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Wednesday 4 October 2023 Dublin: 12°C
PHOTOCREO Michal Bednarek via Shutterstock
Column I was raped by my ex-boyfriend but I've taken back control of my life
Despite the dark road I travelled after being assaulted, I realised that I’m a young, intelligent woman with everything to live for – and I won’t let my attacker ruin my life for one second longer.

WHEN I FIRST met my ex, I felt for him instantly. He was funny and charming. We were happy, and I was mad about him. But a few months into the relationship he changed.

I travelled to see him one day, and from the moment he picked me up, he was in a very bad mood. I put it down to him being tired or hungry and didn’t really give it a second thought. We had dinner, then drinks and inevitably headed on to a nightclub. His mood didn’t improve, and he had a lot to drink that night. We then went back to a hotel for the night, and it was there that things took a turn for the worse.

Once we got into the room, I asked him when he was coming home to met my family, and he was responded by telling me never, as I was dumped and it was over between us. I was shocked, and began to argue and plead with him. He responded by slapping me across the face, and pinning me to the bed. He then raped me.

Once the attack had finished I lay there motionless, afraid to move, and shocked. All I could do was try and make what had happen normal in my mind. I didn’t want to believe what had happened was real or that it had happened to me. I felt scared more than anything, and afraid he could kill me if I dared move. I didn’t sleep a wink that night, and stared at the clock willing it to move on.

The next morning I got up and dressed. We checked out of the room and went separate directions. It was the last I ever heard or saw of him.

I couldn’t tell anyone what happened

I was afraid to tell anyone , I mean this guy was my boyfriend and I had gone there out of my own free will. I blamed myself for what he did, so I just put it to the back of my mind and blocked it out. If anyone asked why we had broken up I blamed the distance, our jobs, him cheating on me , anything but the truth.

Time went on and still I didn’t speak up. It was only when I had to fight off some unwanted attention from a colleague that everything came flooding back.

The nightmares began and so too did the panic attacks. I had a dreadful fear of being on my own, and would cry myself to sleep most nights. I couldn’t eat and I lost a lot of weight, and was terrified to trust anyone. I was always down, and I got really depressed. I was also very paranoid, and failed to see anything but negativity.

The panic attacks brought on my asthma and I was hospitalised a lot. I was sent to various psychiatrists but couldn’t bring myself to tell them what happened. I was diagnosed with depression and given anti-depressants, which made me worse. When I was on them I felt like I was awake in a dreamland, things became even foggier and I couldn’t think straight. It was then I decided that I wanted to move on and to feel human again.

The next meeting with my psychiatrist didn’t go well. I told her that I had come off the pills, and didn’t want to rely on pills to get better, that I wanted to get better on my own. She got angry with me, claiming she knew what was best for me, and I got up and left the room.

I felt human again

That evening, I looked up ‘rape survivor’ on my laptop. Many different websites came up, and so did a number of forums. These forums and websites were my lifeline. The forums were full of stories from people like me and, for the first time in a long time, I felt human again. I would spend hours on these forums and write about what had happened me. The more I wrote, the better I felt.

I also phoned the Rape Crisis Centre and made an appointment. They were nothing short of incredible to me. I told them everything and they listened and didn’t judge me. Most of all they believed me, hugged me when I cried, and were there for me. I would also show them stuff I had written about the rape – sometimes it was poetry, other times it was a letter to him – and slowly I began to get over the attack.

I remember telling my counsellor that each day I felt down and depressed about the attack, I felt like he was winning again and still had a hold over me, and I wanted to change that. When I said that, I began to realise it was up to me to move on and live life.

I thought of all my amazing (true) friends who had stood by me during my depression and panic attacks, and my family and all those who cared about me, and my friends on the forums. I thought of how I was young, intelligent and had it all to live for, and most of all how short life is. I didn’t want to feel depressed anymore.

Taking back my life

I also decided to run the mini marathon for the Rape Crisis Centre and each time I went out training and pounded the pavement I imagined it was his face I was running over, and I felt amazing. I would make playlists of songs and go out and run. I no longer felt like a victim, I felt like a survivor.

The day of the mini marathon came and I was nervous and excited. I ran and ran and am ever thankful to the crowd for how came out and cheered us on. Crossing the finish line was one of the most emotional experiences of my life. Once I crossed the line, I put the panic attacks, the fear, and self blame behind and moved on with my life – as cheesy as it sounds it was the first day of the rest of my life.

Since my ex attacked me I have gained a BA and MA and I feel so proud. I hope to one day become a counsellor and help people who are in my situation. I love life and those who stuck by me during my darkest hours.

To other survivors out there, please know it was not your fault. However alone you feel, please remember you are not.  Follow links below, and speak up. Don’t let that person ruin your life for one second longer. I don’t recognise myself from the person I was during those dark days and I never ever want to go back there.

Life is a precious gift and I plan on living every last second of it, and I encourage you to do the same.

Helpful links

The author of this article wished to remain anonymous.

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