Out of many facts about me, the fact that I am an assault survivor was not an issue I ever thought I would need to discuss on my outdoor blog. Unfortunately I was outed by an organised group of trolls who were constantly haranguing me on my outdoor sites. I really resented feeling pressured into confiding about this issue on my blog, rather than here on my personal site.
And so – I am still feeling my way around how to express this issue. Although I have fought not to let aggression towards me as a child affect the present, moving back to Newcastle meant that those old fears began to affect all aspects of my life.
Since my twenties I have successfully used cognitive therapy techniques to help me to overcome my anxieties and remain positive. To this end I set myself various targets to master (it doesn’t matter how small). I then make a list of how I will achieve those targets and continually appraise my own progress in achieving each aim towards my ultimate goal. At first my targets were tiny things which seemed huge at the time, like going for a walk.
I used to write it all down but I have been using these techniques for so long that they are totally internal now. I have rarely explained them like this, as I’ve never considered it to be all that interesting to anyone other than myself. The techniques may not work for everyone but they continue in the background, whatever else is happening in my life.
To illustrate using an example of this process, I often set targets which challenge or conquer my fears, so I set myself a target to become experienced at wild camping on my blog. To achieve that target I set five goals:
To set myself some hard and fast challenges which would give me a reason to wild camp, and some deadlines to work towards. (I made the mistake of sharing an early challenge on Twitter, and it was completely savaged by trolls).
To gradually assemble a kit in which I have confidence.
To progress gradually from bed and breakfasts to wild camping on my long distance trails.
To seek advice and support if needed. Some people have been very helpful (hopefully they will know who they are, and who they are not).
To recognise when people are trying to undermine me.
I can only hope that some good will come of my making this post, and that these methods may be helpful to some readers. My advice is not to share it on public social media platforms such as Twitter, as trolls can and will undo the work of twenty years in half an hour if you let them. Remember that this is entirely their problem and not yours. Hopefully social media safety people will realise this eventually and toughen up their responses.
When I was 12 years old I eventually called 999 from a nearby phone box regarding aggressive behaviour by my dad, only to be told off, returned home, and medicated for the rest of my teens. I was never questioned, no statement or discernible action was ever taken by the police, apart from to involve the NHS.
However, in my darkest moments since then, I have consoled myself with the thought that somebody, somewhere out there would now know what was happening, that they would be doing whatever it is that these people are supposed to do, and that in some dusty file, there would be a record which would eventually vindicate my story.
It has taken until now, on receipt of a direct request by me, for the local authorities to finally admit what had become obvious to me, that they either never made, got rid of or ‘lost’ any record of my call, which is presumably why I endured further assaults and continued to be pathologized throughout my life.
Although I really have fought not to let the aggression or the subsequent pathologization of me determine the rest of my life, the truth is that it really has. Since returning back up north, those old fears began to affect many aspects of my life again.
One of the more enlightened decisions made during my twenties in London was to refer me to a cognitive therapist. I successfully used cognitive therapy techniques to help me to overcome my fears, restore my self confidence and remain positive whilst I lived down south, all the while imagining that piece of paper in that dusty file.
Since I moved back up here, I have been using this technique, but I don’t think it was ever meant for the enormous issues I have had to deal with, and I often wonder what my cognitive therapist would advise.
I saw this Sanctuary knocker on a school trip to Durham Cathedral when I was about 14, trapped at home, on medication, understanding nothing. Although it was apparently intended to offer sanctuary to criminals, I remember wishing that I could find some kind of sanctuary from things at home. This idea imprinted itself on my consciousness and I still find it a powerful symbol.
I hope this post may be helpful to other people who have had similar experiences.
I have been making a rape allegation against 3 men since 1987. Unfortunately for everyone, around 2000, a decision was made to ignore these confidences and protect people within the authorities. Following advice from the police in 2002 that they didn’t intend to pursue the allegation and a death threat from a member of the health service, I withdrew the allegation in 2003 in order to try and protect my late mother, who was at that stage terminally ill.
Following the death threat in 2003 and various attempts to blackmail, frame and incriminate me, I reported the case to a well known conflict resolution organisation, in the belief that this would enable me to position family or friends as go betweens with the police. My main aim at that time was to resolve things whilst my late mother was alive. Instead, I wasn’t permitted any access to an intermediary or legal representation during the last years of my mother’s life, when the use of hacking and blackmail became intolerable.
As I have now lost all the people I was fighting for, I have withdrawn from any involvement in the case. My health, as well as my family and work life have all been affected. I mentioned the rape in order to do the right thing. However it has achieved the exact opposite and I wish I had never mentioned it.
This news area was created for work news and some of my personal news. Because it became quite depressing to see the extent to which visitors to my sites seemed only interested in my personal news, rather than my work, research or interests, I have been taking a break from work to reflect on where that leaves my life and my career.
My late mum was the tragic casualty of hacking and harassment in 2009. For the avoidance of doubt, where all this leaves things is at an end. I really don’t know what I was thinking when I confided in people about the rape and abuse which are a part of my past at a time when my mother was terminally ill. All I can say is that I genuinely thought people would care about our situation.
Thanks very, very much to the victim counsellor who rescued me from distress which had become completely disabling and gave it a name.