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  1. Such Is Life & Never The Same.

    Here is the second story from Ann, a survivor and client at RSVP. You can read Ann’s first story ‘The Inspiration To Have a Life’ here.

    My grandson said these 3 little words to me such a long time ago. It got me thinking of all the years I have locked away my feelings.

    So much anger, pain trapped inside, causing so much suffering towards myself. That horrible feeling of being worthless, useless and no good to anyone let alone yourself. Just a waste of space, a waste of air.

    Thoughts of having to do good for everyone else, just to be accepted as a human being. Not able to accept praise, the feeling of not being worthy of any. I always felt like the one in the wrong having to take all the blame for other people who had done bad things to me.

    So much shame, dirt, ill feelings, ugliness and hate only I could feel for so long. The feeling of being alone even in a crowded room, just there to serve others needs.

    Never The Same.

    Never feel the same, wanting to belong somewhere no-one can ever feel the same as anyone else. Maybe they can see the pain in another person’s eyes, not truly feel their pain. The feeling of wanting to belong, to feel SAFE!

    From a very young child feeling the pain of lies and suffering, of shame and hurt. Growing up too quick, hoping no-one else ever feels like I do. Wanting to speak out but afraid of being called a liar, told you would be locked away or beaten for telling. I was locked away for not going to school, I was hit by my eldest brother so I was afraid that something even worse could happen. I so wanted to DIE.

    Feelings I wanted to share, someone to believe me and try to understand, how this little girl suffered from the age of 3 years old, for so many years feeling like there was no end to her pain.

    But she was wrong she found RSVP.

    Posted 17 February 2017
  2. The Power of a Picture

    Expressing traumatic experiences of sexual violence and sexual abuse through words can be difficult. It can be hard to find the words, to say them and to contain the feelings that talking can bring.

    In this post Beth expresses herself through a picture she has created to explain what abuse can feel like.  We know it’s a courageous step for Beth to allow us to share her painting as part of the 2017 Sexual Abuse and Sexual Violence Awareness Week.

    Many people who have experienced sexual abuse and sexual violence don’t feel ready to talk to anyone in their life. However they find drawing, painting, writing, photography and music some of the many varied ways to express and share things in a way that is meaningful to and manageable for them. We are certain that Beth’s creation will also be meaningful to others too and be one of the different ways that we can help to raise awareness and understanding, after all a picture can often say far more than words.

    Thank you Beth.

     

    Posted 10 February 2017
  3. Survivors Matter

     

    Survivors Matter

    By Penny

    I am a survivor of sexual abuse which I was subjected to for 26 years.   After telling no one about my trauma I had suffered I decided one day enough was enough and since that day I have never looked back.   I would not lie and say every day is a bed of roses, it’s not but with the enormous help and support I have had and still get I cope by taking every day as it comes, some are better than others but that is life.

    My case never went to court but I was proud at what I had achieved knowing that although my abuser was not in prison the authorities were aware of him.  My experience encouraged me to give talks to police detectives letting them know what it was like from a survivor’s point of view.  This was very rewarding the feedback was good and I did this for 18 months, only stopping due to cutbacks.

    The Rape & Sexual Violence Project are outstanding they have helped not only with counselling but supporting me via their ISVAs (Independent Sexual Violence Advocates.)   I have first-hand experience of the ISVA service as unfortunately I had to attend hospital for major gynaecology surgery.  I would not have gone through with it without their support attending clinic appointments with me and coming to the hospital on the day of my operations. This made a huge difference to me.  The service is without doubt 5 star and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

    All survivors must remember people do care and I am hoping to restart my talks with other police forces up and down the country, thus improving things for other survivors that come forward.  If I can give help and support to someone wanting to come forward, then I know I have given a little bit back from the help and support I received.

    Posted 27 January 2017
  4. Spirit of Strength

    Spirit of strength

    At RSVP we salute the strength, courage and resilience of the people that we support.  This inspiring and beautiful poem written by Zoe celebrates these qualities and describes her journey to re-discover her voice and use its power to speak out for justice.

