I never quite realised how much I hated that word until recently. It is one that implies a sense of helplessness, weakness and a subjection to some sort of misfortunate event out of one’s control. However, on commencing a series of emotional support sessions with sarac, that is what I was; not yet a survivor, but a victim of sexual abuse and rape. The only problem for me with that word was that my attacker left me feeling that it should have been within my control, that I should have stopped it and that because I didn’t, I was to blame for my own plight. However, thanks to local organisation Sarac, I am now able to see things exactly as they are; my physiological reaction to the situation was out of my control and like ALL victims, it was NEVER my fault.
What you are possibly thinking to yourself now is what many people think when they are told by someone that they were raped and/or sexually abused – “what happened?” To me this is no longer a focus or a question of importance. I have focussed way too much of my time and energy on every little detail, rather than directing my attention on what really matters to me, which is how it left me feeling and how I could possibly move away from the dark place I was in and progress with my life.
I carried the weight of what had happened to me for so long on my own. It was only when having built trust with a private counsellor that I began to take small steps in opening up for the first time. However, having been left with little to no trust of humans, this was no easy task. Talking meant that I had nightmares and flashbacks that became really intense. I felt unable to go to work and came out of a well paid job. I showered several times a day, was physically sick and had a series of blackouts from my anxiety levels. I felt frightened and disgusting and other than relying heavily upon my counsellor who I felt was the only person I could talk to, it was an extremely lonely time.
My counsellor recognised the need to signpost me to specialist organisations; the closest to me being Sarac. The difficult thing for me was opening up all over again with someone new, but I could see from the first meeting with Sarac, they were so well equipped in dealing with what I was facing.
Sarac were tremendously valuable in every step of my journey. They discussed my readiness for specialist counselling at the start, helped me to talk about and face the trauma head-on and provided me with the knowledge to make my own informed decisions about whether to report my attacker. Also, importantly they helped me to recognise my own vulnerability and equipped me with the tools to address this in order for me to feel trusting of others, much stronger in facing day-to-day life and to ultimately become a survivor; not a victim.
Having finished my sessions with Sarac,at least for the time being, I am proud of the huge progress I have made, but so very grateful to them for often working tirelessly to give me the support I needed to recover. I also know that they are always there. Part of my recovery was being able to see things realistically and I know that while it is impossible to forget, I can put what happened to me to one side in order to move on with life, but that also means that there may be times where I might need to seek help in the future. The difference now is that I am very aware of things that may trigger my need for help and I am able to trust and speak with the people closest to me so that I can seek their support if needed.
If you’re reading this and have been affected by rape and/or sexual abuse, I want you to know it is not your fault and you are never alone. There are people who care and want to help and I hope you can find the strength within you to give Sarac a call. It is daunting picking up the phone, but words cannot do justice to explain how worthwhile it has been for me. I feel so fortunate to have had the one to one support. I have had the time and a safe space to talk all the staff and volunteers are incredibly knowledgeable and experienced in this field. Moreover and importantly for me, I haven’t had any pressure placed on me to do anything I didn’t want to do and I have not been judged; only listened to and guided when needed and I would not be where I am today without their support.