‘You Dropped My Case But That Did Not Drop My Trauma: A Reflection On My Experiences’
I can remember how it felt to finally tell someone, I was only 9 but it was still a huge secret I had been keeping in for years. We had a ChildLine assembly at my primary school and I realised that what had happened wasn’t normal and that I needed to tell someone, so I told my teacher.
I went through countless police interviews and my mum cried a lot, it took 2 years of this before we could get a court date, it felt like forever. A week before the date we went to tour the court so I felt comfortable on the day, the man in reception gave me sweets and they asked if I wanted the judge to wear a wig, I was shown the room I would be in appearing via video so I felt safe and I can remember feeling relieved that this would be all over soon. A few nights before we were supposed to go, mum called me downstairs crying and told me the police had dropped the case due to insufficient evidence as I had waited years to say anything and it would be my word against his, by this point I was 11.
I felt angry and disappointed like my world had been ruined and I had upset my mum for nothing. When things like this happen you start to doubt yourself, did I not deserve the justice I was promised? Why did I sit through hours and hours of going over the same things, unlocking memories I didn’t want to relive and telling strangers the secrets I had been keeping for years all for nothing? It’s taken me a very long time to learn I did the right thing, although the outcome wasn’t one I’d hoped for it wasn’t all for nothing and I am more than the bad things that happened to me.
I struggled a lot throughout secondary school. I used unhealthy coping mechanisms such as self-harm, I had a lot of anger in me that would come out towards my peers, teachers and parents. I never felt the same as anyone else, like I didn’t fit in with any friendship group I was in and that my future was a dull one. Besides all of that I had massive control issues and would lose it if things didn’t go my way, I was either upset or angry 99% of the time and I hated the way I acted and felt but couldn’t help it.
Now, that all sounds pretty negative however it’s all valid and these things need to be spoken about. We are conditioned to only speak about the positives, only show our best selves and hide away anything that could make us seem different or less than. I believe this is a huge contributing factor to rape culture and the ‘suffer in silence’ mentality. Everyone deals with things differently, and it’s hard to know what’s normal in recovery when sexual abuse is still largely a taboo subject.
My experiences weren’t positive ones, I still deal with what I went through every day, I’m still learning how to manage strong emotions and intrusive thoughts but that is okay. We don’t need to be happy all the time, our feelings are valid and repressing them will most likely make things worse. I think one of the most damaging mentalities that gets pushed on sexual assault and violence survivors is that it’s something you need to pretend never happened and you should never talk about it. How are we supposed to heal and grow as people if we don’t allow ourselves to feel what we need to feel and overcome these feelings?
As I have grown to better understand my brain, mental health and why I am the way I am, one of the things that sticks out to me the most is that I spent way more time trying to act like I was okay than I did trying to overcome my problems and really be okay. I think this stems from this idea that you need to put on a brave face and act fine no matter what you’re going through. Working through your trauma isn’t an easy process, there are no quick fixes, and it might take time but that’s completely okay.
I still deal with my trauma, I have nightmares that sometimes make me not want to sleep, I get anxious in certain situations and I get days where my emotions feel as though they’re too much - the difference now is I acknowledge these feelings, work through them and let them pass. I’ve come to learn that it is okay to need help and to ask for it and it’s okay to have bad days.
One piece of advice I have for survivors of sexual violence is to let yourself feel what you need to feel. You’re valid, your emotions are valid and your healing journey is valid. Healing is not linear, there may be times you think you’re over something and it comes back and knocks you off your feet. Other times you might surprise yourself and work through something quicker than you thought you would. Everyone deals with things differently, give yourself credit, you’re a survivor and you’re strong!
Don’t suffer in silence, speak up, find resources that can help you and take things at your own pace. We deserve to be listened to, believed, and helped where we need it. Our experiences don’t define us, we are so much more than that.
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