Surviving Domestic Abuse

Despite it being the very last few days of October, I still feel the need to say or do something for Domestic Violence Awareness Month.  I usually don’t, in all fairness, usually because I talk about and discuss domestic abuse quite often at other times of the year, but meh, this time I feel the need to write a thing.

(This is only part one of the thing.  I didn’t have the emotional energy to get through both.)

The thing is triggering because I got stuck in flashbacks and ended up writing more detail than I usually would.

I’ve been in two serious abusive relationships, which isn’t exactly all that uncommon for survivors; whether they’re survivors of incest and CSA or trafficking and prostitution.  Prior to those relationships I was in other relationships that could very definitely be classed as being domestically abusive, but I was young and they were short-lived and I generally don’t consider them to be as serious as those other two.  That’s obviously not to say that there are varying degrees of domestic abuse; it’s never OK to abuse a partner, but as far as my own experiences go, there are some things I just write off.  Besides that, those earlier relationships were very limited as I was so very young and privacy hard to come by and so any abuse were isolated incidents whereas those other relationships were much more long-term.

The first started when I was sixteen, or at least that was when the more official relationship started; I had been speaking to him since I was fourteen.  I was traumatised, hurting and so far beyond self-destructive.  On some level, I knew how dangerous he was, I knew how much risk I was putting myself in, but I did it regardless.  Between having been raped, abused and trafficked for my entire life and determining that my worth was based in men using and hurting and wanting me and the fact that my old girlfriend had died just a few months before, I forced myself back into the closet, denied my lesbianism and agreed to meet up with a man who was significantly older than me; a man who had been grooming me for two years before we met.

He’d originally told me that he was only two years older than me.  It wasn’t until I was already on the train, meeting this stranger off the internet who had a large collection of Lolita images on his blog and an equally big collection of BDSM porn, that he told me he was actually older.  I was suicidal, self-destructive.  It was barely six months after my girlfriend’s death and barely two months after a suicide attempt that left me in a coma for three days.  I didn’t care how old he was, I didn’t care how much risk I was in, I didn’t care if he killed me there and then, I wanted to die, I wanted him to kill me.

It was his suggestion to meet at the train station in public, probably his attempt to get me to feel somewhat safer, but I was so far beyond the point of caring.  It was a surprisingly sunny day, he was late and I found myself sat perched on a little ledge alongside the glass wall of the station, the crappy red benches already full of other passengers.  I spotted him before he spotted me.  I remember being instantly repulsed by him.  He was much older, 28 to my 16, his hair receding and he was generally really fucking ugly but I didn’t waver.

His hands were on me and he was kissing me before he said a word.  Telling me how hot I was, telling me how much he wanted me.  I’d long gone past the point of flinching when men touched me, I just waited until he was done.  I’d dressed for him, I knew what he liked, I’d seen enough of the images on his blog to know what he’d want to see.  I knew what to expect from him, I knew what was going to happen to me.

He took my hand, said there was a place he wanted to show me.  The town we were in quickly gave way to hills and woods; he took me further and further up this hill then suddenly veered off into a wooded area, further away from footpaths and walkers.  I started to panic, a small part of myself that wasn’t maybe quite as self-destructive, that didn’t want this, that didn’t want to be with a man, that didn’t want to be here, that didn’t want any of this to happen.

He suddenly stopped, said he didn’t care if walkers still came up here, that he had to have me now.  I didn’t protest, I didn’t have the ability to say no, I didn’t have the ability to scream just how much I didn’t want this.  He put his hand up my skirt, I wasn’t wearing underwear as he’d instructed, he said I was a good little whore, to get on my knees like the whore I am.  He raped me and the surge of panic came back and I very unusually tried to push him off of me, he just pinned my arms down and carried on.  I started crying, again unusual for me, but I guess there was something different about this day, this wasn’t just business as usual.  After he was done he took pictures of me, took me back to the train station and told me to come back the following weekend.  When I got back to my dad’s (where I was sofa-surfing after being kicked out of my grandma’s for my suicide attempt) I went online and found he’d announced us as a couple all over his Myspace and Vampirefreaks.

