I’ve been working through this issue for two years and still feel residual rage that’s so confusing.
A few months before the pandemic I was out walking when a man tried to rape me. It was in broad daylight, on a local path, in the town I’ve lived all my life. A place where I’ve always felt safe.
The perpetrator was a man I would say hello to when walking my dogs each day, although I did not know him personally. While his actions by him were brutal and violent, I managed to escape without being sexually assaulted.
In shock and disbelief, I did not contact the police for weeks.
Here’s my problem: they weren’t able to prosecute as the law protects the mentally vulnerable, even when they’re in the wrong.
I understand that. The case-worker cannot supervise the man 24/7. I understand that. Not all men are going to attack me. I understand that. I also understand the logic behind every part of the decision-making process.
And yet, every now and again, even when I’m not thinking about the incident in question, I am filled with rage.
I feel so angry I want to break something, cry or both. And the worst part is, I’m raging at nothing. I don’t blame anyone — not the assailant, the police, social services.
I know they’re all cogs in a large machine, but I feel fear and jumpiness when a man I don’t know stands close. The mind may forgive, but the body does not forget.
I’ve tried counseling, but it was over the phone during the pandemic and not particularly effective. It’s hard to feel listened-to when you can hear the therapist doing her dishes as you talk.
Exercise helps a lot, but that residual anger is still there.
Please be reassured I don’t take it out on anyone, nor do I self-harm. I generally scream and cry and then fall into a depressed slump for a day or so.
I really want this to stop — to find a way to let it go so it doesn’t keep creeping up on me when I least expect it.
Have you any suggestions on how I can release this anger? I’m open to anything: physical, symbolic, mystical, whatever you think may help. I just want to let it go.
This week Bel Mooney gives advice to a woman who doesn’t know where to place her rage after a man tried to rape her
That you are still finding it impossible to shake off the lasting effects of a shocking, frightening experience is no surprise to me.
It sounds like you are struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder, a common after-effect of which is helpless anger as the event is re-run again and again in the mind.
More than 40 years ago I was the victim of an attempted sexual attack in London by a stranger, who only ran away when some people appeared in the distance. I remember shivering every time I saw a man who resembled my attacker on the Underground, and that continued for a very long time.
But for you, in a familiar place where you felt safe, it would have been so much worse: a violation which, in seconds, switched the innocence of a familiar encounter into something rather monstrous.
Thought of the day
We are, all of us, molded and remoulded by those who have loved us, and though that love may pass, we remain nonetheless their work — a work that very likely they do not recognize, and which is never exactly what they intended.
From The Desert Of Love by Francois Mauriac (French writer 1885–1970)
Your original letter explains that the man still lives nearby and you see him from time to time, so you have no escape from your trauma.
What’s more, all your impressive efforts to understand the complexity of what happened afterwards (details omitted) and to accept that nobody can be ‘blamed’ have surely resulted in your feeling all the more vulnerable, because you are left with the burden of understanding, which has not, in turn, been extended to you. But you are being given it here — and countless people are surely on your side.
I find appalling the image of you talking to a psychotherapist or counselor on the phone while he or she washes their plates. Good therapists have made Zoom meetings work well, but in my opinion (and in normal times) sessions should be face-to-face, when expressions and body language can be observed. I would urge you to try again, with optimism, in one-to-one sessions. You may find the website welldoing.org useful.
You ask me for suggestions. Screaming and crying add to stress, so instead try ‘square’ breathing: breathe in to a count of four, hold for four, breathe out to a count of four, hold still for four, then begin again.
This process can really work to calm you down, especially if performed a minimum of ten times.
Whenever the rage descends, put on some beautiful music (Chopin Nocturnes, for example, or new age meditative sounds), breathe deeply and, eyes closed, hold your arms out, palms upwards.
Try to find somewhere very different to walk the dogs, even if it involves a short drive — and talk to those dogs, since screaming will upset them.
Sign up to DailyOM.com and look at the emails every day — with me.
Why won’t my chap see a doctor?
Please help, as I am worried sick about a mole on my partner’s back.
I have pleaded and begged him to go and get it checked, but he will not. What I ca n’t understand is that last year he had a pre-cancerous mole removed from his nose, and he was OK with this procedure.
He has just moved into a lovely flat, was talking about retiring, but now seems happy to carry on working (at 68) as a pharmacy delivery driver. So he could quite easily ask the pharmacist to check it out for him.
