When We Face Fear


| This is the 584th story of Our Life Logs® |

Where to begin? Life began for me in Telford, England, in the early 2000s. For most of my teen years, I worked in heavy haulage with my dad and grandad, so I always felt like I was brought up as “one of the lads.” My warm-hearted personality eventually drew me to volunteer with youth groups and spend my time with the little ones.

Well, life took a turn when I was around 17. I was dating a boy at the time—Logan. He had a lot he was struggling with, and I always tried to support him. In hindsight, the relationship just wasn’t healthy and I somehow refused to see that it was bad for me. All Logan seemed to want to do was sit on my floor, eat food and play Xbox. It got to the point that he became so slothful, he booked months at a time off work on “sick” leave without reason, that his work cut his sick pay eventually. When we got into a disagreement, he would threaten and try to upset me by saying, “I’m going to kill myself,” or “I’m going to jump off the bridge.” I thought I was in too deep to leave.

Still, I stayed. I even got to know some of his friends.

I liked to unwind from the stressors of life through retail therapy. One day in July of 2019, I was on my way home from a shopping spree when I bumped into one of Logan’s friends, Warren. As far as I knew, Warren and Logan always had a good laugh and a joke together but weren’t necessarily close. Warren and I connected as friends with ease, and as we hung out more often, he was someone I felt that I could trust.

My boyfriend wasn’t too thrilled about our growing friendship. He was the overprotective, jealous type, so he honestly hated me having any sort of relationship with lads—even my brothers! Still, I didn’t let him intimidate me and I remained Warren’s friend.

I felt nothing more than friendship for Warren, but it hadn’t crossed my mind that maybe Warren had different intentions. When one of his friends warned me, “Warren likes you, Ashleigh… just be careful,” I tried to brush it off. I had learned I could trust him.

But then, one afternoon at his house, the warning seemed to hold more weight, as an unexpected side of him was brought to light. As we innocently took some selfies and had a laugh together, I turned myself to face him. He took that opportunity to jump in and kiss me out of the blue as he snapped another picture. In a flustered state, I questioned what he thought he was doing. He knew about me and Logan. His response was threatening that he’d expose the “accidental” picture if I didn’t do what he said. My head began swimming. Logan already accused me of cheating regularly, so I had to keep the photo from getting out. I agreed to keep meeting up with Warren as if nothing had happened.

To heighten the panic and danger of exposure even more, every night at about 11 PM, Warren would call to, in essence, ask about my bedroom life with Logan. I didn’t know why he needed to know these things. But I soon found what he really wanted from me in late October.

Warren invited me over with a group of friends to his house. My fear about the photo was diluted when I heard other people were coming. Yet when I arrived, nobody was there.

“Perhaps they’re just late,” I reasoned with myself.

For a while, I talked with Warren about very mundane things until I was suddenly frozen on the spot. Warren leaped on top of me and began pulling off my clothes and right there in his bedroom, he raped me.

Just as he finished and I mechanically pulled my clothes back on, Warren’s friends began to arrive. To make matters worse, I was quick to learn that Warren had locked up the house and had the key on him. For the next two hours, I had no way of retreating.

On the ride home, my head and heart raced as I tried to suppress the torture that I’d just stared in the eyes. I felt dirty and horrible. When I got home, I scrubbed myself clean so vigorously in the bath that my skin turned red. In a state of shock, horror, and vast distress, all Logan could do whilst I burned the clothes I was raped in, was rebuke me about leaving the house, oblivious to the emotional wreckage I was clearly in. He didn’t even try to ask what had happened.

That night, as the slight dissociation from the assault faded, I was struck by the thought that this didn’t seem random. All the jigsaw pieces began to fall into place as I played back everything that had happened before that fatal moment. Suddenly, Warren’s behavior was perfectly calculated and planned out. I didn’t even realize that, despite Logan being his friend, he wasn’t invited to this party. Of course not. He wouldn’t have gotten away with it then.

It was so difficult to fall asleep that night. I couldn’t stop thinking, am I powerless?

While I was trying to shove Warren out of my life, a friend of mine had come to me, fearing she might be pregnant. Thinking nothing would come of it, I agreed to do a pregnancy test with her to show her how to do one. Solidarity, I guess. That was when life began to crumble more. Hers came back negative…but mine was positive. Not knowing the truth, my friends were happy for me. One even carelessly called Logan to congratulate him… the opposite of what I’d planned to do to get myself out of this whirlwind of a mess. Logan’s happiness radiated over the phone, as he’d always wanted a child.

