Confronting my own blood – the aftermath of sexual violence

There is something which disturbs my mind every day, which no one knows to look at me – no one suspects that throughout my day I have to endure pain and flashbacks due to the metallic, heart pumped liquid that flows through our veins. When I was violently raped at 15 years old the injuries suffered were severe. Having to have vaginal and anal surgery was another violation but medically necessary.

Knowing I had been damaged severely during the rape and straight after, never having experienced such pain, it felt like being ripped open; however as a young girl who wanted to fit in with her friends, assuming this was “normal” and how sex was for girls, my immediate reaction was confusion and relief it was over. Even though my mind would flash with intense warnings to what had just occurred, such as the images of me faced down unable to breath, crying silently in agony as he split me open, or of me on my back paralysed as I was held down and forcibly penetrated and the image of being gagged from oral rape with no air supply and fearing for my life. However shock and dissociation kicked in, in the immediate hours after, wanting to be loved and not understanding what had happened led me to ignore the sever pain and remain silent.

It was not until the following morning that the realisation that my entire world had changed; waking up in a pool of blood and in agony was the beginning of the end. Knowing this was not menstrual blood, the shock of it all was still so incomprehensible – writing this now I understand this better, but then as a child in 1999, it was not clear what had happened to me. Still then – thinking that this was my fault and that because my other friends had not experienced this that it must be because I was a freak of nature. Did I do it wrong?

Upon telling my friends Mother (who I was staying with), what had happened and that I was bleeding heavily from both ends, her reaction was simply; “what did he do to you”? This sentence which still rings in my ears was the first indication that something wrong had happened to me and it was not all in my head.

The following days were excruciating, physically and emotionally, it took a few days before I was taken to a safe house, where my statement was taken and a medical examination was held with a rape kit. The doctor and nurse were horrified by my injuries and could not believe I had been walking around like this for days. Then they broke the news to me that I would have to have surgery and a lot of stitches – vaginally and anally. When I came out of the examination room, my Mother looked at me and she said the same thing “what did he do to you”? There were no answers, just a word which people -the adults kept saying; rape!

When people heard that this had happened to me most did not believe me, the reason being that at the age of 11 my mental illness had come to the surface, as a self harmer and a child who had tried to kill herself several times before 15, people treated me like a demented child who made things up for attention. The Mother of the boy who raped me even went as far as to suggest to the police and school that the sever wounds suffered, were actually done by me and not from vaginal and anal forced penetration, saying I had deliberately self harmed my genitals to accuse him of rape? Obviously this woman was not a fan of Occam’s razor.

The surgery was at Winchester hospital and it was a sunny day in mid June, I remember this, the memory of laying on the stretcher going into the operating theatre with beams of light dancing over me as we passed a corridor of windows. All I could see was myself as from above, having dissociated and experiencing psychosis my mind was detached. Another violation was happening, another medical necessity, defiling me once again.

When awoken from surgery, the first sounds which were audible to me, were my own screams – yelling at the top of my lungs, “this was not supposed to happen, he was supposed to love me”. It didn’t feel like the noise was coming from me, it sounded like it was coming from a little girl trapped somewhere, who I desperately wanted to find and rescue. Still detached and now suicidal, with no energy and so much pain, the world seem to drift by and all that was important to me was death, ending it all. This is when I was put into the psychiatric adolescent unit in Epsom.

Today as a woman who has only recently accepted what happened to me at 15, the blood still haunts me. Suffering from C-PTSD the flash backs which come about can be so intense causing sever vaginal and anal pain, it strikes me like lightning and locks me in the terrifying moments which happened. There are also everyday things which cause these triggers to overwhelm me, such as the fact I have PCOS which causes me to bleed a lot and often, every time I see blood – the violation and violence washes over me and drowns me in trauma induced psychosis. Another complication is that I can not have smear tests or any vaginal examinations, which puts me at great risk, especially as someone who has PCOS, as we are more likely to have cervical and ovarian cancer. Sex has also been an ordeal, throughout my late teens and twenties, not knowing when a flashback would occur and often happening during sex. Luckily with my husband through kindness and love I eventually was able to have sex without it being painful. Blood will always be the worst trigger for me, it even affects me having blood taken – which is essential as a diabetic. As well as having unexpected triggers, like when my husband recently cut his hand badly and blood spat everywhere – seeing little droplets all over the bathroom floor sent me into a psychotic state. Furthermore as I sit writing this – it has taken me weeks, as the need to step away and have breaks from this piece was required for my own sanity, it is overwhelming writing this and reading it back.

