J’s Story: 1 hour/ 3 days

One hour/3 days

Before you decide to read my journey can I ask that you keep the title 1 hour/ 3 days in the back of your mind? I decided to write about my journey as a survivor of rape and sexual assault to ensure that people are aware of what happens as a result of becoming a victim. Victim, I hate that word and it is one that any woman or man who has been raped or sexually assaulted does not like to be labelled as. Survivor is the word that gives me and other people like me the strength to know and remind ourselves that we survived the horrendous assault that happened, that we are still here, still fighting, still breathing and we said NO.
We all think nothing like this could ever happen to us. We read stories in the newspapers, we say how terrible it is then we move on to something else. I was one of these people. I was a strong person who was brought up by strong parents who ensured that I knew right from wrong and who would stand up for injustice, bullying and harassment. I have a loving family, great kids and close friends who have been at my back supporting me through this journey.
I have lived my life by ensuring that I was always there to find the best in people, to encourage and listen when things were going wrong in people’s life and help where I could. I chose to become a nurse because I cared about people and I have seen the highs and lows, the best and the worst of people throughout my career. But still I love my job because I have the honour and integrity to make a small difference to people at their worst points.
So what changed you ask yourself. One hour, one hour changed my whole life, my childrens, my friends, my ability to do my job and me. It changed me, I am no longer the person I was because in that one hour someone destroyed a part of me that I will never get back. One hour. One hour.
How can your life change in an hour you must be asking yourself but trust me it did.
The year before this one hour my father passed away after a severe stroke. I lived with him and he was the patriarch of our family, a legend who impacted on everyones life. He died at home nursed by myself and my daughter surrounded by the people who loved him. My life for 5 years before this had consisted of working, looking after the kids and my dad so there was no time for relationships. A year after he died my best friend was diagnosed with terminal melanoma and she kept saying to me that I needed to meet someone nice just to go out for dinner with or to the pictures just for company. I know this was her way of trying to fill the hole she knew she would also leave in my life.
So I joined a dating site. My friend and I joked about it, read the profiles while she was in hospital for treatment, sitting together and looking to see if there were any genuine men out there who were also looking for companionship. I was not overly bothered about meeting someone but this kept our minds of what was to come for her.
One night I got a message from him. General chit chat, flirty, he liked my pictures etc and a bit of banter back and forwards. He asked if I wanted to meet and we agreed to meet after work one night it was a Wednesday and I agreed to meet in a restaurant close to the hospital as I was going to see my friend after this. When he turned up he looked rough, for people who are not Scottish rough means hungover. He was in a suit, shirt and tie as he had came from work. He was around 6 foot 1, 16 stones. (I am 5ft 1, 8 and a half stone). I am telling you this so you will understand how this happened in one hour. He was very confident, quite full of himself which he didn’t get away with from me as I could give as good as I got when it came to banter. He admitted he was hungover as he had been in a bar in the town the night before and had to book into a hotel and buy a new shirt before he went to work. This should have been a warning bell for me. But my attitude to life is live and let live, people can make their own choices of how to live their lives. But choices have consequences as I now know and I will never forget. We spoke for half an hour and that was that a peck on the cheek at my car and off we went. I was not overly interested so had no intention of contacting him, we chatted it was fine that was it.
But it wasn’t, he texted me to ask if I didn’t “fancy” him, I was laughing when I responded, told him he was okay, hungover, quite funny and I thought there may be a different side to him when he was not rough. He suggested meeting up on the Saturday to do something. I agreed and we finally agreed that I would go down to where he stayed and we would do something. I took all the precautions, my daughter and son in law had his name, phone number and address but this didn’t matter in the long run. I arrived with 2 bottles of wine for him as I was brought up to be polite if he was a woman he would have got flowers and 4 bottles of flavoured water for me as I was driving.
This is the start of my one hour. He was drunk, he had been drinking since 12.30 that day, this was 7.30 ish. When I went into his house he grabbed me and tried to kiss me hard. I was taken aback and pushed him away. He could not talk properly was being loud and was all over the place with his conversation. Straight away my mind was trying to work out how to get out of this “date”. Be polite I was telling myself. He asked if I wanted to go out and I said no as he was in no fit state to go out and I was already working out how to get away.
The lead up to the rape and sexual assault took around half an hour. Within half an hour he had me pinned to the door of his bedroom using the full force of his body against me to strip my clothes of whilst I kept saying no, no, it’s not happening. He didn’t listen, he forced me onto the bed and began to repeatedly try to penetrate me, succeeding in entering me with the head of his penis as I was trying to wriggle away and shout no, no, no!! He was crouched over me and I could not move I couldn’t get away from him. Eventually he rolled off me and pulled me up beside him and held me trapped against him with his leg over my leg. My mind was going 100 to the dozen, what do I do, how do I get out of this, how has this happened. You may think you would know what to do but trust me you don’t, your mind freezes. He started to snore gently and that’s when I thought I will wait till he is really sleeping and then I can get away. When his snores became louder that’s when I moved but I was not quick enough when I moved my leg he woke and pounced on me again. He had my left wrist pinned above my head and was trying to force himself inside me again. I was still shouting No!! When he couldn’t get his penis fully inside me he began to ram all his fingers repeatedly inside me time after time. I was trying to push myself up the bed to stop the pain and get him off. I pushed and screamed NO one last time and he rolled off me. I moved, I moved as quickly as I could, grabbed my clothes, started to dress as I was trying to get out and ran to my car.
One hour, one hour, one hour is what it took for him to rape and sexually assault me and change my life forever.
After this one hour life began on autopilot. I phoned my daughter, incoherent, a mess, not making sense and I drove to her house. I didn’t tell her and my son in law the full story at first because this was my child, I couldn’t believe what had happened and my mind was running as if on an old cinema reel the events, the rape, the sexual assault, the force of the brutality of the attack and how could this have happened to me. As I began to tell more of the circumstances I had to ask my CHILD to phone the police as I could no longer speak.
And then the next part of this horrific journey began. 2 male police officers attended. There was no way on this earth at this point could I as a female who had just been raped and sexually assaulted talk about it with a male. They offered to get a female officer which they did who was lovely and tried her best to calm me down and get more details of what had happened. I did the best I could at this point between tears, vomiting and trying to zone out and process what was happening. Then there was a debate between police forces of who would investigate the case as it had happened in a different region, this went back and forwards for god knows how long. The police force from the region where the rape and sexual assault had happened finally were in charge.
Hours had passed whilst this was going on while I was crying, howling in disbelief that this had happened to me and shock, and pure desolating shock. The person who deals with these type of crimes are called solo officers, police who are trained to deal with this type of crime and victims. On this Saturday night there was only a male solo officer on duty. So here we go again. Another male. I was asked if I wanted to continue with the solo officer or wait. Waiting is not an option when this has happened you need to get it out, you need to tell your truth, and you cannot go away and wait until the next day to relive it 24 hours later. So I went to Archway where I was met by the male solo officer and his female partner and in a room in Archway I began to give my statement to a male officer. Telling your truth is so traumatic, humiliating, shameful, disgusting and devastating I could keep going with the words to describe it. But I won’t I will just ask you to remember one hour.
I had to stop giving my statement until the rape kit was completed. By a male doctor, another man. The humiliation of having a rape kit completed cannot be put into words. As he was taking swabs and samples he was handing them to the officers who were in the room as well. As a nurse I understand the need to be clinical but whoever thought it was appropriate for a male doctor who did not have an ounce of empathy or compassion for the experience that I was going through to be suitable to carry out a rape kit has certainly never been subjected to what took place and the manner in which it was carried out. If it had not been for the female nurse I do not know how I would have got through it. As I was lying there with my feet in stirrups a text message came through from him at 4.15am saying, “I woke up to 4 bottles of water how nice”. One hour, one hour.
After the rape kit had been completed I continued with my statement and finished giving this at 7am in the morning. One hour. Then they talk to you about sexually transmitted diseases and HIV and Hepatitis C. Your mind freezes again. A week later you go to a different clinic to have swabs taken for sexually transmitted diseases but I could not even undress in front of the nurse or allow them near me, so you end up in the bathroom of the clinic taking the vaginal swabs yourself because you cannot let anyone near you. Sitting in the bathroom crying, hyperventilating and trying to get through your head how did this happen to me. There are no answers in your head just a hurricane in your mind. Blood tests were taken by the GP and then you wait and wait for the results adding to the trauma inside your head. Luckily for me I was clear.