I stupidly went back the following week, this time to his parent’s house where he was staying during the summer holidays.  He again raped me as soon as he got me through the door.  His parents came home later in the day and we ended up eating together, I accidentally got his mum’s name wrong and that was the first time I saw just how angry he could get.  After the food he dragged me upstairs to his room.  Once the door was closed he shoved me against it, his hands around my throat.  Hissing at me about how I’d embarrassed him, how I was a useless little bitch and couldn’t get anything right.  He choked me for so long, I didn’t think he was going to stop.  He let go, started to walk away then doubled back and punched me in the stomach so hard I collapsed to the floor.  I lay there for a long time and when I was able, got up and started apologising to him, asking how I could make it up to him.  I already knew the answer and he raped me again.

The pattern of me visiting him at his parent’s house, him raping me, little bursts of violence then niceties repeated until he went back to Uni. in the September and I started college, having just turned 17.  I was still technically homeless, living on my dad’s sofa trying to avoid his leers and his coming home drunk and masturbating whilst I ‘slept’ on the sofa and I took every opportunity I could to not be there, which quite often meant visiting my boyfriend at uni, it was a lose-lose situation.  I ended up missing so much college, but I didn’t care, I was still so self-destructive and suicidal, I had no future and I had no hope.  October half-term came and he demanded I stay with him for the whole week.  I didn’t refuse.

My week long visit ended up lasting significantly longer than just a week.  The moment I got there he took my phone and all my money and basically locked me in his room.  He lived in a shared house with one other woman, who was nearly always out, which meant I was basically alone with him constantly barring the times he went to work and he left me locked in his room.

He was raping me on a regular basis, trying out all of his little BDSM fantasies on me, beating me whenever I made a mistake or messed up or pissed him off, he was taking pictures and videos of me and putting them up online; on the few occasions I’d ‘earned’ the freedom to go outside with him, he was wonderfully nice to me, buying me things, telling me he loved me, taking me out for meals etc.  But the niceties could never balance out the violence.  Could never balance out the broken ribs or the black eyes or the bruises.  Could never balance out the time he got so angry when we were cooking that he threw a pan of hot oil over my naked chest (when his housemate wasn’t home, I was never allowed the privilege of wearing clothes); he cried after that, when he realised how badly he’d hurt me, I forgave him.

One of the days I was there, he threw a house party.  One of the guests had weed and he asked for some, but admitted he didn’t have any cash.  He was asked if he had anything else to sell.  I felt my blood freeze, I’d been here often enough, I knew what was coming.  They negotiated and they agreed that the guy with the weed and three of his friends would all get a turn and my boyfriend was covered for weed for the night.  He took me to one side, told me to go to his room and do whatever they wanted.  I took a bottle of vodka with me.

The night before the last day I was there, he had hurt me really badly, dislocated my shoulder and left me covered in bruises.  He went to work the next morning, he’d long stopped bothering locking the door, he knew I wasn’t going anywhere.  His housemate knocked on the door and I hid under the quilt, I hadn’t earned the privilege of clothes that day.  She looked at me and I could see pain and sadness in her eyes.  She got my bag, got some clothes out and laid them on the bed next to me.  She got my phone out of the cupboard he had been keeping it in and put it next to me along with £50 out of her own purse.  She watched me struggle to get dressed and helped me, got a damp cloth and wiped dried blood off of my face.  She still hadn’t said a word to me.  She took my hand and took me downstairs, there was a taxi waiting outside, she put me in it and told the driver to take me straight to the train station and then finally spoke to me, told me to go home and never come back, to not answer the phone to him and to never contact him again.  She kissed me on the cheek and shut the door.

I never even knew her name, she was always just his housemate, but she saved my life and I’ll be forever grateful.

I got back to my dad’s, who had barely even noticed I’d been gone.  He saw my bruises and told me I should know better than to piss boyfriends off and I better haven’t had got myself pregnant and that was it.

