I have always believed that love is greater than hate. That there is enough good in the world to overcome the bad. That life is never black and white and we must always look in the grey areas to find the humanity that exists somewhere in all of us and in each situation. The past few months, which have arguably been the hardest of my life, have convinced me that this is true. I say this not because life is okay for me at the moment but because it is not.
Over the past six months I have remembered horrific things from the past and every time I have thought that this must surely be it, there has been more. I have wondered how I ever survived it and how I am still here. And I am here because of the good in my life that has helped to counter the bad. It doesn’t make up for what happened and it doesn’t make it okay. But it helps tip the scales. I have been let down by people I trusted and failed by those who were meant to protect me. But I have also been held up, supported and loved by women who owed me absolutely nothing.
Eight years ago when I first realised I had been raped, I told my best friend who was as young and as unequipped to deal with this as I was. I was confused, terrified and angry – lashing out at anyone who came near me and being even more cruel to my own self. I went from being a top student, member of the student council and having a large circle of friends to being completed isolated. My grades fell, I was constantly in trouble and all positions of responsibility taken away from me.
Things at home were even worse. I attempted to tell my parents what happened, begging for help. They heard what they wanted to hear but didn’t believe that I needed any help. I was told to get over it and be strong, why could I not just be strong and the model high achieving daughter I had always been? Just the hint of sexual abuse and my half hearted attempts to speak out had made me the trouble maker.
At this time the only person who stood by me was my best friend. At 16, she tried to take care of me as best as she could, staying on the phone when I was too scared to sleep and helping me make sense of what probably made none to her either. She was the good that countered the bad.
Eight years on, I am in a similar position again. Let down by my parents once more who chose peace within the extended family over my sanity and my safety. There is nothing like being back where it all began – living in the same room that you were repeatedly raped in with your rapist next door – to convince you that safety is an illusion. That wherever you go, however independent you may become, whatever you may achieve, you can’t really escape. At the end of the day, you are what you always were.
At this point, the only thing reminding me of my existence as an actual person in my own right is the love and support of the amazing women in my life. Over the past few months, every time I have fallen apart they’ve put me back together. They’ve made me laugh when I thought I could never laugh again. They’ve somehow appeared by my side when I thought I was completely alone and taken care of me like my own family never did. Each day their hugs make up for his touch a little bit more, convince me that I am more than what he used me for, that I am not as dirty as he made me feel. I’ve rarely cried about the abuse I suffered but their love and kindness brings me to tears every day. They remind me of myself when I forget who I am.
Just like I don’t understand the awful things he did to me, I also don’t understand the wonderful ways my adopted family look after me. I don’t deserve either but I am grateful for the good that balances the bad. Each day, they tip the scales a little bit more. I am still bitter, angry and sad and it doesn’t always feel like I will survive but I still believe in people and that keeps me human. Like a friend recently said to me:
‘The thing that shows you the worst of humanity also ends up being what convinces you of the best of humanity.’