The reason for me sharing this with you is because the only way I can continue to survive is by helping to create change for others. My life started with sexual abuse in my own home (at 4 years old by a family member), which is then where I was raped at 15 at an overnight party by a boy in my year who was also only 15 years old. There is so much more to be told, however this piece is the most open I have been before, this is scary but it is necessary and having survived far worse than revealing this to you, this can only make me stronger. When I close my eyes at night the colour red is all I see, it has never left me in over 16 years, it remains my biggest trigger, however the more we “the survivors” share the more awareness is created and hopefully this will happen less or be dealt with better if it does.

Confronting my own Blood - By Charlotte Farhan
Confronting my own Blood – By Charlotte Farhan

 

This painting has been one of the most revealing and allowed me to confront my own blood. It is part of my ongoing collection:

Art to End the Silence on Rape 

For information on available originals or prints for purchase or for galleries wishing to exhibit these paintings in their venues please contact using the form below.

I carry it with me – By Charlotte Farhan – Art to End the Silence on Rape

I carry it with me - By Charlotte Farhan
I carry it with me – By Charlotte Farhan

I carry it with me

By Charlotte Farhan

The sounds which echoed their imprint into my mind,

The shadows on the wall which danced manically,

That tree which licked the window with its branches,

The light from the door way which gave everything a demonic glow,

I carry it with me.

Your violence towards me which left me bleeding,

Your voice which permeated my ear canals with fear,

Your dominance which left me powerless,

Your face which was engraved into my memory with vandalism

I carry it with me.

Their disbelief is an internal epilogue,

Their abuse which followed yours because I was “fair game”,

Their judgement of my clothes and sanity demonised me,

Their abandonment confirmed every fear and isolated me,

I carry it with me.


This painting and poem is to highlight the impact sexual abuse, sexual violence and rape have on the mind, when you have complex post traumatic stress disorder.

From my collection “Art to End the Silence on Rape“.


For information on available originals or prints for purchase or for galleries wishing to exhibit these paintings in their venues please contact using the form below.

Outsider Art and Poetry – Chained to the Past – By Charlotte Farhan

Chained to the Past - By Charlotte Farhan
Chained to the Past – By Charlotte Farhan

Chained to the Past – By Charlotte Farhan

Chained to my past like a prisoner, with only sorrow to comfort me,
at night the mattress swallows me whole, it becomes pitch black,
let me escape this anguish, this nectarous misery – let me be free,
my torment clenches me tight with gripped arms – holding me back.

Recollection chokes me with the thought of violence,
memories leave me for dead, crying for liberation,
no ability to speak up – I offer silence,
chains are pulled tighter constricting me in my damnation.

Punishment is not a fetish when it is kept unseen,
my head is pulsating, the pressure is mounting in my veins,
steel and blood mixed with sheets I am always unclean,
whose hands are those, the ones holding my chains?


If you have any questions on my work, if you wish for me to exhibit in your gallery or would like to purchase a piece , please contact me via the form below, thank you.

 

Outsider Art – Unlocked by Charlotte Farhan

Unlocked - By Charlotte Farhan
Unlocked – By Charlotte Farhan

Unlocked – By Charlotte Farhan

A pressure builds inside my head like a boiling liquid,
spilling out of me, the security lock has been breached.
The fear that anything could escape – this is unscripted,
witnessing my life – my credibility is impeached.


This illustration is of my inner turmoil spilling from my mind, when experiencing a locked in state from flash backs and psychosis as a result of having complex post traumatic stress disorder and psychotic depression.

