Hannah's Story - "My past trauma doesn’t define me as a person anymore"

I’ve always been very open about my experience with trauma and rape, but I’ve always focused on talking about the fallout that comes after it, never the incident itself.

I’ve recently had specialised sexual trauma therapy, that has completely changed my way of thinking and I have let go of all the shame and guilt I felt. Therefore, I now feel is the right time to share the my story and hopefully help at least one person and advocate for women who aren’t ready to speak out yet.

I’ve been sexual assaulted several times, some I had buried so deep that I’ve only recently remembered them during therapy, meaning I had to experience the whole trauma again and feel every emotion that came with it.

I was first sexually assaulted when I was 14. I went to a guy’s house I was seeing at the time and only let one friend know where I was. Despite my protests, he forced his hands on me, only stopping when I started bleeding. He wiped his hands down my top, covering me in my own blood and pushed me onto the street. Disorientated and crying, I had to get a bus to my friend’s house, whilst covered in blood. We were so young and confused at the time, neither of us told anyone about it.

Later that year I attended a party at a friend’s house that was being supervised by her stepdad. Around midnight I went into a bedroom to get changed into comfies, when I was followed by the stepdad. He entered the room, locking the door behind him, and pinned me down.

I can’t describe how you feel in that moment. You think you’d scream and kick and fight, but reality is your body goes stiff, you feel numb, can’t move and your petrified for your life.

I reported the rape the next morning to the police which led to his arrest. It took 18 months for it to go to court. That’s over a year he was able to walk past me in the street with no repercussions.

Everyone in my small town knew what had happened to me. Some said I was making it up. I couldn’t go to school; I could barely leave my house. I spent year 11 studying from home or in the head of year’s office, secluded from everyone for my own safety and well-being.

When it did go to court, I spent 4 hours on the stand, with no breaks. Imagine thinking it’s humane to put a frightened and traumatised CHILD in front of a room full of complete strangers and force her to bare all. They stripped me down and analysed every single part of my life. I honestly think going to court was more traumatic than the rape itself.

As a result, I developed PTSD, chronic depression and Borderline Personality Disorder.

I spent my late teens partying, drinking, sleeping with multiple guys every weekend, trying to prove to myself I could have normal sex.

When I was 20, I got into a relationship with a charming man who promised me the world. He appeared to be able to provide me the ‘perfect stable’ life I was dreaming of. How wrong I was.

Only a few weeks into our relationship he quickly turned. The abuse was verbal and physical. He frequently cheated on me - there were even times when other women answered his phone. He’d leave me in his bed and go and meet up with other women in the middle of the night.

Once he learned of my previous trauma, his abuse only got worse. He constantly told me I told deserved it, it was my fault, I had it coming. Around this time, I also started to experience pelvic pain (I now know it’s endometriosis) so I was often in too much pain to have sex. He didn’t take no for an answer through and raped me instead. Multiple times.

I still lived with my parents, but the abuse was all consuming and every single day. People around me knew he was possessive and controlling from the texts he sent me or how shut off I had become. But I hid my bruises well and never told anyone the extent of the abuse. I was too ashamed that I’d let myself be sexually assaulted again. At the time, I felt like I deserved it. I felt dirty and tarnished. I believed I would never be treated any better.

I did eventually break free and I have now been in a loving, happy relationship for nearly 5 years. Don’t get me wrong, it’s been tough. My current partner has had to take on my low moods, anxiety and trauma. I’ve spent years overcoming suicidal tendencies and have taken 8 overdoses.

As a result of therapy, I can now explain to those around me how I’m feeling and how they can help me. It has enabled me to manage strong emotions safely. I use mindfulness, journaling and soothing techniques to get through the bad days.

My past trauma doesn’t define me as a person anymore. It doesn’t need to define you either. We are worth so much more than that.

Thank you so much Hannah for joining our community and sharing your story. You're braveness and strength is inspiring

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