I needed to write my story to get it out of my head. I gave myself permission to write anything I wanted and I promised myself that no one ever has to see what I wrote. It is just for me. This makes it private and safe to take risks. I may change my mind about letting anyone see it – but I don’t have to decide that now.

For me to move forward, I have to feel confident that the perpetrator who abused me will never abuse anyone else. This means that I am on a legal journey to deal with my past. It is really important to have good and knowledgeable support because the legal process is brutal for survivors. The whole system is designed to make you prove it happened. The onus is on you.

I filed a lawsuit against my abuser with the hope that it would give me some peace to bring him to justice. Instead it was a devastating process. The verdict in my favour made me feel better only temporarily. The whole system is messed up and will re-victimize you because it is designed to protect the accused. I was disappointed to find that my lawyer was not my friend, he is in business – I am his revenue. As soon as the trial was over, he was gone. Make sure you have good support that is not your lawyer.

I stay away from people who are unsupportive. These are the people who think I should ‘move on’ and ask ‘how long’ I am going to fixate on my past. “Aren’t you over that yet?” is something I have heard from people who say they care about me. This is not helpful. I am not following someone else’s schedule. Give yourself the time you need, march to your own beat and trust yourself about what ‘feels right’. Find the people who believe in you right where you are. This is what I have learned about moving forward in my life.

It has taken me a long time to be willing to talk to a counsellor, and I had to try a couple before I found someone I like and have grown to trust. One of the important things for me is that my counsellor is also a survivor and is pretty open about it. This makes me feel less like a loser.

I find support with people working on the same issues. Peer support has helped me more than anything else. A good peer support person is on an equal level, they won’t try to tell you what to do, they won’t judge you, they will just be there for you. And you can learn to be a good peer support person yourself because it helps me too, to be there for someone else. We need each other.

Facing my past was a big deal and took a long time. I needed to talk about my past with therapeutic support. I also found a support group and starting talking about my experiences. What I found was that having my story heard made me feel less crazy. I found my voice by naming what happened to me.

The shame of being abused can be crippling. I had to work on healing the shame to really understand that it wasn’t my fault. This was a mantra that eventually set me free. It’s not your fault that someone you trust, or someone bigger, takes advantage of you. It’s not your fault. Say it to yourself, it helps.

Important to healing the past for me is making time regularly to care for myself in the here and now, and to be in touch with my creativity and my body. I seek outlets for creativity through writing and art. Mindfulness meditation as well as walking, dancing or yoga can break up my sense of defeat and despair. It’s a day by day choice for me to live in the present.