© 2018 by Kate Ryan.

He was a youth worker at the church and also a music teacher. 

He was also our choir director. 

 

I was 14, so 2003.  Maybe more 13 than 14. 

There was a large age gap of 25 years. 

 

I started having lessons with this guy. 

In his house. 

He lived with his parents, but our music lessons took place upstairs, which should never have happened. 

 

The lessons changed. 

And that went on for, all in all, about two years from start to finish. 

 

*

 

It was really problematic for me. 

Even when I was in this particular, what I would have termed at the time “relationship,” I was trying to get out of it by trying to date somebody else. 

 

I was confused about sexuality, and I was trying to date a girl. 

But he kept pulling me back, pulling me back. 

 

I was comparing the other people to him--almost looking for his approval in a way.

 

He really loomed large over my adolescence, even after it had stopped. 

I attempted to seek help on multiple occasions, both at school and in my church. 

I confided in peers. 

 

I don't think they were really able to be allies to me, because they were so young themselves.  He had power over a lot of them as well.  

Some of them tried by going to the school, by going to the pastors of the church and saying, "We've heard this." 

But it didn't work. 

 

The school didn't handle it the way they should have done. 

They basically confronted me and said, "We hear you're in a relationship with an older man.”

I denied it. 

And they said, "We know you are." 

And I said, “Ok, fine, I am.  But I'll put a stop to it.” 

And that was where it was left. 

They should have gone to the police, and they did not. 

They broke the safeguarding laws in the UK. 

 

The pastors confronted me, but this guy knew that something was up. 

He said to me, "If you tell the truth, you’ll be taken away from your parents, and you'll never see them again.  And I'll go to prison, so you'll ruin both of our lives.” 

So I said, “No, nothing's happening.  I made it up.”

 

*

 

Just after my 15th birthday, I was due to go on vacation with my parents.

On my last lesson before my vacation, he raped me for the first--the only time probably. 

It was different from other occasions, because I said no. 

 

I had said to him, "I don't want to do this anymore, we need to break up, this has to be over." 

But he didn't stop. 

He, I think, was trying to assert his power. 

 

I went on this vacation. 

All I could think was, this can't be my life. 

I'm just a drudge, I'm just his slave. 

This is no life.

{When Amy returned home from vacation, her parents’ real estate agent informed them that there was a house available on the other side of town.}

 

That kind of new start and change just gave me the strength to completely break it off and be strong and say, "No you can't do this to me anymore." 

 

My parents had no idea.

 

*

 

I don't think I realized the seriousness of what had happened to me until I got to college age. 

I was 18. 

I had moved away. 

 

I found out that this guy was engaged to marry a woman with three underage children.

And I realized I couldn't not say anything. 

 

People were very resistant to me speaking to the police, including my parents.  

I think it's seen as a shame. 

It's a stigma to have a child who's been sexually abused.

 

I really had to stand up for my rights and say, "No, this is what needs to happen." 

My dad wanted to go around to his house and basically beat him up. 

But I wanted to do it the right way and get him off the streets and away from kids.

 

My best ally was probably my husband.

He stood beside me while that was happening, and that was amazing for an 18-year-old kid who'd known me for less than a year.

 

*

 

I went to the police and I told them what had happened. 

 

He received 7 years in prison.

 

*

 

There are a lot of people from my youth who don't have anything to do with me.

They either don't believe me or they're on his side for some reason.  

They cross the street to avoid me.

In some ways I feel more angry about that than anything else. 

Because these people have chosen to side with a monster.

 

He's now out of prison, and I've seen him out and about.

That has been horrible, like really traumatic. 

 

One of the reasons why I wanted to come out here was to have a few years’ grace from that.

My husband was given a transfer for his job, and I thought, “Ok let's take this and let's get out of here.” 

I received a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder not long after I went to the police.

 

I can't work full time.  

I just couldn't deal with it. 

But if you work part-time jobs, it's harder to build up a decent career path. 

I have a master's degree. 

I know that I'm capable, in one sense, of doing more with my life. 

But in another sense I'm not. 

I think, because of this, I haven't fulfilled my potential. 

That's something that I have to deal with kind of alongside the trauma itself:  the impact of how it's changed me as a person and what my life might have been like if this hadn't happened.

 

*

 

After I went to court, I put on about 70 pounds in about 18 months. 

It's gradually coming off bit by bit, but it's still something that I struggle with.

 

When I'm in a good place, just trying to be mindful of what I eat, living a healthy lifestyle, trying not to have too many late nights, not to drink too much, basically to take care of myself is the way I try to deal with it. 

 

I walk a lot, and since moving here that's something that's been so helpful. 

There are brilliant places to walk here like Central Park. 

And when I say walk, I don't mean like a stroll. 

I mean like 10, 15 miles, just getting away from being locked inside of my thoughts. 

 

It is too easy, I think, if you stay home and you don't work full time to become a bit of a recluse and a bit of a hermit.

 

*

 

My husband has also been quite impacted by this.

He had to give evidence at trial about what I had told him, just so they could prove I was keeping my story straight to all these different people. 

 

It has definitely impacted him and our relationship over the years, because he doesn't know always how best to support me. 

And I can definitely sympathize with him.

 

I have certain triggers with TV and music, and he knows what they are. 

So if something comes up he will switch it off. 

Or if somebody starts to talk about a specific TV show that I have big problems with, he will shut that down and change the conversation. 

He's very aware of those things and that they bother me. 

 

A cousin of mine has just been released from prison for similar crimes, a guy the same age as me who I basically grew up with.

And he's very protective of me with that situation.

This person has tried to contact me while they were in prison, my cousin. 

And he said, “You know, no.  Because all it's going to do is upset you.” 

He's right about that. 

 

*

 

This is something that has marked my life forever.

The shape of it will change over my life. 

 

The next kind of goal that we have is becoming parents. 

And I think that when that happens, it will take on a different meaning again to me, because I will be thinking, "Oh my god, what if this was my child?  How do I protect my child in this world where people are like this and people do this?” 

 

But I think the only way to deal with it is for us to stand together, myself and my husband, and go forward knowing that we'll do all that we can to protect, not just any children that we have, but any children we come into contact with.

 

 

-Amy