Life after assault
When Tammy went out with friends one night she had no idea how much it would affect the rest of her life. Here she opens up about how one chance encounter turned her world upside-down.
Wanting to fit in
When I was 13 I was naive and stupid; all I wanted to do was fit in. Some friends invited me to the local park to get drunk - my only concern was pleasing them and being part of their group, so I went along. I'd never been drunk before and I must have drunk a litre of vodka mixed with cola. I thought I was going to have the time of my life but I ended up very drunk.
I don't remember the night very well. I met a guy who was about 17. For some reason - probably because I was so drunk - I warmed to him and we started kissing. The next thing I knew, he forced himself on me and tried to rape me, even though I was saying "no". I somehow managed to run away, feeling very scared and disorientated.
After that night, I went to the police. In court there was a plea bargain - he pleaded guilty for two of the counts, which meant that I didn't have to stand up in court. I was so relieved. In the end he was charged with attempted rape, but I still wasn't free. His family was angry and they started to threaten me, which made me scared to leave my house. My friends and my family were so supportive; they encouraged me to go out, not to be scared and not to let my fear of others rule my life.
A downhill spiral
Ever since that point I've been suffering with depression. For two years I kept my feelings to myself, too ashamed and confused to open up. I wasn't sure if I was making a big deal out of nothing and I had no idea how to describe what I was feeling. I became withdrawn, and stopped socialising. In an attempt to try and cope on my own I began self harming, and soon my life was becoming controlled by obsessions about cleanliness. I spent hours every day washing my hands, cleaning the house and counting, making sure everything I did, like brushing my hair or teeth, would add up to 10.
I was still attending school, but I was so sleep-deprived that it was hard to concentrate at times. At this point my mum began to notice and arranged for me to go to a mental health clinic for therapy. At the clinic I had Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) for an hour every week. It was a six-week course to help control my Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Fortunately this helped to lift a lot of the obsessions and OCD is no longer a big part of my life, but I still felt low and depressed.
"I have overcome the assault and it is no longer a problem in my life, but I think it has caused a 'domino' effect. I felt so out of control when it happened."
I hated my appearance so much that I would punish myself for being so disgusting. I spent hours staring into the mirror, observing my faults and then controlling these feelings by self harming and over-analysing the calories I was consuming every day. After starving myself throughout the day, my body craved food, so I'd binge and then throw up, feeling guilty for eating so much. All this caused my weight to drop from nine to six stone.
Throughout all these struggles, feelings of suicide overwhelmed my life. Now I'm 17 and I feel like I've been through a lot in four years. I've been hospitalised and have attempted suicide three times. I have overcome the assault and it is no longer a problem in my life, but I think it has caused a 'domino' effect. I felt so out of control when it happened that I started over-controlling other areas of my life, like cleaning, eating and my appearance.
Focusing on the positives
I still have a lot of problems and I'm still attending therapy, but despite my difficulties I've managed to do very well at school. I focused all my energy on my school work and achieved seven A grades and two A*s at GCSE.
I'm now studying Psychology, Chemistry, Photography and Drama at college, and I've started to run campaigns there, too. My first campaign was to raise awareness about mental health and I'm now working on another one focusing on the pressures on teenagers to be thin. Although it's a personal subject, people find it interesting, so the response has been good. We're setting up a place at college where people can talk to someone who specialises in a certain area of mental illness such as depression, eating disorders or Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD).
I know how confused and lonely I felt, and I don't want others to feel like that. I want to encourage people to change and to help themselves. It would have really helped if those around me understood what I was going through. Most people aren't aware of these issues, so they find it hard to talk about them. Doing these campaigns has really helped me, as I'm being productive rather than sitting at home feeling sorry for myself. I still experience problems, but I deal with them in a much healthier way. I want other people to be able to say the same thing at some point in their lives.