Since the word started spreading about My Body Back, we’ve been receiving some wonderful letters from women across the UK. Their words are incredibly important to us, so we’ve decided to post one here every week.
Just a little disclaimer – these letters are being published with permission, but we’ve still edited them slightly to protect the writers’ anonymity.
Here’s a powerful poem that was sent to us recently, which we simply had to share.
It was not okay
It was not okay
When you entered me in that vicious unrelenting way.
Did I say that is what I wanted to wake up to?
Or is that just what testosterone told you to do?
How dare you mount me,
How dare you flip me over,
How dare you move me at all.
It is my body so it should have been me,
Who placed myself on my stomach so my anus you could see.
How dare you have touched me in that horrible way.
I am not two goalposts in which your dick can play.
When I was split open and my body began to bleed,
Why did you continue to sew your seed?
But you did continue, even when I was in pain
And I hold you totally and completely to blame
For all the disgust and fear that I feel deep inside,
And for all of the times when to my mirror I have cried
When checking down below for the sight of std’s,
Or thinking that I have a deep mental disease,
As whenever I have sex I now feel afraid…
But for you it was just one summer night in which you got laid.
I make the appointments and reach the building on the right day at the right time and I just can’t go in.
I can remember the rape, but not the check up afterwards. That was just too traumatic. I could tell the staff were not very sympathetic. I was still in shock and 16 and had been raped by three men. I was trying to brazen it out.
I’m 32 now and trying to go for a cervical screening is very difficult. I asked for help from my doctor, I spoke to the local clinic, I did everything I could but was told I just had to ‘steel myself’ and go through with it. I make the appointments and reach the building on the right day at the right time and I just can’t go in.
I now don’t go to the doctor at all. You are in London and too far away from me, but you have already benefitted me – just by knowing that this is a common problem and I am not being ridiculous or unreasonable or immature. Just knowing that there are people in the medical profession who consider that fears brought about by rape are just as deserving of help and treatment as other phobias (flying, dentist, needles), you given me a little bit of faith back, faith in myself and faith in others.
Thank you so much for this. Thank you so much.
I was genuinely moved to tears by some of the Notes of Love
I’ve just read the recent Guardian article about the work that My Body Back is doing. I felt compelled to drop you a quick line to say how incredible I think you are. I was genuinely moved to tears by some of the Notes of Love and I was so unbelievably touched to read about the efforts that the organisation is making to help women reclaim their bodies and their health.
I’ve never experienced an assault myself, but my friend has, and so I guess I’m writing on her behalf. I live in Dublin and have forwarded the link on to lots of my female friends also based here.
I would travel pretty much anywhere to be assured of an understanding approach.
Good luck with the project, just reading about it has helped me quite a lot. I didn’t realise how normal this was. I think the general public would just assume medical professionals would have training in this area but sadly this doesn’t seem to be the case.
During my third pregnancy a few basic special arrangements were guaranteed. The midwife on duty at this birth however took offence to this “special treatment” and was rude and disrespectful throughout. Looking back now I can see the long term damage these kinds of interactions had prompted and am starting to look at ways I can access medical treatment again. This project therefore is exactly what I needed to read about.
I am in Margate, Kent but would travel pretty much anywhere to be assured of an understanding approach. I will contact you again when I’m ready to book. Hopefully this will be the start of
specialist services popping up everywhere 🙂
We both wept together and had the most honest talk we have had in a long time.
I really admire the work you do, as my daughter was raped four and a half years ago. She has struggled with intimacy since and I have watched her relationships fail since the rape. She has suffered from anorexia for the past three years because of what happened to her.
As her mother this is heartbreaking to watch. I was at my wit’s end and still am. A close friend of mine heard the woman who started your project speaking on the radio and that is how I heard of you. I cried when I found your website as I couldn’t understand the anorexia and still don’t, but it makes more sense now about why she is taking it out on her body after being raped.
I found your old website with personal accounts from women and showed my daughter. We both wept together and had the most honest talk we have had in a long time. She has been speaking to her psychotherapist about your project and they have used it as a tool to talk about the cause of her anorexia.
She checks your website every day for new updates, so please keep updating it regularly because it’s getting her through a very bad time to have you there.
I am a rape victim and am quite functional on a daily basis but I struggle enormously with intimacy.
I heard about your project on International Women’s Day and associated Twitter coverage, and I wanted first of all to say that it sounds absolutely incredible. I was so pleased to hear about your cervical screening help for rape victims. I am a rape victim and am quite functional on a daily basis but I struggle enormously with intimacy.
I am also a trans-man and still have a cervix. A combination of being raped at a young age and indeed with use of testosterone means I am at higher risk of cervical cancer than the average woman. I have had the HPV vaccine but long after I was first raped, so I’m not sure how useful it was. I have had problems with screening as part of the ongoing legacy of rape but still have a cervix that needs screening.
The idea of coming to your clinic and of reclaiming your body is one that sounds really useful to me, given the ongoing impact rape has had on my sex life.
