The Right Way

Content Warning: This essay deals with issues around sexual assault and triggers.


I didn’t have an answer for her.hands-2545754_1920-2.jpg

Instead of repeating the question, we sat together in awkward silence. It was probably only uncomfortable for me though. She was used to it. Years of training had taught her to be patient and wait for the client to speak.

“I don’t want them to ever know I was a victim.”

“Why not?”

I wanted to tell her I was embarrassed. I knew that I didn’t need to be. I knew deep down that it wasn’t my fault. Unfortunately, it still didn’t stop me from feeling shameful.

* * *

I didn’t have children at that point in my life.

I had only been attending counselling for a few weeks, and would only stay for a couple of months, but back then I talked about everything in my life apart from the rape. The only time it was mentioned was when we spoke about my future offspring and how it would affect them. Even then, all that time ago, the thought of having children and them knowing that their mother had been sexually assaulted weighed heavily on my shoulders.

She told me I had nothing to feel ashamed about; I was a survivor. She also told me that even though she could help me, she would never be able to make me forget, no matter how much I wanted to. It was at that moment I knew counselling wasn’t right for me right then.

Now, a few years on, I have managed to cool my anger over that. I can live with the fact I have to live with it. I do feel like a survivor. I survive every day.

But I still don’t know how I will ever tell my three boys.

Sometimes it’s difficult putting a brave face on things. My husband knows my triggers, the things and mannerisms which freeze me to the spot, but my boys don’t yet. They are too young to explain it to. A word, a colour, a place, a behaviour; four specific things which are meaningless to you, have so much power over me. Sometimes its crippling, sometimes a deep breath will see me through.

Today, they wanted to watch a video on YouTube. Thomas the Tank Engine graced the screen for the millionth time this week. Who knew that the very word which makes me feel sick to my stomach would be repeated in this particular clip, over and over again?

I had options. I could turn it off, but then I would have to deal with confusion and tantrums that ultimately would remind me of why I had to turn it off in the first place. I could lie, say the TV was broken. I could explain that sometimes certain things make Mummy feel uncomfortable. Then my five-year-old would make me explain it multiple times so I wouldn’t be able to escape from it anyway.

Instead, I left the room and busied myself with something in the kitchen.

I don’t know if there is a right way to tell your child. Maybe my husband will give them the heads up when they are older. Maybe I will be able to use my platform as a writer to find the strength to speak out more.

What I do know now though is that I want them to grow up knowing that their Mummy is a survivor.

 

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About Donna-Louise Bishop

I'm a writer, freelance reporter, creative writing tutor, and blogger, living in the beautiful county of Norfolk UK. In my spare time I am also a wife, a mother to three boys, and a human washing machine.
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17 Responses to The Right Way

  1. Asha Rajan says:

    This was a very powerful glimpse into your life. Thank you for being so open. I so appreciate the content warning, too. I hope the that the time to tell your children reveals itself smoothly and organically, and that you’re able to convey all the most important parts of your survival and your strength to them.

    • Donna-Louise Bishop says:

      Thank you Asha. I did battle with myself about whether or not to post it. Part of being brave and jumping into the unknown I guess. I hope it wasn’t too raw.

  2. castorpblog says:

    Phew, thank you for this shocking revelation. It is short yet so intense that everyone can sympathise with you. It should be shouted out very loud to make people aware of how they can easily be destroyed.

    • Donna-Louise Bishop says:

      Wow. Thank you for those encouraging words. I’m blown away with everyone’s support on this. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment.

  3. erin5cents says:

    First I’ll start off by telling you this piece was beautifully written and so painfully true. I wouldn’t change a single thinking about it, beside the fact that the rape ever took place at all. I’m so sorry that you have to live with this weighing on you. Your courage is inspiring. I just recently let my daughters have a glimpse into a few elements of my unfortunate past. It happened organically, and I’m glad that it did. It was cathartic to say the least. Your opportunity will present itself. The “talk” will lift a little of that weight, make your children better people in the long run, and bring you all closer together. All of my love to you. I so admire the bravery in this piece.

    • Donna-Louise Bishop says:

      Your words have filled me with hope. I also hope by the time they are old enough to cope with the information, that I have the right words to explain it to them. Reading everyone’s encouragement though has helped. I felt this piece was quite raw and left me rather vulnerable but the supportive words have been helpful. Thanks Erin.

  4. Donna – it fills me with hope that you have been able to write about this. It’s so important too, to remind ourselves that people have triggers from their past – that if we don’t understand someone’s behaviour we still need to give people space to be themselves and be mindful that there can be reasons we nothing about. It’s also clear that you were able to talk to your husband and that he understands. That seems comforting – you are not alone. Perhaps you can together work out what to say when the time comes. It is a burden on you that the trauma continues through worry about what to say to your boys but as a survivor you will find a way. You have all the skills and the love to make it all right. If it was a release and a relief for Erin maybe it will be for you too one day. The boys might be angry you were ever hurt but they will always see you as their loving, lovely Mum.

    • Donna-Louise Bishop says:

      Thank you Maria. Your comments have made me understand this topic even more than when I began writing about it.
      I think you’re right too. I think together Ben and I will find the right way and I’m glad I have a few years to figure it out yet.
      I also feel a pressure to help others so I think now is the right time to be brave and keep putting myself out there.
      It’s also rather scary when someone you know from ‘real life’ comments on your blog, and I’m grateful that person is you.

      • Thank you. Yes I wondered about that – telling the world is perhaps not the same as telling someone you know. My respect for you is only increased, Donna! Writing often helps to untangle our feelings. And to be heard and understood is what we all hope for. I also wondered whether to tweet about your post – you know? It often follows on as a way of supporting a fellow writer or putting something important to say in front of more people but I really wasn’t sure! I guess I must see what you have said yourself on Twitter!

      • Donna-Louise Bishop says:

        I’m happy for anyone to tweet my posts but I do have a twitter account @NewsToNovel for this blog. I guess again that’s my way of not quite making the leap yet. If that makes sense…

      • Oh yes. Thanks for pointing that out.

  5. snapsandbits says:

    This must have been difficult to write. You sons are so young. I’m guessing you’ll find a way to tell them (if you still want to) when the time is right. ❤

    • Donna-Louise Bishop says:

      Thank you Stacie. Yes it was harder to write than I thought it would be. I’m still feeling a little nervous about having it ‘out there’ but I’m trying to be brave. Thanks for taking the time to read.

  6. MichelleH says:

    I can’t even imagine how difficult this must have been for you to write. I am sorry that you had to go through this – are going through this. Thank you for sharing this.

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