Sharing trauma for mental health
Written by Yasmeen, Senior Support Worker, The Cellar Trust
As mental illness is on the rise and the awareness is spreading far and wide, I have taken this opportunity to express my battle with mental illness. In 2014 I had a nervous breakdown, the sheer pressure of keeping up the pretence of being the perfect wife, mother, daughter and sibling all the while knowing what had happened to me when I was a child.
I was sexually molested at the age of 8. My abuser was my first cousin, 10 years older than me. Someone who had gained everyone’s trust and respect. I was extremely afraid of him, I couldn’t escape him. From being a happy active child, I became withdrawn. He intimidated me for years, the fear of being disowned by my family if I shared anything with them kept me silent. He would show me knives in passing. He would tell me I am worthless, who would believe me?
Growing up in a densely populated Pakistani community was not so easy. Family gatherings meant my abuser was present, the constant reminder of what he put me through made me feel bitter, on the other hand I was expected to mingle with him and his family as though no abuse had taken place.
It took me just over 30 years to expose my abuser, I finally had the inner strength to speak out. My daughter was approaching 8, I was becoming erratic with overprotecting her. I was in constant fear of my abuser, in case he saw my daughter. I would avoid family gatherings or not take my daughter with me. For all the years I remained silent I felt dirty, I felt it was my fault, I felt ashamed, and I truly believed my immediate family will feel ashamed resulting in disowning me. In fact, the opposite happened, my mum, who is the most important person in my life believed me. The overwhelming feeling of relief gave me more strength. She finally understood why I behaved oddly in the presence of my abuser.
Since the day I exposed him, my confidence has come back. I have gained immense confidence. I broke my silence for my daughter and for the vulnerable people out there who have been abused.
It took me over 30 years to break my silence, the mental suffering was not worth it. If you are in a similar situation to me, please don’t suffer in silence as this is detrimental to your mental health and you deserve so much better. Please reach out to someone you trust and seek support
For further help and support:
Bradford Rape Crisis and Sexual Abuse Survivors Service – Supporting women and girls who have experienced sexual violence at any time in their lives.
Ben’s place at Survivors West Yorkshire – Specialise support for men who have suffered sexual abuse.
Bradford Survive and Thrive – A Family Action and WomenCentre partnership providing early intervention and prevention, specialist work with children and young people, recovery and confidence building and emotional support.
Anah Project – Experienced and confidential support service for BAME women fleeing any form of abuse.
Men Reaching Out – Support all men with any aspect of male domestic abuse. They also have support available to help male victims from South Asian backgrounds.
Rape Crisis national helpline is open every day of the year 24 hours a day. Call free on 0808 500 222. A charity working to end sexual violence and abuse.
Trust Therapies – The Cellar Trust’s counselling and therapy service, to help individuals explore and cope with a range of emotional challenges.