I didn’t contact him again, though I did get an expensive necklace and a letter in the post a week or so after, him telling me that he loved me and he missed me, that he needed me and that he couldn’t live without me, that he was going to kill himself if I didn’t go back.  I nearly lost my resolve when it arrived, I nearly went back.  I went on his social media sites and saw messages from a younger woman than me, she was thirteen.  I messaged her and she admitted that she’d met up with him at the same time I was locked in his room, that she’d ‘slept’ with him in the park around the corner from his house.  I hated him so much for hurting her and it strengthened my resolve to never see him again.  I threw the necklace and the letter away.

For so many years, including to an extent still now, I wrote all of this off.  I declared it wasn’t abusive; that I was sixteen, an adult, legally able to consent, that I’d wanted this relationship and that even if he was older (which nobody, not his parents, not my dad, not his friends ever questioned) we were equal and it was all OK.  That I’d gotten myself into that situation, that I knowingly met up with him even though I knew the risks, that I knowingly got into a relationship with him, that it was something that I did to myself.  That I was an annoying piece of shit and if I could have just kept my mouth shut long enough, he would never have gotten angry at me.

For so long I’ve refused to see it as an abusive relationship, and there’s still part of me that questions if it even was, but what else could it have been?



Flashbacks Galore

For some reason, so many people still seem to underestimate just exactly what living as a survivor entails; so many people seem to underestimate the reality of our mental health, the things we’re able to do, the things we live with on a daily basis.  Part of me, of course, knows this is just another general silencing tactic.  You ignore, dismiss and belittle the mental and physical health conditions that survivors live with then it’s easy enough to ignore, dismiss and belittle the traumas that caused those responses.

Even within activist circles, even amongst those that proclaim to support and stand by survivors underestimate those realities; they will one minute be declaring their everlasting support for survivors and the next, be talking about how certain mental and physical health conditions just aren’t real or be questioning a survivor’s mental health.

I know that here, I’m probably talking to those that do believe and acknowledge the lived realities of survivorship and I equally recognise that I don’t fully have the words to get across just how awful, difficult and painful life can be whilst healing; whilst living with everything that we have to live with.

However, after a fucking horrific night, I feel the need to write this, so here goes.

Flashbacks aren’t fun, don’t expect them to be pleasant reading.

I’ve spent the night curled up in fear from flashbacks, resisting the urge to scream, resisting the urge to self-harm until I could focus on another source of pain – one I have control over, restless and hurting and desperate to do anything to make it stop.  I tried to sleep, briefly and repeatedly found myself suffocating under the weight of the duvet; my head seeing and feeling man after man climb on top of me, feeling their breathe in my face, hearing their grunts and their moans and their disgusting words.  Every time I started to drift off, the flashbacks would become more intense, my brain seeing vulnerability and a lack of resistance in my sleepy state.  I just wanted to scream and keep screaming; to self-harm; to throw up; to do anything and everything to break the state I was in.

Despite this blog, despite my steps into activism, despite my living openly as a survivor, I still doubt the words that I use.  I still doubt my own reality.  I feel like a terrible fraud, that I have no right to use words like ‘rape’ or ‘abuse’ or ‘torture’ or ‘trafficking’ or even ‘survivor’, that I am causing harm to real survivors when I do so, by lumping my experiences with theirs I am taking away the care and attention and support they need.

Last night I had a very solid realisation; those words are appropriate.  It’s one I’ve had before, but with time it always fades until each of us is ready to accept and believe and truly feel that reality.  Last night was that night for me (but who’s to say if it’ll fade or not this time), the realisation that I have actually been raped and abused and tortured and trafficked hit me and it hit me hard.  It knocked the breath out of me, I couldn’t breathe, I had panic attacks, the flashbacks overwhelmed me, I weeped and I weeped and I weeped for the pain I’ve endured.  ‘Rape’ and ‘abuse’ and ‘torture’ and ‘trafficking’ are not just meaningless words I’ve abstractly assigned to my experiences, they’re real and they’re powerful and they’re my reality – and it’s a reality I’m not so sure I can live with.

