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What if one day, you wake up at the age of 40, and up until that day, you had honestly for 26 years not known you were raped every week for two years?

What if from the end of the abuse, right up until that day, you had no memories, all you could remember is you have years of memories missing, and for some strange reason you know you were not at school on Wednesday afternoons…how could you know that at the age of 40, but not know why?

This is my story. I am a survivor.

It started with nightmares, blurred images, but I knew one of them was me, a younger me. And it all started in 2012, just after my first child was born.

Not until the nightmares became clear, an image I could see, then the flashbacks started. Then PTSD took control, I could be triggered from a noise, smell, touch, anything and suddenly I was reliving a rape, to the finest details; sight, smell, touch, taste, even my body hairs reacting. I was reliving it for the very first time, every time. And it could be anywhere, anytime of the day, I would just collapse into a ball on the floor and it could last minutes or hours, I never knew until after. And then wreaked, emotionally drained and physically knackered, body aching all over.

I knew I needed help, and found a therapist, but as more details came out, and more memories returned, I found my greatest enemy as a survivor. Shame and guilt, these were all I could feel. I could not look people in the eye, opening up to my therapist, the shame led to tears, to endless crying.

And my partner at the time felt it, took that shame, and carried it. Consequently, our marriage fell apart, and for my own good, her abuse is over, but at the very same time my mother died after a two-year battle with terminal illness. My wife ran off with my son, the shame was too much, the shame of my childhood rape, and also the fact that I found out through going to therapy that I had been running from my sexuality because of the shame. My partner was extremely homophobic, so the possibility I was gay was 10 times more shame on top. I remember sitting in my car after my mother’s funeral, after my ex had gone, my head was in my hands, tears flowing and ready to give up again.

From the moment my life fell apart at the age of 40, I collapsed, fell out of the world and on to my sofa, daily, not getting dressed, not washing, not eating, drinking too much and relying on anything that can just take the pain, shame and guilt away and stop the nightmares.

One night of sleep is all I am asking for.

This went on for months, I was close to losing my job, working from home but I was not actually doing any work. And from February 2014 through until May I was a mess, contemplated taking my life so many times, and so many times rang support lines, SurvivorsUK, Samaritans, and many others.

Sometimes I could not speak, only cry, and they still helped, I am still here.

A dear friend of 20 years, tried regularly to pick me up, visiting, but thanks to her persistence, I decided to fight back, went back to therapy, and decided to reclaim my life.

Rob Bradley_weddingIn October that year I met a new companion, like me, lonely and just looking to make friends, and we did. He was truly supportive, from the very start I was honest, I told him I am a survivor of childhood rape, and talking to him helped me open up until eventually in 2017 I came forward to the police about my rape. It was the hardest thing I have ever had to do, but I want to say a huge thanks to the police, and their handling of my case.

My details of the address where it happened was sketchy, but I drew a picture from the kitchen window and in such a short time after my statement they found him, arrested him, searched his house, found evidence backing up my story and put it forward to CPS for prosecution. Then he died aged 92.

He died knowing I came forward, he died knowing he did not get away with it.

I never asked for his abuse, I never wanted to do it, I wanted to stop it every time, however he was an abuser, picked me because he knew I was vulnerable, drugged me with LSD, and then took photos, which he threatened to show my family and friends if I did not continue.

What choice did a child have?

Why should I have shame for making that choice? That was my only choice, and then it was no choice.

Through therapy, he no longer has any control over me, and now I no longer hold any shame. I can openly talk about my abuse to others, without bursting in to tears, sometimes I will still get a little emotional, but not what I was.

Do not get me wrong, I am not cured, I still have nightmares, sometimes I have a flashback, but now I understand them more, I go to therapy when needed, and I take each day as it comes, one day at a time. I am still here, yes I have complex PTSD, will have it for life, but now I have the tools to get by daily, yes I have “wobbles” where I crash due to stress or surroundings, but I know how to deal with them and have safeguards in place.

No more shame.

And my friend, is my life friend, what started as a friendship, turned in to love, he proposed to me, I cried, said yes, he is now my Husband, we married in December 2018.

He is my rock, and helped me discover the real me, the hidden me, hidden to protect me. More importantly, he is proud of me for speaking up, he encourages me not to feel afraid to raise awareness, and for that, I love him dearly.

He has helped me rebuild my life, find the true me, all of me, and not only that, I am now a self-employed software developer, I work from home, I go out when I am ready for the world, and my software is now maturing and my customer base is growing, certainly not earning what I was, but I have hope, my future now is certainly much brighter than it was 5 years ago.

5 years ago I thought my life was over, I no longer had any purpose, and the shame as so much, who would ever want to talk to me? How wrong I was.

I have no more shame, you do not have to either, it is possible.

Rob Bradley

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