The Importance of Support

“YOU WILL STAY! YOU CANNOT LEAVE!” he screamed at me. His fury boiled over, and throughout a period of three hours, he bombarded me with all his saucers plates and cups.

I was not yet 19 years of age, and completely terrified. How had I ended up in this position?

I was in my First year of Nursing, and had just begun to realise how very unimportant I was.  If it went wrong, it came all the way down the line until it was my fault. I was blamed for many things I did not even know how to do or what they were. This appeared to be my main role:  catching all the rubbish that happened to other people.

So it was rewarding and pleasant when a nice Indian Doctor took an interest in me. He obviously looked for me on the ward, and although we had only brief snatches of conversation, he established fairly early on that I enjoyed a good curry.

“Why don’t you come to my place, and I’ll make you a real one?” he offered.

I was astounded and thrilled at the prospect of having a real curry cooked by someone who knew how to do it, and would take the time for a humble student Nurse. He had been exceedingly pleasant and gentle in manner: not forceful or chatting up at all.   He was just a genuinely nice bloke.

No alarm bells rang.

And so we made an arrangement for me to visit his house to sample his cooking. He gave me directions, and I found that basement flat quite easily. As I entered, I could see he had gone to a great deal of trouble: the table was beautifully laid, and colourful side dishes adorned it.  I was impressed, that he would go to so much trouble.

Still no alarm bells.

And so we ate a beautiful curry and shared experiences until about 10.15 p.m. when I told him I would have to go as my Late Pass expired at 11 p.m. It was as if a switch had been thrown, and this nice guy, whom I thought I had just become better acquainted with, threw a tantrum.

Then he locked me in.

I must stay the night, he insisted.

I would not – was my constant answer.

Then in rage, he threw everything he had in the cupboards at me.

With plates clattering round my head, and breaking on the floor, I had never been more frightened. I had never seen such anger. I had gone, far too innocently I suppose, for a meal. I had no idea that there was a cost. I can’t remember everything he called me as I crouched in the corner, waiting for the next onslaught of crockery.

I called for help, but he just laughed, saying that there was nobody above him to hear.

This constant battle went on until 2 a.m., and I was on an early shift.

Eventually, he saw that the only thing he could do was contain me. Nothing else was on offer. I lay exhausted on the settee, and ordered him in my most severe tones not to touch me. He must leave me alone.

The night passed – with fitful episodes of sleep.

As morning dawned, and I had to go to work, he said he had to go as well. We walked in silence to the Bus Stop. When the bus arrived, and we climbed on board, we did so in silence. He sat beside me on the bus, with a very heavy silence between us. I had a very strong impression that he wanted to say something to me, but could not.

Once we got off, we said goodbye, and I don’t recall seeing him again. I don’t even remember his name.

However, the adventure was not over.

I found a note pinned to my bedroom door of the Nurses Home, which was conveying a message from my mother dated yesterday evening. She was demanding that I phone her IMMEDIATELY I came in: IT DOES NOT MATTER WHAT TIME – screamed at me in bold letters.

What was I going to tell her? She wouldn’t believe the above scenario for a moment. I thought that I would tell her that I had been studying with a friend, and we had lost track of time and I had just stayed over in her room.

She didn’t believe that.

So, reluctantly, I tried the truth.

That was a mistake.

I was now a compound liar, and I would sleep with any man who looked at me. That was why I had not phoned home, because I was sleeping with this doctor.

This was unbelievably rich, considering the hours I had spent in a maelstrom of crockery, defending my honour.

It didn’t matter when I explained how afraid I had been. She was coming with my father to pick me up after work, and I was going to get a good talking to.

No: she would not listen. She had heard enough fairy tales for one day.

And so they arrived, with their own version of what happened. Every time I tried to say: “That’s not right!” I was gunned down. Eventually, I realised that their minds were made up.

I had disappointed them. I had let them down BADLY. They were not impressed with my conduct. On and on it went.

This incident happened over forty years ago: but so ingrained is it that it was flung at me again just a couple of months ago.

I stopped her in her tracks and told her the true account again. She did not listen. I asked her to repeat after me that it was a hostage situation. This she did, but her voice was so empty, that I knew she preferred her version.

Had I been able to access comfort and support from a loving family, would that Doctor not have been severely disciplined?

Had they asked a few questions, they would have understood my complete distress.

But I was not helped or supported by those who knew me best.

The Doctor went on his way as if nothing had happened.

©Linda Jane McLean