     

     

    You took my dance and you took my song

    You took so much while I was so young

    You stole my smile and you stole my laugh

    The girl I was, you tore her apart

     

    With your cruel words and your violent deeds

    Your only thought – to fulfill your needs

    You took my trust and you took my care

    You made me wish that I wasn’t there

     

    Made me believe for so many years

    That what you did was what I deserved

    The words I’d carved deep into my skin,

    They spoke the truth of who lay within

     

    These words, I now see of who they speak

    Of those so cold, disgusting and weak

    You’re many faces and many names

    But underneath you’re all the same

     

    Cowards and bullies, men with no souls

    To hurt and shame – your pathetic goals!

    But with all the things you took away

    You failed to see what it was you gave

     

    My strength of spirit is thanks to you

    My courage and resilience too

    And now I can speak of what you’ve done

    To you, I will make sure justice comes!

     

     

     

    Picture credit – Strength by Colleen McMahon used under a Creative Commons licence.

     

    Posted 13 January 2017
  5. Being Me.

    This powerful story comes from Lily, one of RSVP’s inspiring clients.

     

    Surviving solely struggling for my children. Many years passed before I reported the incident when someone, who I had confided in, asked me if my wellbeing would be better if I reported the incident or not. I had stopped considering my wellbeing 

    Reporting the incident to the police was very difficult for me as I no longer trusted people and did not want to be labelled any more. I was frightened by their suggestion that I contact RSVP, although eventually I did pluck up the courage to do so. I was extremely relieved – they were really caring about helping me manage my anxiety, and with their support, I realised how exhausted and overwhelmed I was with being silent. With the help of RSVP and the police I have now been heard. 

    Failure of Services 

    Passing information about attacks to service providers for almost 20 years, I had been ignored – rather, I was seen as a dysfunctional woman, passed from service to service and allowed to fall through the net. Was this really the easier alternative for each and every one of those service providers with whom I came into contact? I still question this. This attitude by society further contributed to my silence and gave platform to the perpetrator’s abuse. 

    Silence is not always a Matter of Choice 

    With a couple of incidents already dismissed by me as out of character, the most serious incident occurred one night, several years later. As I lay asleep in bed, with the children in their rooms next door and their doors open, I was woken being raped by my husband. I leapt out of bed and, conscious of the children, quietly ‘screamed’ at him asking him what he was doing. I rushed into the bathroom. I felt filthy, and the sensations experienced were not those that I wished to have. I haven’t been able to get clean since, and don’t talk about this as it would almost feed the story I want to forget. He left the bed, swearing, angry at being discovered and stormed downstairs.

    Aside from making one phone call the next day to someone who should have known better how to respond to distress from close family, but didn’t, the next day was, and still is a blur. It wasn’t for many years that I was told that I’d made another call to friends, who on arriving saw the distress of my children and me. I have no memory of this. 

    Living a Lie 

     My silence was driven by shock and fear. I felt locked in, claustrophobic, with flashbacks characterising my life. Nevertheless, it was important that my children had their life without knowing the depths to which their father would stoop. This was so, so hard. 

    I survived by presenting him as a perfect person, and in many ways he was: good-looking, extremely talented, very charming, yet he had nothing positive to say about me, ever. He drank his way through all day, every day, from the first day I met him, I never considered that this shaped his behaviour, but it did.  

    My head was in a constant turmoil following this incident. I did not know how to handle this turn of events. I made excuses to myself about his behaviour. I felt powerless, panicky, dirty and embarrassed, but desperately wanted the children’s father to be the person I thought I knew he was – the face he presented to others. My levels of anxiety and panic just grew and grew with his mounting unpredictable behaviour. 