On the next part of the journey, you exist that’s probably the only way to put it. But then the physical signs, the bruising on you appears as a constant reminder of what happened until the bruises eventually fade. Yes physical symptoms fade and heal but unfortunately the mental trauma doesn’t. So what do you do? You continue to put one foot in front of the other. You talk to police again when they want to talk to you and you exist. Then you are called for an identification parade. I had spent days trying to put his face out of my mind, days and sleepless nights trying to shut the box. It doesn’t work. So again, 2 male police officers and his male representative in a small claustrophobic room. 3 men and me, just me, alone, traumatised and terrified. They took me through their speech of how the identification process works. Do they really think you are taking this in, do they not realise you are in a room with 3 strange men, one standing in front of the door, your only escape route. No they didn’t think or maybe they just didn’t care, empathy, compassion, understanding were not in that room again that day. So when they go through the video pictures and it gets to his face that was it for me the panic, the tears, the feeling of needing to get away. I got out of my chair as I was so distressed, couldn’t breathe and had to get away. Did they care? No is the answer to that question, one of the officers blocked the door while I tried to get out while the other one kept saying I had to look at the other pictures even though I had clearly identified him. I was forced to sit and look at the rest of the pictures trapped in that room with 3 strange men. All men again. When they eventually let me go I was in bits all over again. But that didn’t really matter to anyone I was just a statistic to them. But not to my child who had taken me there. I want to stress the importance of my child because when a mother, sister, daughter, cousin, friend is raped and sexually assaulted it is not only the survivor who suffers it is their extended circle who try so hard to be strong and there for you even when you push them away. But the thing is this should never have happened to me but also to them because they suffer too and that does not go away because the impact of rape and sexual assault on a person and the people they love changes everything in their lives and they all have to learn to recover and move forward.
Did I recover I’m sure you are asking yourself and simply put the answer is no. After all the police interviews then the waiting game begins. The judicial system then has up to 10 months to see if there is enough evidence to take the case to prosecution. In those 10 months he was out on bail even though the law looks on this as a serious crime. I changed my car after a month and moved to a different town because even though the police assured me there was a protection order out and he could not come anywhere near me I never felt safe. I even changed my hair colour because every time I looked in the mirror I hated my reflection. Every time a car came into the street I would panic and feel sick that has never went away.
Then what about support? I was given all the numbers in regards to support groups but I could never really engage. I had 2 telephone calls straight after the assault with a support group and I could not do it I could not talk about what had happened to me, the words once spoken out loud opened that box even more. I joined a support group online which helped a little to let me know I was not completely alone in this journey. So I spent a lot of time with the GP who listened and tried to help with the anxiety, flashbacks, sleepless nights, panic attacks and fear, never ending fear. But there are only so many medicines that they can prescribe and they don’t help. The only medicine which may have helped with the panic attacks could not be prescribed due to a heart condition I have.
So what then. You keep going, you keep trying to keep the box shut and when you do manage to have a couple of hours sleep you savour the first few moments when you wake before everything comes crashing back to reality. What made me keep going was my friend who was terminally ill who I have spoken about earlier. Regardless of what I was going through personally she was the priority. This vibrant, special soulmate of mine was going to die and that was a fact. So for those few months I put everything into her and this was my focus for 5 months. Our mantra became “day by day” and that’s what we both did
I dealt with the way I was feeling in private and I faced each day with a mask on to the world to ensure that she was allowed and supported to die in the way she wished. We took it day by day until she died lying beside me in her own bed in her own home with her family in the house.