I was pregnant at just 17 years old, forced into motherhood by a boy who wasn’t my boyfriend—all whilst dealing with a rapidly collapsing relationship with said boyfriend. I felt stuck. I didn’t want my child to die, but I also didn’t want to give birth to and live with my attacker’s child. The long-term trauma of it all had my head spinning. I’d been taken advantage of, I was pregnant during the middle of my studies, I was being harassed by my attacker, and now my boyfriend was going to accuse me of cheating if he put the timeline together.

All I wanted was support and for somebody to take me by the hand, tell me it was all going to be okay. That’s where my friend’s dad stepped in. He understood my desire not to tell my parents and helped me see my options. But…even though an abortion felt like my only hope, the worry in me arose that getting an abortion might prompt Logan to assume I’d cheated and would probably think I was lying if I told him what had actually happened. Once again, I was stuck.

I couldn’t go through with having this baby. I just couldn’t. Even though I knew my own safety was in jeopardy, I acquired two ecstasy pills and washed them down with some vodka. The next day, I started bleeding and went to the hospital. I had had a miscarriage.

I felt tremendous guilt, which deepened like a stab wound with every sympathetic, “I’m so sorry…” from friends and family. Logan was in the dark about the fact that I’d intentionally caused the miscarriage, leading him to become enraged that he wasn’t getting a child after all. I clearly didn’t matter…

On top of the miscarriage guilt, I was dealing with the decline of our relationship. His nasty streak grew in power after I stopped having sex with him. He had no idea it was because doing it triggered unwelcomed memories. I also learned that his constant cheating accusations were used to cover his guilty conscience about his own infidelity. We broke up not long after the miscarriage.

Even though I was free of him, I was not free of my heavy thoughts.

After the breakup, I desperately tried to keep the brokenness I felt to myself, but two of my close friends could tell that I was about to shatter. To try to cheer me up, they invited me to tag along to a party and for the first time in forever, my mind felt unchained. It was fleeting.

Reality flooded back in after one of the boys there accidentally touched me. In an instant, all the fears surrounding the rape and attack came flooding back like a tsunami. I spiraled. Seeing how distressed I was, one of my friends encouraged me to open up. Maybe it was the kindness behind her eyes, but I spilled everything to my friends that night. While I was encouraged to report the attack, I knew it’d go nowhere because I’d burned my clothes, the only evidence I had from the night. Still, with the truth broken free, I didn’t have to hide anymore, and I received the love and support I desperately needed for months.

I wanted another outlet for support. I wanted to talk to someone who had been through what I’d been through. In my search, I found forums of others sharing their experiences. Reading all the stories of terror, loss, and abuse, I realized this feeling of loneliness and isolation was a false perception because so many people did understand me and could relate to my pain. The hope fluttered within me. Maybe I could take my life back.

I started talking anonymously to people on one of the forums, and through them, I was able to see the truths of my life I had refused to accept. This sense of reality helped me realize how much I’d actually gone through. I’ve always been the type of person who responds quickly to another’s time of crisis, but I was never able to do the same for myself.

That day, I began living for a better purpose. For those who truly loved me. For those who needed me. For myself.

I signed up to talk on the chat lines and help other survivors as they sort through the devastation that happened to them. To heal me, I became the person that I needed at my lowest point, for others. It felt like we were healing together—something I’d never before experienced.

Coming face-to-face with my fears guided me to understand and show others that there is a way out, there is another side, and that whatever they are going through is only temporary. We must accept what has happened and try to move forward. Forward is the only way we can grow.


This is the story of Ashleigh A.

Ashleigh, 19, is an art student from the UK, with dreams of becoming a higher education teacher. Two years ago, she was the victim of senseless rape leading to an unwanted pregnancy, whilst simultaneously dealing with a cheating, manipulative ex-boyfriend. Although for a period of her life Ashleigh felt like the world was crumbling beneath her, she now talks to people on chat lines who’ve been through similar traumas, and it has helped her heal. She is the support system for others that she wished she had. With her loving spark and kind heart, Ashleigh hopes to enlighten others by telling them that there is light at the end of the tunnel and always someone to support them.

This story first touched our hearts on May 1, 2021.

Writer: Lily-Jane Ellis-Powell | Editor: Kristen Petronio; Colleen Walker

 

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