Shannon Ault was always confident. From the age of three, she loved to dance and perform, and she carried this passion through to GCSEs, A levels and university, obtaining a degree from the University of Chester.
But all this changed on 25 November, when Shannon was raped.
She worked at a hotel and it was the staff party, so Shannon booked herself a room. After finishing her shift, she began getting ready for the evening in her room when there was a knock at the door. A male colleague forced his way into the room and began kissing her.
Shannon pushed him off and told him to leave, which he did. But an hour later there was another knock at the door. It was him again, and this time he pinned Shannon to the bed and raped her.
In the aftermath, Shannon gave a statement to police, but the crown prosecutor deemed there to be insufficient evidence for a guilty verdict, and the case didn’t make it to court.
The incident left Shannon scared to go out – and on the brink of suicide.
Speaking to LADbible, she said: “My anxiety was really bad at first. I couldn’t go out of the house on my own, and when I did it was with my parents. If it wasn’t for my mum and dad I don’t think I’d be leaving my house now to be honest.”
Things came to a head on 16 December, when Shannon tried to take her own life.
She didn’t plan the suicide attempt. Driving home from a friend’s house, she experienced a flashback to her ordeal. At that point, crashing her car into an oncoming barrier seemed like the only way out.
She said: “When you’re in a flashback, you’re put back in the situation. It was like I was back there. I wasn’t in my car driving, I was where I was back when the incident happened.
“I was trying to drown it out completely and I just couldn’t. I was trying to turn my music up to drown it out, but it was as if as I was turning the music up I was actually turning up the volume of my flashback. It just kept getting worse and worse and in that moment I saw no way out of it other than to crash my car into a barrier on the motorway. I was doing 70mph.
“I never planned to go out in my car to end it. It was literally there and then. I’ve never had suicidal thoughts before then, it’s just how scary flashbacks can be, and it is the first time I had properly had one. I just didn’t know how to react.”
Her car was written off in the crash, but miraculously, Shannon came out of it with nothing more than mild concussion.
She has since been diagnosed with PTSD and still experiences flashbacks, but she is receiving cognitive behavioural therapy and has learnt various coping methods.
Now, Shannon is on the road to returning to her former self – and has set her sights on becoming Miss England.
The first step is getting through the local heats – and being crowned Miss Cheshire later this month.
Shannon has taken part in the event twice before and says she comes alive on the catwalk. While it may seem like the easier option would be to give the show a miss this year, Shannon is more determined than ever to be involved.
She wants to use the finals to rebuild her own confidence. Not only that, she aims to use the platform to raise awareness and serve as a role model to other women, proving that she will not allow her persecutor to define her.
She said: “It would mean everything for me to win. I would love nothing more than to be a role model for women and girls in Cheshire and possibly in England, because if I win Miss Cheshire I go straight through to the final of Miss England. That opportunity would be absolutely amazing.”
As for others who have suffered a similar ordeal, Shannon hopes they can find the strength to talk to someone and realise they are not alone.
She said: “I would urge them [other victims] to tell someone if they haven’t already, thenyou’ve got that support there when you need it. It gives you that bit of comfort that there is someone there you can talk to about it.
“It’s not just you going through it. You’re not alone. I’ve have had so many people around me supporting me, but you still can feel lonely. I wasn’t alone, but there were still times when I did feel lonely, and I don’t want anybody to feel like that, because I certainly don’t now. They’re not alone, they’re not alone at all.”