And then that box opened and it opened with a bang. Post-traumatic stress disorder is the label we survivors are given. Stress disorder does not even touch the tip of the iceberg for survivors. If I let someone into my head they would section me, I have a hurricane inside my head and chest which is so near the surface I think I am ready to explode. But you don’t. You take another step and another day a bit at a time and some days the box opens a big bit and you have to fight to get through the day and others it’s just a small gap where you get there, through the day with all the techniques you have taught yourself to survive. Avoid male contact if possible, don’t make eye contact with any men. If you are in a room with a man make sure there are females about, never be in a room with your back to the door that you can’t get out. When the panic starts you recognise the signs and you move to another area a quiet place where you breathe, you just breathe. The dark never goes away at night so you keep the hall light on, it helps a bit. You don’t go out if you can avoid it, you go to work and come home and lock the door to take the mask of, let the tension go and breathe because this is my space. But whatever you do the demons still chase you every day.
The next part of the journey. Do they believe you? For 10 months you feel as if the police and the judicial system do not believe you, if they did why does it take 10 months? That’s the way it is I was told. Then the dreaded phone call 10 months later from the procurator fiscal to go to a meeting with them to discuss the case. Well nobody warns you about that meeting. Again a male, but a male with compassion and empathy who even though they had to grill me and ask really hard questions explained the reasons for the questions throughout. For the first time I was able to tell my truth with clarity and even though I cried throughout I did it. When he told me he felt they were moving forward to prosecution I felt relief that someone in the judicial system actually believed me and had explained the process in a way I could understand even though I was upset. This meeting lasted around two and a half hours and he said to me I could be double that in court. That in my calculation would have been 5 hours. Remember one hour, one hour and now add into the phrase 3 days as I continue my journey for you. The decision to prosecute was taken out of my hands and the crown were moving ahead as they had a duty to protect me and other people from this man.
What next? You continue with one foot in front of the other. People cope in different ways everyones journey is different. As I said I had to put it in a box in my head and tape it up tight to be able to function. But that box never stays shut for long. It opens time after time and you continue to try and force it shut but you never win. I’m not the same, part of me has gone and in its place I got anxiety, panic attacks, flashbacks, sleepless nights, isolation and fear constant fear. I still sleep with the hall light on as I am afraid of the dark now even 16 months later. I stopped answering my phone to people I love I couldn’t talk because of the energy it took to go out the door each day and put a face on to everyone and consistently saying “I’m fine” while inside you want to shout “I am not fine!! But you don’t because people would then want to talk about it which would force the box open even wider. More importantly you do not want the trauma in your head in anyone elses you care about.
And then it got too much, I needed help and I needed to talk, not about everything just things I had to get out and I needed someone who did not have a connection with me to be able to provide me with help and support. I finally reached out to Rape Crisis and when I had my first appointment and met with my advocate I finally felt in a safe environment where I could talk, cry, shout and let the pain out. This advocate from Rape crisis came into my life and listened and supported me in such a way that my family and I will be eternally grateful for, there are no words to describe how just having this safety net enabled me to function just a little bit better. I have met a few people throughout my career who I firmly believe are put on this earth to make a difference and this advocate did and I know will continue to do so for other survivors.
So now I have reached out what then. Then the citation comes, the case is going to trial and the citation states that I have to be at the high court on a specific date which was a Friday. The box is not staying shut now, this is a battle day by day to stay in control and continue to do the right thing and get justice for what he did to me, to allow people to hear the truth and try to make sense of this journey which has taken 16 months to come to trial. But I am scared, so scared, mentally exhausted and drained which brought on migraines, pain, nausea, all symptoms caused by stress and worry.
Do the judicial system prepare you for this part of the journey? Not in the slightest, you are on your own. Your citation explains briefly special measures and visiting the court prior to trial. You are left on your own to work your way through the procedures that are available to protect you the victim at trial. The advocacy worker from Rape crisis was the one who explained the special measures to me and how we would need to apply for them. So I was contacted by Victims information Advocates from the court about arranging a visit pre-trial. The lady who contacted me double checked that I would be attending and said she would see me at the agreed time in the high court. One of my friends came with me and when we entered the court I began to hyperventilate, police, lawyers, security guards everywhere. Then the VIA comes down the stairs and approaches me. An older male, around the same height and build of him. The first stressor. Where was the female? He then takes me to an empty courtroom with a male security guard and tells me to stand in the witness box. That was not a good move, I was going to testify behind a screen but once I was in the court I realised I couldn’t do it, I couldn’t be in the same room as him. The VIA begins to explain that due to the nature of the case etc, all in front of the male security guard!! What is happening throughout this process with victims rights, dignity and respect? Then he said one of the VIA team would be with me in court and it could be a male or a female. I explained that my advocate had petitioned the judge to be with me and I would not be using VIA and he proceeds to tell me that’s not what they had on file. Where was the communication here? Eventually I had to walk out, I was having a panic attack and could not stay in the court any longer.