I am so worried about his sunbathing, but he says I am fussing. Please publish my letter Bel, as he reads your column every week, and I really don’t know what else to do. I’m so worried about him.
Last Wednesday something unusual happened. At 9.30am, I dropped my husband off at the hospital for a dermatology appointment to examine a small scabby (where scratched) lump on one side of his scalp.
The thing has been bothering him for over a year and it transpires it’s a basal cell carcinoma (one of the most common skin cancers), non-malignant, thank goodness, so now he will wait for the appointment to remove it. I used the word ‘unusual’ because he would rather chop a mountain of logs than look after his own health from him.
Born and brought up (until the age of nine) in Kenya, he has skin cancer in his family and had a mole removed some years ago. But he kept putting off making an appointment with our GP, and he finally did so because I did some gentle bullying.
Does this sound familiar? Why do so many of us (and I’m including myself) put off acting when something is vaguely worrying? Of course, it’s true that since Covid shook our lives and did such damage to both the national psyche and the economy, it has become more and more difficult to see a GP.
We have a crisis in the NHS — one which I have written about yet see no signs of it being taken seriously by people who still parrot the sentimental lie that our health service is the best in the world.
So when, on this page, I suggest that people contact their GP as a first port of call it is with knowledge of how frustrating this can be.
But if we all give up what change can we achieve? You have to persist — and to tell a receptionist there is a risk of skin cancer should at least achieve a telephone conversation and a referral.
More from Bel Mooney for the Daily Mail…
But even 20 years ago you’d have found that certain people were unwilling to contact their GPs about niggling problems. (Others are the ‘worried well’ who will always think the worst). I suspect your partner is one of those people who is unwilling to act through a strange mixture of laziness and fear. You think/hope the ‘thing’ will just go away by itself.
Some of us (me!) are also anxious about making a fuss — even though we know we have a perfect right to have our little worries listened to.
You mention your partner’s sunbathing habit. It just shows it can indeed be hard to teach an old dog new tricks! We should all be aware of how dangerous the sun can be.
If he must sunbathe, buy him some factor 50 and a hat. He knows you’re concerned, so what else can you do? I hope you are both readers of the Mail’s excellent Tuesday health pages, which carry advice about this and many other issues.
No expert (and a reformed sun-worshipper), I speak from public information, wide experience and common sense. So now it’s time for me to talk directly to your partner:
‘Listen, my friend, I hope you are reading as usual! You may think you have no problems and sometimes wonder at the issues raised in this column. But you see, you have two problems. . . a pesky mole which might be dangerous and a habit of not listening to the woman who really cares. You should know we all have one body and one life and owe it to ourselves and those who love us to be careful, especially as we age.
‘If you care about Elaine’s feelings at all (and you must, since she sounds so lovely), please stop being so daft and stubborn and get that mole checked as soon as possible. Just do it, OK?’
And finally…A glorious, royal day in the sun
It really was a heartening event, for so many reasons.
The sun shone on Cirencester, Gloucestershire, for a parade of The Royal Wessex Yeomanry, the nation’s armored Reserve.
It was the presentation of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee medal. Reserve soldiers complete their training in their spare time. The medals were presented by the Earl of Wessex, while local dignitaries and the friends and families of the soldiers watched on.
That’s it in a nutshell. . . but it felt like so much more to me. We were there because my son-in-law was leading the parade, mounted on a beautiful black Household Cavalry steed, so it was as special for our family as for all the others proudly watching. And I saw it all as a threefold celebration.
Bel answers readers’ questions on emotional and relationship problems each week.
Write to Bel Mooney, Daily Mail, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TT, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Names are changed to protect identities.
Bel reads all letters but regrets she cannot enter into personal correspondence.
First, the Royal Wessex Yeomanry supports the regular armored regiments of the British Army by providing fully trained tank crews on operations across the world. But the Reserve also provides so much more help to us all, from supporting the police following a terrorist attack, to specialist capabilities such as bomb disposal and intelligence experts. They really matter and we should realize that.
Then there was the presence of Prince Edward. Can we ever really know how much work is done by members of the Royal Family? Edward turns up sweltering in a full dress uniform to do the honours. When he says ‘a huge thank you’ on behalf of the Queen it means something and the royalist patriot in me feels grateful.
This is the first time a Sovereign has ever awarded a medal as thanks for essential service to Queen and country since 1952. Members of the Armed Forces, emergency services personnel, prison service, police community support officers, holders of the Victoria Cross and George Cross and members of the Royal Household are all eligible.
A small band played and it was wonderful.