This is a very deep post and extremely personal. This post includes actual notes from one of my therapy sessions, unedited and raw, and focuses on my court case - there is also mention of rape and self-harm. Although the crime is only briefly mentioned in this post it may still bring up certain, unwanted emotions. If you have experienced how hard the court process is then this might be tricky to read. If you're someone very close to me then you may find it a little upsetting. This has been one of the hardest things I've written and has drained me emotionally, almost as much as the court case itself. Re-living it has been extremely hard. However, it's been extremely cathartic and I hope that this post with help other survivors.
I wanted to run away for weeks. I didn't think I could do it at all.
I remember thinking, "don't sentence him, leave it, it's fine". It really kicked in when myself and Leigh went for a court visit...so horribly daunting! That was a month or so before the court date. Made it more real. I remember being more concerned about what to wear.
I can't remember a lot leading up to it but I know I didn't sleep the night before. I must have smoked about 20 cigarettes in half an hour. I was pacing the flat, waiting for people to turn up. Fran and Mike turned up first, looking more afraid than I did. I made jokes trying to be brave and make the situation easier for everyone. Tony arrived with his big, friendly, smiling face. It hadn't even kicked in, I was just running on auto-pilot. We got in to the car and I kept making jokes all the way until we arrived at court. Once there I became a completely different person - wanting to throw up everywhere (it still sends shivers down my spine thinking about, I still feel sick and muddle headed).
We stayed out, myself and Fran, just smoking more and more.
Part of me felt like a child again because everyone was just watching what I was doing, Mothering me. The hardest thing was that no matter how many people were by my side, I had never felt more alone. We went to the waiting room where many people were working. Someone ran through the routine and I just sat staring, a white noise drifting through my ears.
Announcements would come through over the tannoy, calling people in to court. Lacey told me that we had to wait until we were called. An endless, horrible waiting game.
We were called in and part of me felt like, "BRING IT ON"! but we still had ages to wait. I remember going to the toilet a lot and smoking a lot (not at the same time). I got really pissed off because it had been arranged for me to be in court whilst my statement video was playing, but 2 minutes before going in I was taken to a separate room where I sat i front of a screen with a woman to my side. At this point I felt like a young, lost girl all over again as I'd been told previously that they only really used video links in court for child cases - a way of protecting them. It was sickening that I had to be sat in front of this strange woman whilst the worst moment of my life was being played via video to a court room full of people, as my reaction to this video was also being streamed through to them. It was like the girl on TV was my twin sister. I knew what had happened to her and so desperately wanted to save her from that moment. It seemed so unfair that I couldn't run away. Instead I just had to sit there, being watched, as this personal story was being played.
And then it was over. Just...done. I didn't know what I was meant to be doing. The court broke for lunch and by this point I was completely drained of everything, but I still had to go back after the break.
I went back in. I didn't eat anything even though everyone said I needed to. I remember drinking a load of energy drinks though. I wanted to just give up because a lot had been taken out of me, but now I had to go in to the court room. That was the longest walk of my life. Despite being shown before where to go, who would sit where, and where I would be sat, it just felt like the most surreal experience.
Uncontrollable shaking - being trapped in this boxed area. Seeing court dramas on TV then being in that position - it's not like it is on TV. One thing I was nervous about was saying the oath wrong. It was going round and round in my head. I don't know how I found the words to even say it! Lacey and Tony said that "once you say it, you know you have a voice in that room". I just remember being exhausted. I would have given anything for Spiderman to have broken in and taken me away. I have never felt so alone and so small in my entire life. So many people were saying what I was doing was a good thing - it felt more like a punishment. It was strange because although I was there to try and get him convicted, I was aware that I didn't want to hurt his feelings. It felt like I was supposed to "tell on him" and it didn't feel like the battle was with him, but instead was with the defence lawyer. Such a surreal mix of thoughts and feelings.
I felt embarrassed as I really don't like crying in front of people, and yet there I was, crying in front of every single person in the court room - just more humiliation. It was just a blur - words being thrown at me. That was the day the defence lawyer had asked me if my Grandpa had died around the same time this all took place and I just broke! He had no reason to ask me that, it had NOTHING to do with the case, he wanted me to break. After that I couldn't find my voice again so they decided to stop for the day.
I remember everyone looked disappointed, for my sake. They all wanted it over that day, as did I. Lacey said she thought it would be good for me, that I would be more prepared and would know what to expect the next time I was in the court room. It was really odd how I just had to go home and wait for the next day. I couldn't see Natalie or Leigh as they were witnesses, but Fran, Mike and Diane were still there supporting me every step of the way. I went back to Mike and Diane's, where I managed to break their bath and flood their flat - I felt like a complete asshole! (Again, something which wasn't actually my fault but it felt like it was and I was just continuously ruining things).
(After the first day at court)
I remember thinking that there was no way I would be able to sleep that night, but I was so emotionally drained that I passed straight out. There was a huge mix of feelings: wanting to run away, but also knowing I couldn't leave everything unresolved - so much had already been said. The next day they tried to get me to have breakfast but I couldn't face it. There were no jokes this time as I knew what was to come. I was scared that it wouldn't be the last day for me in court, that something would go wrong. I was also nervous for Natalie and Leigh as they were due in to be my witnesses. I'm not sure if it was because I felt a bit stronger on that day that made me mention to Tony and Leigh that I could see 'his' reflection in a window facing me, but I knew I had to speak up or I would not be able to continue.
The process itself was pretty much the same. Straight in 10 minutes after arriving. I was still a crying wreck but also a "sarky bitch" and didn't take any shit! I was still terrified for Natalie and Leigh and have never been so emotionally drained in my life. I said my bits and that was me done, but I constantly feared that they would call me back in for something else.
It was all a blur going back to Harbour Lights (where I was working at the time), I just sat around drinking and shaking. That day, or the day after, Leigh didn't have to go in as my witness as they said they had enough evidence from his statement, but sadly Natalie still had to. I'll never forget Natalie coming in to work and us hugging for ages, her saying "I finally get it"! When Leigh came in I had never felt so happy to see him, I had never seen him look so devoted! I could see how much all of it had taken it's toll on everyone.
From this point it was all another waiting game.
I felt such anger on the day of the verdict! Mike had turned up to court when I had asked him not to go. I felt abandoned and protective. I didn't want Mike to be there if it was a bad result. He got my text saying, "Why the fuck...?" and replied, "I'm sorry. Don't hate me."
(Where I sat waiting for hours)
I received a call from Tony saying that he was on his way 'round. The tone of his voice made me feel like it was going to be bad news. Then something happened. I was staring out my window when Tony's car pulled up and he got out with a hop in his walk, so I thought maybe it was good news. He looked like he wanted to dance down the road! Tony came up to my flat , dead-pan, and said it. He'd been found guilty and had been sentenced to 6 years. I couldn't do anything. Mike came over and all I could do was frantically put things in to my handbag and get ready to leave the flat. I don't know why but it still upsets me that everyone said "congratulations" and "well done"...but yeah, that was kind of it.
After that, all the guilt kicked in and I felt lost for a very long time...
These words were written up by my therapist at SRC (now Yellow Door). It took me ages to properly open up about anything! Reading it back and typing it up is incredibly hard, but has also been a new, important form of therapy for me. The names have been changed to protect those involved, but if you're reading this, you know who you are and I am forever grateful for you being with me every step of the way. I would not have made it through so much with out you, in fact, I may not even be here to tell my story.
I have written up these therapy notes, and my story, because today is the day that the man who raped me, who turned my life upside down and took so much from me, is officially a free man. Free to step back in Southampton if he so wishes.
I have been dreading this month, and date, for 6 long years. However, writing this, and learning all I have learnt over those years has genuinely made me a stronger person. I could have never imagined feeling as strong and in control as I do right now. My reason for sharing this post is mainly for me to try and really put an end to this hellish part of my life, get it all out there and let it go. I know that it will never truly leave me, but I know it's something which doesn't need to keep controlling me. The person from these notes, I don't know her any more. I have slowly rebuilt my life and learnt to love the person I have become and am still becoming.
To mark (literally) this month and this journey, I got the wonderful Dave from Tattoo Magic to do this new piece for me. It covers an old tattoo which I had grown to hate, many self-harm scars from times where things had simply become too much and gives the exact message I want it to give. I am nobody's victim. I have slowly learnt that I never was and I never will be.
This is to ALL survivors. It's hard. It's terrifying. It's something no one should ever have to experience. I do promise you though, that brighter days are ahead. You CAN come through this. Believe in the positives and the support you can take from friends, family, and services available out there. Your thoughts will lead you down dark paths, and offer you solutions to take the pain away, but try not to listen. You are worthy, beautiful, strong, and wonderful and you deserve to fight and find your new happiness in life. You are not alone in any way. Reach out and talk. Life is still beautiful and will you see that for yourself very soon, you just need to keep holding on.
I am a survivor. You are a survivor. We are survivors - Nobody's Victim!!
(A new, strong, me!!)
Rape Crisis (England & Wales)
The Survivors Trust
Rape Crisis Scotland
Rethink Mental Illness
The Shaw Mind Foundation
National Probation Service