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Personal Stories About Rape

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IMPORTANT WARNING:  This page details different women's accounts of rape. If you have been a victim of rape, these may be very difficult to read and may trigger memories of your experience. Please read with caution.
 
 
 
When Date Rape Drugs Are Used
 
When I graduated from The University of Georgia, I got a great job in downtown Atlanta. I was happy-really happy. I knew a lot of people in the area and was beginning to enjoy my newfound freedom, complete with a steady paycheck.

I have always been the type of person who does the right thing. For instance, I went to UGA, kept the HOPE Scholarship all four years, worked part-time and even volunteered at Safe Campuses Now. I was never in trouble and always careful and aware, remembering everything that I learned at SCN. I knew the stats: one out of eight women will be raped while in college. I read the articles about date rape. I know what coudl happen.

But I knew that this stuff would never happen to me. I was too careful and I was too smart. But, I soon found out that these things can happen and they happened to me.

I met a girl in my office, Sarah, who was close to my age and new to the city. We started hanging out and I introduced her to several of my friends. One day, she asked me to go to Lenox Square Mall and grab some dinner after work. I agreed.

After a few hours of shopping, we sat down at a fairly nice restaurant in the mall. I ordered a glass of wine and Sarah had a green-apple martini. Throughout the meal, I noticed that she wasn't drinking very much of her martini. I shrugged it off and figured she wasn't much in the mood. I, however, ordered another glass of wine, which would make two glasses in three hours. Normally, this would have little effect on me, but this night it did. I don't remember leaving the restaurant.

The next thing I knew, I was face down on a hotel bed, nude and alone. The room was in total disarray. I had no idea where I was. The last thing I remembered was being at the restaurant. I slowly got off the bed and started to look for my clothes. It was like a dream. I felt like I was under water. I found most of my clothes in a pile by the door. I looked for my purse to find my cell phone, but whom would I call? My parents would be furious and I couldn't tell my new boss what happened. I didn't even know what happened. But, I had to call someone. Then, it all started to sink in and my head became clear. It did happen to me.

I found my purse in the bathroom, reached for my cell phone and called my mom.

She had called my office that morning looking for me. In fact, everyone at the office was looking for me. My mom asked me where I was, and all I could say was, "Mom, I don't know."

I screamed into the phone and started to cry. It was all becoming clear. I had become a statistic over night and my life would never be the same.

My mom did her best to calm me down and coached me through this horrible situation. After I discovered that the telephone in the room had been disconnected, I ran down the hall knocking on every door I passed. One woman heard me and opened her door. She gave me the hotel address and I repeated to my mom. She immediately hung up with me and called the police. At this point, I sat down in hallway and cried. I wanted desperately for all of this to be a dream, but it wasn't.

Soon, the police arrived and I was taken into another room for a physical evaluation. I had bumps and bruises on my neck and my back. I was then taken to the Woman's Clinic at Grady Hospital for a complete rape physical. My parents were extremely supportive through all of this. They kept telling me that it wasn't my fault and that I did nothing wrong. They were right. I didn't do anything wrong. I was a mere victim of a horrible crime.

Later, it was determined that I had been drugged and Sarah knew where I was the whole time. In fact, she took me to the hotel and left me with two men that we had apparently met at another restaurant; I didn't remember. Sarah assumed that I would be safe and that I just needed to sleep it off. Sarah was wrong.

I share my story because I want people to know that this kind of thing does happen and it is happening to people like you and me. Although I wanted to tell my story to help others, I am finding that sharing my story helps me more than I ever thought it would.

If rape happens to you or someone you know, please remember that there is help available. But you have to ask for it. It would have been so easy for me to quietly get dressed, find my car and go home as if nothing had ever happened. The scary thing is that I thought of doing just that. Telling my mon, calling the police, facing what happened to me was the most difficult thing I have ever done. I am seeing a therapist to deal with the anxiety and fear that come along with being victimized. Everyday I get stronger. And I have people I trust who are there to help me when I need a shoulder to lean on.