I didn’t know what to do with myself or my body.  I was writhing in pain at the realisation, I was weeping and sobbing, to the point where I ran out of tears and sound.  I was consumed with flashbacks to the point where I simply gave up trying to resist them and let them overtake me.  I was feeling as much as seeing; I was feeling those numerous men on top of me, I was feeling the pain and the tearing and the injuries.  I was feeling every touch, their weight above me; my body was remembering as much as my mind was.  I couldn’t move from where I was laid, I couldn’t get out of bed, I couldn’t do more than writhe from the pain and beg and plead for it to all stop.

By the time morning came (though the light itself made no difference, I have not slept without a light on at night for more than a decade) I was still struggling, still suffering from flashbacks and pain, I was still finding it hard to breathe, still soundlessly sobbing, still wanting it to stop.

I gave up on any prospects of therapy fairly quickly; I had zero sleep, an incredibly bad night and I simply didn’t have the energy to get up, get dressed, go outside into the world.  This probably wasn’t the most sensible response, maybe therapy was exactly what I needed today, but the thought of going outside not so long after a terrible fucking night was far too much.

As far as most people are concerned, I have agoraphobia, which on some levels is definitely true, but in reality, my fear of the outside world, my inability to leave my flat is a direct response to my trauma.  I become convinced that the moment I step foot outside the door, I will be hurt again.  That my traffickers will find me, that a client will recognise me, that any man on the street is capable of and will hurt me (which fuck, we know is true because men fucking suck); my fear of this is especially heightened at the moment.  Just a little less than a year ago I was assaulted on public transport, the thought of going outside alone at the moment, at this time of year, is terrifying to me.

But, no matter how crazy I am (yes, I am crazy, I’ve accepted that.  No, you don’t get to call me crazy), life doesn’t stop.  It would be so easy and at times probably healthy for me to just not go outside, ever, but the reality is I live alone and unless the cat suddenly decided to go out and do a food shop, I need to force myself to do so many things.

And this is where the sticking point comes in.  People expect those with real mental health conditions to be thoroughly incapable of anything; to be permanently having panic attacks and flashbacks, to never eat, to never go outside, to never do anything, but life doesn’t work like that, especially not if you live alone, especially not if you’re skint.  I’ve been lucky enough to have been oh so graciously deemed eligible for benefits, but I still don’t exactly have the money to be ordering food deliveries every week.  Life still has to happen.

I still post on Facebook, I still write this blog, I talk to friends, I sometimes go outside and socialise, I go to the shop, I feed the cat (though probably not as often as he’d like), I just about keep on top of the cleaning, I have an amazing relationship and an amazing girlfriend.  I can fake my way through a bad day if I have to.  All of which works against me because I really mustn’t be ill, it really mustn’t be that bad if I can pull that off, right?  But what you don’t see is how much of a cost doing those things has on me.  You don’t see me curled up in fear, you don’t see me utterly exhausted, begging for sleep, downing coffee after coffee to avoid the nightmares, you don’t see me flinch at the slightest touch, burst into tears at the slightest sign of conflict (OK, actually, some of you that actually know me did see that happen tbf), unable to move from the exhaustion, being slowly surrounded by a pile of pots I’m unable to wash, the inability to eat, ordering take-away after take-away because cooking takes too much energy.

I lost track as to where I was going with this post, but to sum up, life fucking sucks for survivors and it takes time to heal to reach a point where it sucks a little less.  But today, you’ll see me outside and socialising and forcing myself through, because that’s what I have to do no matter how much I just want to hide.


I Know What Torture Is.

Trigger Warnings – This piece is graphic, but they’re words I needed to get out.  I could have journalled this, I still might, but sometimes I just need to be heard; I need someone to hear me and understand me and believe me.  Some might call it attention seeking; I call it breaking the silence that was forced upon me.  I suggest other survivors don’t read this.

I’ve spent the last twenty-four hours or so being half stuck in flashbacks and memories; distractions fell short, feeling the love and the care from those around me temporarily eased some of the pain, but the moment they were gone it came rushing back.  It’s been constant, low level.  A slide-show playing consistently in the background.