I’m glad younger women can benefit from what I did not have.
I felt compelled to email you because I wanted to say well done for doing what you do. I look back and imagine if a service such as yours was on offer for me way back in 1972 life would have been different for me. It wasn’t, much to my disappointment. I’m glad it is now so younger women can benefit from what I did not have.
Thank you for being here. I am relieved I have found somewhere that will treat us with empathy, compassion and patience.
First off I just want to say THANK YOU for being here and letting me know you’re here to listen and give me advice. I can’t thank you enough. I think you guys are fantastic! I’ve been trying to tweet a lot of NHS people and have had some good discussions about it on Twitter over the past five months, but I’ve only just now discovered you guys.
I really hope that your work with the NHS helps to improve things. I am so passionate about this because I think it is really important. So many of us are struggling with this and don’t know what to do. Thank you for being here. I am relieved I have found somewhere that will treat us with empathy, compassion and patience. As it stands, the responsibility is very much on us to take the risk of opening up with a nurse, without really having any idea how we will be responded to. We have never had reassurance that in some way we will be looked after if we have a flashback etc, instead of us just having to second guess. Thank you for giving women the reassurance needed. I really do believe that we need more help currently. I speak as someone who has struggled with rape and is yet to have a smear test.
Thank you so much for the work that you are doing.
I hate the fact that I am still affected by something so old. Minutes of my life that changed it forever.
I found your blog through a post I’d seen on Twitter. I was raped in 1995 aged 19, during my first year at university. I was a very long way from home and decided not to tell my parents as I didn’t want them to think I’d failed at managing to live safely on my own.
The police were called by other students in my Halls of Residence and I eventually did go to the police station with them. I found the whole examination process horrific as I had never been body confident anyway – so having to stand like a star, naked on a plastic sheet whilst the doctor mapped bruises and injuries was horrible. The internal examination the same.
Later I was in my first relationship since the attack and went to the Family Planning Clinic to ask about taking the pill. I was called in by the nurse and said she just needed to do a smear test.
In my complete ignorance and naivety, I thought a smear test was something like the finger prick test when you give blood. I said yes. Next she was telling me to remove my trousers and underwear and lie on the bed. I was so terrified at this point because I had no idea what she was actually going to do, I guessed not prick my finger, but I didn’t know what to say or how to explain what I was feeling upset about. The instructions she gave me were identical to the police exam, and I was absolutely mortified. I couldn’t speak and the nurse/doctor seemed to just take it as nerves. She noticed that I was very uncomfortable but she said it was natural and I just had to relax. Just?
Afterwards we left…it turned out to be a very effective contraceptive!
Since then, I haven’t been able to face having another one. I brush off the smear test questions. Letters go in the bin. About 3 years ago, a GP was quite demanding about it and went into the dangers I was putting myself at etc. All I wanted was one of them to recognise that there must be clearly a big reason. To me, I felt like it was written all over my face and couldn’t understand why no one could work out what the issue was.
Of course I know about the dangers, and I convince myself daily that I must have ovarian cancer, cervical cancer etc. But the worry of what may be isn’t as bad as I know the smear test will be.
It’s now 20 years since the attack, 19 years since my first and only smear test. I’m 39 and hate the fact that I am still affected by something so old. Minutes of my life that changed it forever. Thank you for starting your project. I now have hope that perhaps one day I can come to your clinic and will manage to have one. There is no way I would manage it otherwise.
It’s good to know that I am not as alone as I feel.
I am e-mailing you regarding a recent post I read about the issues of smear tests for survivors.
As a survivor of a recent rape, I have very strong feelings on the effect that smear tests can have on survivors. I was raped a year ago and had to get a rape kit done that night. A few months ago I was finally able to get into a clinic to receive the routine STD check post-rape and they had to complete a pap-smear among other tests.
I can’t even begin to explain to you the fear, the anxiety and the emotions that came from sitting in the exam room alone waiting for the doctor for a solid 20 minutes, along with the time it took to complete the exam. Simple breathing was near impossible. The flashbacks were constant. I felt like I was suffocating, the nausea overwhelming and the fear debilitating. I was paralyzed. It was like I was back in the ER the night of my attack and I was reliving every single moment of the hours spent there following the assault. I knew I had to get tested, and I ended up testing positive for a few STDs, so there was no way around it, but the experience was awful, and I find myself wondering if every exam is going to be like that and resurface all of those feelings and emotions.
I’m so glad there will be your clinic that specialized in post-attack exams that need to be done specifically for survivors that was more of a warm, confidential, understanding place – somewhere that everyone in the office understands how sensitive the situations are and that there could be an array of emotions surrounding the exam for each individual woman. I’m so pleased you’re setting up somewhere that’s not going to be so cold, empty and harsh like most normal exam rooms. I am new to your website but want to thank you for all you are doing. It’s good to know that I am not as alone as I feel. You are truly angels for working so passionately on this subject.