Christmas. Bah Humbug.

Yes, yes, I know it’s January, almost February, but this has been weighing heavily on me and I felt the need to get it out, write it out.

There’s something so alienating and soul destroying about being alone for Christmas.  Even for someone that is an atheist, that recognises the commercialisations of the holiday, for someone that logically knows that not every family is celebrating and not every family is happy.  No amount of logic or disbelieve or anti-capitalist thinking is going to stop just how lonely and empty you feel, though.  Not when it seems like the entire world is screaming their happiness at you; not when you turn on Facebook and you see all your friends with their families (and even those that aren’t with their families are at least not alone), not when you turn on TV and you see crappy film after crappy film after crappy film of happy families spending the holidays together.  It all just becomes so painful and no amount of logic is gonna save you from the very simple fact that you are alone on the day that what feels like the entire world is celebrating family and love and togetherness.

Each little thing starts to bug you.  Friends complaining about their families – simple little things like not knowing you well enough to get you the perfect Christmas presents or being woken up early by younger siblings or being criticised for what you’re wearing (I’m aware that last one could be definitely seen as somewhat abusive, but if it’s all you have to worry about?).  It just leaves me feeling so resentful and so annoyed.  I just want to scream ‘AT LEAST YOU HAVE A FAMILY TO SPEND THE DAY WITH!‘  I know some of those people may be spending the day with genuinely abusive families or being in spaces where they were previously abused or having to deal with horrific homophobia/lesbophobia or something equally harmful and my heart really does hurt for those people, but for those who I know have good families, good lives, good relationships, who are complaining about petty, small things?  My sympathy ends and my resentment kicks in.

I rarely saw anything offering love and kindness and support for those alone.  A couple of pop up’s of the Samaritans number on TV.  Everything else targeted at the elderly.  A few posts on Facebook telling me I’m not really alone, that God is with me, which is very little comfort to an atheist who was brought up in a Catholic household, who had God and faith and religion used continuously and abusively against her.

It gets especially harder when you’re alone and filled with flashbacks and memories.  Christmas was never a fun time for me, in reality, I never really had a Christmas before 2011, when I was twenty-two years old.  Prior to that, my Christmas days had been filled with nothing but abuse and neglect.  I suppose in theory, it wasn’t that bad until I hit about nine years old.  Well, at least it wasn’t from my perspective, many people only know what my Christmases were like prior to that and they seem genuinely horrified, so who knows?

My Christmas was generally spent as the house slave.  That’s all I was worth, it’s all I was ever gonna be worth.  I would have had to have had the house spotless prior to going to bed on Christmas Eve (which would inevitably be to my mother’s bed, so she could abuse me a little more), regardless of my age, I’d always been responsible for the housework, all of it and if anything was not up to my mother’s high standards I was beaten and abused until I learned my lesson.  Christmas was no different, except maybe her standards got a little bit higher.  Each morning I had to be up before everyone else.  I was responsible for cooking and cleaning throughout the day.  I learned to cook early on.  For the first few years of my sister’s life, my mum was always out drinking and ‘working’, when she was home she was either hungover or still high.  Caring for my sister became my responsibility, including cooking.

I had to time everything perfectly.  My mum’s coffee had to be perfectly brewed moments before she came into the kitchen, their breakfast had to be at exactly the right temperature, my sister who early on learnt she was equally entitled to such high standards demanded her orange juice to be an exact temperature, cold, but not too cold.  Considering I spent most of my life this way, it became second nature.  Waiting for the slight creek of the floorboards from my mum’s room and knowing how much time she took from that moment till she came downstairs.  Equally listening from my sister’s room for tell tale signs she would be down, soon.

After breakfast I was responsible for washing up, I wasn’t allowed breakfast, I was never allowed to eat, I was already far too fat according to my mother, I was only allowed coffee, which after so little sleep whilst my mother raped me, I desperately needed and wanted.  I’ve been drinking more coffee than humanly possible for as long as I can remember, now mostly to fight off sleep and nightmares and flashbacks and keep me vaguely functioning.  Whilst I washed up and did more prep. for Christmas dinner, they opened their presents.

After opening their presents, my mum would call me in.  There was a tiny pile with my name on, pitiful compared to that of my sister’s and my mum’s.  Presents from people who didn’t know better, people who didn’t know I’d never get them anyway.  My sister was the one that got to open them.  I was only there to sit and watch, to be tormented with them.  After she was done opening them, they’d take their pick of the things they wanted.  Anything that was left over was split into two piles; one pile that was worth something and my mum could sell and pocket the cash, the other pile that were so worthless to them but meant so much to me.  My mum would destroy anything in that pile.  Burn it, tear it to shreds, rip it apart with scissors, smash it.  Just completely destroy it, making me watch in the process.  When I was younger I used to cry.  Used to hold on to broken shards of what was left as some kind of comfort.  As I got older I watched stone-faced, no matter how much it still hurt.