I think I know what’s triggered me, two things actually.  One longer lived; my constant denial and questioning of myself.  The seeming disconnect I have with myself and my own mouth and words; using words like ‘trafficking’, knowing they’re true on a cognitive level, but inside reeling as I doubt the validity of those words.  To the point where my brain’s automatic, C-PTSD motivated response is to make me see the truth; to see the validity of that word, those experiences, by bombarding me with more proof than I’d ever need.  The other, a more basic and obvious trigger; researching the witch hunts for a friend and coming across a video.  A video depicting trauma, graphic torture, clips from a film that had so obviously been produced by a man; semi naked women being tortured repeatedly.  This was more than enough to fuck with my head.

The exact tortures may have been somewhat different (but then again, the deeper you get into the world of kink, the more and more some of the equipment seems to resemble torture devices of those ages) but I know what it’s like to feel pain, I know what it’s like to be tortured to the moment where you’d confess anything, agree to anything just to make the pain stop.

I was always a favourite, I was always considered one of the ‘best girls’ amongst all of those that were trafficked and raped beside me.  That’s obviously not something that I’m proud of, just dully acknowledging.  I had learnt to severely dissociate before I’d even properly learnt how to write.  I had learnt to detach myself completely from my body, block out the pain, dive into a fantasy world, convince myself that what was happening just wasn’t happening.  As I got older, I developed this ‘skill’ even more; it was what kept me alive but it was equally what made my life worse.  I could take the pain better than almost all the other women there; I could do the extreme things that others simply broke long before getting to; I became a project, a test, a toy, men fought for the chance to see me, to hurt me, to find my breaking point, but I was long past broken, that was exactly why I could take it.

My body looks pretty good for what it’s been through (yet another reason to doubt myself and my experiences – yet another reason for others to not believe me), but I guess bodies can be more resilient than we give them credit for and injuries do eventually heal, even if not fully.  I mean, yeah, my knees are still beyond fucked up, as are my shoulders, my ribs never healed properly, my hands lose grip from time to time, I’m in pain daily, scars litter my body, but generally I look better than I should.

My head is swirling with memories today; remembering the torture, remembering client after client trying to break me, trying to get me to scream and cry and beg.  Sometimes I would, when it would be convincing, just to make the pain stop, though it rarely did.  I’d give them exactly what they wanted to make the pain stop.  I became a project, to see what I could endure, to see how far they could push it.  Others broke so quickly before I did, they wanted to see how much the human body could really take and I gave them that opportunity.

Beatings, repeated rapes, anal rapes, gang rapes, penetrated with objects – from toys, to anything they could find, to knives; repeatedly drugged, deprived of sleep and food and water, tied and contorted – easy access, pain and vulnerability; the humiliation and the degradation and the shame – being pissed on, cum on, shat on, forced to eat all the above; suffocated – denied the right to breath; whipped, cut, bones broken for their pleasure; forced to orgasm over and over – so they can tell me I like it; pierced, shocked, drowned, sewn shut, burnt, them hurting other women and girls if I didn’t co-operate; forced on the floor, collar around my neck, treated like a dog; recorded for their pleasure – my rapes and tortures put out there for the world to see, still out there for the world to see; tortures I never had the words for, that I don’t care to find the words for, where the memories hurt enough, memories I no longer want a name for.

I just remember pain, over and over.  I remember wishing and hoping that they’d just let me die.  That they’d make a mistake, push it too far, that I’d just die, that I’d just finally be free from the pain.  I did die a few times, but they always found a way to bring me back.  I stopped hoping it would be over, I started hoping they’d just kill me.  There are still days where I wish they’d just killed me.

To so many torture seems like such a distant concept; something that happened in ages past, or countries far away, but it happens much more than you think.  It happened to the girls and women around me.  It happened to me.

Girls and women are still being tortured; the persecution of women and girls didn’t end with the witch trials.


Legalisation: A Dream Come True for Traffickers.

I have a very distinct habit of making myself click and read things that probably aren’t always the best for my mental health; articles and stories and experiences that I will undoubtedly find triggering, information that I already know through my own experiences and yet still find myself reading regardless.

Today it was a short article written by Rachel Lloyd regarding legalisation and trafficking; there was nothing in there that I hadn’t read or thought about previously, but it left me thinking a lot, since.  Some of those are things that I’ve been coming back to time after time since Amnesty voted in favour of full legalisation.  Sometimes, no matter how much I try and force my mind to stay away, it finds its way drifting back to my family and to my traffickers.  It’s taken a significantly long time for me to acknowledge my experiences as trafficking and there are still points where I find myself questioning; am I using the wrong words?  Was any of it really rape?  Does it make any difference that I was rarely moved any further than mainland Europe?  Does it make any difference that my ‘traffickers’ were my family or as good as?  Since Amnesty made their decision, I’ve been thinking more and more on just how amazing an opportunity this is for traffickers, eventually, I put this knowledge and my experiences together; this was not just an amazing opportunity for various traffickers worldwide, it was an amazing opportunity for my family, my traffickers.

I can’t stop myself thinking just how much they would benefit from full legalisation; their operation was large, much larger than any others in the areas.  They owned a number of brothels throughout the North-West and beyond; they owned a larger piece of property that was kept very under the radar but where some of the worst horrors happened.  The smaller brothels were what you’d expect; brothels with older women or girls that just about passed, small enough to rarely be bothered by the police (and in fact were often frequented by said protectors), hidden but clearly there.  These are exactly the places that would benefit greatly from legislation; no more efforts put into hiding their existence, no more need to bribe police with women’s and girl’s bodies, no more need for extensive security and secrecy.  My traffickers could work openly, increase their profits, increase the number of women ‘working’ for them and put less focus on maintaining their secrecy.

This would quite simply leave them free to put focus and effort into that other property, the property where I spent a significant proportion of my life.  Here were the children too young to pass in the more open brothels, here were the women newly trafficked who had not yet been trained well enough for our traffickers to feel secure enough to send them to the brothels, here were the women who had been trained well enough, were able to dissociate well enough, to endure some of the worst forms of abuse and torture, here was where videos of said torture were recorded and produced, here was the place with enough secrecy and privacy for high profile ‘clients’, here was the place with enough space to hold large parties; a girl trussed up as centre piece for all to enjoy and abuse and torture, here was where the few girls and young women who had been missed and their disappearance noticed were kept, here was where they made their real money; where their ‘best girls’ were kept.

Legalisation does nothing more than push these secret, torturous places further underground.  It does nothing more than provide a legitimate stream of money to further finance these worlds.  It does nothing more than create a distraction and a passable front for trafficking and abuse.

Legalisation would never have made my life better; it would have made it significantly worse.  Legalisation won’t make the lives of trafficked and prostituted women better; all it’ll do is legitimise their abuse and their rapes.

I know that place and the new ones opened since I was able to escape would thrive under full decriminalisation; my traffickers will get richer, more girls and women will be abducted, raped, abused and tortured for the pleasure of men.  The horrors there were never going to end, decriminalisation is going to make them worse.


Living My Truth

If there’s any part of the survivor’s journey I truly hold stock with, it’s living our truths.  It’s refusing to hold their secrets, their shame, their guilt and living openly as a survivor.  Whilst I truly believe that living openly is one of the most healing things that we can do, it is simultaneously one of the most painful and terrifying things we can do.  Each day we choose to expose a new, deeper and rawer level of pain and hurt to those around us.  To our friends, our families (if they were safe enough to keep around), to our lovers, to those that read our blogs and our posts.  Each day they learn something new about us; a new fear, a new hurt, a new trauma response, a new detail of our herstories and our traumas.

It’s only been the last few months where I’ve been living more openly as a trafficking survivor; I have done so tentatively and anonymously online (and to an extent this blog is still anonymous, though there are those that see these posts through my Facebook and know who I am) but in person it has been my deepest and darkest shame for many years.  I now live in a world where my closest friends, my adoptive family, know I was trafficked; where my girlfriend knows and has stood by me despite knowing my healing journey is going to be slow, long and painful; where I have trusted friends and radical allies who I trust enough to allow them to connect this blog with me.

But each day I live with such wariness and cautiousness.  I’m constantly waiting for that other foot to fall; waiting for those I love and trust and respect to turn on me.  To tell me to be quiet, to be silent, to go back to living in that place of shame and guilt and self-blame.  To reject me; to see the dirt and the toxicity I see all over myself and distance themselves from me in case it’s contagious.  To start doubting my experiences and my reality; to doubt my pain and my trauma.

Next week I’m taking my next step in living my truth.  For the first time, I’m going to speaking in a semi-public light in a meeting with my local MP to discuss the Nordic Model and the dangers in supporting full decriminalisation.  I have never in my life made such a bold move in exposing myself as a trafficking survivor; I have spoken online, I have spoke to those close in my life, but to speak to somebody with such a level of authority is something so very new to me.  To associate my face, myself, with my own words is a terrifying thought.

I hate to admit it, but I’m scared.  I’m scared of exposing myself in such a way, yet at the same time I’m convinced it’s the right thing to do.  The sooner abolitionists are able to have their voices heard by Corbyn’s Labour, the better; we know that the pro-sex work lobby aren’t going to hesitate and I have a distinct advantage of living in a constituency with an MP with some degree of power.

I feel so very lost and unsure of myself.  Am I in the right place with my healing to do this?  Am I anywhere near enough of an eloquent activist to be able to do this?  Am I ready to expose myself and my traumas in such a way?  Will I even be believed?  Am I putting myself at risk by doing this?

I suppose that last question is what’s weighing heavily on my mind, at the moment.  I know this MP especially likes her photo opportunities; I’ve followed her blog long enough to know that and linking my face publicly as a trafficking survivor is something that terrifies me.  Terrifies me for my own sense of privacy and terrifies me for my sense of safety.  I am a trafficking survivor and I know more than my traffickers will want me to know; I know they’re still looking for me and I know I’m going to be spending a good majority of my life looking over my shoulder and exposing myself in such a way is a terrifying thought; even if my name is now one they would not recognise.  I’m also slightly worrying on the idea of the DWP finding out somehow and deeming me not disabled if I’m able to pull this off (but then this is a constant fear and somewhat unrelated).

I’m not even sure I can pull this off.  I’m nowhere near eloquent enough to get these words out; to paint the true reality of the trafficking and prostitution.  I’m not strong enough to do so without either dissociating or breaking down crying.

However, I know this is the right thing to do; I know this is something I need to do.  I’ve always known it on some level, I always knew that I was never the kind of person who could just focus on her own healing and leave the activism to others (though, of course, I would never shame survivors who have chosen to focus on their own healing); I’m too much of a class activist and I can never just focus on myself and my own needs, I always knew I was going to speak out one day, so why not now?  I need to live my truth, I know it’s so imperative to my own healing and I know how important and valuable my words and experiences are; even if few listen, I know I need to be another voice, a voice of lived experience and stand alongside my brave sisters who are already up there and facing these fears.

So I’m going to this meeting and I’m going to speak; I’m going to make sure my truth is heard and I’m going to do the best I can to ensure nobody leaves that room with any illusions that decriminalisation will be a good thing.  I’m a trafficking survivor; I know the reality of that world, I’ve known it since I was five years old and I’m going to use my voice to expose it for what it really is.


Finding My Voice.

I’ve spent a good chunk of my life wondering just how much it’s OK to talk about.  Whether it’s actually appropriate on any level to discuss my trauma, my pain, my herstory and if it is then how much is it OK for me to actually say?

I’ve had so many people tell me that I don’t have to expose myself, that I don’t have to say what happened to me, that I don’t have to tell the entire world.  I can see this coming from a good place, mostly, but to me it just feels like repeated silencing.  All I hear is that ‘this makes me feel uncomfortable, I’d prefer if you’d stay silent.’