     I struggled increasingly to respond to peace, with the result that I was seeking out situations where I would be uncomfortable just because they were more familiar to me. Peace although my preference, was now out of my comfort zone and caused a sense of panic – I am naturally a very shy person and work best with familiarity. Gradually, my personality was changing from one where I always saw the best in people, to one where I was initially suspicious and distrusting. Adopting a tough exterior, I struggled inside to cope with many situations, and failed to explain this to others. This was written off as my ‘being difficult’. I tried hard not to let my children see this, but I can see now that it must have become apparent.  

    Living Me  

    Whilst I have always survived, there are several important parts that contribute to my recovery, and which have enabled me to start to feel free. Perhaps the most important are being able to voice my experiences, being listened to and believed, and with support given to help me make informed choices about what I want to do for me.  

    As I try to build a new life, I feel stronger and more energetic as I am confident about my truest friends and family. Being able to trust myself has been a critical part of my personality to build on for myself, and I use this to reflect on how I am when someone shares even one tiny part of their trauma with me – I feel humbled that they have been able to do this. I feel honoured that they consider me worthy of hearing their story, and I use this as a spark to ignite my fire where my soul can sing again by supporting others to voice their experiences. 

    It can never be acceptable to ignore the voice of someone who reports rape and violence. Our society has to change, and organisations such as RSVP and ourselves, the survivors, we are the positive power force, who are critical in raising awareness and driving change. Our voices need to be heard. RSVP played, and continues to play, such an important part in my life 

    My life should not be just about survival. I have survived for years, and survival is a shape shifter, taking many forms. Life is more it is about being able to feel free, being able to dance, to sing and to feel. It is about being able to be me. 

    By Lily. 

    Posted 7 January 2017
  6. Purple Flowers.

    Purple is the color for survivors and for campaigns to increase awareness about sexual violence and abuse.

    With its origins tied to royalty, purple flowers symbolise dignity, pride and success, and  represent accomplishment and admiration. These themes beautifully describe Chloe’s journey from fear and loss to victory and celebration after sexual trauma.

    Purple Flowers

    By Chloe.

     

    Purple flowers,

    Stand to the hours

    Of the “No”s ­

    And the fear.

     

    Purple flowers

    Acknowledge the loss,

    From the unexpected

    Battle of nightmares.

     

    Purple flowers

    Speak in colour,

    Out of the silence

    In monochrome.

     

    They do not apologise

    For falling

    Where no place to fall

    Should have been.

     

    Purple flowers

    Rise in celebration

    Of my victory

    Within this story.

     

    They lay unashamed

    Of vulnerability,

    With both ability

    To break

    And to heal.

     

    Purple flowers speak

    Of the scars that remain,

    And the path that has led

    To the person I became.

     

    Purple flowers

    Stand to the day,

    When I realised

    This was not the end.

     

    Posted 10 December 2016
  7. Living Reconnected-two

    Living Re-Connected-Part Two, by Emily Jacob.

    Foreword by RSVP: We are delighted to welcome Emily as a guest writer on part two of talking about her journey to feel fully reconnected after sexual violence. Here at RSVP we know how vital it is to promote recovery and thriving by encouraging survivors to connect with their mind and feelings, and with their bodies too, since sexual trauma impacts on every aspect of the self. Many survivors (even after receiving other support services like counselling) still struggle to connect with their bodies and with the social element of life, feeling isolated, withdrawn, dissociative and socially anxious. This is why we have social groups to promote well-being, physical activity, holistic interventions and relaxation techniques with survivors. We offer five social groups every month enabling survivors to take part in a variety of free activities such as Tai Chi, bowling, yoga, cinema trips and meals out; we offer a monthly coffee morning and a weekly craft group too. All have turned into an important way that survivors can rebuild well-being, increase social activity and make new friends. Read more about our social groups here: http://www.rsvporg.co.uk/services/free-social-groups/ and enjoy the second part of Emily’s blog below.

     

     

    Continued from part one.

    I was feeling empowered, the kind that comes from within, and isn’t found at the bottom of a bottle of wine.

