact.

Over the years I have worked with many clients who have experienced abuse. Sometimes, that is the problem they bring to me. More often, the problem they reach out for is symptomatic of experiencing abuse as a child. The “system (NHS or otherwise) struggles to treat someone who has been abused because they can present with such a range of different problems. The system first likes to put people in a category and then they treat all people in that category the same. I have had clients come to me with every label under the sun – and what it really meant was they were hurting and doing their best to survive. This can make treatment lengthy and with limited effect, because when you treat one symptom in one category, the other one remains.

I can help you move on from sexual abuse and live a happy, fulfilling life

I don’t need labels. And I don’t need to take years. Within 2-3 sessions you can be a very different person – the person you were always meant to be before someone forced you into hiding during childhood.

I don’t say this because I know what you are going through. Yes, I experienced sexual abuse, but that’s not relevant to our work. What is relevant is that I have healed from being abused and I am happy in my life. What is relevant is that I have used what I learnt from my own journey to help others, and seen the most amazing transformations. I wasn’t ready before to declare myself a specialist in this area. I wasn’t far enough in my own journey and I hadn’t seen enough people transform. But I am comfortable now, with everything that happened to me. The meaning has gone. The pain has gone. And I have helped so many people, that I just want to help more. I love seeing my clients flourish and live the lives they want to live.

I know it’s hard. It’s hard when you hate yourself to do anything for yourself. But you’re here and you’re reading this so there is a part of you that is still fighting. Maybe this year is the right time for that part to reach out to me, and let me help you. I would be honoured if you would let me.

Remember, I do sessions on Skype, Facetime and in Dundee and Aberdeen. There is no reason not to reach out. Maybe, just maybe, I can help.

Email dawn@thinkitchangeit.com to begin our journey together.

George Michael – a place in my childhood

When Bowie died, people felt that they had lost someone who played a big part in their childhood. He wasn’t really a part of mine so it didn’t affect me in the same way.

Then yesterday I head that George Michael had died.

Once more I was 12 years old, sitting in my bedroom. A single bed was in the corner. At the end was a Narnia style wardrobe that I often climbed into desperately wishing that the back would open into another world. Needless to say, it never did. I used to hide Christmas presents in there – cheap marshmallows and cheap chocolate, that I would then eat, and have to buy more.

On the opposite wall to the bed and the wardrobe was a dresser. On it sat a small horizontal tape recorder that I used to record the chart show on a Sunday and to record silly voices. You had to hold down the play and record button at the same time to record, and I often got it wrong, missing something important.

The wallpaper was a bit rubbish but that didn’t matter, because I got Smash Hits magazine and stuck the posters all over the wall

Wham were my favourite band, and specifically George Michael. My bed is in that corner and their posters were right next to my bed. This is probably typical of any teenager in the 80’s. We used Smash Hits for posters and lyrics. Duran Duran, East 17, Wham and many others were idolised and the source of many a young girls obsession and fantasies.

So when I heard about George Michael’s death it took me back to that room, to that bed in the corner, to the memories of the person I fancied most in the 80’s, to kissing his poster…and to being abused…in that same bed…in that same corner…with a wardrobe at the end of the bed I wanted to escape into.

The 80’s to me was a story of parallel lives. The life of a normal teenager, into bands like Wham, into wearing bright pink plastic jewellery and leg warmers, and the life of an abused child; scared at home, being emotionally abused and punished through the day, and never knowing what the night would bring.

Songs are powerful. People are powerful. They root in our subconscious and move us around time. As Maya Angelou said, people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

RIP George Michael.