As I get older the locked safe where my darkest thoughts and memories have been kept, since being very young; has started to erode with time. Rusty and old, the hinges are no longer able to hold it all in.

Since starting reliving therapy in 2014 there have been many disturbances to my treatment, such as the NHS only being able to offer 6 weeks and then leaving me worse than before, opened up and dumped.

Then last year I found a therapist which was able to offer a reduced fee (as we are on such a low income) all was going well, even though it was soul-destroying and painful and made me cry in those 6 sessions more than I ever had. Still it was a process and felt as if maybe I would be able to deal with the trauma of my rape and sexual abuse as well as all the other issues which had developed as a consequence. However this was not to be the case, due to my borderline personality disorder I ended up splitting my therapist in my mind and however much I tried, this could not be changed. From thinking “she is my saviour” to “she is trying to kill me”, which then led me to become dangerously suicidal. So having no real choice, the therapeutic relationship had to be terminated.

So I am left unlocked and wide open…


 

If you have any questions on my work, if you wish for me to exhibit in your gallery or would like to purchase a piece , please contact me via the form below, thank you.

I Can’t Look Forward – Art and Poetry – By Charlotte Farhan – Reflecting the physical and emotional struggles of having Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

I Can't Look Forward - By Charlotte Farhan
I Can’t Look Forward – By Charlotte Farhan

I Can’t Look Forward

By Charlotte Farhan

In memories I continue to relive,
not able to endure this universes reality,
my amygdala is highly combative,
the fragmented pieces falling from my dead family tree.

Infected fear filled eyes, like sores from the past,
in the depths of hell, everyone is deranged,
truth sees me branded as an iconoclast,
putrid and filthy I’m seen as the estranged.

The dysfunction of my mind continues to breed,
my hippocampus withering as neurons disintegrate,
dissociated in this mad world of misdeeds,
my prefrontal cortex had no time to decontaminate,

My illness is physical which you can’t see,
I have been rearranged internally,
this sickness inside, a screaming apogee,
with my outward mask fixed eternally.

Eyes alert and looking to the past,
like a bête noire lost with nowhere to go,
the trigger is pulled with a loud blast,
night terrors and flashbacks are the ammo.

We are not all soldiers of war back from global battle,
many of us suffer without being part of the bloodshed,
instead our bodies have been used as personal chattel,
We knew our survival would not cause for medals or tears shed.


This painting and poem reflects the physical and emotional struggles of having Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and how the world reserves compassion for soldiers of war who have this illness but do not extend the same benevolence to victims of sexual violence and rape, who are a larger number of affected people.

I am one of these survivors; using my art, poetry and writing to raise awareness of the aftermath from being abused, assaulted and raped. As well as to help prevent these acts from continuing and to explain how rape culture in part of the every day fabric of life, which goes unnoticed, but is highly dangerous to us as a global community.

If you have any questions on my work, if you wish for me to exhibit in your gallery or would like to purchase a piece , please contact me via the form below, thank you.

Art by Charlotte Farhan

Poetry and Art Spotlight: Red – By Charlotte Farhan

Red - Art By - Charlotte Farhan
Red – Art By – Charlotte Farhan

 

RED

by Charlotte Farhan 

A survivor is created through their suffering – not born,

overwhelming need for endurance becomes everything,

red drips – glistening droplets cascading down a single thorn,

petals fall like tears as the red roses are left weeping.

 

Asking for forgiveness from the powers that be,

Rising tall after the holy wreckage,

Seeing nothing but red; left lost with nobody,

from the crimson glow among the breakage,

 

Reaching for that apple; fruit of the poisonous tree

Breaking into pieces, scattering across the earth

red glass cuts; amidst the shards appears a master key

Could this be the moment of sweet release; my rebirth.

 

Being black and blue is nothing new,

the red remains; staining my legs,

however my strength was a breakthrough,

even if the darkness still begs.

 

Purity was ruined by them; they burnt me alive,

breathing is a battle; existing is trying,

nonetheless if in this redness; I can survive,

then a warrioress can break from within; crying.

