A survivor has shared a powerful account of her experience, her feelings and the support that helped her recover. We are always inspired by the bravery and resilience of the people we work with.

When I was 16 I was studying for A levels in the sixth form, I had great friends and a really amazing family. I was confident and outgoing and usually the loudest in any room.

Leading up to my 17th birthday I was so excited, learning to drive was within my grasp and everything was brilliant in my life. My parents got me driving lessons for my birthday and I started straight away. The day that my instructor pulled up for the first time was the start of what I thought was a route to my own independence. It ended up being the complete opposite.

Over the coming weeks I had a few lessons and my instructor seemed like a nice, calm sort of person. One day my perception of him changed in an instant when he sexually assaulted me. I didn’t scream. I couldn’t even catch my breath. I just cried and cried and stayed still. It felt like a lifetime. I was numb and didn’t have it in me to run from him. He drove me home and said thank you which made me feel sick.

I was in a state of shock, no one was home which I think may have changed the course of the next year if they had have been. I got straight in the shower and scrubbed and scrubbed. My head was spinning. How could I have not realised he was such a disgusting person sooner? What did I do wrong? Why didn’t I fight back? What do I do now? A million questions that I had no answers to. The next day I called the driving school and cancelled the rest of my lessons. I thought it would buy me time to talk to my family. I just couldn’t though.  For the first time in my life I couldn’t find the words. The emotions waved through me on and on. I kept trying to be strong. Then giving myself a hard time because I wasn’t strong enough.

I tried to carry on my day to day routine but I didn’t see my friends as much. I didn’t want anyone to know what had happened, I think by this point I had convinced myself I deserved it in some way. I became very depressed in the coming months and was drinking heavily at weekends.

Fast forward many years; this has affected my whole life. Every relationship, friendships, even jobs. I confused sex with love for a long time. That’s what I had to do for someone to like me???

One day with the help and encouragement of my best friend whom I confided in around a year later, I told my Dad what had happened. I knew it would be difficult for him, I knew he’d be angry and hurt but I couldn’t carry the pain any longer and I had to tell him. He was amazing, loving, supportive and kind.

I passed my driving test when I turned 30 with the help of my partner and my family and a fantastic female instructor. It felt like freedom in so many ways. He took so much from me that night but I’ve come out of it all with so much more. I truly believe I wouldn’t be as understanding or compassionate without the experiences I’ve had.

Eventually I met a wonderful man who reinstalled my faith in men. We were friends for a long time before we became a couple. He has helped me to live with this horrible experience and with true unconditional love he encouraged me to get the help I needed and we have 2 beautiful daughters. It never goes away, there are always reminders but I am more at peace with it now.

There is light at the end of this tunnel, sometimes it gets a little darker again but the light is always flickering. I’m proud of myself and I don’t hate myself anymore.