More Guilt

Yesterday, I did yet another stupid thing.  Triggering myself and punishing myself is something I’m sadly so good at, so you’re probably gonna end up reading about the stupid things I’ve done on a regular basis.

Anyway, yesterday, my stupid thing was doing a little Facebook and Twitter stalking of my family and my ex. (this is always done via another FB account so I’m safe doing it and I’ve not added any of them as friends or messaged them via the side account etc.) and I ended up finding out something that disturbed me so much and left me really just not knowing what to do.

I’ve known for a little while now that my abusive ex was in a new relationship and I’ve spent so much time curled up in guilt because of that; so strongly feeling like I need to get a message out to her somehow, to try and warn her, to let her know just how abusive my ex. is so she can get away from him.  I ended up not doing it.

I found out yesterday that he proposed to her, that they’re now engaged.  I know him, I know his views on marriage, I know exactly what he’ll be thinking.  He believes that girlfriends are his property, but he believes even more that wives are his property; this is about gaining full control over his girlfriend, I know, because I was engaged to him at one point and I saw how much everything changed for the worse, to the point where I couldn’t take it any more and had to leave him.

I don’t know if he’s abusing her yet, it wouldn’t surprise me if he was, it’s been about four years so I’m sure she’s definitely noticed some red flags, sure he’s done something by now.  I know she was generally more stable and less vulnerable than me; I was trained to accept abuse and not say anything long before he met me, so I know it was generally easier to hurt me, he got to skip all the grooming stages, but maybe he hasn’t had to skip those with her.

I’m worried for her so much, especially now he’s tied himself to her, I was worried before but this really freaked me out.  Once I officially ‘belonged’ to him, he got so much worse, I was his property and he could do whatever he wanted to and with me and he barely had any restraints before then.  I’m so scared for her, I’m so scared of what he’s gonna do to her.

I tried to tell myself that he wouldn’t hurt her, that he had somehow magically changed or maybe it was something about me, never about him or he just needed to find the right person who he wouldn’t abuse and maybe he’s found that person in her, but I know that’s all bullshit.  Abusers don’t change, they’ll never change.  She’s just at much at risk as I was, as the few women before me were.

Talking with my girlfriend about him and his family and this situation yesterday, I realised a lot.  I realised that of course he’s always gonna be abusive, that he always had been.

Between screaming and yelling at his mum at 3am to go and make us some food (I nearly threw up from the shame and the guilt and couldn’t eat any of it) when she had work the next morning and her doing it without question because he always lost his temper so quick.

Between his insistence that his ex girlfriend, who’d only been with him for a few months, was completely crazy and a liar and fucked up and if she ever said anything to me that it was a lie.

Between the fact that his younger female relatives were always so wary around him.  That his cousin refused to leave her daughters alone with him.  That his other cousin repeatedly crashed and burned and would never be anywhere with him alone.  I knew he had abused his step-sister, she told me herself.  The fact that a young girl adopted into the family used to scream and cry and yell whenever he was anywhere near her.

Between the fact that a boy much younger than him, struggling with his sexuality and generally really vulnerable had been manipulated into an on and off again relationship with him for years.

He’d always been abusive and thinking on it with my girlfriend yesterday, his family knew, they’ve always known.  There’s something really telling in the way his grandmother is glaring in all of the pictures of the engagement party; it was the same look she had when he announced our engagement.

Part of me really, really wants to reach out to her somehow, to warn her, to tell her to get out, to help her pick up on those red flags and see who he is.  But I know that I could potentially be risking my own safety if I do and I know that she simply wouldn’t listen to me.  He’s of course told her that I’m crazy and a liar, in the same way he told me the same about his ex; if I write to her this soon after her engagement, I’m just gonna look like the crazy, jealous ex. who’s trying to sabotage their relationship.

I don’t care what I look like though, really, I’m never gonna see any of them so what does it matter to me?  But I know that my words are gonna automatically be disbelieved.  The only one that doesn’t see how abusive he is is his mum, who’s just so detached from it, so numb to it, so intent on believing her son is different from his father and anyone else that does see it is either complicit or too scared to speak out for themselves.

There’s not much I can do.  Even if I do somehow get an address for her and write to her, she’ll not believe me and I could possibly put her at risk if she confronts him about whatever I say.  The only address I have for any of them is his parents, but his step-dad is just as complicit with his abuse and his mum refuses to see it.

There’s nothing I can do, but I just feel so guilty.  I logically know that if he hurts her, it’s not on me, I’m not responsible, he’s an abusive man who chooses to be abusive, but I can’t help feeling so guilty and feeling like I have to do something, anything.  I’m just so scared for her.


Breakdown – Guilt

I figured this needed two titles, because let’s face it, this isn’t gonna be the one and only time I’m gonna write a post called ‘Breakdown’.

The 15th was my grandma’s birthday, a day that comes with flashbacks and memories and triggers, but strangely, it was none of these that pushed me into almost completely breaking down.  If anything, I’d half forgotten or forced myself to forget.  I’d spent the entire night writing and avoiding sleep, November is never a good month for me as I’ve said in earlier posts and my sleeping has been a whole new layer of bad as a result.  I gave in and finally tried to sleep at around 9am on the morning of the 15th.

