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Six years ago, my friends and I were celebrating our friend Mark’s birthday. We had a few drinks before leaving for Brighton’s nightlife. A friend of a friend (Billy) was coming with us and driving. I asked to go with the girls in Mark’s car, as I had a funny feeling about Billy and I knew he fancied me.

Messing around, the girls and Mark drove off, leaving me to go in Billy’s car. I was very drunk, so was drifting off to sleep before I felt his hand touch my leg, pushing him off, I soon realised I didn’t know where we were – certainly nowhere near Brighton. I reached out to grab my phone, when he said, “don’t worry. I’m just going a quicker way”. The girls kept ringing Billy and he just cancelled the calls. They must have rung tens of times. He then stopped the car, on the side of the main road, but a very quiet road. It was pitch black. He said, “get out”. I said, “I can’t, I’m too drunk.” He then got out, with the lights of the car still on. He came round to my side, pulled me out and threw me over the bonnet of the car and raped me. A car drove past and after many times of saying no, I said, “someone’s going to see you.” He then got back in the car. I threw my ripped tights on the floor, put my shoes back on and stumbled painfully back to the car. I couldn’t stop shaking and was in so much pain, sitting down really hurt. I could hear him moving. I looked over to see him masturbating and he said, “don’t worry, you won’t get pregnant” and sniggered.

Mark rang Billy once again and I heard him say, “we’re on our way, we just got a bit lost.” I could hear Mark joking with him over the phone about “getting some”. We got down to Brighton late and then ran straight into Mark’s car. We then went back to Mark’s house. I was crying and shaking and after asking me repeatedly what’s happened, I told Sandra and Celia (Mark’s girlfriend). They said you must tell the police, but we’ll get some rest and talk about it in the morning. The next day was a blur. All I remember was Mark coming up to me saying, “Celia said that Billy attacked you. I wouldn’t go to the police – they will never believe you”. That was that, I never spoke about it again, for another 6 years.

My family had always known something was wrong, my Mum thought I was on drugs or had bi-polar at some point. In April this year, my sister and I were arguing about something silly. It all blew up into a blazing row before she said, “I know something has been wrong with you since your late teens,” then shouted, “what’s wrong with you?” I then shouted back, “I was attacked.” She said you must tell mum and as she said that my mum walked through the door with my dad. I explained everything to them.

I had two feelings, the first one being completely free of my secret, and the second a load had been lifted off my shoulders. They suggested that I have counselling and report this incident.

The next day we went to the police where I had my interview and they gave me a number to call for counselling. I phoned them and made an appointment. I was apprehensive as I have never been through anything like this before. Mum came with me and softened the blow by promising to take me out for lunch. The lady was lovely and reassured me. She advised me of my counsellor and filled out all the forms. She also made my first appointment with my counsellor. I gave her a brief outline of what had happened and burst into tears. I felt like it was the first start to a good thing, although very difficult.

Walking into the Worthing branch of Lifecentre, it felt warm and relaxing, although I was very nervous. Again, mum came with me and sat in the waiting room. I went over the story with my counsellor in more detail and poured my heart out. Again, although very upset, I felt so relieved that people knew, and felt that I was finally making progress.

Over the next few sessions, we went into detail about everything that had happened, how I was getting on with the police and how things were progressing and how it had been affecting my relationship with my family. My counsellor pushed just the right buttons.

We started with weekly sessions and after 6 weeks, moved it to every 2 weeks. When we reached this point, I felt a lot stronger so my counsellor worked closely with me with individual points that she and I felt would help me to “come out on the other side.” We did everything from writing a personal diary to sitting on the floor doing drawings of childhood memories. Halfway through the counselling, my counsellor explained that the next time we will do something life changing. I took a big enlarged picture of my eyes from when I was 5yrs old into the next session. We sat on the floor and she asked me to have a conversation between “adult Linda” and “little Linda” using the picture and also using my right and left hands. At the time it felt strange, but it has definitely changed me. I was more aware of what was going on around me. It’s an experience I will never forget and definitely was life changing for me. After that, we dealt with various issues on a week-to-week basis within my sessions. I am now on my 19th and final week.

Although this started out as the most worrying and daunting thing I could have done, my counsellor has been absolutely fantastic. I feel like a completely new person, with a contented and happy life. As I write this letter, I am currently sitting on the sofa in my new flat with my partner and very happy.

Thank you

signed – anonymous