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.