Today, I am learning how to live life as a rape survivor knowing I did nothing wrong. I might have been a victim, but I am also a survivor.
 
 
From Victim To Survivor
 
There is a common saying that time is a great healer. Sometimes it is hard to believe that there will come a day when i won't relive at least once a day the morning i was raped. I look forward to the time when i don't shudder and cringe as something happens to trigger off yet another painful memory.

It is now 17 weeks since i was raped. Although i am a lot stronger than i was, i feel as though i will never again be the same person that i was before it happened. I will be older, wiser, less trusting, more aware, but much more importantly i will be free of "victim status". I am a survivor!

I would like to share my feelings, worries, thoughts and experiences of the last few months with you. Maybe you know someone who is going through a similar thing, maybe it is you that is going through it now, or maybe you are just interested in knowing how it feels, whatever the reasons, i hope that it will be of some help. This may be very upsetting for some people, and may be a trigger for others. It was not my intention to do either.

At first it was hard to believe that it was me that had been raped. I tried to put it to the back of my mind. If i didn't think about it it couldn't have happened. I realised afterwards this is a common reaction. I was in denial. I was scared that once i admitted to myself that i had been raped it would open a flood gate that would threaten to drown me in a sea of emotion, distress and fear. I wasn't ready for that, not yet.

So, i carried on as best i could. Each day i woke up not knowing what to expect. I was on an emotional rollercoaster. I could be feeling good one minute and in the depths of depression the next. I cried a lot. It was like a grieving process. I was crying for something i had lost. I became very withdrawn, not wanting to have to talk to anyone, or see anyone. I was scared to go out in case i saw him in the street. When the phone rang i was scared to answer it in case it was him. I couldn't trust anyone any more, i didn't feel able to. After all i had trusted him and that trust was betrayed so badly. I didn't have any faith in my judgement any more. My self confidence was at an all time low. I still felt dirty, ashamed and was still blaming myself for what had happened. I didn't really care about how i looked, i needed the comfort of familiar clothes, so tended to wear the same things day in day out.

One day i woke up and felt so positive. I had decided it was high time i went back to work, after all it was now a couple of months since it happened and maybe it was becuase my mind wasn't active enough that i was feeling so down. So i went back to a stressful, full time job. I lasted about a week. I tried so hard to concentrate, but the pressure of the job itself as well as looking after 3 kids (i am a single mum), juggling after school care for the youngest, and all the other 101 things a mum is expected to do took it's toll. I couldn't do it. i was a failure.

It was at this stage i started counselling. My local victim support had been really good, helping me deal with the police, supporting me when i asked for help, which i now realise should have been a lot more often than i ever did. They arranged the counselling. Gently i was taken back over what had happened. Most of the time i found other things to talk about. My counsellor told me that i would know when the time was right for me to explore what had happened. It took me quite a number of weeks before i felt i could trust her enough to start opening up and even then it was mostly about what had happened within my friendship with the man who raped me, not about the rape itself.

I can't remember what was said to trigger my first major flashback. One minute i was sitting quietly talking, the next i was transported to the middle of the actual rape. I was there reliving it second by second. It was so very real, i could feel what was happening, hear what was being said i was unaware of anyone or anything other than what i was being subjected to yet again. I could feel the panic, i couldn't breathe, i struggled, i wanted to escape but i didn't know how. I was going crazy. I wanted to shout and scream for help. I wanted someone to drag me out of this horrendous nightmare. I didn't want to be here. I was enveloped totally once again by the events of that morning. It was really happening again. I was trapped deep in the grip of my tortured mind unable to move, paralysed with fear. I could smell him, feel him, hear him as he violated me, abused me, debased me with his actions, his words. How could this be happening again? I was frightened, i didn't know what to do to make it stop. I could hear someone screaming was it me? I couldn't go any further, i had gone far enough, i needed to get out. I could feel someone stroking my face, feel comforting arms around me and a gentle voice telling me it was ok that i was safe. It was my voice that was screaming for help, it was me that was sobbing, shaking uncontrolably, it was me that had been raped, it was really me. I came out of what i was to learn was a flashabck. I was totally disorientated, dazed, unsure of what had happened, what i had said or done. I felt confused. I cried for a while afterwards, not the hard heavy sobs that wracked my whole body while i was experiencing the rape, but the gentle tears that heal and mend. The tears of relief.

