I was 16. I was asleep. At first. I continued to pretend I was asleep. I understand now that reaction was fear and weirdly self-preservation. The incident did not last long. I managed to roll myself out of it. I never said a word, not that day nor for a long time afterwards. I was too scared of the consequences; the fall out. I felt guilty. I felt it was my fault. IT WASN’T. There was no counselling, no support, I carried on as if nothing had happened. Lots was happening though, inside me. I was fucking angry. It’s like a ball of fire in your gut. It seeps out at times, the wrong times. It colours everything you do. My confidence was shot to pieces. If you think I’m confident, I’m a better actress than I know. Without counselling an incident like this colours your life forever.
I became bulimic. You stuff food inside yourself to supress the raging emotions. Then vomit it all up – it’s exhausting. I eventually went for counselling for my bulimia, group counselling, it didn’t really help I just learned that other girls were suffering too but we never discussed why.
Many brave faces have been put on. I wanted desperately for someone to protect me. I also wanted someone to beat him up. Basically, you experience a wall of emotions.
Directly after I got married I became quite depressed. (Sorry Noel – but if anyone knows that you do). I was 39 by this point. I was really happy newly-married to Noel, and the depression was so confusing, but this was nothing to do with him, I just couldn’t shake off this particular depression. I went to see a counsellor in Dublin. When I sat in her chair I could feel this ball of anger welling up inside me, I started crying, I could not stop. It was all to do with that incident when I was 16. I was still carrying around this fog, 23 years later, and it felt like yesterday.
Just after moving to Gorey – again a happy move – the fog came again but I got an appointment with our local psychologist. He listened to me at length and suggested I go for counselling sessions here with the Rape Crisis centre. I met a wonderful woman called Imelda. After I explained everything she told me she wanted to check something out and the next week said ‘Alyth, by law, you were raped’. Now you may think I would know this? – as we all know what rape is – but rape can be many things. However, Imelda saying that to me made a real difference. She gave a name to this pathetic incident that had scarred me so badly. The guilt stopped. I believe people call that understanding ‘owning it’ (though this is nothing I wanted to own.) I was told to write a letter to him. I did. You don’t have to send that letter – writing the letter is facing the facts – but I did. He denied it. I am not surprised – who the hell would want to admit to something like this. I was annoyed, but now I am truly over it. I have no dealings with him. I don’t think much of him. I get on with my life. He has to live with it.
I know – with great sadness – I am one of millions.
If you experienced something similar I hope you were able to cope better than I, but if not find a way through it till it is truly over, otherwise it will never leave you. The problem with being a victim is you have to find the strength, the ability to heal even though you did not set this thing in motion. Respect and sex education need to be an open discussion. My thoughts about Lewis at that time was – there was too much religion and not enough reality but that would not be exclusive to Lewis.
What I regret most of all is my confidence being shattered and draggin’ this through my life for so long.
It has not been easy writing this as I am aware that once you post something you are open to any reaction but the objectifying and disrespect of women is far too commonplace to stay silent.