I was lying in bed and despite the lingering sleep deprivation, found myself struggling with insomnia and my mind wandering.  I ended up, weirdly, thinking about my other grandma, the one on my ‘dads’ side (he’s not my dad, but just go with it), I guess my head had half realised the day and had vaguely clicked on ‘grandma’ as a theme.  I don’t really have any memories of my dad’s mum, I never got to see her that often and when I did, I was generally so out of it and just more focused on having a chance to breathe and not be hurt that it’s hard to hold on to memories of her, now.

What I do remember about her is that she was nice to me, she genuinely cared about me and she never hurt me, at all.  I remembered how no matter what I put her through (breaking down and acting out in her house – I was around four-five years old and for some reason I cut up her shower curtain before cutting myself, it was around the time that my mum started selling me out, so I guess I just dealt the best way I could, but my grandma wasn’t even remotely mad at me.  Suicide attempts.  Lack of contact.  Dropping completely off the radar etc. etc.) she always stuck by me, never got angry with me, was still just nice to me.  She wasn’t exactly a nice woman, she was horribly racist and a working-class Tory and I was often ashamed of her and the things she’d say about various groups of people, but she was nice to me and with a family like the one I had, that meant the world to me.

I was lay there thinking about her and I suddenly realised that I couldn’t remember her face, I couldn’t remember what she looked like and I had to really force the memory.  I ended up feeling so sick and guilty, realising that I hadn’t seen her or been in contact with her since I escaped three and a half years ago, that I hadn’t seen her properly at all for quite a few months before that.  I know she’s worried about me, when I escaped, I found myself sending a letter to my ‘dad’ and left a care of address (this was a bad move on my part, but barring the emotional impact each letter I receive has on me, I am safe.  I have never wrote to any of them or replied to any letters since.) and my grandma has been writing to me and sending me cards on birthdays and Christmases since, she’s repeatedly said she’s worried about me and that she hopes I feel able to get in contact with her soon.

I just ended up curling up in guilt and shame.  This woman who had never been anything but nice to me, who had never hurt me, who had no hand in my being trafficked is worrying about me because I left with no warning, completely disappeared.  I callously cut her off purely on the basis she was related to me, connected to my traffickers, I punished her just as much as I punished them.

My brain kept spiralling, I felt so much guilt over all of them, my entire family, including my traffickers and those that enabled them and/or abused me in other ways like my other grandma, the ones whose birthday I finally remembered it was.  I curled up in guilt knowing that I was missing her birthday, that I hadn’t been in contact for so long, that I didn’t even know if she was still alive or not.  Despite the fact that I know she hurt me, despite the fact that she knew I was being trafficked and abused and did nothing, despite the fact that she abused me herself, I was the one feeling guilty and so sick.  I missed her, I missed her so much because she was one of the few members of my family that could be some semblance of nice to me outside of the abuse.

I ended up in a huge spiral, missing my family, feeling so guilty for cutting them all off, especially those who had never hurt me (especially my little brother) and I just kept getting worse and worse.  I started questioning myself, questioning if it was even true, questioning what I’ve done.

What if I’d just made it all up?  What if none of it is real?  What if it never happened?  What if I over-exaggerated?  What if I’m remembering wrong?  I felt so fucking guilty, like I’d destroyed my family and my life over fucking nothing.  That I’d never be able to fix it.  That too many people know now; how do I explain to my girlfriend, my adoptive ‘family’, my friends, my therapist, other exited women that I just made it all up?  How do I get myself out of the mess that I made?  How do I fix things with my family now?

I cast around for proof that it was real and it was as if my brain had completely shut down, I couldn’t find any memories or flashbacks of abuse.  I was finding excuses for the physical proof I had.  The old injuries, I obviously got them some other way, clearly not trauma related.  The scarification, the branding, on my thigh – I’m a self-harmer, I clearly did it to myself (I casually ignored the fact that it had been there for nearly my entire life, I ignored the fact that I remember it being there before I could even spell the word). 

I started doubting everything, convinced myself I’d just made it all up, convinced myself that I was just a fucked up piece of shit and a disgusting human being and that I should just die.  I couldn’t stop crying, sobbing, screaming; so disgusted with myself, so overwhelmed with what I’d done.  I just curled up and I just wanted to scream.  I just wanted to cut, so badly, cut out the sin, cut out the dirt, cut out my lies, bleed out my guilt and my shame.  I just wanted to starve myself, stop eating again because how could someone like me deserve to eat anyway?  I just wanted to kill myself, because I knew that was the only way out of my lies.  I managed to avoid actually hurting myself, purely on the basis that I couldn’t move.

More than anything, I just wanted to go home, to go back to my family, to try and fix the mess that I’d made.  I just about managed to convince myself to wait, knowing that if there was even the slightest chance my memories were true, that I’d be putting myself at suck risk if I did go home.