That flashaback was the first of many. I had no control over when and where they happened, and i was never really sure what would trigger them. They didn't get any easier but at least i knew i had the ability to escape during them. I wasn't going to get stuck in some kind of time warp constantly reliving that awful morning. But i found out that they are a way of dealing with a really dreadful event that had happened, Post Traumatic Shock Syndrome is the official name given to these symptoms i was experiencing.

It got to the stage that the flashbacks were becoming more and more intense. Sometimes i would scream, flinch, struggle, sob, cry, shake violently, reacting the way i had no doubt reacted that morning. As they became more frequent i was starting to talk while i was having them, begging my attacker to stop and pleading for him not to hurt me, crying out in agony as he hurt me more, sobbing while he took no notice of my cries of "no please no more". I was vocalising many of the things that i had shouted at him in my head whilst he was violating me, unable to at the time through sheer fear. I was releasing memories that i had pushed deep into my subconscious because of the pain and fear i knew i would expereince when i eventually let them bubble back to the surface again. The time had to be right for me to face those fears and the reality that i had been raped.

It's been a long slow painful struggle. The flashbacks don't frighten me as much as they did at first. I know i can escape from them, i know i won't be stuck there forever in limbo. Now they are gentler. I have relived the whole rape via flashbacks. The ones i have now are quieter. I can have a flashback and no one even realises it. I am calmer, although still dazed and disorientated afterwards, not unlike waking up from a deep sleep where you were having a very lifelike dream. It is hard at first to tell reality from dream. Often i will cry, sometimes hard, sometimes gently. I have learnt not to suppress them any more but to let them come, and go with them instead of fightimg them. They are a part of the healing process.

I know i still have a long way to go, but i am not as impatient as i was. Instead of setting myself a time limit and high expectations of myself to get better like i would with a physical illness i am letting my body and mind dictate the pace of recovery. There are no set time limits to this kind of healing. Everyone deals with it in their own way and in their own time. Now i seem to have settled into a pattern of a few good days and a couple of not so good ones. But, the good ones are slowly out numbering the bad ones. Each day i am growing stronger and more positive. I am starting to regain some of the confidence i was lacking. I am trying hard to overcome the inertia, and take a pride in my appearance again.

I still find it hard to go out, that is a real effort. It is much easier to hide myself away. I am still scared of meeting my attacker face to face, so i avoid areas i know he frequents. I don't like crowds of people any more. Shopping in busy supermarkets is a nightmare, so is visiting a major town on a Saturday. Strangers jostling around me, invading my space makes me panic. I feel myself growing tense and my hands getting clammy. It is easier to cope with if you know that this is a natural reaction. I still need reasurance all of the time that how i feel about things is ok, that my thoughts and reactions are not those of a crazed demented mad woman. I find myself unable to trust many people, and those that i do have had to earn it. I know there is only one person that i feel i can trust totally any more and i find myself even questioning that trust at odd times. Times when i question His actions or what He has said, critical of my own judgement. I tend to take a lot of things out of context. Some innocent remark is suddenly an indication that i am different, that i don't belong, that people are plotting against me. My imagination and paranoia run riot. I need to then take a step back wards and look at what was said realistically, then i realise sometimes, other times i need help, that it is all part of the lack of trust i feel for people. But that is ok. It is all part of the healing process, all part of the Post traumatic stress, and in time it will get better.