After this visit I knew I could not be in the courtroom and my advocate petitioned the judge for me to give evidence by video link. I was not told until the day the trial started that this was granted.
On the day stated on the citation I appeared at court with my advocate and friend and as we knew we were going in through the side entrance to avoid seeing him we could not understand how no one had contacted me. My advocate went into the court and came out and said it was not on that day. We went into the court and met with a person who dealt with the cases who explained that it was a “floating trial” and could take up to 5 days to start. Did anyone communicate this to me? No they didn’t, the lady who phoned me the day before just confirmed that the trial was due to start the next day. Where was the communication again? I had spent sleepless nights, had major meltdowns the previous day on the build up to the court and it was not happening on that day. I cried, Oh I cried and sobbed so hard I felt I was drowning but my friend got me back to her car and took me home to wait, to wait another 4 days before we finally got a text, yes, a text that the trial was starting the next day on the Wednesday. Those 4 days were horrendous you are not in your own head, you are just existing to get through until the case finally starts.
Before I tell you of one of the most harrowing, intimidating and distressing periods of my life I want to refer to a quote which was made Lord Carroway in 2016 in the Scottish legal news. In this article he called for alleged rape victims to be safeguarded from aggressive cross-examination in court. He is quoted as saying “It is the duty of the court to stop abuses of the privilege of cross-examination. The dignity of the witness has to be protected and repetitive questions, insulting questions, have to be eliminated.” He also referred to a case where, “it has to be said that both the manner and length of examination and cross examination give cause for concern in relation to the treatment of a vulnerable, or indeed any, witness testifying in the criminal courts.”
I applaud his comments and reasoning but I am here to tell you and the judicial system that they are not protecting the alleged victim. They are not achieving what they say they are.
In the same article it states “The members of the Scottish Criminal Bar Association carry out a difficult and demanding job and we priorities continual professional training for our members on issues such as ‘vulnerable witnesses’ in order to ensure that anyone accused of a criminal offence receives a robust defence to ensure a fair trial.”
Your professional training is not working, especially in regards to the treatment of “vulnerable witnesses” in court.
How can I say this you may be asking yourself? This is when my 3 days begins. Please remember my rape and sexual assault lasted approximately one hour. When I began to give evidence for the prosecution I told my truth in graphic, embarrassing, humiliating detail by video link to a courtroom full of the prosecution team, the defence team, the judge and 15 jurors. The truth of the events that changed my life forever to a room full of strangers. This was bad enough trust me, a little bit inside you dies little by little while you tell your truth, relives the nightmare that you have tried to keep in that box for 16 months. You are totally humiliated and distraught as you speak. But you do it.
Then the real battle begins and for the first time in this journey we have a female. A female who is his defence lawyer! Even though deep down in my head I think I knew his defence lawyer would be a female when she appeared in front of me I couldn’t really believe it. I am in full agreement that everyone is entitled to a defence however as I have said previously the Scottish Criminal Bar Association have failed in their training of their members in dealing with vulnerable witnesses. At this point I was the one on trial, question after question, the repeated questions asked in different ways time after time, being told you are lying , being told their versions of events of that night which are so far from the truth you cannot stop crying but still you tell your truth. The questions which are totally irrelevant and appear to have no link to the incident where they eventually give up on that line of questioning because you stick to your truth.
Intimidation, intimidation comes in many forms and through this questioning I wonder if the judicial system has become so de-sensitised to forms of questing and intimidation that they do not recognise it. Non-verbal intimidation is just as much of a harassment as verbal trust me on that. Hostile, scornful facial expressions whilst asking questions, turning to the jury with the scornful face when calling you a liar. Rephrasing the same questions time after time until the judge steps in. The arms crossed and pacing up and down when firing question after question. The turning around putting their back to you as if you are of no consequence when asking questions. Stripping you bare hoping you will be intimidated. This is non-verbal intimidation and it is so wrong. I was revictimised all over again verbally by the female defence lawyer and it hurts just as much.