 

Strength comes from doing whatever you can to stay alive,

crossing that red stop sign can be necessary,

blood alerts us, poppies sooth us, Red Riding Hood reminds us,

warning to all; survival is cautionary.

 

So when you see me and think this is madness,

remember that red is around us and pumps through our veins,

danger is present; a part of the darkness,

however survival comes from this and strength remains.


If you have any queries please fill out the form below:

Art and Poetry Spotlight – Staying Silent

Staying Silent - By Charlotte Farhan
Staying Silent – By Charlotte Farhan

 


 

Staying Silent

By Charlotte Farhan

 

Silence can be heard in many ways,
my silence is a laugh, a smile or a lie,
these create an elaborate maze,
for those wishing to understand and stand by.

Staying silent is now second nature,
people say “doesn’t she seem better”?
They don’t know – I am a big faker,
keeping them happy is less pressure.

Not wanting to be a burden,
as I knew too well this could lead me to be abandoned,
life has always been uncertain,
when I tell people my truth – they often become saddened.

The ruin inside me is enshroud,
as a child I was called damaged and a victim of extremes,
hearing the horror said aloud,
unpacking my unclaimed baggage – which were ripped at the seams.

Not wanting to be inspiration porn,
silence growing louder and louder within,
my laugh weakens, my smile is now forlorn,
whispers in my ear say “take it on the chin”.

This practice is now my way of survival,
the unspoken words crash into my skull with violence,
nonetheless this sound is my only rival,
I close my eyes and allow myself to hear the silence.


If you have any questions or comments on my work, please fill in the form below:

Opening Yourself up Within Therapy – Dealing with the Intensity of Reliving

Art By Charlotte Farhan
Art By Charlotte Farhan

Waking up from the intensity of nightmares and night-terrors, feels a though you have been battered black and blue emotionally and physically. The hell of thinking within your unconscious dream state that you are trapped in this dystopian creation of your own afflicted mind, causes you to wake screaming, as if you were grappling through time and space to re enter this realm of existence.

Then you wake; the truth hits you like a tyrannical fist, you try to unpick the mess of your insensible and sensible self which is tangled like forgotten jewelry left in a drawer. You lay there trying to regain some control over your faculties, you are still and lifeless – almost catatonic. The world as we know it has not been brought into focus yet, it is still a distant memory.

Hours go by and you’re still unable to move, your mind is working so hard at the puzzle that is your trauma. At this point what is real and not – is completely interlinked; woven together like a tapestry of war.

Finally you feel able to move, the world has invited you in and you feel, you can find your way there. You stick to muscle memory tasks, such as getting dressed, making a tea and sitting at your desk.

Unfortunately, your mind does not always recognise your consciousness in reality and “the real world”, so it flickers from flashbacks to memories of nightmares, interchanging as if someone had a remote control to your brain and was flicking through the channels of your life.

Art By Charlotte Farhan
Art By Charlotte Farhan

This has been my life for as long as I can remember; however it has grown darker again and is still growing with ferocity. Since becoming older and now in my 30’s, the space in my mind seems to be at capacity, which means when one cupboard or box is opened in my mind – things are now having to be squeezed tighter or rearranged, which in turn causes mess and a lack of new space for new experiences, emotions and eventually memories. Leaving me stuck in a hoarders prison – internally locked in. It is not that I wish to keep these memories or thoughts it is just they need to be processed, labeled and filed away.

Which is difficult when they are buried under years of self preservation.

Reliving trauma in therapy is my only solution, other than self destruction – which is ever so appealing. The temptation of setting fire to the mess that is my internal world seems enticing, a cathartic “fuck you” to the pain. Nevertheless my intentions are to stay in this mind until my husband dies ( which will hopefully be both of us in old age) as the thought of being without him is even more devastating than anything I have ever thought possible. This life is short as I have seen many times over, I promised myself I would spend this time understanding these illnesses which plague me day in and day out, as well as helping others who walk this tightrope of madness and sadness.

Art By Charlotte Farhan
Art By Charlotte Farhan

We will never forget what was done to us – you see. These abusers, predators and enablers, they caused so much of this. With their torture, subjectification, voyeurism, rape, incest, emotional battery and manipulation. Which begs me to ask, what do they carry with them after the fact? The best you can hope for is guilt; but this is not enough, this is not representative of what we suffer, the victims! They want pity, and sympathy for their affliction, which plays into further domination.

Reliving is a daily task, it does not end when I leave the therapy room, it does not silence the sounds of purgatory. It is in fact something those of us who have complex post traumatic stress disorder have been doing everyday and everynight since we were young.

My mind has been replaying reels of trauma – with added horror, as if my psyche wished to add special effects to my already terrifying past. Despite this, upon committing to reliving in a long term therapeutic setting and being at capacity – in my minds storage capabilities, the intensity rises further causing me to experience psychosis and physical pain.

The therapy I am having is a combination of psychodynamic, humanistic, psychoanalyticACT and CBT, this is known as integrative therapy as it uses elements from many therapies; integrative therapists take the view that there is no single approach that can treat each client in all situations. Each person needs to be considered as a whole and counselling techniques must be tailored to their individual needs and personal circumstances. 

This process is long and will be a continued managed activity of will power and a determination to use this experience as a way to contribute to the world. The idea is to turn myself, the victim into a survivor and then a thriver. These will never be whole states of mind, and knowing there will be bad days and good days and even relapses, but using the trauma to thrive even for 10 minutes is something worth committing to.

“It’s often said that a traumatic experience early in life marks a person forever, pulls her out of line, saying, “Stay there. Don’t move.”
Jeffrey Eugenides

Art By Charlotte Farhan
Art By Charlotte Farhan

Recovery is not a time period set out, it is a continued process until death. When I say I am in recovery, do not be confused and think “that’s good she will be recovered soon” this is not how it works. Recovery is about a continued focus and is an exhausting task to undertake daily, which means there will be days I can not do it or days when triggering events or stressful life experiences put the mind back into those frightful moments which we tried so hard to keep organised and tidy.

Let me ask you?

How do you recover from being sexually abused as a child?

How do you recover from sexual violence, rape, assault, stalking and being beaten as a teenager?

How do you recover from having two parents (who are severely mentally ill themselves) one abused you, abandoned you and does not love you at all, to the other who didn’t love you at birth and couldn’t attach to you and who emotionally abused you, kept leaving you with different people and whose constant fragility due to their illness consumed your life?

You don’t recover…

You hopefully survive and then spend your life recovering.

So this is me and where I am, I know I am not alone, I know you are suffering too out there, I know it is hard and you’re ready to quit! But I want you to know that you are not alone and that you need to take this slowly and realistically. Do not allow pressure from others and society; which make you conform. They do not have to live your life, you know the truth.

Living is hard.

But reliving is harder.

Art By Charlotte Farhan
Art By Charlotte Farhan

 

For a bit of history on the practices of therapy in regards to PTSD AND C-PTSD, please read on…

 

Since the re-emergence of recognition of severe trauma on human development and psychopathology in adults in the 1970s, Chu and Bowman observed there had been three generations of trauma treatment theory. The first generation of research and response began in the early 1980s and emphasized abreaction of traumatic experience in treatment. Abreaction originated from psychoanalytic traditions and describes the processes of acting out and expressing unconscious conflicts that, in itself, brings relief.

The second generation, from the late 1980s to early 1990s, developed clearer ideas of the effects of different types of trauma, for example, single incident, adult onset events such as car accidents compared with chronic, interpersonal trauma such as childhood abuse. PTSD described ongoing pathology including the former types of abuse, while complex PTSD described the latter. The global effects of complex trauma across the range of intrapsychic, relational, cognitive, and behavioral functions became a focus. This resulted in recognition of the benefits of employing a number of schools of therapy, and the elaboration of a three-stage model of therapy. This focused first on client safety and stabilization using techniques primarily from CBT, then on processing trauma memories where psychodynamic therapies were utilized, and finally on reconnecting with the wider social environment.9

The third generation, from the mid-1990s to 2000, witnessed the attack of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation (FMSF) on therapies focusing on childhood sexual abuse (CSA). The first response was to polarize views, but then it motivated research that refined assessments of trauma pathology including the effects of trauma on memory, and the etiology of adult trauma symptoms, and generally supported the effectiveness of therapy. The focus of therapy changed from uncovering more instances of trauma, to building a more coherent self-narrative.