    My mind was ready; my body was not. It seemed to want to stay in the hyper/hypo yo-yo, it wanted to sleep and collapse after any minor excitement. It was becoming my Achilles heel, and I resented it more than ever, holding me back, preventing me from doing everything my head now said I could.

    Then, one evening, completely unexpectedly, something clicked. I was at a women’s retreat, the kind where you do lots of intensive & challenging internal personal work, not the kind where you have face masks and massages. It was an exercise in connecting with our inner vitality, our inner soul animal. I watched everyone connecting with tigers, lions, dancing, moving. And yet I was trapped, I couldn’t move; I was locked, frozen, in position. The tears started rolling down my face. I realised: I hadn’t forgiven my body for what had happened to me. My mind and my body were completely disconnected.

    Up until that point I’d been dealing with symptoms and trying to control conscious thought. And although this had undoubtedly saved my life, what I really needed to do, was make peace with my body and start living as a whole human being again.

    I’d found the missing piece to my recovery.

    I have been working hard ever since, slowly reconnecting my mind with my body, my body with my mind.

    The decision to use this knowledge, and my new skills, to help other survivors was one I resisted for a long time. Although I wanted to do something meaningful with my life, I didn’t want to make rape the focus of my life. I didn’t want to be defined by that one, devastating event.

    I’d spent years and thousands of pounds trying to make sense of it all, trying to feel whole again. I knew the coaching skills combined with my real-life experience of different therapies and my own recovery could be a powerful combination to help others. But I didn’t want to.

    And then I met Deborah. Deborah had no access to help and was on a waiting list for therapy. She’d lost friends, struggled with work and felt completely isolated. It broke my heart.  And her story is not unique.

    I spoke to other rape survivors and found that they all felt the same disconnect that I did. The same hopelessness. They too felt that coping was enough. Getting through the day was just about as good as it gets.

    So, I decided I had to do something about it. I started to share my strategies and knowledge, gradually helping others to re-connect the dots in their minds. They began to make profound changes, which previously they felt were impossible. I loved the feeling of being able to have an instant, positive impact on someone else’s life.

    Everything slowly started to make sense. I realised that my life did have a purpose, and that I couldn’t possibly leave these women to struggle alone.

    Finally, I had something to fight for. Something to live for. Today, I no longer see myself as a rape survivor.  Because to survive is to struggle. To fight, every day. I’m more than that. My life is blossoming. I feel revived. I can see light pouring into the cracks and drowning out the shadows. Of course, there are still occasional dark times, dark thoughts. Moments of despair. But I know that they will pass. And that’s more than good enough for me. They serve as a handy reminder of just how far I’ve come.

    But the greatest pleasure for me, comes from knowing that one day, you will feel this way too.


    Emily founded ReConnected Life http://reconnected.life/ to help survivors shed the shame and self-blame, and move forward with their lives. Through the ReConnected Life Experience http://reconnected.life/experience/  Emily guides survivors through their recovery path from surviving to living. And in the ReConnected Life Community  http://reconnected.life/community a sanctuary of safety, understanding and compassion has been created with women helping women, healing each other. She’d love for you to join them!

    Posted 24 November 2016
  8. Living Reconnected

    Living Re-Connected-Part One, by Emily Jacob.

    Foreword by RSVP: We are delighted to welcome Emily as a guest writer talking about her journey to feel fully reconnected after sexual violence. Here at RSVP we know how vital it is to promote recovery and thriving by encouraging survivors to connect with their mind and feelings, and with their bodies too, since sexual trauma impacts on every aspect of the self. Many survivors (even after receiving other support services like counselling) still struggle to connect with their bodies and with the social element of life, feeling isolated, withdrawn, dissociative and socially anxious. This is why we have social groups to promote well-being, physical activity, holistic interventions and relaxation techniques with survivors. We offer five social groups every month enabling survivors to take part in a variety of free activities such as Tai Chi, bowling, yoga, cinema trips and meals out; we offer a monthly coffee morning and a weekly craft group too. All have turned into an important way that survivors can rebuild well-being, increase social activity and make new friends. Read more about our social groups here: http://www.rsvporg.co.uk/services/free-social-groups/ and enjoy Emily’s blog below.

    reconnectedlife-redefininglifeafterrape-experience

    “There was a time when I didn’t know what the point of life and living was. It’s not like that anymore because I have discovered the route map to living a reconnected life. It wasn’t straightforward, I had to go searching. I got lots of help, initially; but not really. I did the things you’re supposed to do. I went to victim support. I went to the Havens. I went to the Women and Girls network. I got some one-to-one counselling, I graduated to the group therapy programme.

