I really hoped to post again a lot sooner but since sharing my story the reactions and responses from those around me have been truly been overwhelming. It really has been a lot to get my head around, having blamed myself for so long and believing it was all my fault i began to imagine negative responses from those I told. Having everyone be so supportive of me is the most amazing feeling in the world. It really has taught me the importance of being on top of your emotional well being. I have done so much reflecting over the past few weeks which has really opend up my eyes to how important it is to trust your self and your feelings and to not waste time worrying about what others may think of you. No matter who we have around us we are the only ones living our life’s and we deserve to live it for ourselves and not for the acceptance of others. Love life and love yourself everyone deserves a chance to.
For the past 13 years I have hated myself, lived with so much anxiety about the world, so much fear about outcomes, questioned every persons intentions and have never even realised how bad it got until I felt like I couldn’t cope with life anymore. At times I would think of it as a battle ground and it was me against the world. As a child I was so vulnerable to the world and all the bad things in it, like all children are. I grew up in a great family had everything I needed. Then one random night. I had my innocence taken away from me. I was 14 years old.
I ended up in a situation that I was not comfortable with. I was out till pretty late one evening and as a typical teenager I didn’t want to go home as I was worried about getting in to trouble. There was a guy there who I kind of liked at the time, he was 17 and he said I could go back to his house and sleep and he would drop me home in the morning. He was a few years older so I trusted him, he made me feel comfortable and I felt safe initially. I went back and his friend came with us, he was around 17-18. We never ended up going back to his house and instead it was his friend’s house who was about 19-20 at the time.
So there I was with three older men I remember feeling intimidated and nervous. But it wasn’t like that at the beginning, they seemed cool I thought we were going to chill watch TV or a DVD and probably fall asleep and go home in the morning. In the beginning we were just chilling talking, they then started giving me some alcohol and I felt pressured to drink it. That was the first time I had ever drank alcohol, I remember them pouring clear spirits into my plastic cup and encouraging me to drink up. It wasn’t too long before they were to close for comfort touching me and telling me they “wanted me”. We all ended up having sex. The guy I initially liked and trusted picked up a camera and started taking pictures, he said it will only ever stay between us and he wanted something to remember the night by. Around 3-4 pictures were taken. I was never comfortable with that and for so long I blamed myself, for not saying no, for being in that situation I actually believed I asked for it.
I had never had a lot of sexual experience before that night it was very difficult to make sense of it. It’s not until last year with the support of a counsellor that I was even able to speak about what happened to me. It was the first time I ever spoke about it; the first time I processed it. I had never said one word to my friends and family before, despite them being aware of things happening. It was something we just never spoke about but was always there. Instead I suffered in silence while it had a detrimental effect on my mental health. I learnt how to dissociate myself from my reality over the years. Dissociation is a way of the mind coping when under too much stress it’s considered a survival skill when experiencing a traumatic event. But as I mentioned before it manifested in the way I felt about myself, feeling down, worthless, persistently paranoid and anxious.
I remember going home that night about 5am in the morning after they were done with me, petrified about what I was going to tell my parents. At 14, I didn’t even have the vocabulary to explain that event. I got to my front door and couldn’t go in; I couldn’t look my parents in the face so soon after. I was consumed by so much shame and guilt. My parents had a caravan parked on the drive way the door was open so I slept in there until it was a good time to go in the house. I recall laying there staring at the celling feeling so confused as to what happened and what it meant, I remember thinking to myself I must have enjoyed it, I never asked them to stop, I drank the drink they gave me and I never took the camera off them. I felt so disgusted in myself, I never told anybody about it I just wanted to forget about it and move on. But I couldn’t. A short time later I started getting phone calls from the guy I liked originally, at first he would act like he liked me and use that against me. When he realised his manipulation wasn’t working, he started getting nasty and the blackmail followed. Him and his friends hauled me for months, if not years, they abused me not only sexually but emotionally and physically, it became a vicious circle.
The more I tried to handle it on my own the worse it became. Guys started gathering outside my school gates on a regular basis, just turning up asking for me. Blackmailing me and taking me to a quiet places where they would want sexual favours in return for not showing the pictures to anyone. I would get random calls on both my mobile and house phone forcing me to come out and meet them, while they waited at the bottom of my road. There were times when they threated to hurt my family or they would say they had copies of the photos on them, as a way of getting me to meet them. They would hauled me on MSN messenger by bullying and threating me – getting me to take pictures of myself, as they justified what they were doing by telling me this is what I wanted. They just creeped up in every part of my life.
I thought I was doing everything I could to stop anyone from finding out by keeping quiet. I didn’t want to make my friends and family feel ashamed of me, I felt like I had let everyone down enough. Not confiding in anybody I feel pushed me further away from my loved ones. At the time I was living a double lifestyle, to my friends and family everything was fine and no matter how hard it got I always kept a smile on my face when inside I was broken. I used to think to myself how can this be happening. How could someone be so cruel and nasty, not once did they consider how I felt, they just made me feel so worthless to the point I believed it. Every time I stood up for myself, they would just knock me back down again.
At times they would get real nasty, they would tell me no one would believe what I said about them and make me believe that everyone would be ashamed of me if the photos came out, I felt I had to continue doing what I did or I would end up alone. They would make comments about my physical appearance or even get physical. I even became anxious to walk the street, guys from that particular group would just approach me and expect me to go with them. It went on for so long that I became so disconnected from my body I never got the chance to learn how to love and respect it. I felt as if it belonged to them, I was just lifeless doing what I could to survive.
When I thought things couldn’t get any worse they posted the pictures online for the world to see. I felt I had no control and I was just sinking and sinking. My school found out about the pictures and they notified the police because of the content of the pictures and my age. The crazy thing is I still continued to protect them by refusing to speak up. I was in so much denial about it. I was protecting myself from the fear and pain of events which I wasn’t ready to accept. Once the photos had been put out there, it ruined my life I would get recognised on the street, at parties, people would make various comments or have certain expectations of me. I never got a chance to ever really be myself growing up I always felt so dirty and undeserving deep down that at times was confirmed by the reactions of others. Forming new relationships has always been a struggle for me because I was introduced to some very dark ones at such a young age.
Looking back I wish I spoke to someone that I trusted not speaking really has had a huge influence over my quality of life. Coping with depression, anxiety and PTSD has always been a struggle for me and it’s only since becoming more accepting and open about what happened to me as a child, I now understand that they are all a response to my trauma and I am able to deal with it a lot better. No one should have to suffer in silence, while talking may not work for everybody, it is important for people to recognise that being able to express themselves in a safe environment will give you them the courage to process and deal with their trauma.
I cannot believe I’m finally doing this such a big step and it feels amazing. I really hope to touch and inspire others with this. I will be positing regular posts around mental health and my experiences and also positive coping strategies.