Recently you may recall that on this page, I wrote about a reader’s harrowing experience of being raped .
Months after having to recall the trauma of the situation in court before her rapist was locked up for more than a decade, the woman, who I have called Becky, contacted me because she wanted me to write a series of articles about the effects on a woman who has been raped.
To briefly recap, Becky said she felt it was her obligation as a woman to use her own experience to help and inform other people who may be going through a similar situation.
When it first happened, Becky did not report it to police for two months and had no idea what to do, who to turn to or anything about how to deal with what had happened to her.
Even today she has only confided in three people – her husband and two friends.
At the time, the first thing she did was ring a friend of hers who worked for a sexual abuse charity, and advised her to contact North West-based Rape and Sexual Abuse Support Centre (RASASC) who provide vital support for victims of rape and sexual assault.
Becky said that the services were invaluable. They give practical support and information, and assign victims an ISVA (Independent Sexual Violence Advisor), while Manchester-based St Mary’s SARC are there for constant advice, support and medical treatment.
Taking each day as it comes
Thanks to the compassion and sensitivity she was shown by them, gradually Becky has been able to take each day as it comes and come to terms with what happened to her, and the resulting emotions that come with her experience.
But it has not been an easy journey and Becky still has good and bad days.
What has given her strength is telling others how they can get the vital support she did, because she thinks it’s still something that would not necessarily be known.
“This time last year I wasn’t in a good place. I barely had a good hour,” she said. “I was waiting for the trial and my life was just consumed by that.
“But it gets easier, and that’s what I want to get across. The release when you tell someone about your ordeal is incredible. The longer you don’t tell anyone, the harder it is and you end up living a lie.
“But as soon as I told the police I felt such a huge release. I was no longer dealing with this on my own – other people were dealing with it and that made me feel a million times better.
No rape victims should ever feel ashamed
“Rape is not something you need to feel ashamed of these days. People are more accepting, understanding and more likely to believe you.
“If I hadn’t had help I probably wouldn’t have been able to get out of bed even now.
“There are so many people that want to help. You just have to be brave enough to ask for that help. There is no time limit; even if you don’t want to report it you can still get counselling and support at St Mary’s before you do so.”
And like many victims of rape, Becky also suffers from Rape Trauma Syndrome (RTS) – the medical term given to the response that survivors have to rape, and says being raped is ‘like a death’.
“I’d be surprised if any rape victim didn’t have RTS. It is like a death – you’re grieving for your life before this happened, a loss of trust, self control – the things you take for granted.
“I just really want to tell other women who this has happened to, that even if you don’t feel like you can tell anyone, just get in touch with St Mary’s because they are professionally trained and used to dealing with people every day.
“I can’t say enough good about them. When you are ready to talk, it’s always at your own pace and in your own time.
“They don’t force a medical examination – it’s as dignified and comfortable as it can possibly be in the circumstances. They give you clean clothes and 24-hour phone access to someone.
“So you can ring anyone in the middle of the night, and always have someone to talk to. Knowing this is so important. To me they are special angels.”