Vicar raped at 17 by two different men and left infertile forgives her attackers

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A vicar who was raped by two different men at the age of 17 was left infertile after contracting an STI from one of her attackers.

Sonya Doragh, who has waived her right to anonymity, knew both of her attackers and said she considered them as people she trusted.

The two attacks came within just three months of each other and, like many other rape victims, Sonya, now aged 45, blamed herself.

The St Helens reverend said: “I didn’t disclose either straight away because I was hugely ashamed and I blamed myself. A teenager’s capacity for self-blame is immense. Was my skirt too short? Was I wearing the wrong colour lipstick?”

Sonya Doragh has waived her right to anonymity to tell her story after she was raped at the age of 17, by two different men

The first attack happened after Sonya had spent a day in the park with her friends. She said: “I should have been in school but the sun was shining and we decided to enjoy the good weather.

“As we headed off home, I offered people a lift home.

“One guy said yes and, when we arrived at his home, he asked if I wanted to go in to meet his family.

“I didn’t think anything of it, it just seemed so normal. Why would I think this wasn’t safe?

“But the minute we got inside, he pulled out a knife and raped me. He had clearly planned it from the moment I had offered a lift.”

Sonya, who was a virgin when she was raped, only told one friend about the attack when she was worried she had contracted a sexually-transmitted disease.

She said: “I don’t suppose there is anything more frightening than being raped at knifepoint, though I went to a clinic thinking I might have Aids.

“As it was, I had Chlamydia, which the rapist probably didn’t know he had himself. It was treated with antibiotics.

“It had taken me a while to face up to it because I didn’t want to believe it had happened. Going to the clinic meant it was real, it validated it.”

After the rape, Sonya began on a downward spiral which she admits, led her to ‘self-anaesthetise’ with drink and drugs.

Just weeks later, she spent the night at a friend’s house following a trip to a club. She fell asleep in a room with other girls but woke to find a man, who she knew and trusted, raping her.

Sonya added: “There was a number of girls in a room but I remember one girl getting up and I was alone in the room. I went back to sleep.

“I was fast asleep but he must have known I was alone. I woke up and it was happening. It was too late.

“I thought: ‘Why me?’ and, in later life, that question has arisen a lot more.”

The two horrific events had a lasting effect on Sonya, both emotionally and physically, but, after finding faith at the age of 24, she began to focus her energy by volunteering with a charity to help children at risk.

She said: “I know it sounds naïve and hollow but the excitement that was growing in me over heaven and unity with God was so much greater than anything else.

“It was greater than my drive for all the things that had probably motivated me before – and my compassion for children was innate. I have such a global maternal instinct.”

And, when she met and married her husband Phil, Sonya desperately wanted children and was devastated to learn she was infertile. She said: “The Chlamydia contracted after the first rape had led to infertility.

“Because I left it so long before I sought help. One of my fallopian tubes is completely blocked, the fronds are fused.

“The other one is twisted at a 90-degree angle, so the chances of an egg ever finding its way is small – and, if it did, it would probably get stuck.”

Sonya and Phil chose to foster and eventually adopted boys – two children who are now 18 and 20.

And, just five years ago, they adopted another child, from birth.

At that point, Sonya had a vocation in ministry and became a deacon in 2012.

She was ordained in 2013 and, last year, while battling pelvic inflammatory disease, she was appointed vicar at Christ Church Eccleston.

But despite her achievements, she was yet to really face up what had happened to her when she was a teenager.

And, it was only later in life, when Sonya broke her leg, that she had to face up to the post-traumatic stress caused by the attacks.

She said: “There were certain triggers… if I was alone in a room with a man, I would have a wobble – or more, if someone grabbed hold of my wrist.

“The PTSD meant that, as soon as anything remotely reminded me, I would be frightened, full of adrenaline, angry and anxious. I would react in the now as if it was then.

“Bizarrely, it was only when I broke my leg three years ago when I fell downstairs that all this became apparent. I would wake up in the night screaming and, as a friend put it, it was like I’d lost my mojo.

“It was almost as though the trauma that I hadn’t dealt with had clung on to this accident.”

Sonya went to her GP and was referred for counselling – which she said was “painful and exposing”.

She said: “Prior to counselling, I couldn’t have told you what happened. As soon as I touched it in the memory, I couldn’t look at it or process it. I’d gone to great lengths to shut the door.

“The counselling was painful and exposing, as I wrote a detailed account of what happened and I memorised it, and I spoke it and spoke it until the memory became normal.

“But, now, the triggers are gone.

“I watched the last series of Broadchurch, in which there was a rape storyline, without shaking or sobbing – which is what I would have done before.

“I’m so grateful to the NHS for putting my body and brain back together.”

Speaking about her attacks also gave Sonya the courage to report the men to police – and an investigation is currently ongoing. However, she has chosen to forgive her attackers.

She said: “You see a lot of bitterness in people who have been through hard times and it is understandable they would be angry.

“I have been able to forgive both the men who raped me, because I know these men were very broken.

“I can only hope both men have found a path that’s shown them love in a more complete and whole way, because their brokenness is greater than mine.

“Coming to faith helped me – Jesus loves the men who raped me as much as he loves me.

“They were made in His image. So when they hurt me, His image was more destroyed in them than it was in me.

“I don’t know who I would be or what I would be had it not happened. I know only that brokenness breeds compassion.

“Rape could have closed my capacity to love, I could have isolated myself in my grief, in my journey of infertility and vulnerability.

“But I have been and am loved, by a husband who knew I couldn’t conceive and have his children and still chose me, and a God in whom I found my identity.

“Fear is such a powerful and destructive weapon and acts against love.

“I chose not to allow fear, or the bits of me that died following rape, to determine who I am and how I love.”

Sonya approached Merseyside Police who passed the file onto Thames Valley Police. An investigation is ongoing.

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