This lasted 3 days, one hour to 3 days of the questioning above in which the justice system allowed me to be treated this way where I can categorically say I felt like a victim. But even though I cried and I was destroyed inside I told my truth because whatever is thrown at you the truth is the truth and I held onto that thought throughout. Then she stopped, just stopped out of nowhere she finished her questing after coming at me from every side imaginable she stopped but this took 3 days. The way in which I was questioned was disgusting and victims should never feel the way I felt and still feel. The judge said at the start of the trial that I would be treated with dignity and respect I must have missed this during the trial because this was not the case I had no dignity left and the way in which I was barraged and bullied by the defence did not equate to respect. There was no protection for me as a vulnerable witness none at all. I was on my own.
There were so many times during her questioning where I was crying so hard I felt like giving up but I didn’t, I wouldn’t because I was telling the truth and she was promoting his lie. What a lie his story was, there was no truth in his version, no recognition of what he had done and no remorse for what had happened. He pled not guilty which contributed to the never ending trauma that I was going through which resulted in my 3 days giving evidence. Then you go, you are no longer needed, you just go. Can you imagine that hurricane in my head at this point it was rising blowing my thoughts my feelings, my fears all through my body so much so that putting one foot in front of the other to get out of that court took every inch of strength I had.
Where was the support through all this you may be asking? At lunchtime on the second day no one came to the room where I was giving evidence to tell us where to go to be protected and have a calm space. I had to get out of this room so my advocate and my friend were like 2 bodyguards who took me outside. I was left outside the court for an hour over lunch protected by these 2 people because no one told us where we could go and we could not find someone to advise us. My support came from my advocate from Rape crisis, my close friend who was in court with me through the whole process sitting in a room alone and holding me at breaks when I howled on her shoulder. My manager who supported me with compassion and understanding on my darkest days. Most importantly my children, my family, my rocks in the stormy ocean which gave me the strength to go through this process. That was and still is my support system.
Then you wait and wait and wait for the court case to continue. Knowing that you have to rely on 15 strangers to believe your truth and knowing that justice is in the hands of other people. You don’t think about the verdict, you can’t because it would destroy you. You think nothing, you just function as best you can to get through the days.
The verdict came by phone call from the court. I was in the house with my children when it came. All I heard was “guilty on all 4 counts” and then I dropped the phone, I broke down completely I cried so hard and for so long sitting on the bottom step of my stairs with my head on my hands while my child spoke to the lady on the phone. I can’t put into words how I felt because the hurricane in my head was still going strong but I held on to that sentence “guilty on all 4 counts”.
Justice you will be saying to yourself and yes I agree truth always prevails. He is now on jail on remand awaiting sentencing so you will think that it’s over for me or any other survivors at this point. It’s not, now you wait on the sentencing because your journey through the criminal justice system is not over until this has happened.
Worst of all no amount of justice will be enough to stop the trauma that I and other survivors live with on a daily basis. But there will be a way through this minefield and hurricane with help. I finally reached out to a psychologist for help, this will take 6-9 months of therapy to help me find me again. The new me, I will never be the person I was, he took that from me but I will be me again just in a different way because for myself and other survivors we are still breathing and fighting and that is our journey.
In the Guardian newspaper in March 2018 a Scottish government spokesperson said: “It is a Scottish government priority to find ways to reduce the trauma and improve the experience of victims within the criminal justice system, and we are investing record levels of funding to support victims through a range of frontline specialist services. Most recently, the justice secretary announced enhanced funding of £1.7m to extend a pilot scheme providing advocacy support for victims of rape as they engage with the justice system.”
I am here to tell you they are failing and failing drastically to reduce the trauma and experience of victims within our criminal justice system. In 2016/17, 1,755 rapes and 123 attempted rapes were reported to the police in Scotland (Source: Recorded Crime in Scotland 2016-17.

