***If you are visiting this page for the first time, please do look at the previous posts in this section.
This is my story and it will all make more sense if you begin to read where I began to write***
I attended the appointment with my GP. Explaining myself to him and then to the Practice Nurse wasn’t easy. The GP I saw was not one I’d seen regularly or felt I knew very well. He was also a young man, which made it more difficult. In the end I just had to take a breath and go for it. Here was a sixty two year old woman telling of her present and past trauma to a thirty something doctor and hoping he would understand. It had to be done. To be fair, he was really very good and very understanding. He suggested that I take time out to deal with the issues and he decided to put the reason on my sick note down to ‘family difficulties’ to save my embarrassment with the Diocese. It was vague. He was trying to protect me by not being explicit. He also wrote down a phone number for me and suggested I might benefit from speaking to somebody about having some counselling. He asked if I wanted to involve the Police. I declined. The Practice Nurse just got hold of me and hugged me tight. She knew what I needed at that moment.
I was alone for that first week of being signed off work. My husband, daughter and closest friends were all out of the country, skiing and my son lived at the opposite end of the country. I had to begin a process of dealing with what was happening to me, but where to begin?
I felt very uneasy with telling my Church Wardens and Assistant Priest. It wasn’t that I didn’t think they would be understanding, but how would they cope with what I revealed? How would anyone? What would they think of me? I was so ashamed of myself and I’d also never had any time off and I actually had no idea how long this would take. My first medical note was for three weeks. I had a big funeral coming up and was hosting the Ash Wednesday Worship for our group of churches. All I could think of was the very difficult situation I was putting my church into.
I spoke to my Wardens and Assistant Priest as openly and honestly as I was able to at that time. I was worried how they might take it but decided it was the only way. My worries were unfounded. Of course, they were all really shocked at what I told them, like the Archdeacon, they could never have seen it coming, but then they were so wonderfully understanding and supportive, and have been throughout.
First hurdles over, but then it became trickier than I’d ever imagined. What do you do in this situation? Where do you go? Who do you speak to? How do you help yourself, when it seems there is nobody out there to help you? There are no guidelines, no helpful handbook. Again, I was flying solo.
I suppose one of the first things I chose to do might seem a little bizarre. I picked up the phone booked an appointment – at a tattoo salon. I will admit, it was a pretty spur of the moment decision to have a tattoo, a symbolic tattoo, inked on the inner side of my forearm. It wasn’t my first tattoo, I’d had one done twelve months previously, during Lent symbolizing the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ.
The first salon I tried to make an appointment offered me one for the beginning of May. It was February. Even when I tried to explain, they didn’t understand the importance and urgency of what I was doing and why I needed it doing now. Fortunately, the second place I contacted did understand. Absolutely. I emailed them a photograph of the image I wanted tattoing and, like with the first salon, a brief explanation of the reason why I wanted it doing as soon as possible. The girl who read my message knew how and why it was important. She looked the image up on the Internet at what it signified and booked me in for the following day. No going back.
I was choosing to mark my body with the most significant symbol I could find, that of a Sexual Abuse Survivor. My abusers had marked me emotionally and mentally for years. Now I was marking myself, in defiance, as a physical testimony to all I had suffered at their hands. I have never regretted my impulsive decision.
The tattoo I chose to mark my arm with in February 2020, was designed by a sexual abuse survivor who stood alongside Lady Gaga at the 2016 Oscars. Lady Gaga had the same image the‘Fire Rose’ tattooed on her shoulder. The design uses the infinity sign, along with DNA structure to come together as a rose on fire. It is a symbol of unity with all who have suffered similar abuse.