If you have any comments or questions please fill in this form and I shall endeavour to get back to you as soon as I am able:

 

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Art to End the Silence on Rape – I Am Still Bleeding

This painting and poem is from my upcoming exhibition; which tells the truth about my rape and sexual abuse, through visual art, poetry, shadow boxes and my story; my hardest and most painful work to date.

With therapy this process of healing is ongoing, these pieces of work which are still being created and crafted are a way for me to understand, cast out the nightmares which have convoluted my reality, addressing the issues victims of sexual violence (like myself) have to face in today’s world which is heavily influenced by rape culture and victim blaming.

 Sharing selected pieces of visual art and poetry (such as these below) before my exhibition is launched is to reach audiences far and wide.

Sexual violence is not prejudice it can happen to anyone. This exhibition is for us all, women, men and children from every ethnicity, social background, sexuality, religion and lifestyle. With doing this, the hope is to give us a voice to tell those who have abused and violated us that we can take the power back that was taken from us, to tell those unaffected how our lives are a daily struggle and to tell the world that there is still so much to do, so that we can end sexual violence for good.

My power was taken.

I am affected.

My life is a daily struggle.

I am a victim and I am a survivor.

I Am Still Bleeding - By Charlotte Farhan
I Am Still Bleeding – By Charlotte Farhan

I Am Still Bleeding – By Charlotte Farhan

 

When you look at me you don’t see blood

my violated self concealed

words which remain misunderstood

as if my sex had been revealed

not a little girl but forced womanhood

left feeling helplessly desecrated

as I had been in early childhood

forsaken; flowerless and humiliated.

Maybe you saw me as a flower bud

not pretty; but ripe and eager to grow

violently picked and dragged through mud

grappling innocence; never to let go

my tears washing my shame in a flash flood

not knowing; if there will be a tomorrow

now reminded of the intrusion by my menstrual blood

in a world with no desire to know.

I Am Still Bleeding - By Charlotte Farhan
I Am Still Bleeding – By Charlotte Farhan

If you have any questions about this painting, poem or the upcoming exhibition, please fill in this form:

 

PTSD AWARENESS ART – Pain and Detachment – By Charlotte Farhan​

Pain and Detachment – By Charlotte Farhan​

Pain and Detachment - By Charlotte Farhan

The pain from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) infects the mind like poisonous thorns and then to alleviate the suffering the mind detaches into a dissociative state. Leaving reality and separating me from the real world.

The PTSD I suffer with is due to childhood abuse from a family member and is also due to being raped at 15 violently.

PTSD is often only associated with war veterans, but many other traumatic events can cause this. Rape, sexual violence and domestic violence victims are a very high percentage of sufferers.

ptsd-for-primary-care-providers-under-the-new-dsm-8-638

Some Facts on Rape

 “Globally, about one in three women will be beaten or raped during their lifetime. About 44 per cent of all UK women have experienced either physical or sexual violence since they were 15-years-old. Britain ranks among the worst countries in Europe when it comes to women being violently abused.”

“1 out of every 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime (14.8% completed rape; 2.8% attempted rape).

“The most recent UK government statistics estimated about 78,000 people in the UK have become rape or attempted rape victims, and about 9,000 are men. Research suggests that the notoriously low report rate is particularly true among male victims. About 1,250 incidents of male-victim rape were reported to the police in 2011-2012.”

“The year in a male’s life when he is most likely to be the victim of a sexual assault is age 4. A female’s year of greatest risk is age 14.”

“Approximately 4/5 of rapes were committed by someone known to the victim.”

For more info visit RAINN and Rape Crisis England and Wales

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If you have PTSD or suspect you have find out more here and how to get help.

Quote by Artist Charlotte Farhan

If you are interested in this artwork for your collection, for an exhibition, charity event or would like to buy a print, please use the form below: