Freezing my eggs ‘helped me after rape’

picture of Winnie at a red carpet eventImage copyright Winnie M Li
Image caption Winnie at a red carpet film event before her life changed

At the age of 29, Winnie Li was living in London and enjoying a successful career as a film producer, working with film stars like Daniel Craig.

She had been to the Oscars where a film she had helped to produce had been nominated.

But in 2008, this all came to a halt. One Saturday afternoon, while hiking in Northern Ireland, she was raped.

She says it is something she will never forget and the emotional impact stays with her.

She told the BBC: “It was awful. It went from one day, being the person I’d always been, to the next – I felt like I was gutted like a fish, unable to feel any joy or hope.

“My insides were torn out. I was a shell of the person I’d been before.”

‘Path to motherhood’

Her perpetrator – a 15-year-old stranger to whom she had been giving directions – was caught.

Winnie then lived in a constant state of anxiety as she waited for the trial.

She told the BBC: “I wasn’t feeling emotions. I was just in shock for months.”

Winnie suffered severe depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder. She was too scared to go out and had frequent panic attacks.

She said: “I went from being a well-adjusted 29-year-old to feeling like I couldn’t function anymore.”

This experience affected her dating life.

“All my other friends were continuing on with their careers, personal lives, getting married and having kids.

“And I just wasn’t there – I was on a completely different trajectory.”

Last year, she found herself single, aged 37.

Image copyright Winne M Li

‘Best I could’

She said: “I was at that age where people warn you about your fertility dropping off and I wasn’t anywhere further on the path to being a mother.”

It was this realisation that led her to the decision to freeze her eggs.

She had two rounds of egg freezing. And though doctors managed to harvest some viable eggs, there were not enough for her to consider them a viable insurance plan.

She said: “A lot of women describe freezing eggs as an empowering thing. In some ways it’s not. I spent thousands of pounds.”

She says she cannot afford a third round.

Winnie added: “It’s not necessarily given me hope but it’s given me a sense of an option to see if those eggs can become a child.”

“I’ll always know I have at least done the best I could in this situation.”

Winnie has written a novel, Dark Chapter, inspired by her experience of being raped and the journey to recovery.

Image copyright Winnie M Lee
Image caption Winnie has started hiking again

She is also working on a doctorate at the London School of Economics, exploring how social media is allowing rape survivors to tell their stories.

“I learn every day from other women how difficult it is for them to put their lives back together.

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“But I’m hoping by sharing these stories, we can understand how we can start to heal from this kind of trauma.”

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