I went for professional counselling, because I knew that there was something troubling me that I had never talked about. I felt ashamed and needed to ‘get it off my chest’ so to speak. Many years before when I was a shy twenty four year old, I had lived at a friend’s house for about a year. We worked together running a small café, and we were great friends. She had recently taken up with a new boyfriend, Doug, a builder on the site where our business was, he had decided to move in. He was okay, built like a shed, he could be very temperamental but he was charming and had a great sense of humour. At the weekends we would all go out to a local workingmen’s club, meet other friends, dance and enjoy a few drinks. I was young, naive and cherished the freedom that living at my friend’s house gave me.
One Monday morning, I woke up with the most horrendous hangover. In fact I now recall it as my first and last. I came downstairs, my friend took one look at me and said:
‘Oh Marianne you can’t possibly come to work like that. You look green (at which point I went and vomited outside in the garden). Go back to bed. It shouldn’t be too busy today.’
That was all I needed to hear. I was off back up those stairs feeling like absolute death. I must have fallen into a deep sleep, because before I knew it, it was eleven o’clock. I went downstairs, thankful that at least my head had started to clear. Every fibre in me was screaming out for coffee. Putting the kettle on, I washed a mug, as I stood there at the sink I had a sense that I was being watched. Turning around, there was Doug, my friend’s new man, a thick set giant, standing with his arm leaning against the door frame, smiling. He was completely taking up the whole space, thoughts quickly raced through my mind. I was panicking and instinctively frightened: what was he doing here? Why wasn’t he at work? I wanted to get out of there as fast as I could, but there was nowhere to run, nowhere to hide, I was standing in a baggy t-shirt, and he was stood there watching me, nervously I asked:
‘Can I get you a cup of tea Doug?’
There was no answer and no time to get away. He lunged at me grabbing my hair, throwing me onto the hard floor, three times over a two-hour period, right there, in the kitchen he raped me, over and over again. When he had terrorised me enough, he carried me upstairs to the bathroom, where I vividly remember him locking the door behind us. I swear I thought that was it, I was going to die in that bathroom, I really thought he was going to drown me. He placed the toilet lid down and told me to sit there and wait, like a rabbit in headlights I just did what he said, I was too frightened to do anything else.
And then he calmly ran a bath, he put bubble bath in it and even tested the temperature, I was so confused by the inconsistent behaviour of this man. On reflection, I must have been in complete shock. And then in a surreal moment he picked me up and gently lowered me into the bath, gently washing me. I was terrified and utterly confused.
While he was doing this ‘washing’ thing, it was as if he completely owned me, controlling every move. I was still frozen rigid with fear as he started to tell me, his mouth very close to my face, how I ought to be frightened of him because he could actually snap me in an instant. He told me how he loved my friend and how sad and how angry she would be if she ever found out that I had come on to him in such a sly way behind her back. At that moment, I was convinced that it was my fault, absolutely convinced, and so I never told a soul, not until I went to see a counsellor twenty four years later. The counsellor asked me what my story was and what was troubling me.
I related my experience as above and explained that I had been having nightmares recently and in fact had been having them since the incident 24 years previously. I had a real aversion to having a bath, and if I did ever manage it, I couldn’t stand for the toilet lid to be down or for the bathroom door to be locked.
The counsellor was a nice man who listened intently. When I had finished talking, he said,
‘Would you like to try a technique that may lessen the impact of all those memories?’
I said I would try anything, so he relaxed me to a deep level and then he asked me to relive the incident on an imaginary screen and afterwards to rewind it. I did this technique a couple of times and then booked another appointment. Two days later I felt the best I had ever felt and rang to cancel my next appointment. He was happy for me to do so and said he had expected it. It was brilliant. I have never looked back. I could still recall the incident and describe the details, but it has no emotional impact on me anymore.
An excerpt from:
Working with the Trauma of Rape and Sexual Violence
A Guide for Professionals
ISBN – 978-1785921117
Sue J Daniels
MBACP & UKRC (Snr Accred).
Professional Counsellor &