Sitting in the car, my partner driving, my phone ringing, I look at the screen as he tells me to answer the phone. He knows deep down I don’t want to. I take the phone call and feel my tummy start to sink a little. It is very rare that my ISVA (Independent Sexual Violence Advisor) from the Rape Centre, calls me without letting me know by message first. We nearly always pre-arrange a time that is good for us to talk. Something is wrong. I know it.
I answer the phone and I can hear it right away in her voice. Her tone tells me there is something serious that she wants to talk to me about. The call breaks up, then returns. We are driving through trees and my signal keeps dropping and I already know her signal from home is bad. (Usually she would call me from the office but because of Covid -19 the whole centre team have been working from home) She asks if I can call her back as soon as I get home. Sure, I reply. My tummy now even more certain that something is wrong. She is never usually so urgent in wanting to talk to me. Urgh. Bad news is coming, I can feel it.
We get home and the first thing my partner gets me to do is to return my ISVA’s call. He knows otherwise that I will just keep putting it off somehow or another. I sit on the arm of the sofa and press in her name and then hit call. Urgh. I feel sick and the call hasn’t even started yet. I just know her, her tones, and I know this is going to be bad.
We get the normal pleasantries out of the way and then she says the words “I know that you can tell by my tone that this is going to be a difficult phone call. I have some bad news I have to tell you”.
I knew it.
Then she begins to tell me the news that I can quite clearly hear that she is struggling to break to me; the board of Directors has decided to close the centre immediately, as of yesterday and she is ringing all her clients to tell them the news.
I am silent. Tears begin to fill my eyes but I refuse to allow myself to cry. I am in shock. This is not what I was expecting. A billion thoughts are going through my head but all I can utter is “What? Why? What about your job? I’m so sorry”
I can hear the struggle and emotion in her voice as she replies, shocked that she has just broken me this news and the first thing I care about is her job. She thanks me, but then tells me that it is my right to be angry, to be sad, to want to scream and shout and cry. But I don’t really know what to do or say right now.
I want to know why. Why have the board made this decision?! Especially without any notice. Do they not care about their staff, even more so, their clients? But she cannot tell me. She is just as angry and upset as I am. I know she means it to. I trust in her completely.
Then suddenly it hits me; she is my only real legal support throughout this case. What am I meant to do now? Who is going to fight for me? Who is going to push the police when they fail to make contact?
My tummy starts to churn. I feel sick. Tears slowly start to fall before I manage to pull myself together. She hears my silence. Knows what I am thinking. She apologises over and over, but it isn’t her fault. I cannot be angry with her. I am angry with the board of Directors. They haven’t even worked with any victims. How can they make this call? How can they do this without putting anything into place to help us?
What about all the notes for my case, where do they go? What if the police need more information from my ISVA? What if, what if, what if?!!! Do they not realise that their actions could affect their clients cases?! Or do they just not care. Maybe that is it. Maybe they just don’t care. For they have put nothing in place for us. Nothing to help us or their staff. Disgusting.
After letting me vent a little, my ISVA tells me that she has set up an email address ready for if, by any small, minute chance they reopen, so that she can contact her clients again and let us know. She also tells me that she will be sending me information for another ISVA, a lady from a different service. But I am not sure if I can start all over again with someone new. It has taken me years to trust my ISVA, to have her by my side and let her fight for me. How do I do that with someone new when my case is already five years in?! I need time. Time to think. Time to decide what to do. But one thing is for sure., I won’t be staying quiet about this. My ISVA knows it too. She knows what I am like. How I raise my voice when it is needed. And right now it is needed.
Then the time comes to say goodbye. Tears begin to run down my cheeks again. I can’t help it, I can’t control it. I can hear how upset she is too, how she is trying so hard to stay strong for me. I don’t want to say goodbye. I don’t want to lose her. She has helped me so much. Somehow I manage to thank her. I make her a promise, that I will make her proud and won’t let our hard work go to waste. I tell her I promise to see this through to the end. And then finally we say a teary goodbye and end the call.
I put the phone down. My partner heard everything, tells me I will be OK. He knows that I am strong enough to get through this. I am too scared to talk. I feel like if I do, I will just crumble to the ground and break. I am terrified. Terrified of what comes next. Terrified of being left alone in this fight against my abuser all over again. She was the only one who kick the police up the arse well enough to get them to do anything. To keep them moving forward! She was the one who was going to sit with me in court, if it got that far. She was going to keep me calm, keep me safe.
Why?! Why is this happening?! It isn’t fair!!!! Will I ever catch a break with this damn case?!!!
I feel like with every defeat my abuser is beating me down all over again. I am tired. I am afraid. I just want this case to be over!! If it were done by now this wouldn’t be happening. She could have helped me right until the end!
I am angry, I am sad, I am heartbroken. I am confused. I don’t know what to do or where to turn and so I write. It helps me get it out. I know I need to take action; to contact my lead police officer on the case, tell them what’s happened, that they have to contact me now and not her. Try to contact a new ISVA, see how I feel about that and whether the right decision is to try to trust someone new. Is that better than trying to fight this alone? Urgh, my head hurts from all the thoughts and fear and sadness running through it. How much more am I expected to take on this journey?! How much more can I take?!
Then I realise, I don’t have a choice. I don’t have a choice about how much more I can take, because if I give up, if I back out, he gets away with it. He will walk away, a free man. No punishment. No-one knowing his name or what he is. So I don’t have a choice. It doesn’t matter how much more I feel that I can or can’t take, I just have to do it. No matter how tired I am, or how sad or afraid I am, I have to keep fighting, because I cannot let him go free just because I gave up.
So this is another nightmare in my journey. But I should be used to that by now. This whole case has been full of nightmare after nightmare – other than it bringing me my amazing partner and this blog. Some dreams within the darkness.
So lets face it, I am used to nightmares. For my whole childhood was a life just full of nightmares.
Somehow I will find a way to survive this. I always do.
Surviving is what I do best.
Thanks for reading.
** Image courtesy of Google Images **