When I was at the end of my first year at university, I was raped after a night at the student union.

I've read through a lot of the stories on here and thought I'd try to share mine, purely because I couldn't see anything along similar lines. I hope that by writing about my experience I may be able to help someone in a similar position, so here goes. Unlike the majority of people, I wasn't in a relationship when I became pregnant. I hadn't - and still haven't - ever had a boyfriend. When I was at the end of my first year at university, I was raped after a night at the student union. The guy was a friend of a friend; I don't even know what he was called. He followed me out when I left, pushed me into the toilets and attacked me. I didn't go to the police, didn't tell anyone, and didn't think about it even. It terrified me that no one would believe me so I kept quiet. I tried to live life as if nothing had happened, even when I missed my period, was sleeping ridiculous amounts, was permanently nauseous and sick - you know the signs. Only once before had I felt the same, when I'd been raped at 12 and had a miscarriage. So, at 19, I found myself in the same situation. I did a test. It was positive. I was horrified. All I could think was I had part of that rapist growing inside me. The idea repulsed me. I needed to get it out of me otherwise I'd have destroyed myself. I arranged an abortion at a private clinic (spending all my savings, which my parents went mad about thinking I'd thrown it all away on alcohol and nights out). When I went for my first appointment with the clinic, I had the assessment and talked to a counsellor. Instead of engaging with them, I did all I could to convince them I was 110% sure of what I was doing and no way was I going to change my mind. When they asked about the father, I told them there wasn't one. They didn't press for details, I didn't volunteer any. Although I told them the date of my last period they wanted to do a dating scan before detailing my options/what would happen. For the majority of the scan I didn't even look at the person doing it, I was too ashamed. At one point I turned a bit to look at her, to see her face and try to see what she was thinking. She thought I'd turned to see the scan so turned the screen slightly as she asked if I wanted to look. As I shook my head to say no my head turned too far sideways - I saw it. I tried so hard to look away but couldn't. I was seeing my baby, the future life that was growing inside me. The life I had repeatedly called a bunch of cells, a nothing, a repulsive growth. In the moment I saw that screen I changed my mind in my heart. I wanted so badly to walk out of that room...I didn't realise I was crying until I was asked if I was alright, if I'd changed my mind or wanted time to think overnight and go back the next day. I made myself think about the night I was raped, reminded myself that what I was carrying was a reminder of that. And I told them I just wanted rid of it. At just over 9 weeks, I had a medical abortion. When I went for the second set of tablets I was meant to stay at the clinic. It was too real for me, being in the building made me too aware of what I was doing and why I was there. It sounds silly but the only way I'd survived that far was by cutting myself off from everything - my thoughts, my feelings, my emotions. To have had any thoughts or feelings would have meant being a single parent at 19, raising a baby conceived through rape. I couldn't have lived with my parents because my father had abused me as a child; there was no way I was bringing a child into the world to live with the same threat hanging over their head. I refused to stay at the clinic, refused to go for a check-up later on, refused all offers of follow-up appointments. I thought that if I had no thoughts on it at the time and no feelings they couldn't come back to haunt me. My baby would be starting school this September. I've only recently told anyone about that part of my life; I'm sharing my story on here to tell people that thoughts and feelings always catch up with you. If you have any doubt at all, please don't do what I did. Don't feel you have to go along with a decision - you don't. Whichever path you take is one you'll have to live with for the rest of your life. Right now, I'm overwhelmed with guilt, shame and self-hate. By focussing on the rape/fact that a rapist was the father, I didn't let myself register that any baby was half me. That it was mine, not his. When I thought I was repulsed by the baby, I was actually repulsed at what had been done to me. By the time I made the link between 'growth' and 'baby' it was too late. When I saw the picture on the screen I desperately wanted to keep it. I still went through with the abortion, even though my heart was screaming at me to rethink. The main thing I would say is please, please talk to someone. Anyone. Just please don't go it alone. However impossible something feels at the time, there is always a way through it. A part of me died along with my baby, a part I'll never get back. I deeply regret the decision I made - even if it was the right decision, the only decision - at the time. Was I selfish in what I did? I don't know. All I know is I felt it and would give anything to turn the clock back. Editor’s note: Thank you for being courageous enough to share your story…You don’t say if you are receiving or have received any support for your past experiences of abuse, rape and now abortion, but now that you have come to the realisation that you can’t go it alone, perhaps now is a good time to find some counselling and begin journey of recovery towards wholeness. You deserve it. A good place to start is the Life Centre in Chichester, which offers fully qualified free support for unwanted sexual trauma over the telephone or on a one to one basis. Their website is lifecentre.uk. com. The telephone helplines for adults are open Sunday, Monday, Tuesday & Thursday evenings 7.30pm – 10pm on 0844 847 7879. Have courage and make the call.

This story was sent in on 11/08/2009

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