The only things that survived my mum’s destruction was books.  My sister never read them, she never had an interest in reading.  It was the bane of my mother’s life that I was the intelligent, academic reader and my sister just never showed any interest.  She was supposed to be the perfect one, but of course, the standards of perfect changed to fit who my sister was.  I quite often used to sneak those books and read them myself, if I felt I could get away with it.

Later on in the day, after spending the day cooking, other family members would turn up.  Namely my grandma, my granddad (and my biological father) and for a few years, my mum’s boyfriend.  I’d serve them their food, I still wasn’t allowed to eat and start cleaning while they ate.  The first year my mum’s boyfriend, Paul, joined us, when I was eight, he messed with the status quo and I could see my mother fuming, but refusing him something was as bad as refusing her something, so I reluctantly gave in, knowing I wasn’t going to win anyway.  I think I was mostly disappointed because washing the pots meant I got to sneak leftovers off the plates without anyone noticing.  He invited me to join in playing Monopoly after they ate, saying that the pots could wait.  My mum made a joke about him not being able to wait.  I knew without a doubt that everyone at the table, barring my sister got the joke, they all laughed and Paul winked at me and had me sit between him and my granddad.

I don’t remember much of the game, it was the first time I’d ever been allowed to play, to join in, but I couldn’t concentrate.  Paul and my granddad were taking it in turns to put their hands up my dress, stroking my thigh, molesting me under the table where no-one else could see.  They both firmly kept eye contact and maintained conversation, mostly with my mother who even I could see was enjoying what she knew was happening.  They kept missing each other, totally unaware that they were both doing the same thing.  They jumped when their hands met, then grinned at each other over my head, silently agreeing to work together to abuse and humiliate me.  I wished more than anything that the game would just end, that it’d just be over, that I’d just be able to go back to my jobs as I was supposed to.

After my grandma and granddad left each Christmas and after my sister had gone to bed, that’s when ‘my’ Christmas started.  Mum always bought me ‘special’ presents each year, each Christmas and each birthday, that she’d give me in secret.  Always in her room, so she got to use them straight away.  They were always, without fail, something she used to abuse me with.  She’d sit in glee, watching me opening them.  Me knowing without fail that they were gonna be used to hurt me and knowing there was nothing I could do about it.

I still can’t do presents.  I panic, instantly.  I know the people in my life now would never think of getting me such things, I know they’d never do that to me.  Yet still, I panic.  I panic when things are wrapped, I panic a little less if they’re in a gift bag and I can peek and assure myself they’re safe.  I trust the people in my life, but that doesn’t make the fear and panic go away.  If I’ve learnt anything in my life, it’s that presents = things that are used to hurt me and that opening presents is instantly followed by rape and abuse.

I did slightly better this year.  Each year, myself and my friends celebrate our own Christmas, a few days after the fact and presents are always invariably a part of that.  I picked a quiet corner in the room with all my friends.  One friend gratefully suggested all opening at the same time so there was no pressure on anyone (thank you <3) and it left me able to disappear into the corner and open them in peace, able to focus on my breathing and staying grounded.  My friends understand who I am, they understand that I don’t do well with presents, that I might not always respond favourably, even if I am actually grateful for their gifts.  With them, there’s no pressure, there’s no need to sit there and look insanely happy and grateful at what I’ve gotten.  Every time I open presents, I still have the same memory of my mum, eagerly watching me open something I knew she was gonna abuse me with, knowing I had to sit there and be happy and thank her, despite knowing what was going to happen next.  I usually completely run away when it comes to presents, open them alone and away from prying eyes.  It takes me a long time to be able to thank people because I’m just so on edge.  It usually takes me an incredibly long time to put gifts away; I’m constantly waiting for someone to change their mind and take them back, to destroy them in front of me, to say they were never meant for me, that I’m not worth that, that I’m not worth anything, that I’m not deserving of anything other than things used to hurt me.

I don’t even know how I really got through Christmas day this year, honestly.  I had wonderful people to reach out to, to talk over the phone.  But I still ended up breaking down badly.  I cried myself to sleep on Christmas morning.  Cried over the flashbacks and memories.  Cried over feeling so horribly alone.  Cried over my family.  What my family never was.  What they actually were.  I just cried and I cried and I cried.  The rest of the day is pretty much a blur.

As I got older and more involved with the child prostitution ring, my Christmases changed for the worse.  I’d work the entirety of Christmas Eve.  Right through the day, right through the night.  I wasn’t taken back home till very early Christmas morning where I’d be allowed an hour or so of sleep before I had to make their breakfast.  An hour or so later, I was picked up again, taken back there, was working again.  So many people seem to think that the johns just don’t come out over Christmas, that they’re at home with their families, with their loved ones, that of course it’d be the one day of the year they wouldn’t do that.  They’re wrong.  How many times has your dad or uncle or brother or husband gone for a Christmas Day walk?  Wanted a few hours away from the kids? (Fucking shame on him for leaving a woman to do the emotional labour, as if she doesn’t fucking do it the rest of the year)  Gone to the pub with his mates to see in Christmas?  How sure are you that that’s really where he’s going?  Christmas was one of my busiest times.  Client after client after client.  With barely any rest in between.  Some of them would bring me gifts.  Disgusting, horrific things.  Lingerie, drugs, alcohol, sex toys, porn, erotic novels.  I remember really clearly one of them buying me The Sleeping Beauty Quartet because he knew I liked reading.  I was utterly disgusted, I was fifteen and I understood exactly what he’d given me.  I felt sick, but then, I always felt sick while I was there.  I did this every year, every year from the age of nine until I was sixteen.

I remember, one year, one of them brought a present in, it was for his daughter.  A dress.  He wanted my opinion.  Asked me if he thought his daughter would like it, that she was about my age.  I just agreed, said of course she would.  But what did I know?  I didn’t know what normal girls my age liked?  My world was pretty simple.  Man pays for me.  Man rapes me.  Man leaves.  I didn’t know about dresses or fashion or what nice, normal girls liked.  I wasn’t like them, I was never gonna be like them.  After he got my approval, he smiled and put it away.  Said thank you, that I was the only other girl her age he knew.  Then he raped me.  Me, a prostitute the same age as his daughter.

Yeah, men don’t stop just because it’s Christmas.  They never stop.

Rad-Survivor

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Is This All Just Your Imagination?

He’s trying to convince me that I’m delusional.
But I know I’m fine.  He really did those things.

Daily Wisdom for Why Does He Do That? – Lundy Bancroft

Gaslighting was Dom’s speciality, there’s no denying that.  It got worse as I was living with him, I couldn’t get away from it, it was constant.  Whilst I was jumping from hostel to hostel, from sofa to sofa, from here to there, it was easier, I had time in between to try and put things together.  But when he moved in and everything got worse.  I had no time to think, no time to clear things up or put it in order.  All I had was the ‘reality’ that he imposed on me.

Everything that happened, the few things that he admitted had actually happened and he hadn’t simply convinced me that I was crazy and I imagined it, were my fault.  It was me pushing him over that edge, it was me being the abusive one, him merely defending himself from my vicious, horrible attacks.

I really was so convinced for so long that I was the abusive one, that he really was just defending himself from me.  That I hurt him and he was just doing anything he could to make it stop.

I worked really intently on a memory with my therapist, this week, one that to me just seemed so clear that I really was the abusive one, that he really was just defending himself.  I’d been at uni. all day, I lived really far away because I simply hadn’t been able to afford to move when I started.  It meant leaving at 6:30am each day.  I’d spent the day in uni. then went to work.  I didn’t get home till 11:30pm.

The moment I walked in, he started.  I had barely walked into the living room.  Hadn’t even had time to take my coat off or my shoes off or put my bag down.  He started yelling at me, talking about how disgusting and messy the flat was, said that just because I was a crack whore didn’t mean we both had to live like one.  Said how disgusting and lazy and useless I was.  Before I’d gone to bed the night before, I knew I’d cleaned the entire kitchen, knew I’d washed all the pots, knew I’d tidied the living room of plates and food wrappers, I knew I’d done it.  He kept going on and on about how disgusting everything was.  I snapped.

I was exhausted and all I wanted to do was sit down and chill with a brew for half an hour before I got on to writing an essay.  I was so mad at him.  I knew I’d washed all the pots but there he was, sat on the sofa, surrounded by what seemed to be every single plate in the kitchen, several crisp and chocolate and cake wrappers and leftovers from the chippy as well as crumpled up tissues everywhere.  He was still playing his game, he hadn’t even paused it to yell at me.  I knew he’d been playing it all day, making more and more of a mess around himself.

I yelled back, calling him lazy and useless and calling him the one thing that I knew upset and hurt him the most, the one thing I knew he’d have the biggest reaction to, but I was just so upset and angry and exhausted.  I said that if he wasn’t such a fat, lazy bastard he would have done some cleaning himself.  That I worked, that I paid the rent, that I bought the food, that I did all the cleaning and all he had to do was not make more mess.  Calling him ‘fat’ was the exact thing I shouldn’t have done.  He got so angry, actually paused his game, got off the sofa and beat the crap out of me.  Said if I was so disgusted by how fat he was then I was gonna hate this.  He dragged me by my hair to the bedroom, forced me to get undressed and raped me.  Deliberately letting all of his weight drop on top of me, smothering me with his body, hurting me as much as he could.  Repeating over and over that he didn’t care how fat he was, especially not if it pissed me off and disgusted me so much.  That I was gonna pay for calling him fat.

For years afterwards, whenever he brought it up, he repeatedly said it wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t had called him ‘fat’ and I believed him.  I believed that I pushed it, that I was the one that caused it all.  That I was so horrible and cruel and abusive for calling him that, that he was merely responding to my abusiveness.

My therapist made me see it a different way.  That he’d clearly been planning it all day.  He’d been coming up with ‘excuses’ and ‘justifications’ to hurt me.  That he made the decision to start yelling at me the moment I walked in, that I just wouldn’t have been able to win.  She’s right, I wouldn’t have been able to.  If I hadn’t been so exhausted and hadn’t snapped, a few different things would have happened, but they all would have resorted in him hurting me.  I’d’ve apologised and started cleaning but he’d say it was too late for apologies and attack me anyway.  Or he’d get mad because I’d end up not cleaning well enough or quick enough (either by his standards or because I was too exhausted to do much better) or I’d’ve begged for the opportunity to do it in the morning, which would have just pissed him off, or I’d’ve asked if it was OK if I just sit down for a few minutes first, which again would have pissed him off.  From the moment I walked in, I wasn’t going to win, he’d already decided that I wasn’t going to win.  I knew he was going to end up hitting me that night and I knew he was going to end up raping me.  I knew he’d been planning it all day, I knew it from the moment I saw the tissues.  I knew exactly what they were.  I knew he’d been sat on that sofa jacking off to the idea of hurting me.  He had planned it and he’d found an ‘excuse’ and nothing I could have said or done would have changed it.  It wouldn’t have mattered if I’d called him ‘fat’ or not, he was gonna hurt me anyway.

My calling him ‘fat’ might have been out of order, it might have been a low blow, but it wasn’t abusive, not really.  It was the first and only time I ever called him ‘fat’, it wasn’t repeated, emotional and verbal abuse.  I didn’t make him stand on the scales, weigh himself in front of me each day, criticise his clothing choices, point out fat rolls in various tops or say things like ‘do you really want your friends to see you when you look that fat and disgusting?’, I didn’t criticise his food choices, I didn’t control what he ate – either deliberately starving him or forcing him to eat more than he wanted (the more weight you put on, the more you’re shamed for it, the more likely you are to deliberately isolate yourself), I didn’t do any of the things he did to me for five years (all of the above), I said the word ‘fat’ once, which hardly constitutes abuse.

It still scares me that I am the abusive one, though.  I really carefully and callously and maliciously went for what I knew would hurt him the most, I thought it through, I deliberately went for it and I’m scared that does make me abusive.  I was knowingly going for the most pain I could.

Even if it was abusive, abuse doesn’t justify abuse.  In any scenario, with any two people, one calling the other ‘fat’ doesn’t justify violent physical attacks and rape.  It just doesn’t.

That was one of his attacks on me that he acknowledged, that he admitted was real, that had actually happened.  But he massively twisted it to put me in the wrong, to make me the abusive one, to make me the bad one, to put the blame on me.  He twisted it so he was only defending himself after I called him the most hurtful, painful thing I could think to call him.

Most of the things he did to me, though, he’d outright deny were real, that they happened at all.  Honestly, I probably made it easier for him to do this with my already messed up mental health from the trafficking, incest and other abuse long before I even met him.  I have a dissociative disorder which means that things like keeping track of time, events, knowing whether something really happened or not and chronology is really difficult for me.  It meant that, in general, keeping track of everything was difficult for me and with his deliberate gaslighting and manipulation and his lies, it left me doubting everything so, so much.

Even when I had physical proof – scars, bruises, scratches, cuts, semen stains in my underwear and on my body, he’d find a way to twist it and convince me I was wrong.  ‘Of course you wanted to, baby’, ‘Baby, you’re a self-harmer, what makes you think I did it?’, ‘You’re losing it, you probably just fell over again, you know how clumsy you are’, ‘Don’t you remember you fell down the stairs?’  I’d be so, so sure it was him, I knew with every bone of my body it was him, but half the time I couldn’t remember the actual event and the rest of the time he was able to convince me I was just remembering wrong.

The time he pushed me down the stairs because I threatened to leave him became me being so upset I missed a step and fell.

Every time he hit me or beat me became me being clumsy and walking in to something.

Every time he screamed at me or threw things at me or did anything, I was just remembering wrong.

He used my past trauma against me.  Convinced me that I was just a messed up, crazy survivor who was projecting her past on to the here and now.  That I was just seeing abuse everywhere, even where there wasn’t abuse.  That I was blurring the past with the now and seeing my step-dad and my mum and my family when I should have been seeing him.  I really believed he was right, that I really was just a crazy survivor projecting and misinterpreting and who was just so sensitive and broken and easily triggered that I saw abuse when it just wasn’t there.  A crazy survivor who was self-harming, hurting myself and then blaming him – even if my logical mind could see that it wasn’t even remotely possible for me to make bruises like that, especially not considering that my usual form of self-harm is cutting.

Staying sane was nearly impossible.  I didn’t know which way was up.  I didn’t know what was happening.  I didn’t know if I was being abused by a violent man or if I was just so crazy I was imagining it all, even hurting myself to fulfil those beliefs.  It took me a long time to be able to consistently hold on to the belief that he really was hurting me, that I wasn’t just crazy.  It probably wasn’t until the last six months or so of the ‘relationship’ that I was really able to acknowledge that he was hurting me, even if I wasn’t yet fully able to acknowledge it as abuse.

I know why he did it.  He couldn’t be held responsible for what he was doing if I was either causing it or imagining it all.  I had no reason to leave him.  I definitely couldn’t go to the police.  The more I believed it wasn’t happening, the less likely he was to get in trouble.  The less likely he’d be able to carry on doing what he was doing.

But there was nothing wrong with me.  I really wasn’t just crazy or delusional.  He was lying to me, he was manipulating me, he was justifying what he did to me.  I wasn’t just imagining things or making things up; he really was hurting me and he really was abusing me.

It’s still hard to keep my memories together and keeping them in reality.  It’s still hard to see the whole situation and not cut it down to where I can blame myself, where I can see myself as the abusive one.  There’s a massive difference between me coming home and calling Dom ‘fat’ and him retaliating because I was so abusive and me coming home, being yelled and screamed at, being criticised and belittled whilst knowing that for the last few years I’d been responsible for everything and like all working class women juggling more than is feasibly possible and when I snap and retaliate being violently beaten and raped in punishment.

It’s still hard to not even re-read that and fight and argue with myself.  What right did I have to call him ‘fat’?  That surely is my being abusive, right?  If any woman told me that their boyfriend called them fat, wouldn’t I say that was abusive?  So why isn’t it abusive if I said it to him?  I know power structures play into this; women are much more shamed and belittled and humiliated in relation to their bodies than men are, but that still doesn’t really make it OK?

Or does it not even matter whether it was OK or not?  Does it not matter on the basis that he verbally attacked me first, that he set up a situation where he could beat me and rape me?  That even if my calling him ‘fat’ wasn’t OK, his reaction was extreme and out of proportion?

Trying to keep it all in place in my head is still difficult at times.  I so often find myself questioning if it really did happen or if I really am just crazy.  And if it did happen, was I really the one to blame?

Trying to untie the knots that he left my mind in with his gaslighting now is one of the hardest parts of all of this healing process; especially considering he wasn’t the only one that left knots in there.

RadSurvivor.

Some Simplicity in All the Confusion

In response to an earlier post, I decided to take this healing thing and cutting those ties seriously.  I’m partially doing that in therapy and I’m partially doing it myself; through journalling and through reading.  A few months ago, I bought myself copies of Why Does He Do That? and Daily Wisdom for Why Does He Do That?.  A lot of it may not be relevant for me any more, considering I’m no longer in those relationships or those kinds of relationships and a good chunk of it on the basis that I don’t have kids, but the introduction alone for Daily Wisdom talks about finding a sense of self and a sense of freedom from those abusive partners, and that’s exactly what I’m looking for.

I’ve had a few people in the past said they’d be interested to hear more about the healing process, about my healing process, that I write in such a way that it’d be useful to get the perspective from someone who’s still going through that process (though, I’d argue that none of us ever stop going through that process) and well, it’d be useful for me to actually write out my thoughts as I’m working my way through this book, to have them somewhere where I can look back on them and process where I am now and where I was.

I imagine these posts could quickly become annoying and I apologise for that if so.  I’m not going to neglect writing my other posts, in case you’re here just to hear the odd token story from an exited womon.  I guess I’m going to be writing these posts for myself and for other womyn who have been in abusive relationships; maybe there’d be some insight there that can help them, especially those that can’t afford their own copies of the books.  Whatever the reason, I’m doing it anyway (or at least I say that now, I have no sticking power with anything) so if that does become annoying, I am sorry.


I don’t make him do the things he does.
When men blame women for their behaviour,
that’s one of the benchmarks of abuse.

Everything was my fault when I was with Dom, literally everything.  I was responsible not only for the things I did, but the things he did, even the things the cats did.  If one of them woke him up early in the morning, it was my fault.  Everything was my fault.  Everything was always twisted in that house, I’m loathe to call it a ‘home’ because it really just wasn’t.

He twisted everything.  Anything I accused him of, he twisted back on me.  I was the abusive one, I was the one yelling, I was the one controlling everything, I was the one who always started the arguments, I was the one who made the flat messy, I was the one that spent all the rent money, I was the one that did everything.

He was an expert when it came to gas-lighting.  I believed him, I believed every word.  There was a long period of time where I genuinely believed that I was the abusive one, where I genuinely believed I had no right to complain because he was just defending himself when I abused him; it’s what kept me trapped in that ‘relationship’ for so long – what right did I have to kick up a fuss and leave him when I was the one being abusive, if I could just be better then there wouldn’t be a problem.

I’ve been out of that relationship for four years and I still have those doubts; still doubt whether he was really the abusive one, if it was in fact just me.  I question every single behaviour, every single word, every single thing I do with my girlfriend; convinced I’m really just an abusive person, I’m constantly watching myself for any slightest signs of abuse.  Logically, I know it’s not me, I know it’s never been me.  I know I treat my girlfriend with the love and the respect and the care that she deserves.  I know I’m just actually a genuinely nice person; that I can have moments where I get frustrated and maybe say something verging on mean about people in my life, but that’s more just venting in response to normal day-to-day frustrations exactly so I don’t actually say anything mean to them.  This isn’t even me just trying to say the nicest things about myself (trust me, this is definitely not a habit) to alleviate any sense of guilt, I am just a nice person.

And regardless as to whether or not I am a nice person, I didn’t make him do anything.  I guess.  It’s still hard to believe, let’s face it, I’ve not exactly been programmed to see the worst in abusers, I’ve been programmed to see the absolute best in them and the absolute worst in myself and going against that is difficult and painful and scary.

It’s difficult for me to accept the above quote; it’s difficult for me to accept that the responsibility for his own actions lies with him.  There’s always a ‘but’, there’s always a loop-hole.  ‘But if I just hadn’t…’, ‘if I’d just done…’, ‘but if it wasn’t for me…’.  There’s always a reason why it’s my fault, there’s always a cause and an effect and I am always that cause.  Trying to get myself out of that way of thinking is difficult and it’s painful.

It’s difficult and it’s painful because it’s easy to blame myself and not only because that’s what I’ve been taught and manipulated and programmed into doing for the majority of my life.  It’s easier to blame myself because if it’s my fault then there’s something I can do to stop it happening again.  If I just change my behaviour, just change the way I think, just change everything about myself, then I won’t get hurt again, right?  Blaming myself means there’s a problem with me and I can fix me, I can whittle down and change and warp every single aspect of myself, I can be a whole other person and then the abuse and the rape and the torture would stop.  If I’m the problem, then I can fix it.  Blaming myself is easier because it means I don’t have to face up to the fact that I was a victim, I don’t have to face up to the fact that I was abused and I was raped and I was tortured for the majority of my life, for the entirety of that relationship.  If I blame myself, if it was my fault, then words like ‘rape’ and ‘domestic abuse’ become meaningless because I of course wasn’t living with an abusive, violent man, he was the one living with an ‘abusive’, ‘infuriating’, ‘difficult’ woman who caused so much trouble that he was forced to defend himself.  Blaming me means I don’t blame them.  Not blaming men means I can free myself of the label of victim.  It means nothing happened, it means I have no right to whine about it now.  It means I don’t have to admit just how horribly I was hurt, to either myself or anyone else.

So changing that thinking is hard for me, just as it is for any other survivor.  We have so many reasons to blame ourselves.  When we’re in the situation we do it for protection because goddess help us if we try and blame him, when we do it later, it’s still for protection, it’s protecting our own minds from the overwhelming reality of being a victim.

Logically, of course I can see it.  Of course I can see that he was responsible for his own actions, just as I was responsible for mine (barring the things he and others forced me to do – that I relented and agreed to do for my own protection).  Of course I can see that my not putting the shopping away fast enough didn’t make him hit me; he chose to hit me.  Of course I can see that me saying ‘hi’ to a friend didn’t make him turn on me and assault me for cheating on him; he chose to do that.  Of course I can see that my lying next to him pretending to be asleep wasn’t me playing hard to get, wasn’t me asking for it, wasn’t me trying to turn him on with a kinky game; he chose to rape me.  I logically know those were his choices, his actions, not mine.  I know I never wanted to get the shit kicked out of me, I know I never wanted his gross, sweaty self all over me, I knew I was a lesbian even so I definitely didn’t want his hands on me.  I know I didn’t make him do any of those things because why would I, they weren’t anything I wanted?  I know I didn’t make him beat me and rape me and torment me for five years; he chose to do that.

But logic isn’t the same as belief, it just isn’t.  I’m too scared to believe, I’m trying, goddess trust me, I’m trying but it’s just so hard to believe that I didn’t make him do each and every single one of the things he did to me.  It’s so hard not to believe that if I was just a better person, if I wasn’t as ‘abusive’ as he convinced me he was, then none of it would ever have happened, it’s so hard to put the blame on him without shaking in fear at what the consequences of that would be if he were to ever know, to ever find me.

I’m trying, I really am.  I’m trying to believe it wasn’t me.

I know if it was any other womon, I’d be saying the same; I know I’d be telling her it’s utterly disgusting that he blames her, I’d be saying it is most definitely abusive, that she doesn’t control what he does.  But when it comes to me?

Well, I’m working on it, I am.

I’m not responsible for what he chose to do.

I’m not responsible for what he chose to do.

I’m not responsible for what he chose to do.

Rad-Survivor.

 

Anything For A Roof Over Ya Head

The topic of homelessness has been swimming around my brain recently.  Frankly it’s been there on some level since the Tories were voted back in last year (has it really not even been a year of this hell yet?).  I’m currently on benefits; too disabled and too ill to work.  Just the other week I could barely handle going to Aldi, going to the doctors and going to the chemist before completely breaking down and giving up for a few days (it probably didn’t help that the doctor shoved his crotch in my face) if I can’t even handle a very simple day just yet, then I definitely can’t handle a 9-5 any time soon.  But the Tories, the DWP, well, we know they’ll have other plans.  Getting disability for mental health and chronic pain conditions was nearly bloody impossible under the Coalition, I know damn well I have no chance under a Tory Government.  I’m due for re-assessment in 2017, but the DWP can spring it on me at any point they decide to move me over to PIP.

I’ll fight it, sure.  It’s taken me a long time to accept, but I know I deserve to be on benefits, I know I deserve the chance to heal, I know I can’t work just yet, but I’m not holding my breathe.  The chances are, any point in the next year or so, I’m going to lose my income and what do I do then?  I worked all of this out the night the Tories were elected; I couldn’t stop crying because I knew exactly what was going to happen.  I was drinking to make the pain go away by 9am.

I’ve been homeless before, more times than I can count.  Sometimes only for a few days, sometimes a few months and the last time was from the age of sixteen till I was twenty.  I’ve been street homeless, squatting, sofa surfing and been in hostels.  Been there and done that.

I’m terrified of being homeless again; I know I could survive, if I had to, I’ve done it so many times before, but frankly, other than my stubbornness and the toughness I have (oh, I do have it when I need it, working and living on the streets give you that – don’t be surprised by my meek, timid exterior, there’s a part of me underneath that can definitely survive) the main thing that ensured my survival was ‘working’.  That’s possibly what terrifies me more than being homeless again, being homeless is gonna be the thing that drags me back, whether I like it or not.

When I was getting close to turning 14, that summer holidays before, I ran away from home again.  I’d not long lost my baby and I was done with that life, I’d more than had enough and I just couldn’t take any more.  I ended up heading into the city, to where I knew most of the homeless were and where I knew there were a few squats lying around.  I had friends up there.  It was a dangerous place to go, honestly, I knew my traffickers sometimes went up there to find new girls but I thought I’d be safe.