A Letter To My Rapist

Dear J**

I have often wondered if over the last 5 months you have come to terms with what you did to me. I know i haven't. I wonder if your memory has conveniently deceived you into believing you didn't rape me. It's strange how at first, up till about 9-10 hours afterwards you admitted to yourself the truth that what you did that morning was without my consent, was in fact that you had raped me. You even volunteered to go to the police and confess. No-one who is innocent would do that!

You told me in black and white you felt like an "ugly sadistic rapist" and that if it hadn't been for circumstances you would have ended your life. Can you in all honesty tell me that someone who had done nothing wrong would have such feelings? You say it was because i was so upset afterwards that led you to believe you had raped me. Why was i so upset? Would i have been so upset if i had just had regular consentual sex with you? It's time you faced the fact that what you did that morning was totally without my consent. You raped me!

Can you remeber the summer break when you had no money because your grant had run out? Who was it that made sure you had regular meals, washed your clothes, let you use my phone, my house like it was your own, who took your daughter out for a birthday treat as you didn't drive, even gave you money for train fares and so that you could go to the pub with your friends? You knew i was struggling to make ends meet. You knew i was living on state benefits, and yet still you took from me. It was me that went without to make sure my kids didn't. I was the one who made your miserable life comfortable. It was me that cared for you like i do for everyone. God i was so foolish.

No wonder you reacted so violently when i rejected you. Your cosy way of life was under threat. You could see it all slipping away. You had tried to use all the ways you knew to hang on to me.

You didn't like it when you were excluded form other parts of my life. You wanted to have control over who i was friends with, that way you could vet them and make sure they weren't going to be a threat to you and your new found way of life. When my friend came to stay for a week, you tried all the ways you could invent to phone, mail or even visit me. You even stooped so low as to threaten suicide knowing that my very nature would mean i could not ignore such threats, even if they were just a ploy. You knew exactly which emotional buttons to press.

But none of them were working. You knew i had met someone else, someone who i cared about. Hell i even told you about him. But you tried to block it out. You wouldn't listen to me, you couldn't accept the fact that my attentions were now being taken away from you. Instead you tried all the ways you knew to hang on. Taking advantage of my "niceness", knowing how hard i found it to deal with you when you broke down and cried in front of me, with you pleading with me, with you telling me you couldn't live without me, while you manipulated my feelings and emotions.

All you could really see was that i was no longer interested in you as a person. You were having to take a back seat while i devoted my attention to someone else. You couldn't take it. You had to do something. Everything else had failed. It was time for something more drastic.

You knew all of my secrets. I had found it so easy to talk to you. You found me when i was vunerable, having just escaped from an abusive marriage. I was struggling with 3 children, a new way of life and all the finacial and emotional difficulties it brought with it. There you were, someone i could lean on a while to ease the emotional burden. Someone i could share things with, someone i could hold onto when things got tough. You were so strong then. I was so convinved that you were a good person, someone i could trust, and i did.

Little did i know then how you would abuse that trust, and how you would in turn use it against me to emotionally blackmail me into doing what you wanted.

You knew my interests. You knew too that it was not the kind of thing that i would want everyone to know about. Not because i was doing anything wrong or anything i was ashamed of, but because of the way the gutter press portrayed things, and the implications that went with it. You knew about my past, and all of the hurt and pain that i had gone through in my childhood.

You had to prove somehow that you could be everything i needed. That way you could ensure that i would not need anyone else. In trying do do this you delved deep into your twisted mind.

I say twisted because that is the only way i can describe the fantasy that you relived that morning whilst you were raping me. You actually believed you were the nazi officer and i was actually the poor defensless jewish woman you were raping. You took over the whole persona. You were indeed who your sick mind led you to believe you were. Your eyes were crazed as you took great delight in describing what you were doing and why. You were him. You were that nazi officer that morning. Even your voice changed.