Sexual crimes increased by 5% from 10,273 to 10,822. The recording of these crimes is at the highest level seen since 1971, the first year for which comparable crime groups are available. (Source: Recorded Crime in Scotland 2016-17.)

10,822 women and men in Scotland who were a victim of a sexual assault. 10,822 victims who I can hand on heart assure you were not protected, supported or guided through the trauma that had occurred for them not just with the initial assault but also the failure of the processes in place to help to find justice for these victims. I know this I am one of them. One hour/ 3 days.

So now you have read my journey you must be asking yourself would I have reported my rape and sexual assault if I knew how harrowing and distressing the journey to justice would be. The answer to that is yes, I would have reported it because I was raped and sexually assaulted, violated in the worst way possible for a woman or man and predators must be held accountable for their actions and my truth had to be told.

Would I encourage people who have been victims of rape or sexual assault to come forward and report it? I think if you have read my journey you will know the answer to that. But I hope my truth shows survivors that even though you feel you cannot do it, you can, trust me you can. For every other victim out there please be strong, it was not your fault. We said no.

Where was I then on my journey? I was waiting on my rapist being sentenced and until then I knew I would not be able to fully begin my journey to heal. Then the day of sentencing came and I hadn’t slept at all, nightmares, flashbacks, anxiety all rolled into one, the hurricane storming through my head. Then the phone call came from the procurator fiscals office and if you have read my journey I bet you are thinking that I am making this up. Trust me I’m not. The phone call that came to tell me the sentencing was postponed for another 3 weeks as his QC has withdrawn from representing him!! I don’t know how I felt I think it was pure disbelief, is this really happening, will it never end?

The sentencing was postponed to the 14th December so again I waited, swinging between anger, frustration and the ever present feeling of anxiety. But by this time I knew I needed closure in some form, I needed to be there in the courtroom when he was sentenced. Some people thought I was going to make things harder for myself by doing this but my inner voice told me I needed to do this. So I did, I went with my daughter who has been my beacon of light throughout this journey. I didn’t want to see it by video link this time he was going to see me, see that I was not broken by what he did to me and I am a fierce survivor. The sentencing was in a small courtroom this time, I sat at the back between 2 police officers and his girlfriend sat in front of me how ironic was this I kept thinking to myself. Then he came in flanked by 2 security guards, he couldn’t look at me, he quickly looked in the other direction while I continued to maintain my dignity by refusing to look away. What did I feel I guess everyone will be thinking. It was not fear anymore. I was angry, so angry that I could feel it in every cell in my body. I needed justice and validation that this journey had not been in vain. When his new QC started to speak and make excuses, talking about his career and family and the amount of character witness statements I guess then I began to lose it a bit, I was shaking and was thinking character witnesses, 12 character witnesses, 12 people who had never walked in my shoes who had never had their life changed in 1 hour by this person. I guess none of them never saw the true individual he is. My daughter was kicking me at this stage because I was shaking with anger. His QC then told the judge that his client was taking umbrage by the references made in the social work background checks and interviews. What were the references you ask? The references were to his “toxic masculinity” and referred to him as a “misogynous”!! It says it all I don’t need to comment anymore on him they saw the true person he is. Finally the sentencing arrived and he stood, I held my breath and prayed. Six years he was sentenced to 6 years and I finally felt I had some form of justice. When the security guards put the handcuffs on him to lead him away that was it for me I felt as if a massive weight had lifted and I knew I had did the right thing for me by being present at the sentencing because I finally had closure on that part of my journey. Then you think you can begin to heal, I thought I finally had closure. How wrong I was. Then I got a letter 4 weeks later to say he was appealing and my whole world crashed again for a while. Then I got angry and my daughter took the letter one night and burned it outside in front of me and do you know what it felt good because regardless of whether he appeals or not I am moving forward taking it slow and steady with the support of a brilliant psychologist who helps me with my PTSD. I never thought I would be diagnosed with this but it’s just a label it doesn’t define me because I will heal and emerge maybe not the person I was but still me just slightly different. So where am I now? Right now that little light inside me is shining a little bit brighter and fiercer and I’m still breathing. Day by day.

To all the survivors out there this song got me through.

1. Warrior
Demi Lovato
This is a story that I have never told
I gotta get this off my chest to let it go
I need to take back the light inside you stole
You’re a criminal
And you steal like you’re a pro
All the pain and the truth
I wear like a battle wound
So ashamed, so confused
I was broken and bruised
Now I’m a warrior
Now I’ve got thicker skin
I’m a warrior
I’m stronger than I’ve ever been
And my armor, is made of steel, you can’t get in
I’m a warrior
And you can never hurt me again
Out of the ashes, I’m burning like a fire
You can save your apologies, you’re nothing but a liar
I’ve got shame, I’ve got scars
That I will never show
I’m a survivor
In more ways than you know
‘Cause all the pain and the truth
I wear like a battle wound
So ashamed, so confused
I’m not broken or bruised
‘Cause now I’m a warrior
Now I’ve got thicker skin
I’m a warrior
I’m stronger than I’ve ever been
And my armor, is made of steel, you can’t get in
I’m a warrior
And you can never hurt me
There’s a part of me I can’t get back
A little girl grew up too fast
All it took was once, I’ll never be the same
Now I’m taking back my life today
Nothing left that you can say
‘Cause you were never gonna take the blame anyway
Now I’m a warrior
I’ve got thicker skin
I’m a warrior
I’m stronger than I’ve ever been
And my armor, is made of steel, you can’t get in
I’m a warrior
And you can never hurt me again

Love and light

J

Author

WYR

WYR

When You're Ready.org is a community for survivors of sexual violence to share their stories.

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