Archive for the ‘taking action’ Category

The 4th International Conference on Survivors of Rape: Rape, survivors, policies and Support Systems a European Challenge   Leave a comment

I was excited to receive an invitation to The 4th International Conference on Survivors of Rape: Rape, survivors, policies and Support Systems a European Challenge.

My excitement was quelled when I noticed the ‘on’ in the sentence, my first reading was ‘of’ or ‘for’ Survivors of Rape.  Of course the conference is ‘for’ survivors of rape, but it is not ‘of’ survivors of rape.

It has been a frustration of mine for many years that Rape Crisis offers individual counselling, pivotally important to me and many other survivors, but no network or group support for survivors to speak together.  I have asked individual counsellors why this is the case and I can’t really remember what they replied.  Maybe it was something along the lines, ‘people surviving rape want to keep their experience private’.

If rape survivors are denied a public space, a place in the public realm then our pain will continue to be individualised and privatised. The very reason we need counselling is because we cannot speak publically, our pariah status is reinforced.

Don’t get me wrong, I do understand why our support professionals need to congregate and and how effective they can be in placing the issue on the public arena and on the agenda of policy makers.

What irks me is that community development goals are not applied to the issue, those goals of empowering communities to find their own voice.  I do not speak for a community, I know one or two other women who have been raped but I do not speak for them, I am a single survivor trying to ‘voice’ my experience.

So what is it about rape survivors that we are not a community of interest?  Is it the same for survivors of domestic violence?

What I would ask of our sisters and brothers in the professional and public sphere is – are we to be forever confined to the status of ‘client’?, are we to be to be forever confined to the role of service user? Do we not have a role in the shaping of policy other than that of raw material –  like the politician needs the voter to become elected- is that our place in the rape survival sphere?

If the conference really wants to know what we want, I would argue that what I want is locally based networks of rape surviviors who, if they wish, can organise regional and national fora to influence public policy.  These local fora would be accessible, affordable and survivor led.  That is what I want – if anyone is interested.

How it feels blogging on rr-ptsd   2 comments

It feels really scary blogging on this.  I have had disasters on the internet before now, like about 10 years after it happened I entered a google group discussion on travel in the area where I had been raped.  I had forgotten all about the one post I had made there.  Last year I googled my own name and was so dismayed to find that a search engine had picked up on my post and publicised by post to anyone who googled my name.  I contacted google groups and asked for it to be removed but they said only the poster could remove it, that would be me then, but I no longer have the email account I used, so I am stuck with it!!!!

Anonymity is crucial when it comes to rape.  We are forced into hiding, and sometimes that makes me very angry.  People who are kidnapped, held at gunpoint, or who go through any kind of trauma can be vocal about it….rape survivors can’t.

You may say ‘why not?’, in which case I can only assume you are not a survivor! Or you are a very bold and brave individual….the kind of person I would like to be.  We do need to speak out about our experiences, hiding rape protects the abusers the rapists. Us rapees (yes we do have a noun), have to protect ourselves while trying to live with frightening memories inside our own heads.

No good saying it isn’t fair, it just is, for the moment.  We are gathering momentum through the internet and other fora……..we will be heard.

Its heartening that children who have been sexually abused can talk about their experiences as adults now, people are doing it more and more.  I even noticed on chat shows that various artists will allude to such childhood experiences.  You see nobody blames a child.  Sexual abuse that happens to children is clearly not their fault.

As a female the blame factor is central.  People will judge what you did to invite the rape!  People I care deeply about have said some dreadful things, accidentally.  Things like, ‘if i was travelling I would plan it really carefully’ – like if you are raped on holiday it was because you failed to plan.

What most people don’t want to accept is that rape can happen anytime anywhere to anyone, male or female. Adult or child.

Kings Cross Women’s Centre in London worked closely with women in prostitution, women working in this industry are highly likely to be disbelieved…….like rape is only something that happens to ‘respectable’ women, if you are a sex worker it is viewed as one of the hazards of the job, like prison is to robbers!

Its hard not to get really angry about societal views of rape.  its hard not to get angry that we are silenced as survivors.  Had my experience not involved rape I could have dined out on my story of kidnap at gunpoint by bandits.  How I got away, what they did or what they said.  With rape I have had to mull it over like a loop playing in my head on my own or with a therapist.

Blogging is perfect for a survivor.  No one can say anything directly to you to hurt you or distance themself from you. You know that it will be other survivors who are most likely to be reading your posts……..if anyone at all. But still you are getting it out there, out of your head.

Rape Survivor: Living with RR- PTSD (Rape Related Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).   2 comments

Rape Survivor: Living with RR- PTSD (Rape Related Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).

Hi ,

I have decided that it is time to be brave enough to share my experiences of RR-PTSD  with other survivors.  This decision to share my experience is part of my own healing process.

Two years after I was raped I began to look for resources to help me to survive the experience.  I found a theraphy directory and went through all of the help available in London at that time, 1992.

The one form of theraphy that leapt out at me was Exposure Treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  I realised that the treatment, undertaken in a public hospital – a mental health clinic – was only available with medical referral made by a general practitioner.  I contacted my doctor who was very sympathetic and made the referral.

It took many months of waiting to get a place at the clinic, I was treated at the PTSD Clinic of Dr. Gunne, and worked with a nurse therapist, Sue Rose.  It seemed ironic that the consultant in charge of the programme was called Dr. Gunne!

At that time the RR had not been added to PTSD, the facility treated a lot of war veterans, and I was even offered a residential place in the Exposure Treatment Centre at a military base on the south coast, which I declined.  I felt unnerved at the thought of a military establishment, possibly a testosterone imbued facility which I was just not ready for.

I had adopted a lesbian lifestyle immediately after the rape. I could not countenance being in a male environment.  I agreed to undertake my ‘exposure’ at my parent’s house instead.

I guess what I am trying to say is that I recognised PTSD as fitting the symptoms I was encountering in the aftermath of the rape.

My rape had been at gunpoint, by a gang of bandits in a foreign country in which I was travelling.  The context and the level of violence lent a movie like quality to the whole experience.  I was mentally finding it hard to digest.

The Exposure Treatment involved going over the rape in detail, trying to remember as much detail as possible, telling it to the therapist who recorded it.  The treatment meant listening back to these tapes over a set period of time, digesting the experience, making it real.

You could say that it is quite brutal, asking a person to ‘relive’ the experience over and over again, but it worked. It was useful, at the very least, for me.

Everyone is different, what worked for me may not work for you.  However you deal with your rape, I would recommend becoming familiar with RR-PTSD literature.

I have no vested interest in promoting this approach, I am not a psychologist, simply a survivor looking for new ways to survive.

This blog is a new approach to my healing, if it is useful to other people, great, if it is useful to me, that’s what I am really writing here for.

I suppose that sounds selfish.  I am selfish.  In fact dealing with this issue inside your own head on a daily basis makes you very introverted and self focussed, reaching out to others is a positive step.

It is over 23 years since strangers raped me at gunpoint.  I have got on with my life.  I have developed a career, raised a beautiful child, supported my elderly parents, tried new things.  I have not been trapped by it, like many other survivors I have battled hard not to let the rapists ‘win’, I have battled hard to take control of my own life.

At times the experience ‘felled’ me, I turned to alcohol and drugs, spent a fortune on theraphy, got into inappropriate relationships, I excluded men completely from my life.

I come from a male dominated family and had several male friends when I went through the rape, I remember ringing London Rape Crisis Centre and speaking to an online counsellor.    I told her that I was having problems relating to the males in my life and she advised, ‘stay away from them’. That in effect was what I did.

The rape experience has left me isolated.  It has left me with a fear of intimate relationships, I have become unclear about my sexuality.  It is not plain sailing.

I don’t want to other people to think that it necessarily takes twenty or thirty years to recover!!  It has taken a long time in my case for many reasons.

Firstly I didn’t deal with it at all for several years, drinking heavily and smoking dope helped to block it out.  Then becoming a lone parent meant that daily survival became a priority and sheer exhaustion left less time to dwell on the issue and the feelings it produced.

I did not have the support of family or friends.  I come from a predominately catholic community, a community that represses all discussion of sexuality. Rape is something to do with ‘sex’, sexual violence, therefore a taboo subject.  I bore the burden alone.

When my daughter was about eleven years old I broke down in front of her one night when we were watching Eastenders, it was the story line of Little Mo being raped.  It brought up a huge well of feelings that I could no longer control and I blurted out that it had happened to me.  I still feel the burden of guilt for this happening, she was much too small to carry the burden of this information.

It is not plain sailing, in fact it is incredibly difficult surviving rape.

Those who have experienced rape or sexual abuse by a friend, lover, husband, family member, trusted adult as children or as adults have an incredibly difficult burden to carry.  Adult rape in addition to childhood experiences makes for a mentally challenging experience to say the least.

In some ways being raped by stranger must be easier to deal with, in that you do not have any further interaction with them, except through courts – if you get that far.  If it’s your partner or someone in your family or community, someone you have to have contact with for myriad reasons, it is very tough indeed.

Though that impending sense of doom you develop as part of RR-PTSD comes from that isolated incident, one minute your life is sweet and then WHAM, it is turned upside down forever.  You struggle with getting rid of the feeling, the unexpected happened and could happen again at any minute, anytime, anywhere, for no reason at all.  Not necessarily another rape, but that too, you develop a sense of doom, something dreadful could happen at any minute.  As a result you develop hyper- vigilance, the feeling that you are on guard, red alert, most of the time.

I know that as a survivor the way to combat this is with massage, relaxation techniques, fitness training, and I am beginning to look at options around those.  If you have money of course these things are more easily available.  Yet even without money you can find inexpensive ways of nurturing yourself, hot bubble baths…….walks, perfumed candles, anything to make you feel cherished.

I have found myself eating mountains of chocolate, using substances, getting lost in unrewarding relationships, running away, non of these things have helped my journey to recovery.