Furloughed Bartender, Volunteer Support Worker with Glasgow East Women’s Aid, Survivor
TW: rape, anxiety/depression, PTSD
I somewhat unwillingly and reluctantly adopted the term ‘survivor’ for myself after I was raped by my friend’s ex boyfriend and his friend whilst passed out in their flat.
At the time, I didn’t understand it; I thought it was somehow my fault. My mind told me that I had drank too much, I had been too trusting, I should’ve fought them off. I was left in a bubble of self-hate, confusion and guilt which left me unable to leave my cold student flat in the West End of Glasgow.
But the truth with my assault, and with every assault imposed on someone by another human being, is that I wasn’t to blame. My choice in the matter was taken from me, the men made an active decision to take advantage of an inebriated young woman.
I survived an ordeal that no human being should go through. I became a survivor.
Two years have passed, and the initial shock of the experience sent me into what I can only describe as a ‘blurred reality’. My mood was low, I questioned friendships, I engaged in reckless behaviour (sex, drinking, recreational drugs) - all of which put pressure on my working life.
In November last year, I was finally able to engage in an intimate relationship. Unfortunately, this intimacy and trust required did trigger many memories which led to my diagnosis of PTSD and depression. I had just started on medication a month before ‘Lockdown’, and work remained the best distraction and coping mechanisms to work through my mental health issues.
My manager at work has been unbelievably understanding throughout my recovery. When I needed time off, it was granted. When I needed a moment to stop the many panic attacks in their tracks, they gave me time. After a while, work became the only positive routine in my life. It was set hours, set people and set tasks - I could do it without thinking.
When the closure of bars and restaurants was announced, I was in the pub for my (unknown to me then) last shift. A sudden panic swept over me as I heard the ‘furlough’ terms, the limited guidance and the shock and sadness from colleagues and customers. My routine was gone! Every coping strategy I had taken so long to develop was swept from under my feet.
I am not ‘surviving’ on furlough. Days are rolling into one, I’m finding it hard to distract myself from the ‘bad’ thoughts brought up by staring at the same few walls. I’m losing the motivation to engage in conversations with friends, family and even just getting up in the morning. The ‘blurred reality’ I had experienced two years ago is back again. It is taking a toll on my relationship, especially when I can’t control outbursts of panic or anger.
In a world where women already feel shut in, isolated, forgotten about, a reality of ‘furlough’ and lockdown is hard to grasp. You realise how much you depend on things such as jobs or social interactions to distract from your worst thoughts. I am glad that there are services to help (such as Rape Crisis) during this time.
However, despite the Home Secretary’s public message urging women to seek help out of an abusive situation, funding for women’s services is constantly at risk. My own WA Service are constantly in fear of redundancy, and of the women whose lives will be at risk if the services close. Will the government commit to funding and support for women’s services due to the overwhelmed numbers? We can only hope.