What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger


‘He’ didn’t ever rape me but the fear of ‘him’ doing exactly that hung over me from the time I realised what rape was. With each passing year I lived on the heightened edge of terror that today would be the day that ‘he’ finally did.

However, the fact that ‘he’ didn’t doesn’t lessen the fear that renders every cell in my body ‘hyper-vigilant’ and in many ways that was probably as detrimental to my mental health as if ‘he’ had. It certainly left my soul fatigued.

It was during those nights filled with terror – each and every one of them- when I would lie awake in my bed, in a room without a lock on the door even though I had begged and begged for one, that I prayed to fall into a deep enough sleep that I could sleep walk and kill ‘him’ and  not be held responsible.

I didn’t want to do anything knowingly that would upset my Mother. Or go to jail.

Obviously, no matter how hard I prayed for that situation to occur, it did not and now many years later of course I am glad. However, in return, I was hoping for some sort of divine retribution to be carried out and for ‘him’ to suffer. Instead of us. Instead of me.

At a very young age I started going to nightclubs. My logic told me that it was safer for me to be out in the big wide world than indoors with a definite threat. Of course, anything could have happened to me on those nights out but thankfully did not.

I was almost always surrounded by a wonderful flock of gleaming gay bodyguards. Not that they knew it but their presence certainly kept me safe.

From the age of eleven until I was twenty I spent my nights clubbing. I was too young to have been a Blitz Kid but I tagged on too the tail end of that by growing up in clubs like the Camden Palace, The Circus, Pyramid, TFV, Delirium, The Mud Club and of course Taboo.

I would get home from school on a Thursday and call Leigh Bowery and we would sit on the ‘phone and chat about his ability to play piano or speak Japanese and he would tell me about his day and then he would kindly add me to the guest list. Thank goodness for guest lists otherwise I would never have been able to seek sanctuary amongst the crowds of beautiful people who soon became like a family to me.

It was after one of those nights out, after walking home alone from Soho – using the my teenage logic that it was safer to be out of my home than in it – that after letting myself in, I crept to my room and I actually got into bed and fell asleep.

I’m sure very little time had passed but all of a sudden I was awoken by an almighty crash of thunder outside my window and a massive flash of lightning that lit up the entire room…but only for a split second. It was in that momentary flash of light that I saw that I wasn’t alone in my room.

There are no words to describe how terrified I was. ‘He’ was standing only inches away from me looking at me whilst I had been sleeping and had for a split second had been fully lit up by the lightning as if he were in a spotlight. Like a scene from a horror film.

Thankfully most people will never ever know what primitive feelings of terror flood your body when your realise that you are not alone in a room when you are supposed to be. Was this the night ‘he’ was going to rape me? What had ‘he’ already done to me that I didn’t know about?

I was probably only about 13 or 14 years old and instead of being able to spend my evenings with my family, go to bed at a reasonable hour and be fully refreshed and prepared for school the following day – I was lying only feet from my Mother who was in the next room, whilst her husband stood over me as I slept. Or ‘touched’ me.

‘He’ took a step towards me and then sat on the edge of the bed and tried to kiss me. The absolute repugnance of that moment (and every moment with ‘him’ in it) makes every cell in my body feel like it’s trying to make a get away. It’s hard to describe the sensation other than my skin is crawling off me at the memory.

Clearly, in this situation and most similar situations, being a fully grown and large man, he had the upper hand but I fought ‘him’ with every thing I had. I just fought ‘him’ in silence as I didn’t want to wake my Mother. How would I explain the situation?

I didn’t realise that the situation wasn’t for me to describe but somewhere in my growing up, roles had reversed and I felt like I was the only adult in the house and it was up to me to keep my ‘Mother’ safe and unharmed.

I can’t remember exactly what happened next on that particular night. I don’t want to remember. There are so many nights like that that I silently endured. And days. ‘He’ would have tried to slobber all over me. ‘He’ would tell me that he loved me. ‘He’ would tell me that I was beautiful. Even typing that turns my stomach. Those words turn my stomach. It was as if by using those words ‘he’ was making me responsible for ‘his’ actions.

I know for sure that I would have hit ‘him’ and pushed ‘him’ away with all my might and depending on how determined ‘he’ was to ‘touch’ me, ‘he’ would or ‘he’ wouldn’t and would then just laugh and walk away, leaving me to spend the rest of the night in a zombie state where I was neither awake nor asleep and surviving on pure adrenaline. For the attack that had happened and for the one that might.

If you have ever been attacked you will know the feeling that stays with you, sometimes for many weeks afterwards. Every noise, aroma and movement that reminds you of the attack, or could be an attack is heightened and you can barely function because it’s as though new attacks are imminent from all and every possible direction. Well, it was like that. All. The. Time.

I would eventually get up, get ready and leave for school. I would turn up to school with a smile on my face and my homework completed on the bus, at my desk or in the library just before registration.

My grades were good and more importantly than anything else, no one suspected what was going on at home. I wanted them to know so much. I really wanted them to find out but it couldn’t be me who gave the game away.

I am pretty sure that many of my school friends thought that there was something odd about me but they just didn’t know what it was. Perhaps the teachers though that too? But none of them guessed at what was going on behind closed doors as they were all too busy reading the obvious signs explained to them by the local education authority and social services. What do they know? Clearly not a lot as other girls I was later to discover who were being abused also kept the signs very well hidden.

It’s usually the strongest people you now who are shouldering the most. What other reason could there possibly be for developing that emotional strength?

If it doesn’t kill you it makes you stronger.

*For all the posts in this series, please click here:




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