I was scared. Scared becuase you were no longer the person i knew. It would have been bad enough just to have had regular sex without consent, but this was something else. It was like you had gone crazy. You couldn't tell reality from your fantasy. I was the one listening to what you were saying, i was the one who was there who was having these things done to her, i was the one in the real world. You were lost in your imaginary world. A world were you could take what you wanted knowing that there was no comeback, after all i was just a jewish slut, someone to use and abuse, it was your right. You status empowered you to do anything you wanted to, to force me to do everything you wanted, to threaten my family, my children if i didn't do what you wanted. Oh the power. You revelled in it. Now you wonder why i didn't struggle, why i didn't scream out for help. You were crazed, incapable of hearing me even if i had been able to say anything. Totally unaware of your surroundings. You were in nazi Germany. I was the one who was there, watching your face, seeing the arrogance, the satisfaction the hatred that you were showing towards me. The only thing was J** it wasn't some jewish woman you were raping, it was me.

Afterwards when you sat on the end of the bed with your head in your hands was the point where you came back to reality. The point where you were crying "god what have i done, what have i done" that was when you realised what you had done. That was the moment it dawned on you that you had raped me. Why else would you have asked me to forgive you? Does that sound like a man who had had consentual sex with someone? No, not in my book. J** face it, YOU RAPED ME!

Afterwards you sent me e-mails. You went through the whole range of emotional buttons. You gave me ultimatums. You threatened to take matters about my past into your own hands if i didn't do what you wanted me to do within 24 hours. You pointed out things that my ex husband would find to use against me if ever he was to find out about them. You tell me i am not allowed to talk to your friends, who also happened to be my friends. You knew that i didn't particularly want my sexuality flaunted in court. You knew all of these things and used them as a way of trying to keep me from going to the police. Afraid that people would eventually know what kind of a person you really are. You were scared that ultimately you may have to face the facts that what happend in your childhood has made you into the person you are - a rapist!

You misread me though J**. I was tired of being a victim. Tired of being the one that was used and abused. You counted on the fact that i had not done anything about my past, so i wouldn't take this any further. But how wrong you were.

I knew by your e-mails that unless i did something about what you did that you would always have an emotional hold over me. The final straw was the last mail you sent me when you admitted that you were hanging around to be spoilt even more when i did eventually get the financial settlement from my divorce.

I should have gone to the police immediately, then there would have been no doubt about your guilt. I didn't becuase as usual i was thinking about others. My daughter had an important exam the next morning, and i didn't want any disruption to her normal routine. Nothing that would upset her chances.

Part of me was in deep shock. I felt betrayed, hurt, disbelief that you could do this to me. I was scared no one would believe my story, scared that you would indeed follow up your threats, scared that if i did go to the police you would find a way of conning them like you had me.

But people do believe me. The police believed me. My friends beleive me. everytone that knows me believes me. So why can't you believe me when i say i was there, and you raped me! After all i know all about consent, and i did not give you my consent that morning.

I have kept quiet until now. I have hardly told anyone. I didn't want to jepordise the trial. But now i am free to tell my story. Free to tell the truth. I wonder how people will react when they know how you really behaved that day, how you tried to keep me quiet by veiled threats? I wonder how your friends would react if they know the truth about your fantasies? How do you think they would view you if they know that you were fantasising about things that went on in prison of war camps while raping me. One in particular trusted you too.

I have nothing to hide. I have nothing to loose. You destroyed my life. You are the one with "the pain and ugliness inside" that will "one day consume me totally" Your exact words, not mine. I am innocent. I didn't ask you to rape me. I did nothing wrong, and never have. All i did was care and trust you, and this is how you repay me, by raping me.

J** what you did was wrong. I believe you can't really remeber what you actually did do that day. That once again the demons have pushed it deep into your subconscious with a lot of the other baggage that you willingly admit you dare not face because of the consequences. But one day you are going to have to face everything. One day something will happen that will trigger off a memory of that morning, and you will relive it and see that i am indeed telling the truth about what really happened.