I eventually cried myself to sleep, stupidly exhausted and drained and I woke up feeling marginally better.  I still felt so guilty, I still missed them so much, but I was just about holding on to my truth again, just about able to tell myself that I wasn’t lying, that my memories were real, that I couldn’t go back home.  But for those hours that I lay there crying, I was just so convinced that I’d made it all up, just so convinced that I should go home and try and fix everything.

I’ve spent the rest of the week kinda numb, kinda in a daze.  Thursday was my mum’s birthday, usually one of the worst days of the year for me, the day a breakdown is basically guaranteed but I got through it… OK?  I knew, I knew from the moment I woke up that my joviality and the fact that I was OK was an act; it was too much, too much OK-ness, my brain was clearly trying to make me feel more OK than I was, but it was what I needed to get through the day.

I didn’t even care that my adoptive family had all forgotten; they usually make sure they’re here on the 19th, make sure I’m not alone because each year since I’ve left I’ve been more prone than ever to go back  home.  My girlfriend was here, so I wasn’t alone, but honestly I don’t think it would have mattered anyway, I was just so numb.

I cancelled therapy on the 19th because I didn’t wanna poke the hornets nest, I didn’t want to spoil what was even a false sense of feeling OK on a day that is usually one of the worst for me.  I didn’t want to take away one of the very few things what was gonna get me through the day.

I have just been in such a daze, since, I still feel it now, still feel kinda numb, kinda not anything.  Not like I should be, not like I know is under the surface.  I’m still struggling to hold on to knowing that I am telling the truth, that it is all real.

Other than really bad sleep, a lingering sense of anxiety and nausea and my head occasionally drifting, I’ve actually been OK since I broke down Sunday.  I know it doesn’t sound like an especially bad breakdown, but I know I can’t put exactly what I was feeling in words, but I was in so much pain, felt so much guilt, just missed my family so much and I wanted to hurt myself more than I have in a long time.  I just wanted to tear myself apart, destroy myself completely.

I’m so scared of those feelings coming back.  I know I’m far too numb and I know there’s so much under the surface of that numb.  I know there’s so much hurt and so much pain and so much guilt just waiting for it all to wear off and to be able to overwhelm me again and I’m just so scared.


I Did A Stupid Thing

Since my last post, I can’t get numbers out of my head, I keep fighting the urge to count, to work out just how many times.  I broke.

I was trafficked from the ages of 4-5 until I was 22.

For those first few years, before my mum met her boyfriend, it was maybe 3-5 a night every few nights or so, 2-3 times a week.

1522 times before I was 8, going off of the lower numbers of 3 a night, twice a week.

When I was 8, my mum met her boyfriend, he was already a trafficker, I was taken there every night.  On a week night, because my mum had already tried to get me home-schooled when I was younger and failed, it was limited, slightly.  About 15-20 a night, depending on how quick they were and how late they kept me there.  Usually till about 4-5am so I could get a few hours sleep before school, I often fell asleep during lessons and I’d get in trouble, asked why I was so tired, refuse to answer and get in trouble more.  On the Friday night, I’d be kept there until the Sunday night, till about 2-3am so I could get sleep again before school.  I’d see on average a client every hour, usually two, if not more, I’d barely be allowed to sleep or eat or drink or take a break, it was almost constant, I was working almost round the clock, drugged, given speed and coke to keep me going.  The only gap in this, really, was when I was pregnant at 13, it still happened, but not as frequently, my mum got weirdly protective suddenly.  I was trafficked there non-stop until I turned 16.

75 during the week, at least 25 (low estimate over the weekend), about 100 a week, 400 a month, 4800 a year for eight years.  38400.

This doesn’t include school holidays where I lived there permanently, seeing clients on a constant basis.

I left my mum’s on my 16th birthday, she nearly killed me for doing it, but I was still constantly being dragged back.  A few times a week, where I’d work the full night, the full weekend.  Again one an hour or so, usually two.  After I left school each day and later college, I’d have to go back there.  Probably on average 40 or so a week.  This lasted until I was about 21.  The only times it dropped was when I was homeless and away from them.  Another 7680.

From the age of 21, things got worse again and I was being dragged back more and more and working almost every night again and working more and more parties because my ex was consistently bankrupting me and I didn’t know what else to do.  Call it 10 a night, 7 nights a week, for a year.  Another 3360.

My last ex, from the age of about 19 until I was 22 was simultaneously selling me to his friends and family to help make up for all the times he bankrupted us, this was him ‘helping’.  About 2 or 3 of them a week.  Another 288.

From the age of about 16 till I was 22, I was selling myself, especially while I was homeless and I desperately needed money or at least just a bed for the night.  The points where I was homeless, I was seeing 4-5 men a night, generally staying with the last one (and pocketing his wallet on the way out, because fuck it.).  I can’t work out how often I did this so I’m just not gonna try to add these.  (And that may or may not be because I can’t see them as rape because I sold myself so?  =/)

This doesn’t include parties where there’d be up to 30 men at once and a handful of us.

This doesn’t include the times I was sold to clients for longer periods of time, where I stayed with them.

This doesn’t include the times where I was taken abroad and so wasn’t working my usual hours.

This doesn’t include the rapes specifically for porn.

This doesn’t include the incest and the rape from my family and traffickers and clients that had access to me outside of there (namely teachers and police and the like).

It doesn’t include the rapes within abusive relationships.

It doesn’t include the handful of one-off rapes I’ve experienced too.

1522 + 38400 + 7680 + 3360 + 288 =

I don’t want to do this, I know I shouldn’t do this, I know I’m going to throw up, I know this isn’t good for me.  Why am I doing this to myself?

I just want to scream at myself those numbers are wrong, that they can’t be possibly right, that I must just be making it up, that I’m just lying, that I can’t have survived all of that, I just can’t have and yeah, I nearly died and did actually die a few times over, but it can’t be real, it just can’t, it can’t, it can’t, it can’t.  I’m just over-exaggerating, just trying to out-do others, just, something.

1522 + 38400 + 7680 + 3360 + 288 = 51250 rapes.

That’s nearly 10 times more than the 6000 average.  I know I’ve somehow managed to magically survive there longer than most, that in close to 20 years it’s gonna be a little more than the average, but it can’t be right, it can’t be.  It’s not real, none of this can be real.

Fuck.  Fuck.  Fuck.


6000 Rapes?

For weeks I’ve been thinking on what I can write, how much I can say, what’s appropriate for me to say, what would be too much information, where’s the line?  I’ve noticed that despite writing this blog primarily as a trafficking survivor, I’ve very much shied away from the subject.

Partly because I’m unsure as to how much is acceptable to say (though generally I believe that people need to hear and see and feel that trauma and pain, that I shouldn’t be pulling punches for the comfort of anyone – barring other survivors who already know these truths) but mostly because I don’t know how much it’s OK for me to write.

Doing this is always going to require a level of dissociation, if I was to submerge myself in that pain too often and too deeply, it’d kill me and I’m definitely not ready to go quite that deep, yet.  I’ve only been out for three and a half years and I still have so much healing to do.  I remember, though, I remember a lot.  I remember more than is typical for a dissociative survivor, I think.  I have a lot of gaps, sure, more than I’m even remotely comfortable with.  It’s a constant battle with myself; wanting to know what fills those gaps, imagining the horrors and the pain that my brain saw fit to block out – especially considering the traumas I do remember.  If they’re so horrible, then what is my brain blocking out, what could possibly be worse?  And equally not wanting to remember what fills in those gaps because I simply can’t live with any more trauma, with any more flashbacks, with any more memories.

My brain, however, has different ideas.  I keep getting more flashbacks, more memories, more trauma.  No matter how much I try to ground myself, distract myself, actively heal and process trauma, my brain still feels the need to remember more, to give me more information, to keep adding to those memories when I already feel like I’m drowning with what I have.

A friend, a fellow survivor, said [ad lib] to me recently that we don’t have to remember, that remembering is painful and as long as we know enough to acknowledge what happened, to process that trauma, we don’t need to remember more, it’s just too painful to remember.  I accept her words and I know she’s probably right, she’s been doing this much longer than me.  But what am I supposed to do when my brain keeps remembering more and more?  When my brain won’t let me forget?  When despite the dissociation I’ve always lived with, I’m getting memories back clearer and clearer by the day?  What am I supposed to do with that pain and that trauma then?

I was triggered quite badly this week, I saw a post on Facebook with some statistics about trafficking.  I never made it past the first statistic, the fact that on average we’re raped 6000 times, that was enough to send my brain into a spiral and it’s a pain I have to get out, somewhere, anywhere.  Which is why I’m writing this post, breaking that self-imposed silence when it comes to directly talking about my experiences as a trafficking victim.

I’ve been feeling dirty all day, feeling intense urges to just go and shower, to wash their touch, their semen off of me.  I feel so incredibly dirty and whilst I logically know that shame and that dirt belongs 100% with them and to the past, I can’t help but feel it.

I’ve never counted, I never saw any need to.  Besides, it’s easy enough to lose count.  I was trafficked from the age of 4-5 until I left at 23, how was I ever supposed to keep count when I was being raped almost daily?  There’s a point where your brain just switches off, where the number doesn’t even matter any more.  When you’re being raped that consistently, when it becomes normal and daily and routine, it stops mattering.  At that point there’s no difference between 25 or 50 or 100 or 1000 or 6000.  It all just adds up, it stops mattering.

They just start to blur together.  A line of man after man after man.  Their faces become a blur, unknown.  The odd one or two might stick out, sure, especially those that are regulars or so especially violent that you just can’t dissociate, or those that deliberately keep you present and aware or a face that comes back after you see them in the news or on TV or something, but generally, their faces are a blur.  You don’t just lose count, you actively try not to count.  Counting just means adding to the reality, adding to the trauma, you just don’t count, it would kill you if you did.

The realisation that I’ve potentially been raped that many times came hard.  Of course it did.  It’s almost too much for the brain to fathom and process.

I stopped being able to write for a long time, here.  How am I supposed to put into words the realisation as to just how many times I’ve been raped?  How many times we’ve all been raped?  The numbers are too big to process, they’re too big to understand.  Trafficking, prostitution, pornography, it’s a collective trauma.  The individual traumas get lost amongst the vastness.  There’s no words to describe that.

There’s no words to describe what it feels like to be used, hurt, raped, abused so often.  The constant, repeated trauma of being nothing more than something to fuck, something for men to cum on, something purely for male pleasure, abuse and control.  And it’s always ‘something’, never ‘someone’.  There’s no words to describe the utter feelings of worthlessness, of being less than human, of dirt and shame and guilt.  There’s no way to describe the feelings we’re left with; that we’ll never be worth anything more, that we’ll never be human, that we’ll always feel like we don’t belong, that we’re something less than, something other.

6000.  6000 times I’ve been raped.  At a minimum.  I was there for nearly twenty years, much longer than the average.  Most of us have died before that point and I still don’t understand how or why I was ‘lucky’ enough to have survived this long.  I spent almost every day for the majority of my life being raped.  I lived through ‘parties’ where several men would rape me at once, taking turns, working together, me tied somewhere in the middle of the room, free access to all.  Just adding more and more to that number.

It was a constant stream of men, always a constant stream.  I provided more ‘services’, I was popular, I could do more, take more than others generally could, I was good at dissociating.  An ever increasing number, always just one after another.

6000 times.  How am I supposed to process that?  How are any of us ever supposed to process that?  The numbers are just too high, too much to process or fathom or really even quantify.

6000.  6000.  6000.

Tell me again how being raped 6000 times is an empowering ‘choice’.


Reporting Rapes

I read an article in the local paper today, reporting the rape of a man locally.  The differences in reporting were staggering.  There was no ‘alleged’, no ‘suspected’, no ‘reported’, there was no ‘forced sex’, there was no suspicion or doubt or lack of belief, there was none of the usual crap we see when one of the thousands of rapes of women is actually even reported and acknowledged.

Just a few weeks ago, there was an article describing the rape of a pony and once again the language was so starkly different compared to that used to report on the rapes that women face.

Man raped in ‘appalling attack’ in *** town centre

Police investigate horrific sex attack on Miniature Shetland pony in fields near ***

Police rescue suspected slaves after raids on brothels, car washes and restaurants in week of action

Notice the difference?  Notice how it’s ‘suspected’?  Read the rest of the article and you find things like ‘alleged offences’, ‘suspected victims of ‘modern day slavery’’.  Despite the fact that there were 24 arrests, despite the fact that the police have clearly taken action, despite the fact that there is nothing alleged or suspected about this, look at the language still used.

One of the most disgusting examples of this recently was this –

‘Police investigate after reports two girls, aged 15 and 17, were raped in *** city centre’

Again, there’s the use of the word ‘reports’ though thankfully lacking ‘alleged’ in the title.  What I found most disgusting about this case is the way it was handled by the police and the subsequent reporting.

‘Police say claims two girls aged 15 and 17 were raped in *** city centre were false’

Of course, this could be one of those very, very rare cases where it was actually a false report, but I don’t believe that for a moment.  Even the article makes it clear that that wasn’t the case.

‘They have now determined that no offences of rape took place. Detectives however say they are still investigating reports that the girls were victims of sex offences.

They want to trace a man seen with them in the *** Street area of the city centre and a fresh appeal for witnesses has now been issued. Both teenagers are still receiving specialist police support.’

These two young women were clearly harassed and abused by an older man and instead the headline and the police demonises them as being ‘false’ claims.  I’d say it was likely these young women were raped and instead found the same barriers we all face when it comes to reporting until the point where they felt the need to back away from their claims.

The whole thing just makes me sick, but it’s clearly not a universal problem for survivors.  When male rapes are reported, they’re treated with respect, treated as being automatically true, treated with the validity in which all rapes should be treated.  Fuck, even when animals are sexually assaulted, they garner more respect and belief and compassion than that which women receive.

Women are automatically disbelieved, their rapes are always ‘alleged rapes’, we’re always ‘suspected victims’, even when police action is taken we’re still just ‘suspected victims’ and the moment the oh so infallible police say it’s not rape, the survivors are demonised in response.

And the wonderful irony of all of this?  This was also a recent headline from my paper.

Shocking number of teenagers don’t report sex crimes over fears they won’t be believed

Well, no shit, I wonder why that is?

Journalists need to get their fucking act together.  This is just my local paper, sure, but I’d say there is probably zero difference in papers across the country and across the world.  Women are always survivors of ‘alleged rapes’, men are survivors of ‘rape’.  Animals will always be treated with more respect than women, because we’re always going to be seen as less than.  If I ever see the phrase ‘alleged rape’ again, I’m going to scream (so probably tomorrow because men are fucking shit.)


Finding Safety as a Radical Feminist

My therapist spent a good portion of today’s session helping me try to find a sense of safety in the world again, in an effort to deal with the memories and experiences I described in my last post.  She wanted me to be able to reclaim that lost safety, to find a place in the world where I felt confident and safe and that I wouldn’t be hurt or violated again.

She basically tried to get me to believe that their are good people in the world, that I’m not destined for these kinds of things to keep happening to me, that this isn’t always just going to be my life.  She basically went the ‘not all men’ route.

Now, she had good intentions; she was trying to help me rebuild my sense of safety and my confidence and ability to be out in the world.  She’s not naive, she recognises the dangers, she knows that there are extremely dangerous men out there, she knows the risks for survivors when predators are around (part of the reason why she wants me to be able to build up my confidence – to get that ‘if you touch me, I’ll rip your balls off’ kinda attitude), she knows that my lack of confidence and timidity is going to make me vulnerable.

That might seem like a negative attitude to take, it might also sound vaguely like victim blaming, but it’s a reality we have to face.  Survivors, of all kinds, are vulnerable to further abuse.  CSA survivors are vulnerable to trafficking and domestic abuse as teenagers and adults.  Rape survivors are vulnerable to other rapists.  Predators have this unique talent of spotting potential victims and part of that is our lack of confidence in the world.  That is not to say, of course, that our rapes and abuses and traumas are our own fault just because we weren’t confident enough, but it is a vulnerability we have and one that we have to recognise in ourselves and other survivors.

The slight problem with my therapists approach, however, is that I don’t see the world in the form of there just being a few dangerous men out there, I don’t take the ‘not all men’ approach.  I’m a radical feminist, so yes, all men are a risk.

And this is where I’m going to struggle.  I know I’m going to struggle.  I’m not naive, I know that as a woman I am always going to be at risk.  I know as a trafficking survivor I am always going to be vulnerable.  I know that men are dangerous.  I know that even if not all of them are traffickers or violent, hide in the bushes with a knife style rapists, that they are all potentially violent and potentially rapists.  (There are more than enough studies that show that men have and will commit rape under certain circumstances; especially if you don’t use the word ‘rape’ in the question.)

I might have a relative degree of safety as a lesbian; I’m not going to be dating men or pursuing relationships with them.  I generally live as much of a separatist lifestyle as possible, at least the majority of the time (barring the odd gay men or two who have spent years earning my trust) and my main contact with men is within public life, on the streets, in shops etc.

But this doesn’t give me a full level of protection (especially not taking into account lesbophobia) and it never will.  I’ll never be able to have a full sense of safety as I know that all men are potentially a risk.  This isn’t just a survivor’s attitude, a survivor’s misgivings and lack of trust; this is a realistic analysis of the world.  I’ve been on the violent and abusive side of men, I was always going to have difficulties trusting men and regaining a sense of safety, but trying to do so whilst engaging with radical analysis?  I’m not so sure how easy that is going to be.

I know that all men are a risk to my safety; how am I supposed to find any kind of sense of safety in a world where that’s true?


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Loss of Safety

A year ago today, in about ten hours from now, I was sexually assaulted whilst on public transport.  I escaped my traffickers and my last abusive ex. at the same time in May 2012; I’d been safe and free from sexual violence for 2 years and 5 months.  I was just about starting to get a sense of safety, I was just about starting to believe that I was free and safe and I wasn’t going to be in that situation again, I wasn’t going to be hurt again.

Now what happened, relatively speaking, was kinda mild (at least based on my own experiences) and I mostly just dismiss it but the effects that it had on me were much more severe.  It completely ruined any ability I had to feel even remotely safe; it ruined any belief that I had, that I was starting to build, that it wasn’t going to happen again.  It destroyed any lingering hope that there were good people in the world who would make efforts to stop it.

It was a busy tram, packed to capacity.  I’d spent the day (the fifth one in a row) at the hospital with a friend and I was far too exhausted to wait for however many trams it took to find an emptier one.  I shoved down my claustrophobia and packed myself in with everyone else, finding myself shoved in up against the door, unable to move.

I felt someone touching me and just rationalised that it was simply the tram being too busy, that they couldn’t physically help it, that of course I wasn’t being attacked.  They started grinding up against me and whilst I tried rationalising it was just the movement of the tram, part of me knew that really wasn’t the case and I couldn’t doubt it any more.  I started silently begging and pleading that someone would notice, someone would say something, someone would stop him.  All I could do was stare out of the door window, all I could see were fireworks going off above the city and I just completely froze, memories of my granddad being pressed up behind me whilst all I could see and focus on were fireworks.  I started to dissociate, I couldn’t move, I couldn’t shout out, I couldn’t make him stop.  I just froze and found myself stuck somewhere between my granddad as a child and this man on the tram as an adult.

It was only when the doors opened and I half fell out at my own stop that I was able to ground myself enough to get off the tram and get away.  I didn’t dare turn around to see who it was that had just assaulted me.  When I got back home, I found that he had oh so kindly left a deposit all over the back of my jeans.  This definitely wasn’t some man struggling with the movement of the tram or even some relatively harmless man who had taken advantage of that movement.  This was a man who had gotten his penis out and had ground up against me before ejaculating on me.

