Everyday Victim Blaming

challenging institutional disbelief around domestic & sexual violence and abuse

That day and the years that followed.

This post was submitted to us via email. The writer wanted to share their experiences of their mother's rape on her and, eventually, her children. What this post demonstrates is the long-term effects of rape and the importance of specialist services that deal with trauma following rape as well as substance use.

I still remember clearly that day when I walked in the front door. I’d returned from work completely oblivious to the days events at home. My dad was waiting for me in the hall as I walked in the front door and led me into the kitchen to tell me that my Mom had been attacked. He didn’t say how, where or by who, just that she was upstairs in bed. I ran up to her bedroom to find her literally cowering beneath the quilt. I’ll never forget how scared she looked. I wanted to hold her but she wouldn’t let me near her, she didn’t want to be touched. She was so frightened.

On the way home from the hotel where she worked she had been raped as she walked back through the park, in broad daylight around 10 o’clock in the morning. They caught the bastard the same day. He was on a timed release from a halfway house and already a convicted sex offender. Luckily she didn’t have to go to court and suffer the indignity of cross examination as he had pleaded guilty. He was sentenced to four more years in prison. I’ll never forget his name but I won’t publish it here for obvious reasons.

She spent weeks in the house, not once daring to go out. She wouldn’t even hang the washing out because she was so petrified of being outdoors and when she eventually did, she took the bottom half of my dads snooker cue with her for protection such was the impact of the attack. You’ve heard the term ‘scared of your own shadow’, well that was my Mom. She was always a loving mother and that never changed despite what she had to live with but she was never quite the same again after what happened, hardly surprising really.

Over time she slowly got back to some normality and managed to return to work. She was never what you’d call a drinker before her ordeal, she drank socially as most people do, but that began to change. She started sending me to the off licence soon after the attack to buy her a bottle of sherry. Just a glass a night to help her relax she said. That soon turned into a bottle a night and slowly she moved on to stronger stuff. The whiskey didn’t agree with her, she’d often become aggressive when she drank that stuff. She tried to attack my dad once with a kitchen knife during an argument. Luckily I managed to disarm her before she could do any harm but not before she kicked my wife to be in her crotch in the struggle to get the knife from her. It still amazes me thinking back now that none of us were harmed that night.

She’d often sit in her chair, arms folded and rocking back and forth just staring into space. When she was like this you couldn’t talk to her or get any response whatsoever, she was like a zombie. Then as quickly as she’d entered that state she’d just snap out of it and not remember anything. She would often have panic attacks and we’d call the doctor but he just kept prescribing valium. It was clear to me and everyone around her that she needed help and pumping her with drugs wasn’t the answer and I think she was addicted to the drugs as well as her growing addiction to alcohol.

Over the following years she was admitted into hospital a numerous times as her ordeal slowly ate away at her mental health and her liver. She never learned to cope with what happened, how could she? This eventually took its toll on my parents marriage and they divorced about 6 years after the event. It was what she wanted, I don’t blame my dad, he still loved her but she became very difficult to live with and the alcohol was taking over. She wasn’t the same person anymore.

I remember one night, a few years after the attack, she was drinking as usual, and she told me what happened that day in more detail than I ever needed to know. I didn’t want to hear it obviously but I had to sit through it as she relived it. She needed to talk about it and I was the person she wanted to tell. I won’t go into any detail but needless to say it was violent and horrific. It was extremely painful for me to listen to so I can’t ever imagine what it was like for her. That night still haunts me to this day.

The years passed by and I got married, had kids and moved away. I’ve lost count of the times we had phone calls at all hours because she’d done something whilst drunk and/or been admitted to hospital again. I always felt guilty about being so far away and feel I sometimes wasn’t there when she needed it due to the distance that was now between us. I was always on the end of a phone for her, however, as she was for me. The doctors would warn her that her health was suffering and we’d talk to her about it but she would never admit to having a problem with alcohol and that’s half the battle isn’t it? She always played down the amount she was drinking. I remember numerous occasions after I’d taken the kids to school and I’d call her around 8:45am and sometimes she couldn’t even speak because she was so drunk. She was now drinking vodka and getting through a couple of bottles a day. The alcoholism was really taking it’s toll. She had lost a lot of weight and was probably no more than 6 stone. She drank instead of eating a lot of the time. All through this she miraculously still managed to hold down a job in a bookies. I’ll be forever thankful to her boss who could have sacked her on numerous occasions but chose to see the person rather than the problems.

One of the hardest things for someone watching a person with an addiction to understand is ‘why can’t they just stop, if they really wanted to they would’. You naturally go through stages of anger with the person. I used to say to my mom ‘If you can’t do it for me and David (my brother) then do it for your grand children’. It never made any difference. I know she loved us all but sometimes you can’t see it when you’re watching someone self destruct. I have come to terms now that its not simply a matter of choice, it’s easy to think so, but it’s not, it goes much deeper. Alcoholism is an illness and it eats away at you without you even knowing half the time and is very hard to control once it has a hold of you.

It was mothers day 2007 and I was taking my son to a football match and then we were going to visit her afterwards and take her some flowers but she’d been admitted into hospital again 2 days before. I’d spoken to her the day before on the phone and she said go to your match and come to see me afterwards so that’s what we did. I don’t know why I said it but when we arrived at the hospital I asked my son to stay in the car with my brother-in-law as I just had a bad feeling.  I’m glad that I said that so he didn’t have to see what I saw. I walked onto the ward and almost went straight past her, I didn’t recognise my own mother. She looked awful, her skin was grey and clammy, she looked like a very old lady but she was still only 60 years old. She was unconscious and so didn’t know I was there. I spoke to the doctor and he said her liver was failing and she’d been drifting in and out of consciousness for an hour or so. We all knew the drinking had been a problem for years and could eventually kill her but we didn’t think it had reached that point yet. I’d always hoped that someday she would recognise she had a problem and she’d recover. I believe she always knew she had the problem, she just drank increasingly to forget what she’d been through. My brother arrived soon after and we both sat there each side of the bed, both of us holding a hand, just watching her. We sat like that all night until the following morning around 8am she took her last breath.

This is a pretty condensed account of what happened to her, I could probably write a book about it. There are a mountain of stories I could tell, most of them heart breaking and some hilarious, but writing this small account was hard enough so I think I’ll leave the book for now. The people who know me will vouch for me being a pretty laid back person (maybe not the kids). I don’t like holding grudges, I always see the good in people and wouldn’t wish harm on anyone. That is with one exception, the person who raped my Mom. In some ways I wish he could read this short account of how his actions affected her, and indirectly, the people around her. This one persons actions made a wonderful mother’s life one of fear and anxiety and ultimately much shorter than it should have been. He affected a number of people in ways he’ll never know and still does today nearly 8 years after her death. In short I hope he dies a long, slow and painful death.

 

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2 thoughts on “That day and the years that followed.

  • elisa hill says:

    Thank you for being so Brave and sharing your families story,i know it has taken a great deal of courage to share this,but it will help others.Thank you again.

  • MatariJ says:

    Thank you for sharing this. Your mum experienced the ripping away of the safety net that we all think we live within. Once it is ripped away, then safety becomes an illusion. This realisation often results in dependence on various substances as almost essential in carrying on – but as with your Mum, the substance can take over. My heart goes out to her and you – you sound like an understanding daughter and are putting the blame where it belongs – on the rapist. I wish you peace.