Well, my life, my experiences, my trauma don’t exactly leave me feeling comfortable and my aim isn’t to leave others feeling comfortable.  I want someone to hear me.  I need someone to hear me.  I need others to hear my story.  Both on a personal and selfish level; I need someone to tell me that they believe me, that they hear me, that they care but it’s also on a much bigger scale.  We live in a world where the vast majority will argue that pornography and prostitution is empowering and amazing, we live in a world where so many genuinely believe that trafficking and violence and rape and abuse and murder is rare, just the experiences of a few unlucky people within the industry.

There have been times where I’ve even doubted myself; where I’ve found myself questioning as to whether or not I was just incredibly unlucky and that really the vast majority of the ‘industry’ is much safer, much more empowering.  It takes a lot to pull myself out of that thinking.

There’s so few of us out there speaking our truths, there’s so few people listening to us.  I feel the need to add my voice, in the hopes that collectively we can be just a little louder, that a few more people may listen, that more people will see the realities of this so called ’empowering’ and amazing ‘industry’.  A friend said to me recently that for every one of us there’s a hundred happy hookers, cam-girls and strippers.  We’re repeatedly silenced; both by the pro-sex work lobby and by those around us who can’t deal with our truths, who don’t want to hear our truth.

But our truths are never gonna be pretty; if you can find a pretty way to talk about trauma, rape, abuse, torture and murder, I’d be glad to know it, but otherwise, this is the best I have.

Sometimes I question whether I’m ready for this.  Whether I’m ready for those around me and the wider world (as such is the nature of blogs, I guess) to know intimate details of my past.  I wonder if I have the emotional strength to do this; I’m nowhere near far enough in my healing to be an activist of any description but at the same time, I can’t let myself sit here in silence.  I wonder if sharing each and every little detail is the right thing; if it’s just over-kill?  But then, I personally find it healing to get those details out of my head and frankly, what’s the point in pussy-footing around it?  We live in a world that’s incredibly de-sensitised to violence and abuse, we live in a world where people refuse to hear the details, in a world where many of us don’t feel able to share those details and for me that’s exactly why I feel the need to share them.  So many people are so quick to dismiss or skim over even the words ‘rape’ and ‘trafficking’ and ‘abuse’, but if I let my pain and my memories and those details reach my writing, then maybe, just maybe, someone will really take in what I’m saying, no matter how difficult it is to read (and write).

I spent the weekend panicking that I was letting too much of myself slip, that I was dumping too much on the womyn around me, that I was just feeling too safe and too comfortable in a womyn only space that I was losing hold of my ability to stay silent, to keep ‘their’ secrets, to maintain at least some semblance of sanity and normality (bursting in to tears once or twice definitely didn’t help with that <_<).  But, I shouldn’t have to worry about that, my truth is my truth, the instinct to hide it is an instinct based in shame and guilt and a sense of being dirty and disgusting; silencing myself is exactly what ‘they’ want and I refuse to do what they want any longer.  Yes, I will always feel guilty for putting my trauma on the womyn around me, the last thing I want to do is cause pain to other womyn, but at the same time, maybe, just maybe my words will reach another survivor, maybe, just maybe my words will reach someone who’s pro-sex work and change their thinking even if just a little.

I do so much believe that the onus should never be on exited womyn, on trafficking survivors, to do this work.  That we should never be expected or forced or made to believe that it’s our job to speak out, especially not before we’ve done the healing work that we need to do, but at the same time, I know that, at least for myself, I need to do this.  I need to speak out.  I need to be heard.  I need to be believed.  I need to hope that maybe, just maybe, if there’s enough of us then things might start to change.

I’m not going to deliberately and actively silence myself any more; I’m going to speak my truth, even if it leaves others feeling uncomfortable and wishing that I’d just shut up.  I’m not here to help others keep their rose-tinted glasses on.  I’m here to speak my truth and the truth of womyn and girls like me.  And if that truth gets a little dark and detailed, sometimes, well so be it.


Vacating Tumblr

I’ve finally decided to mostly vacate the hell that is Tumblr and moving here to WordPress.  I might move some of my posts from Tumblr over to here, but otherwise I’ll be starting anew.  I don’t always have the energy to be digging through pain and trauma to keep this fully active, but oh well.