Now (and I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, if I ever say that x was worse than y, I’m talking about my own experiences and from my own perspective – I’m not in the habit of dismissing or demeaning other womyn’s traumas) this was absolutely nothing compared to some of the things that I’ve been through before; trafficking means that you see the absolute worst of the world and there are specific traumas that come with that, but this incident still sticks out so strongly and still had such a massive affect on me.

I had been safe for so long.  I’d made a clean break, I’d actually been able to escape and I’d actually lived without being raped, without being abused, without being beaten or threatened or murdered or ejaculated on or filmed or anything for nearly two and a half years; the longest period free of abuse I’ve ever had in my life.

And this fucking man violates me, in a public place, treats me like nothing more than a piece of meat to deposit his semen on (which yeah, I’ve had a million times before and it’ll always, always leave me feeling like a worthless piece of shit, like nothing more than the whore they’ve always told me I am), while there are people so close by on every side who did nothing, who barely even noticed the womon silently calling out for help next to them, who didn’t notice him get his cock out, who didn’t care what was happening to me.

I had so much going on November last year; one of my closest friends in hospital and the fact I was the only person around to care for her and advocate for her.  My other friends breaking down and struggling with the hospitalisation.  I’ve said it before, but dissociation is a hell of a useful skill.  It got me through that month and the coming months.  I wasn’t feeling anything, I was barely aware of the world around me, I was on auto-pilot.  I cried for maybe a minute, that same night, whilst desperately trying to rub his cum off of my jeans, trying not to throw up and trying not to flashback to the millions of other times I’ve been trying to wash it off of various parts of myself.  But other than that, I felt nothing and didn’t until February this year.  I was still getting on busy trams at night, I was still pushing that trigger over and over again, but in February I completely broke down.

My agoraphobia got a million times worse again, I could barely go outside unless it was absolutely necessary, I couldn’t get on public transport, not even with friends who were slightly used to my agoraphobia, but had never seen it so bad.  I was having massive panic attacks the moment I got anywhere near the tram stop and if they did manage to get me on, I simply couldn’t breathe and we’d end up hopping on and off at various tram stops because I just couldn’t cope being on there for too long.  I stopped eating again.  I started drinking again.

I really started drinking again.  I was going out on a regular basis with my friends, getting stupidly drunk and having complete psychotic breaks; I broke down and told them far more than I ever intended.  That one of my friend’s ex’s raped me, that I was a trafficking survivor, not just a CSA survivor, the extent of the abuse from my ex partners.  I finally told them about the attack on the 5th November 2014.  This happened more than once.  Between those nights out, I was drinking almost constantly at home.  My life was falling apart and there was nothing I could do to stop it.

I felt so fucking worthless.  I felt like I really was just a whore, that I was never going to be worth anything more.  My life was falling apart, I’d been violated again.  All I was ever going to be worth was something that men could cum on and in.  I was so close to going back and if not going back to my traffickers, to start working again, on my own.  I wasn’t struggling for money (though, drinking as much as I was whilst on disability benefits wasn’t exactly doing great for my bank balance), but I was struggling so much with my sense of self-worth; that was all I was worth, it was all I was ever going to be worth, so why not go back?  I didn’t deserve the life I had, I didn’t deserve the friends I have, I didn’t deserve the opportunity to heal, I didn’t deserve anything other than the life I had, the life I’d always had.

I was so very close to doing it, to either contacting my traffickers and going back, or going to work for myself and strangely, what got me out of that mess was Tumblr and the persistent love of my friends (plus there was a cathartic benefit to my frequent breakdowns, to releasing some of that trauma).  Now, Tumblr is a fucking cesspit and the ‘radicals’ on there are barely such, but with my depression and my agoraphobia I was spending much more time on there than usual and whilst I was already aware of and a part of the groups of exited womyn (and some men) on there, I ended up becoming a little more involved.  Deliberately seeking out posts and more radical theory (both in regards to prostitution and pornography and other topics) and I ended up becoming more and more openly radical.  I never really told anybody that I was on the edge of going back, but others pulled me back from being on that edge.

I slowly stopped drinking, slowly started eating a little more again, started very slowly putting my life back together.  It took a long time for the urges to go back to start to subside, but they eventually did.  Especially in June when someone new entered my life and I found so much motivation to heal, to start a new life, to be anything other than what they said I was.

In a ten minute tram journey, that man took every sense of safety I’d started to build.  He took all of my self-worth, he violated me and he nearly pushed me back into prostitution.  The act itself may have been minor, but it was the first time I’d been hurt in almost two and a half years and it nearly destroyed me.

I’m finally starting to feel that sense of safety again, a year later and I’ll actually be on a tram, late at night, in the dark again tonight, though this time not alone.  I will reclaim my life.  I won’t let him ruin it.

I know today isn’t going to be easy, I know that today is going to be full of triggers and flashbacks (I wouldn’t be writing this post, otherwise) but I equally know I can get through it.


Birthdays and Fireworks

I know I was writing the second part of my last post, but I felt the need to write this first.

