IT is the place you are supposed to feel the safest.
But in 2012, Louisa* became the victim of a horrific sex assault in her own home while she slept next to her son.
Though she has no physical wounds, she says her mental wounds are as fresh as the horrifying moment the friend she trusted robbed her of her personality.
Diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, the 38-year-old now realises the condition doesn’t just affect soldiers witnessing the horrors of war and she is desperate to get help.
But Louisa says despite feeling frightened in her own home and having constant flashbacks, she is still waiting 18 months later.
She hopes by telling her story she will highlight the plight of victims of sexual abuse – and the need for specialist help to tackle the harrowing |mental issues.
Louisa trembles as she recalls the moment that haunts her every day.
She says it had been an evening like any other.
She’d gone on a regular night out with her teenage son and a male friend who she had known for five years.
When they returned to her flat in Eastleigh, he asked to stay complaining of a migraine.
She explains: “It was just a normal night. He asked to stay over. I said he could either stay on the settee or in my son’s room. I went to bed earlier than the boys and I was just drifting off to sleep when there was a knock on the door. It was him.
“He said ‘just to let you know I sometimes sleep walk and if I do you just have to let me do whatever I’ve got to do.’I thought that was a weird thing to say.
“When my son came up I asked him to come in with me. I thought it wasn’t tallying up and I felt he was trying to get my son away from me.”
Her instincts proved right.
As she slept, the man she trusted in her home crept into her room where he sexually abused her.
She says: “I really panicked.
I suddenly awoke and I just lashed out. I accidentally hit my son in the mouth and cut his lip.
“My son said I was jumping across the bed like I was having a fit.
Very quickly I became alert and I was terrified.
“I never forget the glistening of his belt. I shouted ‘get out of my room’as he walked past my bed, he got to the end and then walked with his arms out like a zombie, as if to say he was sleepwalking.
“I lay there all night, frozen until it got light. I didn’t know what to do. He was supposed to be my friend.
“I had known him all that time. I had no idea he was capable of doing that. It was a complete nightmare.”
That nightmare continued.
Her attacker was arrested and charged by police with sexual assault but pleaded not guilty in court, which meant she had to endure a trial lasting more than a week at Southampton Crown Court.
Both her and her son had to give evidence.
Her attacker was convicted by the jury and sentenced to a community order with 200 hours of unpaid work, a supervision requirement for two years, as well as five years on the sex offenders’ register.
But despite the closure of the court case, Louisa was unable to rid her mind of the haunting memories.
Following the attack she said she became unable to trust people and became jumpy, even on occasions lashing out at her son, who she mistook for an attacker.
Today she is still unable to sleep alone in her house and often becomes petrified at the smallest sounds.
“A cat walked behind me the other day, but it sounded like someone was there.
“I pulled my tights out of the tumble dryer one day and the foot got stuck but where the noise was so loud, it sounded like someone was there.
“And I’ve been in the bath before and I’ve thought I’ve seen him above me. I thought he was going to bend down and hold my head under the water so I panicked and was shaking like a leaf.
“I have to check the car most days because I think he’s going to be in the boot or behind the seat.
“I remember one particular night, I had all these help line numbers.
I sat there at the dining room table and I phoned all the numbers on the paper and nobody picked up apart from the Samaritans. I swear to God, that day I felt so low I could have jumped in front of a bus and not thought twice about it.”
Desperate, she contacted Southampton Rape Crisis in January this year who offered her counselling sessions she still attends regularly.
Counsellors noticed the signs of PTSD and urged her to see a psychiatrist who diagnosed her with the condition.
She is still waiting to see a specialist– and is so desperate to get treatment, she is even willing to pay if the NHS can continue to support her when she runs out of money.
She explains: “It doesn’t seem like there is much help at all for people with PTSD who aren’t veterans coming back from war but there needs to be more specialist help for sex attack victims.
“If I walked in with a broken leg, I’d get treated because that is something physical that you can see. I think a mental injury though is worse.
“People look at you and think you look fine, but inside you are not and it affects your whole day to day life. People with mental injuries, they are the ones fighting to get treatment but they are the ones that find it so hard to get help. It’s not right.
“I will keep fighting as much as I can though, even though I feel drained. I feel like that night while I slept I was robbed of part of my life and I just want to get better.”
italk is a primary care psychological therapies service, delivered in partnership between Solent Mind and Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust.
Primary Care Clinical Lead Hazel Nicholls, said: “Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is one of a number of disorders that we deal with as a service.
"Anyone who presents with PTSD would be involved in face to face sessions, and depending on an assessment of their individual needs would be offered a trauma-focussed psychological treatment as recommended by guidelines from the National Institute of Clinical Excellence.
“As with all the patients we see, PSTD can be extremely complex and each person may need a different approach or combination of treatment, or may have other contributory issues that also require support. Our practitioners are all trained to identify the most appropriate form of treatment to ensure the best possible outcome for the patient.”
*The name has been changed to protect the victim’s identity
For information on italk go to www.italk.org.uk or call 02380 383920
To contact Southampton Rape Crisis call 023 8063 6312.