By an anonymous contributor.
It was four days after my rape by the time I found myself sat opposite a nurse, sobbing my way through the story of what had happened to me. I can’t tell you what I did for those four days; looking back now they are a complete blur. I find those four days one of the hardest parts of my ordeal to come to terms with. If I’d been stronger, more level-headed, more like the person I’d always assumed I was; I’d have marched straight to the police station the morning after it happened. I could have proven that I was drugged from blood tests, been swabbed there and then for uncontaminated DNA evidence, all whilst providing a perfect victim statement that would guarantee prosecution. However, four days on and I’m doing none of those things. I’m sat in the Royal’s Axess sexual health clinic, having broken down whilst requesting an STI check. This nurse is the first person I need to thank in this letter. Despite it being too early to check for any of the common STIs, she sat with me for nearly an hour. She listened to me, believed me, held my hand while I was having a panic attack. She gave me advice and leaflets on who I should contact. At the end of the appointment she told me I needed to come back in 10 days so they could do a full screening on me, but that she’d be on holiday so couldn’t see me personally (she genuinely looked grief-stricken by this). Telling me to stay put, she disappeared off, and came back with her supervisor. Introducing us both, she informed me that she’d completely filled her in on my situation, and had ensured that when I came back I’d be seen by her and not a stranger.
This nurse’s kindness and information gave me the courage to get the support and help I needed. Thank you.
One of the leaflets the nurse gave me was for Safe Place. After ringing them to arrange an appointment, I was asked to come in for a forensic examination. They explained that there would be absolutely no pressure to go to the police, but that if they managed to get evidence from me now, that it would give me the option in the future. They would also check any DNA against existing databases, to see if my attacker had done this before. I didn’t feel strong enough to go to the police right now, but I wanted my ordeal recorded and I wanted to make sure that if that bastard had done anything like it before that I’d know. Safe Place open the clinic specifically for individual victims, so you don’t have to sit in a crowded waiting room worrying that there will be somebody you know. I took my best friend for moral support, and we were met by a lovely female crisis worker, who led us into a comfy room and offered us a cup of tea. She explained what was going to happen, then introduced us to the doctor who would be examining me. This examination was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. The doctor has to examine every centimetre of your body, internally and externally, noting down every bruise and abrasion. It was traumatic, invasive, and brought back horrible flashbacks from the attack. However, the kindness of the crisis worker and the doctor made it bearable. They listened, they believed, they never judged. They laughed along with my best friend’s inappropriate jokes because they knew that’s what I needed. They held my hand whilst I sobbed; distracted me with anecdotes and news when I was scared. I was in shock when I finally left, and didn’t even say thank you or goodbye at the time, so I need to say it now.
Thank you Safe Place, and your wonderful, amazing, professional staff, for supporting me through a horrible experience.
After I’d been given the all clear for infections, and discovered my attacker had no previous record from Safe Place, I expected my life to kind of slot back into place again. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen like that. I, a girl who once backpacked solo round South America, could no longer get from my car to my house in the dark without being accompanied. God forbid an oblivious man glance my way in the street, because this would send me into paralysing panic attacks. I was alienating myself from my friends, because I couldn’t bear having to pretend to be happy and carefree. This was when I realised I needed ongoing support and fished out another of the leaflets the nurse had given me. Cue RASA, a Merseyside charity who offer counselling for victims of rape and sexual assault. This place changed my life. Being able to speak to somebody who had so much experience with people who had gone through similar experiences gave me so much comfort. I realised that how I was reacting didn’t mean I was going crazy, and that it was actually incredibly common for survivors. My amazing counsellor helped me to understand that how I was feeling was valid, and that what happened to me was in no way my fault. She gave me coping methods for my anxiety, and listened to me vent every week. Thanks to her, I have my confidence back, and I am strong again.
Thank you RASA, for helping everybody who has been affected by rape, both recently and historically. Your work is so important to help survivors keep surviving.