I don't need a lie detector test to tell me the truth, becuase i know you raped me. It is you that is uncertain. It is you that by requesting a test is admitting you can't trust your own judgements and memory. I have no such qualms. It is you that needs the test for your own sanity. You must have doubts about your behaviour otherwise why would you need a lie detector test?

Just because the CPS have dropped the case doesn't mean you didn't rape me. It just means there was not enough evidence that they could convince a jury beyond all reasonable doubt that you did rape me. I as all that know me know beyond all reasonable doubt that you did rape me, and I don't intend to stop telling people that is what you did. J** you are a rapist. You had better get used to hearing the word. It is the truth.

I have faced what you did to me that morning. It is time for you to face it too. The longer you try and hide it, to pretend it didn't happen is just putting off the inevitable. By letting it grow and fester inside of you, like the other bad things from your past it will one day totally engulf you and destroy you.

I hope that you will one day find peace and forgiveness within your soul. I for one will never forgive you for raping me.

 Six Years Later: An Anniversary to I Wish I Could Forget

Today marks the 6th anniversary of the day I was raped. The day that changed my life forever. It's been a while since I wrote anything about my life. Part of that is because I've been dealing with healing and moving on, or at least trying to.

For the most part now I'd like to think I am coping well at least with being raped. I've learnt a lot about myself, my strengths and weaknesses. I've learnt about the things that trigger memories of that day, and how to avoid them, and what to do when I do have a flashback.

I wouldn't say I've recovered, because I am not sure that you can ever recover from rape. I think you learn to accept that it happened and that it wasn't your fault. You can't go back to the person you were before it happened. It's not possible after such devastation. However you can learn to cope with it and move on with your life. You learn to gradually take control back, and for me I guess it empowered me and gave me the courage to fight for what I believed in, which was recognition and confirmation, from the powers that be, that he did rape me that day.

If you've read what I've written before about what happened to me, then you will know that the CPS decided to not prosecute him. The reasons at that time I did find hard to accept because I knew that given a chance to tell my side of things I was sure I could convince a jury to believe me. In hindsight even though I think the CPS made the wrong decision, maybe it was in my best interests at that time.

He had you see made threats in e-mails which the police had copies of downloaded from the server at the University, where he was a student. He was very manipulative, and had threatened to expose my parents, in particular my father, for his involvement in child pornography and for abusing me. I'd kept that a secret locked away deep inside of me for over 30 years, but the memories had just started to surface. Odd snatches that I had recalled and shared with him as a trusted friend, not realising that they would be used against me like he did. He threatened to expose my ex husband as an abuser, as a violent and cruel man. He threatened to expose my son's problems he'd had with drugs, which my son and I had worked so hard to deal with, and had succeeded. He threatened so much that would involve so many people, family and friends. I know now, as he probably realised then, that if these things were brought up in a court of law, many people would be exposed and hurt by it, including myself. I'm not sure I would have been strong enough to deal with it.

I mentioned a history of child abuse. It was the rape that unlocked the doors on the deepest part of my subconscious mind. The flashbacks and nightmares of the rape combined with snippets of images from my childhood. Terrifying for me and for those around me who witnessed the horror as I relived the memories day in day out.

I went for counselling for the rape. I learnt to cope with the flashbacks from that. I eventually managed to talk openly about that day, and about what he subjected me to.

I've talked before about his sick fantasies, but not in any great detail. It was the mental images he conjured up with the words. The jewish woman in a concentration camp. Being tortured and raped by her captives. Being treated like filth, mind and body subjected to vile acts without any concern for the pain or the degredation she was going through. I was that woman. He was that captor. He threatened me with a knife, threatened the lives of my children. How is anyone ever supposed to rid themselves of those images, of the pain and terror? You can't. Time makes them easier to deal with, but they resurface time and time again. You just learn how to cope with them. It seems ironic that the day after my rape in this way, became a memorial day to those who perished in the Holocaust. So, every year I am reminded of the way in which I was raped. I can't escape it even if I wanted to.

