SATU: initials for words which if I heard before in my life I wouldn’t have paid much heed to because they weren’t relevant to my life or world. A safe middle-class world which was to be rocked by abuse and rape . But now every time I hear them uttered my mind whirls back to what they stand for . The Sexual Assualt Assualt Treatment Unit which is based in the Rotunda Hospital Parnell Sq, Rotunda, Dublin 1. I didn’t even know where this maternity hospital was, never mind where SATU was inside the massive building. Parnell square was vaguely familiar because of trips to Dublin over the years at Christmas.
You see I was raped in my home a place where we all feel safe and protected. A place where things like abuse and rape should have no room or space to breath. But my home was full of rooms of abuse over a short but intensive period of time and the grand finale was rape.
I never dreamed that in my 40’s I would become a victim of anything so horrific , Yes in my mind I could become a victim of rape or assault outside the home as I walked home from work or to work . The route I took was lonely at times from the shopping centre through a seafront park, past a hotel garden before I took a path back onto the road again. But I was so cocooned in my knowledge of this route I believed I was safe there and yes I was safe there but I wasn’t safe in my home. It should have been our home but after the first time, he hit me I began to call it my home and at that moment I should have in all reality reported the abuse.
The gossip police and all the old traditions of a close-knit local community forced me to keep my mouth shut rather than bring the abuse, verbal, physical, mental, emotional and digital out in the open. Fear and shame were my companions as I lived my life under his reign but I began to learn little ways to evade him. Being timed taught me to add time to work shifts. Being questioned about my whereabouts taught me to move fast so I could fit in appointments with the women’s aid outreach worker. Having my phone checked when he thought I was asleep taught me to delete every call and text before entering the house. Being beaten taught me to dress with care to hide the bruises from the world. Having food thrown at me after I cooked taught me that no matter how much I tried to please him I couldn’t. Being followed taught me to walk fast and learn new routes to evade him. Being alone in the lonely world of abuse taught me to reach out now after I have come out the other side to help others.
Now you’d imagine from all these lessons that I could have learned the major lesson. The major lesson is to walk out before your carried out. But NO I was going to be Mrs fix everything, Mrs sort it all out and save the marriage. Despite being offered a barring order from the courts i refused it and settled for a safety order. The safety order was my idea of a band-aid plaster which would heal the gaping hole in our marriage. A marriage which had two sides depending on who was talking to who. A marriage of two agendas but one party had a dark idea while the other was full of ideas of a long happy marriage.
SATU was the rock my marriage ended on but it wasn’t the trigger point on which I decided to report the abuse. Before getting to the point of rape my trigger point was earlier. The trigger point is a very important step in the process of decision making when being abused. It’s not just a case of getting up and walking out.
The Gardai were wonderful when I reported my rape. Despite being a young guy he didn’t bat an eyelid and never made me feel ashamed or dirty all through giving my statement. By the time this was done I was informed that my sister had arrived and she took me to eat before we were driven to the Sexual Assault Treatment Unit in the Rotunda hospital. This was where I stepped deeper into the world which was the flip side of my previous existence. An existence which had seen me at 19 go to my husband house from my father’s house and live a normal quiet life. But now I question what is normal in this world.
Forms were filled with the help of the outreach worker from the Dublin Rape Cris Center and the nurse. I was introduced to the Doctor who was to examine me and take samples for evidence. The poor guy was so nice apologising for the invasion every step of the way. Going through this ordeal was like being raped again no matter how nice everyone was. And because I had washed there wasn’t sufficient evidence to bring the case to court. That’s another lesson I learned to share with everyone ” Do Not Wash If You Have Been Raped”.
I moved with the help of a social worker who was assigned to me but bureaucracy and red tape meant that her wonderful help backfired on me. And I had to start filling out every form she had so helpfully filled for me because they were not accepted even though I had signed them. This hurdle was overcome, and I regained my life by attending the Rape Cris Center in Dublin for counselling. Every time I travelled to Dublin I went from Leeson St to Grafton St and bought myself a small present. Each present represents my recovery. I still have them today not to remember my rape but to remember my walk forward on the path of life.
My life and what I knew as ME changed dramatically. From being able to confidently be in crowds I couldn’t cope with loud noises or people standing in my personal zone. Approaching me from behind became a big no no and if a hug became too intense and long panic can still come visit me but I have learned to control it. When friends startle me by surprise or out of fun I had to retrain myself to see the funny side and overrule the shock, anger and fear with laughter.
Rape is not a dirty word and the only person who should be ashamed of rape is the rapist. Nobody asks to be raped. Clothes, drink or talk do not cause rape. The rapist causes rape. The night I was raped I sleeping . I didn’t ask to be raped and end up experiencing the path of a rape victim, but I have had that experience and I have chosen to use my experience to help others by speaking about it.
The biggest lessons I have learned is that forgiveness is the key to my future. Forgiveness closed one door for me and opened another door while enabling me to live my life with no bitterness. Another lesson is that taking steps of faith works because they are answered by our believing.