My words to anyone who has been violated are very loud and very clear – it’s not your fault.
‘M’ represents the millions of girls and women who are unable to tell their story.
The nightmare began for M when she was an 11-year-old schoolgirl. It continued on a regular basis for over a year. It was not until she was 37 that she found the courage to tell police that she had been sexually abused as a child by a respected member of the community. This was the beginning of M’s emotional journey to find herself again and to heal.
For years, M blamed herself for allowing the abuse to happen. She could no longer trust anyone – including her parents – because she felt they had let her down. She lost confidence, became angry, unhappy and insecure and believed that she didn’t feel worthy.
After a difficult adolescence and an unhappy marriage, M’s road to recovery started when she finally confided her childhood secret to a friend. The friend encouraged her to report the abuse to police. At the same time, she came to realise that the perpetrator was still very much in a position to abuse children without being detected. She nervously dialled 000 and reported what had happened to her all those years ago. The perpetrator was eventually charged.
The police recommended that M see a psychologist who has helped her deal with the aftermath of the abuse. She says this has helped her to come to understand herself better. ’I started to slowly realise that the abuse had permeated my life like a cancer,’ M said. ‘I had forgotten who I was. I lost so many opportunities because I had no confidence. I always ended up in compromised situations. I felt I could no longer trust anyone. But then I realised there was nothing I could do to change the past. I hadn’t actually changed. I just needed to think differently. I still have trouble trusting people, but I feel better and have regained my confidence.’ In fact M has recently remarried and says she is very happy.
‘Now, with much insight and healing, instead of merely surviving my life, I truly live it. Happiness lives with me now – I consciously choose it every day. I have learned that whatever injustices circumstances bring, how I live with it is my choice and my responsibility. I have moved on.’
Women like M show great strength and courage by reporting a sexual assault crime to the police. But there are many victims who fear breaking their silence to report their abuse. They are afraid that their story will fall on deaf ears or that no one will believe them. They fear that their friends and family will treat them ‘differently’.
For M, the decision to come forward seven years ago was not an easy one. But it was the start of the healing process and she is relieved that the sexual abuse she endured was officially recognised as a crime. She says that her concerns for other women who may have been assaulted by the same person had motivated her to speak out.
M’s story is a positive one. She is testament to the fact that it is possible to escape from the nightmare of trauma and go on and live a happy life. ‘It took time, but I finally got to grips with who I really was and learned to become a positive person again.’
M’s advice to anyone in the same position as her is to remember: ‘It is NOT your fault.’
Anyone seeking help for child sexual assault services and information can visit: