I read the text message from the lady I am on the way to meet and my tummy turns.
“Message me when you are five minutes away and I will wait for you outside so that you don’t have to come in alone”
I am on my way to the local hospital for a meeting with an Independent Sexual Violence Advisor.
Sexual Violence Advisor. Just her title is scary. I hate meeting new people at the best of times but meeting new people who are involved in dealing with my abuse is even worse.
My anxiety is through the roof. I feel like I am going to cry. I was referred to her by the police. She sounded nice on the phone and seems to want to help me but the same questions keep running through my head; is she nice? Will I be able to talk to her? Will she believe me? Can I trust her? Will I be safe?
The hospital comes into view. I get butterflies as I type out the message; “Hello, I am five minutes away” More butterflies as I receive the reply “OK”
I walk towards the part of the hospital where she told me to meet her and suddenly panic. How will I know who she is? I suddenly feel very sick as I see a woman walking towards me. “Gemma?” she asks. I nod and try to stop my legs from giving way as she asks me to follow her.
The room is small: A chair, a sofa and a small table with a box of tissues. I panic at the sight of the tissues. Just as in my therapy and my police interviews, the tissues seem to represent something for me; fear of crying, fear of being vulnerable. I do not want to cry with a stranger. Deep breaths!
I sit on the sofa and get comfortable while she makes us a cup of tea. I can feel my tummy doing somersaults and my head feels fuzzy. I wish they would stop so that I can think straight.
She begins by introducing herself and explaining, that though I have been referred to her by the police, that she is independent and funded by the local council. She explains that she is here to support me and about the Data Protection Act and her confidentiality agreement. Just hearing the confidentiality puts me at ease a little.
I cling to my cup of tea as I give her the little history about my circumstances that she asked for; Who my abuser is, My support networks, My diagnosis of Depression, Anxiety and PTSD, My self harm. I can feel myself trying to disappear and sink into the sofa when I mention my self-harm. I am embarrassed. She will probably think I am stupid.
She clearly picks up on my discomfort as she tries to put me at ease; self-harm is common with abuse victims. She only wants to make sure I am safe. Deep breath.
She explains she wants to talk about my PTSD and give me some information. The symptoms; Re-experiencing, Avoidance, Hyper-arousal. As she explains each one I confirm that I experience all of them. She hands me a sheet to take home with information and tips to help. She tells me that if I have any questions that I can contact her.
I feel myself becoming more emotional as we begin to go into a bit more detail about the abuse and how I was not helped by my mother and my nan. This subject always upsets me.
She tells me that the abuse was not my fault. She says I have to try to accept that I am a victim. I shake my head and tell her I have days when I feel responsible. She explains that this is normal but reiterates that I am not responsible and that I have no reason to feel embarrassed or ashamed.
I feel upset and vulnerable as she explains that abuse victims often use self-blame as a way to protect themselves and survive. She says that it is a way to have a little bit of control and she is right. It does help me stay in control. It stops me from admitting how much pain and sadness I really feel from being hurt so badly. Most of all it helps me to stop myself crying.
Crying. The next subject. She wants me to allow myself to feel the pain and to grieve. She wants me to allow myself to cry. She says it is perfectly normal, that I won’t get into trouble. I am fragile as I explain that I feel like I have a pain in my chest every minute of every day. I feel crushed as I tell her that I feel like I am going to burst into tears every minute of every day. I explain how holding back the tears is becoming harder and sometimes makes my head hurt. She tells me crying will be a release, that it will help me feel a little better. She says it is OK to cry. My eyes hurt.
She can see I am struggling and becoming agitated so she changes the subject. In my head I thank her for that.
She hands me a book; “From report to court”. My tummy sinks. Somehow seeing those words written there in front of me makes this all very real and scary.
She explains that the book is for me to keep. It has all the information I need about the whole police process; Laws, Terminology, Procedures. She tells me to have a read of the book and to write down any questions I may have to ask her in the future. My head suddenly hurts.
She tells me that I don’t have to accept her help and support but that she wants to be here for me throughout the whole process and in the month after. She explains that I can email, text or call her if I have any questions or even if I have a bad day and cannot get hold of my therapist. She tells me that if it goes to court that she can come too. She seems nice and even though I am not sure if I can trust her yet, I tell her I would like her support. I think I need it.
I feel tired now. I have paid no attention to time. Two hours have passed. No wonder I am tired! Talking about this is draining. I suddenly feel defeated.
We end our meeting with her telling me that I have done really well and that she will be here for me and will contact me in a few weeks. She allows a few weeks for me to process everything.
Once we have been hurt we are so scared to trust again. We have this fear that anyone we trust will hurt us and break our hearts. This fear can stand in the way of progress. It has stood in the way of my progress.
If we hang on to the past we will die a little every day, believe me, I know! I have lost myself.
Today I overcame another fear and took another step. I will try to trust her and I will accept her help. I don’t really know why. I guess in a way my heart is starting to finally see a little light even though my eyes still see a lot of darkness.
Stepping into the darkness is the only way I am ever going to find that light because sometimes we have to go through the darkness to get to the light.
Thanks for reading.