I don't watch Eastenders. I used to. Den and Angie, Simon Wicks and Cindy, Pauline and Arthur. I stayed watching through the first time the Mitchell brothers came to the Square. I stopped a while back, when career took evenings away and the gloss of US TV dramas replaced the grit of London soap.
I watched Friday's episode. I didn't know the back stories of the characters. But yet I did. I knew how those women felt. I never got my day in court, I was one of the 1 in 15 who did report the rape but I was one of the many that the CPS decided not to prosecute over.
I totally commend Eastenders for the storyline, for the outcome. Rape Crisis South London have done an outstanding job at advising and ensuring the words spoken by the survivors ring true and real. When Ronnie says, that's what women do, we blame ourselves. When Kathy says she's happy, it's taken a while, but life is good. When Linda says she doesn't think about it 24/7 anymore but it is always there, colouring things. When Roxy says she's glad she didn't just curl up... And when she almost seems to break again with the realisation that the jury didn't believe her...
That's so important. To be believed. Even after knowing everything I know, even after doing all the recovery I've done, it still crumbles me when someone doesn't believe.
The Rape Crisis blog focuses on the hurtfulness of silence and the work they are doing to #breakthesilence. Silence hurts. Survivors are silenced all the time. Through our own silencing, when we have shame and feel we cannot share for fear of judgement and blame. Through not being believed, through being blamed. And through being treated differently, as though we are changed, broken, fragile. So then we have to prove we are strong, surviving, brave. Which then means we are tempted to silence ourselves, again. And of course, if we do speak, even when we are believed, no-one likes to hear the sad stories, they make people uncomfortable, and people look for answers to comfort themselves, the most common being well, you must have done something to make him want to do that....
In my recovery I became very frustrated with the silence. I've used the #silencehurts hashtag for several years now, since I spoke of it at SlutWalk London in 2012. I found that when I shared with others, they shared with me. Like Linda said, you think you're alone, but it's happened to all of us. I discovered that I wasn't alone and that this thing had happened too, to many of the people I knew. There was some kind of perverse comfort in knowing it wasn't just me, that others understood what I was going through. I know the truth of the trauma psychiatrist's conclusion that community is the critical factor in trauma recovery and I know the isolation that society's myths and prejudices when it comes to rape inflict on survivors.
That's why I set up the ReConnected Life Community, a free resource where survivors can be supported and support each other. Because being part of community is the first step in ridding ourselves of the self-blame and shame - we saw it happen in the episode, with the women around the table, sharing their stories, shedding their self-blame, supporting each other, and finding solace in solidarity.
Kathy is right, life can get better. It doesn't need to be the struggle of surviving that Linda thinks it will be. There is a way to reclaim and redefine who we want to be, changed perhaps, but a new version of ourselves that we are proud to be. There is a way to lose the self-blame, to lose the shame. There is a way to break free from the silence. And it starts with Community. In solidarity with all.
To find out more and join the ReConnected Life Community, click here: reconnected.life/community
Emily Jacob is the founder of ReConnected Life, a pioneering approach to recovery after rape which uniquely takes a whole-mind/body/self approach and empowers survivors to rescue ourselves, to reclaim & rebuild ourselves 'after' in our own vision, and to reconnect body to mind and mind to body. For more information on the story behind ReConnected Life, see here: reconnected.life/mystory and for more information on the ReConnected Life Experience see here: reconnected.life/experience