Photography by Brian Moody
Some years ago, Rosalyn Boyce’s life catapulted into a downward spiral when she was raped by a man who broke into her London home.
He broke into my house and found me reading in bed while my two-year-old daughter slept in the next room. What followed was a prolonged attack where I was raped repeatedly in every imaginable way. I was cut and sustained several injuries all over my body. He told me over and over again that he was going to kill me; that I was going to die. I was so terrified that I became unable to keep up the façade and I began to sob, to beg and lose control.
After what seemed like an eternity he stopped abruptly. I later found out that the knife he had been carrying had fallen apart during the attack and this had made him panic and leave.
My attacker was apprehended three weeks later. He turned out to be a serial rapist who had been released from prison for a similar crime six months previously. He pleaded guilty some time later in the Old Bailey criminal court, and was given three life sentences for the attack.
The memory of the attack, and the fear of another, became unbearable, and within weeks we had to move out of our beautiful family home and into a cramped rented flat. I was offered support in the form of Prozac and tranquilisers, and I began drinking a bottle of wine at night just to block things out. I was diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and reactive depression.
Two months after the attack, I realised with huge disappointment that no-one was really going to help me apart from myself. I ditched the medication and embarked upon a long, hard journey of self-discovery. I sought therapy, read, studied, researched, exercised, learned to meditate, gained a counselling qualification, and worked voluntarily with the police and in the courts with witnesses of crimes. To me, forgiveness now equated to my own freedom. It meant that I no longer had to feel any attachment to my rapist or the act of rape, and by doing so I could free myself from the crime and move on with my life. Once I chose to perceive forgiveness in these terms a massive burden was lifted. I made a decision that the rape was one of the many things that had to be integrated into the person that I am and the experiences that I’ve had. It was not the be-all and end-all of who I was. I still had my identity.
The defining lesson that I took from this horrific experience is that we all have the gift of choice. I realised with an enormous sense of clarity that I could choose to continue to live my life in abject terror and fear; I could choose to continue to be a victim with all the negativity that brings – or I could choose to consider myself a survivor. I could choose to free myself from circumstances beyond my control; choose to forgive or not to forgive; choose to continue to see the good in people, to trust and experience life; choose how to spend my days, and indeed how to live my life.
It is not my intention to be evangelical about my recovery. I have plenty of faults. But I am fortunate enough to have learnt to accept my failings as well as my qualities; to do my best to learn from every experience life brings, and then choose to move on.