I mentioned that the CPS didn't proceed with my case. That didn't stop me proceeding with Criminal Injuries Compensation. That sounds like I wanted to gain monetarily from the experience. That wasn't the case. No amount of money could ever compensate for what he did to me and the damage he caused me both psychologically or physically. In my case it was about being believed, about being able to tell my story and know that on record he was guilty of raping me.

It was a long hard struggle. The case like most I've come across who've been raped was rejected twice. It went to appeal and then eventually to tribunal 4 years after the rape in August 2002. The tribunal was cancelled once because of the Queen Mothers death earlier in the year.

I'd worked hard to gather evidence and statements from people close to me, including my children. The evidence bundle was a real eye opener. For the first time I was allowed to read the man who raped me's police statements. I couldn't believe the lies and deceit he had got away with. Everything had been twisted and manipulated into a version of events about my life and friendship with him that bore no resemblance to what I had experienced. He was a con man through and through.

I was advised by a friend who had been through a tribunal similar to this, to find a lawyer to help sort through the evidence bundle and find the gaps where more evidence was needed to help my case. I used the same firm she had herself used. I was grateful for the advice. The lawyer appointed a barrister who accompanied me to the tribunal.

When I was given the date for the tribunal I had to contact the witnesses who had willingly given character statements and evidence on my behalf which had been included in the evidence bundle. They were expected to be present to be questioned. The guy who I had been in a relationship with at the time I was raped, and who had supported me while I went through flashbacks and nightmares. The person who was my prime witness decided with no reason or explanation to e-mail me out of the blue a few weeks before the tribunal to say he wasn't prepared to do it and never to contact him again. To this day I still have no idea why he made this decision. I know that it felt like a kick in the stomach. It was too late to remove his statements, and although the barrister could have applied for a court order to make him attend, I felt that if he wasn't man enough to do the right thing, then he wasn't worth the effort. I know I, nor my children will never forgive him for it.

The day of the tribunal arrived and I was terrified. I hadn't slept much in the days leading up to it despite taking the sedation offered by the GP. We arrived at the tribunal early to meet with the barrister. He ran through the format so I had some idea of what to expect. It was only then that I was told that the guy who raped me hadn't replied to the invitation to attend which was a huge relief.

The barrister accompanied me into the tribunal. It was very official, and there was only one other woman there, a retired police superintendent. One woman and 6 men. I was asked to retell my version of what happened that day. They wanted every last detail. It was hard to stay composed as I recalled that morning. The tears rolled down my face, and I had to stop several times to try and regain my composure before going on. They listened in silence. Then they fired questions at me. I felt like I was on trial. I knew I had to prove it happened. I knew it was my word against his, and that they had read all of the evidence. I felt dirty and small, made worse by some of the intimate details they asked.

After what seemed like hours, but in fact was probably less than an hour, I was told to be seated. The panel put their heads together and after just a few minutes informed me that the unanimous decision was that I had indeed been raped that morning. There was no doubt in their minds that I had spoken the truth. I couldn't stop myself, I burst into tears and started to shake uncontrollably while uttering my thank you's to them all. They didn't need anyone else to help them reach their verdict. They didn't interview my children for which I was relieved. It was bad enough that my son was the one who found me after I had been raped, but they had all been through the mill enough having to watch the constant nightmares and flashbacks.

The day I had waited for had arrived. I was believed. I was raped, and it was officially recorded. That was all I had wanted. That's what I had fought for, to stand up and tell what had really happened that morning, and to be believed. That day was the start of my real recovery.

The knowledge that I was believed was the validation I needed to take a long hard look at my life and decide where the changes needed to be made, and the problems I needed to face up to. I'd had this tribunal hanging over my life for 4 years and although I had made considerable inroads into my healing journey, the reality was that it had come to a standstill. I couldn't go any further until the tribunal was over.

