Columnist and trained counsellor Fiona Caine advises a woman still traumatised by a past rape, and another who’s worried she’ll never find love again

I WAS raped when I was 18. At the time it was terrifying and, although I wasn't beaten or anything, it took me a long time to feel comfortable around men again.

In a way I was lucky, because the man was caught and went to jail, so at least I had some closure. However, although things have improved, I'm far from OK.

I'm now 26 and in the past eight years, I've only had two short relationships; neither was sexual and both ended because I couldn't cope when things started to get physical. I'm now seeing another guy and really want this to work. He knows that I have been raped and hasn't put any pressure on me, however I want this to be a proper relationship. Last week, I really thought I was ready but, when we finally made it to the bed, I got hysterical and burst into tears.

He said he understood but I am frightened that this is going to push him away. Surely after eight years I should be over this? Why should I still feel guilty and dirty?

– Anon

Fiona says: What you're experiencing is totally natural, but support is available

Deep down, I'm sure your logical self knows that you are neither guilty or dirty, but your emotional self isn't allowing you to believe that. There's no time limit on recovering from trauma, which means there's no "should" about whether you have recovered from this or not.

If this is the first time, since the rape, that you've tried to be intimate with someone then your reaction is not at all surprising. People respond to traumatic events in different ways. For some, the effects of sexual assault or rape might be short-term. Many others, as you've found, experience extremely painful emotions and memory flashbacks long after the initial trauma. These in turn can lead to a host of other issues, including depression, panic attacks and fear.

It's not clear from your letter whether you had any form of counselling at the time but, even if you did, your reaction now suggests to me that you need more support. In England and Wales, Rape Crisis ( is a charity which provides emotional support and information to anyone affected by rape. There's a telephone helpline and a network of centres around the country. In Scotland, you can contact Rape Crisis Scotland ( and in Northern Ireland should, for the moment, contact the Women's Aid Federation Northern Ireland (

One of the things that, perhaps, you haven't done since you were raped is learned how to reconnect with your body. As you were violated, you may have very negative feelings about it - as if it's contaminated in some way - so learning to love your body again is important.

As a first step, think about taking up yoga or tai-chi perhaps - something that makes you very aware of your body and how it works but in a relaxed and gentle way. Moving on from there depends on you and your readiness but doing things that put you and your partner in gentle contact with one another might help - go dancing together, give each other a massage. Even just stroking one another can really help.

It may seem out of reach right now, but with professional help and the support of a caring partner, there's every hope that you will one day have a happy, loving and sexual relationship.

Worried I'll never move on from relationship split at 52

I AM 52 and until five months ago, had lived with my partner for 15 years. I'd always thought we would be together forever and had even begun to talk about getting married. He's already living with some woman who is a lot younger than he is, and I am left feeling hurt, depressed and abandoned. Family and colleagues say I will get over it and find someone else, but I'm not so sure. I'm too old to go looking for another partner, even if I felt like doing it.

Right now, I'd settle for getting through a day without crying or feeling like my world has caved in. When I'm not working, I spend most days moping around my flat and I feel very lonely. I don't feel like it now, but will I ever be able to have another relationship after being dumped at my age? – KH

Fiona says: It might not feel like it now - but it will get better

After a hurt like this, it can take a while for a broken heart to heal. But your colleagues and family are right, you will get over it eventually. I can't predict how long this will take, nor can I promise that the hurt will completely disappear. However, one day, you will feel better.

If you're not ready to look for love now, you can at least start to deal with the loneliness by getting out more and meeting new people. This might be through new experiences, societies, courses, sports, or volunteering. It doesn't matter what you do, just try to make new friends and don't rush things. In time, you may even find someone special for a relationship, but if it doesn't happen immediately, so be it. You'll have made new friends and that's every bit as important.

When you do feel ready to look in earnest for a relationship, there are all manner of ways of doing this, from dating agencies to newspaper ads and apps on your phone. Always meet in a public place, don't take them home until you've really got to know them and always tell someone where you're going - in other words, be sensible. You're certainly not too old for this, after all, the UK's oldest bride is well into her 90s and her groom was over 100!

My daughter's in love with a married man

MY daughter has been having an affair with a married man. He says he loves her and wants to leave his wife, but also says he would miss his children if he did.

This has been going on for over three years now and I feel that he is simply using my daughter. I've tried to explain to her that he is never going to leave his wife, but she won't accept this. She's in love with him and nothing I say will change her mind. I just know that he is going to hurt her but what can I do? – PD

Fiona says: All you can do is be there for her

Married men seldom leave the marital home to be with a mistress when children are involved, and this man seems to be no exception. He is still with his wife after three years, and I fear that your daughter can only look forward to disappointment and unhappiness as the 'other woman'.

It must be hard to watch her make what you think are poor life choices, but I can't see what else you can do in this situation. You've made your feelings known to her and if you continue to put pressure on her, you risk pushing her away. All you can do, I'm afraid, is be there for her when this eventually unravels, as it most probably will. I'm sorry I can't be more positive.

I'm grieving - but my daughter and granddaughter refuse to speak to me

WHEN my husband died just over a year ago, I was a mess. Despite this, I had to deal with the arrangements for the funeral and all the financial stuff afterwards. My daughter lives a long way away with her family, but after the funeral, my granddaughter came and spent a couple of weeks with me. She was a great help and promised to keep in touch - but then I heard nothing from her for six weeks, so I called to see what was wrong.

When I asked why she hadn't called or visited again, she got very angry and hung up. I was shocked and have tried many times since then to talk to her or to her mum, my daughter, but neither of them has responded to either phone calls or email. After many attempts, I got really angry and probably said some things in a message that I shouldn't have, but in my defence, I was (and still am) grieving for my husband.

Now I have heard through a cousin that my granddaughter is getting married and I have not been invited. I am so hurt, and I wish I could talk to them so that I can apologise for what I said. I'm wondering if I should just go the wedding anyway? – TN

Fiona says: There must be more to this situation

From what you've told me, I am, like you, completely mystified as to how the relationship with your family can have deteriorated so quickly and completely.

Particularly given that they must have known you were (and still are) grieving for your husband. Something clearly has gone very wrong, and I suspect it happened earlier than you think, as something stopped your granddaughter visiting you in the first place. Think back to that time when she spent a couple of weeks with you and try to think if something that happened then caused her to want to stop visiting.

Whilst your granddaughter's wedding might seem like a good opportunity to mend bridges, just turning up at a time when people's emotions are heightened anyway, could make things worse. You mention a cousin and I wonder if you she, or another family member, could be persuaded to act as an intermediary - at least to try and find out what it is you've done to upset them? I really would caution against turning up at the wedding uninvited, but instead, make every effort - using intermediaries - to get to the bottom of this. If you think seeing them face to face would help, then better to go and see them now rather than on your granddaughter's big day.

I do hope you are able to get some sort of resolution to this sad situation in time for you to be an invited guest at the wedding.

If you have a problem you need help with, email Fiona by writing to for advice. All letters are treated in complete confidence and, to protect this privacy, Fiona is unable to pass on your messages to other readers. Fiona regrets that she cannot enter into personal correspondence.