Hmmm, I'm not too sure where I want to start here. For a while now I've had a sense that I want to document somehow, what happened, but I've never really known where or how or what it is I want to say. Alongside this I've felt more and more often that I want to to really be involved with challenging and changing how things are.
A long time ago, a whole lifetime ago it all happened (it's still it because i still can't quite put the words to it). I didn't tell anyone initially, because in some kind of getting through each day shock I just kind of existed, I covered the bruises and went off to school.Anyway, that led me to actively decide I wasn't going to tell anyone. I just couldn't: I was the slightly chaotic bad kid, about to fail my GCSE's who swore, smoked drugs, bunked off school and shoplifted. He was just about to blast the local grammar school with best A level results that ever existed. It was bad girl versus perfect guy, but not just perfect, but also thin and lanky and blonde and "so, so sensitive about even tiny things right up to until he was a teenager" I remembered by step sister saying. I could just imagine the "he hasn't got in him" line.Meanwhile I was a naughty gobby school girl, who as school said was was just about to "throw it all away". Also I'd dressed up for the wedding, and I'd been drinking before I stole 2 cans of lager so he and I could sneak out for a fag in the woods. To anyone else it probably looked like I was corrupting this lovely young man. It would have been seen as me just creating another one of my dramas, so I stayed quiet.
As that bad kid teen me and my Mum rowed a lot, all pretty normal stuff, but 1 row, the summer before, I'd stormed off and she'd shouted after me "If you keep dressing like that and flouncing like one of these days you're going to get yourself raped and you'll have no one to blame but yourself", and I think that is the way most people think. The scary thing about what Mum said, is if you asked her, she'd tell you what an ardent right on feminist she is. And she is, I remember a childhood of demos and activism, making placards and staying with friends so she could go off on some campaign somewhere. Politics, the environment, women's groups, anti war, she was there. I remember, as a kid, rowing because she made me be a Ms on my library card, and I wanted to be a Miss, like my friends. That's who she was the very stereotype of this old school, lefty, hippy, feminist with no bra and no make and daughters who were made to have short hair. Yet, even in her, deep down, only coming out when she was utterly exasperated by me, was this idea that you could get yourself raped and it be your fault.
He failed the A levels in the end, and I passed the GCSE's, it felt like a massive victory at the time. But actually it meant he came to my college to resit. And so began new types of abuse, pushing me up against a wall and burning my chest with a cigarette, following me for days at a time, threatening to rape me again. Eventually I told a teacher, not what was happening at college, but what had happened at the wedding. She was incredible, she believed me, she was kind to me and she helped me, and even though I never saw again and haven't seen her for 20 years, she's still one of my all time favourite people I've ever met. It was all a bit late by then, I was about to leave college, and the day after the last exam, I left town for London, then went to a uni at the other end of the Country. He followed me there, the violence got worse and I was a mess, the bad girl teen had escalated into something much more chaotic...I felt I was damaged goods, so that's how I behaved and lived. I tried to go to the women's officer at the student union, but it didn't work out, she took me to a meeting where a load of students hassled me about going to the police and getting an HIV test, it didn't feel nice.
He died in the end, in a car accident, I went home, people around me were grieving and I was pleased, which felt like more evidence of what a bed person I was.
Eventually I found a job I really loved, and was good at, working with people with LD, then later mental health. I grew strength from that and my focus changed from the chaotic to the work, to forget, to get through each day. Then, slowly, slowly, time did it's thing.
What's really scary about what happened, thinking I wouldn't be believed because I was a bad kid, drunk, dressed up, is that was all 20 years ago, yet all those concerns would be just as valid for a 15 year old now. Attitudes haven't changed at all.That's why this campaign is so important, why I want to try somehow to get involved or help, because this fight, or battle or what ever it is, it really needs to happen. Because what happened to me is way in the past, but it's still happening, everyday, all the time
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