During the years preceding the rape I'd had lots more memories resurface from my childhood. Slowly I had started piecing together something that seemed to make little sense. I guess I didn't want to admit that it was something that had actually happened to me. It was easier to pretend that I was making it up, or twisting the memories into something that bore no resemblance to anything I'd ever come across in child abuse survivors.

I'd already been diagnosed with PSTD (post traumatic stress disorder) and was awaiting psychotherapy. I was assessed and offered psychotherapy starting in September 2003. I knew I was ready to deal with my past, even though it left me cold and terrified of what I may find.

Now, some 4 months into it I'm slowly starting to trust my therapist enough to start exploring the dark recesses of my mind where the deepest darkest memories are stored. I've learnt a lot about myself, and how my past has shaped my life. I have recognised cycles of behaviour that need to change to make me think like an adult instead of reverting to old learnt behaviours.

I've learnt that the past can shape how we live our lives, but also that past coping skills can be relearned and redefined to deal with situations differently.

I've learned that you can trust some people, although not everyone, but it is ok to feel that way too.

I've accepted that my past abuse was not my fault and that I didn't ask or choose for it to happen. I had no control over it as a child. I've accepted that I was abused by many men in my life both physically and psychologically. I understand why I allowed myself to follow this pattern, and accept it rather than escape it.

I have a name for the abuse I suffered as a child. SRA (Satanic Ritual Abuse) Although I still live in fear of speaking out about it, I do so with the mind and body of an adult, not of a child.

I accept I have an inner family. I know I have a lot of work to do to integrate them, but I am starting to learn more about them as individuals and why certain situations make them appear.

I've learned that masks are useful in certain situations, but that it takes a lot more effort to keep them in place than it does to let people see the real me, warts and all.

I've learned it is ok to say no to people. I've learned that I am as important as they are, and so is my healing. Sometimes I need to concentrate on myself and not give all of myself to others, leaving nothing for me.

I've learned that it is ok to love and to be loved. I've learned that love is unconditional, and that no matter how hard you try to push someone away, that if they truly love you they will always be there, no matter how hard you try to destroy the relationship. They accept your past and understand the difficulties you have, and support you through the rough times as well as sharing the good.

I've learned to stand up to people who try to put me down with lies and twisted truths. I have a voice and an opinion like everyone else, and now I use it. Some people find that hard to deal with, but I've been quiet for too long against bullies and abusers I've come across in my life.

I've learned that I need to love myself and not abuse my body with violence, food, drugs or alcohol. Over eating added surplus weight which acted as physical barrier to stop anyone getting close to me. Another way of protecting myself from getting hurt emotionally or physically. Now I've recognised this I've started to do something about it. I've started looking after my health by changing the way I think about food, eating healthier and taking more exercising. It's paying off. I've lost 2 stone in 2 months and feel much fitter and healthier in the process. The self harm has stopped.

I've learned that there is a future to look forward to. I've learned that I am in charge of my own destiny, and that I can shape it, and pursue it the way I choose to do so. I don't have to just accept what life throws at me. I have choices and a say in what happens.

I've learned that there are 4 very important people in my life. My partner Mike, and my 3 children. They have supported me and helped me more than they will ever know. They have given me reasons to carry on when I've been at some very low points in my life. Points when I've contemplated ending it all. Points when I've been so desperate I couldn't see any other way out. Points when I've been wracked with flashbacks so severe and frightening I've not been able to tell what was reality and what was memory. Between them they have given me that strength to keep fighting, to keep struggling onwards and upwards.

Most of all I've learnt that there's no going back to the person I used to be before the rape. You can't go back, only forwards. It's no good dreaming about "what if's "or "if only's" It is just wasted negative energy. What happened happened, and you have to accept it and learn to move on.

I think 6 years on, that I have.