Crime victims: 'I'd just like to feel safe'
Have you been a victim of crime?
I was recently a victim of a sexual assault, by the brother of someone I know, while my partner was out of town.
I went through the nightmare procedure of going to the police. I told my family about it and they all had many questions; having witnessed me leave an abusive relationship previously they knew how badly this could affect me.
I told my close friends. Most were shocked and asked questions, but then the contact stopped completely. I've been told it was most likely to let me try to get myself back together, but it would have been better to have the distraction from my own thoughts.
I told my manager and a colleague what was going on, and they were the most supportive and understanding, allowing me time to have police interviews and to cope with the outcomes of those interviews.
I took to wearing baggy clothes, barely bothering to tidy myself up to be presentable. I have trouble sleeping. I have no energy and have started to get paranoid about cars following me for too long, thinking it might be him.
Two weeks after the incident I tried to go back to the gym for the first time. As soon as I stepped outside my work, I saw a guy walking down the road who looked exactly like him. I panicked. As he came closer I realised it wasn't him, but the fear was real and I ended up in a puddle of inconsolable tears in the work toilets.
I had been seeing a counsellor for a past abusive relationship. I was already doing everything the counsellor suggested would help me feel better - eating protein, exercising regularly, writing, doing breathing exercises, and taking anxiety medication to help sleep. Since I was already doing all of these things before the assault, I don't know what more I can do, it's just adding to the wound, and my failing self esteem.
I'm anxious and fearful of my partner leaving me to go away for a weekend and me in the house alone, but I don't want to burden my family and friends with my anxious thoughts. I used to regularly catch up with friends for a drink, dinner or movie. I haven't gone out without my partner present since the incident, mainly out of concern that I may embarrass myself if I feel uncomfortable in a situation.
Two months on I received a phone call from the police saying they didn't have enough evidence to proceed with charges. I feel like I've been left to live with the violation, the lack of trust, loss of relationships, loneliness and degrading feeling that I'm 'damaged goods' for the rest of my life.
I have always had a passion for writing and have found previously that it has helped when I feel isolated, when no one understands what I'm going through, or wants to hear about it as I'm not important.
But, it means I'm doing something else to help release some of the pain and lack of connection I am feeling. This is the first time I have written about this torment and I hope it may help someone else feel less alone and find courage. Though the system may sometimes fail us, I still believe that if I hadn't gone to the police I would be feeling worse than I do now.
People tell me I'm strong and it'll get better. I'd just like to feel safe, loved and break free of my own of prison.
*The author's name has been withheld to protect her identity.