    I thought I was better, because I’d taken my medicine. I wasn’t better. I was still numbing every emotion, through every conceivable way. Food, cigarettes, alcohol, drugs, prescription and otherwise. Cutting. I became a workaholic, working 12-14 hour days 7 days a week. I had a meltdown, a breakdown, maybe a breakthrough. The medicine was prescribed again: one to one counselling, group therapy. And this time when it ended, I knew I wasn’t better yet. And so because I’m a privileged middle class white girl who at the time had a job with health insurance, I jumped through every hoop I could to get access to actual psychiatric care. Which I had for 18 months, and which saved my life.

    Except it also didn’t. Because after, when I was discharged, and told I wasn’t mental anymore, I still didn’t have a clue how to be in this world, this world that had betrayed me so badly. I went searching for more answers, and it was only on that journey that I started to understand how to move forward, believe in myself, and put myself back together again.

    I felt ungrateful. I’d overcome (most of) the negative coping behaviors. I’d started sleeping through the night. I didn’t have panic attacks anymore. I was even weaning myself off the anti-depressants. I’d had some amazing help that had ‘cured’ me to the point I could say I was ‘in remission’, or even ‘recovered.’ Plan B became more theoretical, more a memory of a possibility, it became far from the real intention it had been. And, yet, I didn’t know how to do life, I didn’t know how to be.

    With the apparent cure in place, I remained totally frustrated that I still didn’t feel ‘right’, I didn’t feel like I ‘belonged’ in the world, I still felt ‘broken’ and ‘fragile’. I didn’t trust my cure, I didn’t feel connected to anyone or anything, not even myself.

    I thought this is just the way life is going to be. One day at a time. Surviving. Better than before, because no panic attacks, but still, not whole, not really living. Surviving.

    At about the same time as being discharged from psychiatric treatment, I took voluntary redundancy and started my own business. As part of that, I wanted to add coaching, so became qualified, adding the NLP toolset along the way. What I found was, that in learning how to help other people, I was actually also learning how to help myself. I was learning how to start to feel connected to the world, to dreams, to future plans, to me, again.”

    To be Continued in Part Two.


    Emily founded ReConnected Life http://reconnected.life/ to help survivors shed the shame and self-blame, and move forward with their lives. Through the ReConnected Life Experience http://reconnected.life/experience/  Emily guides survivors through their recovery path from surviving to living. And in the ReConnected Life Community  http://reconnected.life/community a sanctuary of safety, understanding and compassion has been created with women helping women, healing each other. She’d love for you to join them!

    Posted 6 November 2016
  9. The inspiration to have a life

    These powerful words come from Ann one of RSVP’s inspiring clients.

    insp

    I would like to speak not only to say how RSVP has helped me, but thousands of other survivors in lots of different ways.

    I myself came to this wonderful organisation at the age of 59 years. From the age of 3 I had suffered abuse and pain. The feeling of being alien made me deal with the feeling of being ashamed, that you smell, and are dirty, evil and ugly. Then the mind games start. Who would believe a stupid little girl? Then as you get older the flashbacks, feeling you think people can see what is going on not only in your head but in your body too. You think all the badness is visible and the smell from the badness inside of you. You believe this so much, you think ‘if I am fat and ugly no-one will like me’ but that does not work. I was wrong, so once again I punished myself.

    At the age of 3 my own dad would touch me and tell me this is what daddies do with their little girls and it is okay. Then as I got older my brother would do the same but wanted to do more things, things I never thought were possible. Then when I reached 12 years old I was held down by some boy and a so called friend and raped. Then I started my monthlies and I thought I was going to die.

    Then the time of having to live with my brother and sister- in – law where they both abused me, threatening me so bad that I wanted to die. As a teenager I was raped for 24 hours by a man just let out of prison. I could not tell anyone because they would blame me, ‘the ugly little alien’ who only has one purpose in life.

    Now with the help of such a wonderful organisation as RSVP I have been given a life, where I am never judged, never looked down on. To know I can share my feelings and not feel bad about it. I always thought it was my problem, why does anyone else need to know?

    RSVP from receptionists, office staff, managers, counsellors, CEO Lisa, Sally Chairperson and not forgetting the trustees and fundraisers, they have all played a part in me realising I have a life and a voice. I am now a person with feelings. Thanks to counselling and social groups I no longer feel alone, now knowing I don’t need to hide anymore and having a right to show my feelings.

    The greatest thing is knowing RSVP treat all their clients and members of staff and volunteers with respect and understanding, and are sympathetic, non-judgemental not only to myself but to everyone they come into contact with, making everyone’s feelings count.

    I would like to say thank you to one and all who support so many people like myself. To make me understand others actions should not stop me having a life.

    Thank you from so many SURVIVORS. Keep up the great job of helping so many others like myself.

    Posted 6 October 2016
  10. Taking off the Mask – Part 2

    Here’s part 2 of an incredible story from one of the survivors we have worked with…

    So here I am sitting in a comfy RSVP chair with my counsellor going into my past. The words poured out. We discussed my feelings; how my words were making me feel and possible ways I could feel in order to change my coping mechanism.

    Without the support of RSVP I wouldn’t be where I am now. I have learnt more about myself than I ever thought possible. I talk so much more, I cry too, not because I’m unhappy but because I can if I’m upset. I’ve learnt that it’s ok to be upset. I’ve learnt that my feelings are mine and it’s ok to feel them.

    Now I have a new partner and she is so understanding. She is kind, beautiful and patient with me, she understands the length of my recovery and has spent many times with me coming to my counselling sessions and waiting in the waiting room for me.

    I have had my bad days but with help of RSVP and my partner’s patience I have been able to get the help that I’ve needed, so my blips are more of a passing moment than a troublesome few weeks.

    I am on anti-depressants but I don’t see this as a bad thing. It simply means that I have an illness, and just as you would take paracetamol for a headache, I find anti-depressants helpful in controlling my illness.

    I have a good job that I enjoy and I also completed an introductory level in counselling. Since completing my counselling with RSVP, I have gone on to raise money for them and I’m currently giving some spare time to help them with a few things on a voluntary level. It’s my way of saying thank you for their hard work and continued support.

    My partner and I have been on a couple of holidays together and this year we’re taking my children away. It will be the first time that I have been abroad with them, I’m so looking forward to it.

    My partner and I live together and I find that since I learnt to take my mask off, when I giggle with her it is real, I laugh because I am happy.

    I still get on with my ex-wife, we work through things with our children and I am there for them every day and continue to provide for them. I see them on a daily basis and FaceTime or text them all the time.`

    I’m not saying that my journey has all but ended, I still have a way to go yet, but the road that I am on is clearer and for the first time in my life I have no mask and I am not running.

    I think and feel more clearly. If I’m struggling, I talk about it. I’m more open and honest about how I’m feeling. There is a saying that I picked up during this journey that will always stay with me:

    “If you always do, what you have always done, you will always get, what you have always got”

    This seems very fitting for my journey. I have changed what I do and opened up and now what I get back has also completely changed. All of this would never have been possible without the help, guidance and support of RSVP.

    Thankfully my story still continues with a more positive outlook.

    Thank you RSVP.

    If you would like to find out more about the work of RSVP, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

    Posted 7 September 2016