I don’t recall the month or the exact time of year. I guess it can’t have been too cold because I can remember clearly that I was wearing dress. I usually did. I was a very girly, girl, unlike my younger sister, who was always an out and out tomboy. Even today I never see her in a dress!
The memory of what happened that day is typical of extreme trauma. It is fragmented. There are some very distinct memories, and then flashes of feelings, of emotions, of colours and of broken images. I can’t even describe to anybody, fully, the sequence of events frombeginning to end, because there comes a point when everything goes blank. I have an absolute memory blot.
I do remember that I was hanging around the Transport Cafe, nothing unusual in that, I often did. But on this particular day, I was invited to go off for a walk. This wasn’t usual, but the person who invited me seemed a nice man, friendly, and I suppose all those warnings about going off with strangers just didn’t enter my seven year old head. Now when I look back I realise that there must have been so many warnings at that time, especially in the light of the number of children being abducted and murdered locally, but they just didn’t register. Where we lived in Audenshaw was really very close to the locations where children had been abducted by Ian Brady and Myra Hindley. In fact, as part of the therapy I’ve undergone in recent months I have I had to research to assure myself that the man who assaulted me that day could not have been Ian Brady. I concluded that he couldn’t have been because the man I recall was big and very strong, although I was only a slight thing and mustn’t have weighed very much. I have fragmented images of the colour blue, possibly he was wearing the boilersuit often worn by truck drivers.
I can recall that we set off walking and all seemed finebut things changed when he swept me up from the floor and sat me high on his shoulder, his right shoulder to be precise. That memory is so very clear. As was the fact that I now wasn’t at all happy. It felt such a long way up and I didn’t like it. I didn’t feel safe. I can still see the path. It was the grey black shale of the coal slags and it seemed to be moving beneath me. Panic was welling upinside of me. This wasn’t right. I was stuck. I couldn’t get down. If I jumped down onto that mass of stone, I would hurt myself. I was up there on his shoulder and I was so very frightened. And then he was laughing and suddenly, I was filled with terror. I was terrified of everything about this situation. I was terrified of falling, I was terrified of jumping to get away and I was suddenly terrified of this man.
That terror, that fear of even being a very small height off the ground has never left me. It has remained with me all my life. I know that it is a totally illogical fear, but I cannot control it. In my mind, even to jump off something only a metre or so off the ground takes me back to that day, and it still terrifies me. So many times I have found myself standing on the side of a swimming pool, knowing there is only just over a metre or so of water beneath me, but not being able to make that move, to jump. I want to, but I’m too frightened. I’m back on that shoulder. Recently I was asked to stand and balance on one leg on a small gym step and I was back on that shoulder. I couldn’t do it. I still just don’t feel safe.
I was further paralysed with fear when his hand began to move up the skirt of my dress and he began to do things that I cannot bear to speak of, let alone write down, not here, not anywhere. They will always remain too vivid and too shameful for me ever to share.
It has been so very hard for me to accept the fact that I was a small child of seven years old and he was an adult who was perverted and who had complete disregard for my innocence. For all my life since, I have simply blamed myself; I was the one who went off with a stranger. I was the one who had put myself in such a dangerous situation and I was the one who would carry the shame of what happened that day for years and years to come.
The human brain is an amazing organ in the way in which it reacts to situations of deep trauma. It triggers our response to fight, to flee or to freeze. I was too small and too weak to fight. He had me trapped and I was powerless. I couldn’t flee, I couldn’t escape him, and so it seems I did what my brain felt was the only option. I froze. And my brain froze. It froze to the extent that I can only recall so far what he actually did, before I meet a blank wall where everything is a shroud of white, of nothingness.
Through the therapy I’ve received this year, some fragments of that lost memory have returned – a sensation of running, a sensation of hiding and of feeling absolutely terrified; my insides knotted with fear. But I never told. Not a soul, not ever.
It was my shame to carry alone for over 55 years. I was just seven years old.
During the EMDR Therapy, one sensation I experienced was that of running. I don’t have the memory, just the feeling of running. Since I embarked upon the counselling and therapy, running has become a way of escape for me. I have run myself to the point of exhaustion, I have run myself to the point of injury
When you’re seven the world should be filled with fun
Enjoying each day with no need to run, to escape
from a man who did unspeakable things
To a child who trusted, who just went along
Not knowing he wanted to do her such wrong
When you’re seven you think all intentions are good
But if you could turn back the years then surely you would
Make a different decision from the one that you made
Which led to such danger, such actions disgusting
By a man filled with evil and intentions sickening
When you’re seven and assaulted, your world is upturned
Nothing feels right, and hard lessons you learned:
Never trust being with a man on your own,
That no place is safe, you want to be home
And now it’s too late – the damage is done.
Damage that marked an innocent child
Left her reeling and left her feeling defiled
And taking the blame she kept her dark secret
Until the truth burst out for all to read
Of a stranger’s abuse and perverted deed
Turned sixty, the world should be filled with fun
But inside you’re still seven and just want to run…
Lynn Boyle 2020