A good chunk of my family, in some bizarre twist of fate, were born in November, or at least, the more prominent members were (there’s a reason why I have a slight mistrust of Scorpios, now).  In a family filled with incest, rape, abuse and trafficking, there was always an obvious special gift for each birthday: me.  And in many cases there would be arguments and jealously, usually from my mother, she did not like to share and so would use others birthdays to justify her having a ‘gift’ too.

Today is one of those birthdays, or at least it would be if my grandfather, my biological father*, was still alive.  My memories are limited, as is the nature of dissociation, but I have enough to know that his birthday was never a good day for me.  Whilst the rapes and the abuse might not always have happened exactly on his birthday, more likely the weekends either side, today still holds such a high level of connotations and memories for me.

His birthdays were usually celebrated with fireworks, what with it being so close to the 5th and as a result, I find fireworks to be a major trigger.  Every time I hear or see them, I feel my mind starting to slip back.

When I was about eight or nine years old, we were setting off fireworks in the back garden of his house.  He told everyone I was cold and he was taking me inside to watch from the kitchen.  I tried to protest, I was enjoying the fireworks and I wasn’t cold at all, but one look from him and my mother silenced me and I followed him back inside.  I can still feel my stomach turning in knots.  I knew what was going to happen, I knew there was nothing I could do about it.

He stood me in front of the kitchen sink where I could still see the fireworks, I can still see them, see the colours, the beauty, I was entranced with them, I really did think fireworks were so beautiful (and besides the triggers, I still do.).  I can still hear every single bang, or maybe that’s just the fireworks I can hear now in the present.  He pulled my trousers and underwear down, touched me, molested me.  His hands and his actions hidden by the sink and worktops, so even if the rest of my family were to turn around, nobody would see.  All I remember clearly is the weight of him pressed up behind me, grinding against me.

After a few minutes of this, he picked me up, sat me on the edge of the sink and told me to twist my head to carry on watching the fireworks.  He raped me whilst I watched, but being the dissociative expert that I am, I barely remember the rape.  I remember the fireworks, more than anything.  I remember him telling me to wave at my sister, who had apparently turned to wave at us.  I remember feeling so sick, remembering the years of threats that if I didn’t behave it would happen to her too, remember feeling so bad for waving at her while he was hurting me.  But I quickly zoned out to the fireworks once again; focused so intently on them that I was barely aware of anything else.

I don’t know how long any of it lasted, I don’t want to know how long any of it lasted.  I don’t want to remember clearly.  I just remember the fireworks.  The sound of them, the way they looked.  I remember the pressure of him leaning against me and the repeated thought of ‘don’t turn back around’, though I couldn’t quite put my finger on why (again, the wonderful nature of dissociation) but more than anything I remember the fireworks.

I know that my mum and my sister went home afterwards and I was to spend the night at my grandparent’s house.  I remember them leaving and wishing I could beg to go home with them, but I knew that would just get me in more trouble.  I don’t remember that night and once again, I don’t want to remember.

A few years later, when I was about twelve and his birthday came round yet again, things were different.  There was less hiding, there was less pretence.  We arrived at my grandparent’s and straight away my mum sent my sister off to help my grandma with cooking and took me upstairs where he was waiting.  Mum told me we were going to give him our ‘presents’ together.

By this point, I had many more years experience.  I’d been being trafficked since I was four, five years old; I’d been being trafficked for around seven or eight years and I knew the deal.  I knew what to expect, I was older, I knew what I was doing.  I knew how to make life easier for myself (the quicker they get off, the quicker it’s over with), I had a young teenagers (albeit a traumatised and trafficked ones) understanding of sex.  For years I saw this as participating in my own abuse, but there was no consent, there was no wanting; on a very simple level, I was a child, I could never have consented and my active participation was a result of years worth of trauma and training and survival.  I was never actively participating in my own abuse, I was doing what I could to survive.

And that day was no different.  He slept (raped?  I don’t know any more, but that’s an entirely different blog post) with my mother first, they made me watch, then she brought me over between them and they both raped me.  I didn’t fight, I didn’t argue, I didn’t try to get away.  I just shut down, completely, went through the motions.  Motions my body and my mind had long ago learnt.  The rest is a blur.  I know they both raped me, I know they both touched me and abused me.  I know my body responded to their touch (something I will eternally struggle with, but an experience that is not unique to me and is one known by many survivors.  Bodies are complicated things, but again, that is another blog post) and they mocked and celebrated me for it.

I was the ultimate birthday (and Christmas) present for him and for many others and as a result, their birthdays will always stick in my mind.  I’ll never again be able to sit on the 1st November and not remember that today was his birthday, today was the day where I was given to yet another man for his pleasure, his control, his sadism.  I’ll never be able to get through this day without seeing those fireworks (and it doesn’t help that they’re quite so common at this time of year).  I’ll never be able to get through this day knowing that if he was still alive, if I was still under their control, that that would be exactly where I would be in this moment.

Maybe one day, I’ll be able to appreciate the beauty and extravagance of fireworks once again, but I very much doubt that this will be the year I do.

*  –  Yes, I’m a child born of incest on top of everything else.