I hooked up with my friend, I knew her from working on the streets near where I grew up and I remembered she’d told me she was heading to Angel when she left.  She was older than me, about my age now when I hooked up with her again.  She and a few of her friends had a squat, just women.  We were skint but hey, at least we had a roof over our heads.  It was just before they started re-gentrifying and the police had long ago stopped giving a fuck.  In fact, it was pretty much only our squat they ever bothered and with a house full of prostitutes, you can probably figure out why.

We all had pretty similar pasts, pretty similar reasons as to why we all preferred to ‘live’ in a crappy squat, in ‘hell upon Earth’.  There were five of us in total.  Most of us escaping abuse or prostitution (only to just end up right back in it of course), most of us high, most of us drinking.  Most of us barely eighteen; only my friend was older.

We all ended up ‘working’, still, but we felt invincible, we felt free.  We were working under our own terms, no men to tell us what to do, no men taking our money, we were doing it for ourselves and for each other.  I’d head right into the city centre each night, set myself up in a bar, usually one with a certain look (I had a proper little goth phase going in and I got ID’ed less in those places and even when I did, I usually… ‘talked’ my way round the bouncers).  I always knew what I was looking for, a guy who obviously had a bit of money, younger, professional, I could spot paedophiles a mile off.  Almost without fail I’d end up with guys looking for the ‘boyfriend experience’.  Maybe I deliberately sought them out, I can’t remember.  A few asked me how old I was, I’d always giggle, act much drunker than I was, tell them to shush and not tell anyone, but that I was 16.  With some of them, the obvious paedophiles, I’d tell them the truth, that I was 13, it always meant more money later.  It was a plus for me, though.  They’d buy me a few drinks, take me out for food and then take me back to their posh, city-centre flats and insist I stayed the night.  They’d do what they were gonna do, paying me up front and roll over and fall asleep.  I’d get a few hours sleep in a comfy bed, which when you’re living in a squat is a blessing, even if you do end up sleeping next to a gross man that just paid for you.  I’d wake up long before he did, take whatever cash was from his wallet, any drugs and usually a bit of food.  I didn’t care, I felt invincible and which of ’em was gonna ring the police really?  Not when it also meant confessing to raping an under-age prostitute.

After a few weeks of my ‘living’ there, prostituting myself.  A load of men tried to move in on our squat, we did have some prime property down there to be honest.  They were violent and we tried to fight them off but we knew we’d lost our ‘home’.  Some guy came out of nowhere and told them all to back off, they listened to him, they were obviously scared of him.  They left and it was just us and him.  We knew what was gonna happen, me and my friend resigned to it, sat against the wall, lighting up, new pimp, new day.  He offered us protection from the homeless men around and the police (I remember laughing at this, we already had the police well and truly sorted), said if we worked from here he could offer us all the protection we needed and he knew plenty of clients.  My friend got straight to the point, asking him what he wanted in return.  His terms were harsh, but the other girls agreed straight away, none of them had been homeless before, they were scared from the beating they’d just gotten and protection seemed like a good deal to them.  He took his pick of us to seal the deal, to pay for the protection we’d just gotten from him.  I was the youngest and it was me he picked.  He saw my scarification, knew who I belonged to, made a joke about how he knew I’d be well trained, knew I wouldn’t give him any trouble.

We hardly ever got to leave, really, only every now and then and only if we went with one of the other girls.  He was violent, but he was a pimp so what do you expect?  He was constantly accusing of us holding back money, which was practically impossible, we nearly exclusively worked out of the squat and the clients paid him up front; it was much more likely he was holding back from us.  We did sometimes do street work and yeah, I did hold a few quid back then so I could get a pack of cigs. but I still gave him the majority he demanded.  I got the crap beaten out of me one night, I came back with barely anything, but I’d gotten barely any work, he accused me of stealing from him and he beat me then raped me as punishment.  Another one of the girls couldn’t take it, she OD’ed, probably on purpose.  He said he’d sort it out, I have no idea what he did with her body.

Me and my friend were reading the paper one day, well the horoscopes, like we gave a fuck what was happening in the city, and we realised it was nearly September.  I casually said something like, ha, school in a few days, and she told me I should go back.  I didn’t see the point, but she insisted.  Said I was too smart for this shit, that I should go back to school, get my GCSEs, be something more than this.  I reminded her what I’d be going back to and she shrugged.  Said it wasn’t any different than this, a client was a client and a pimp was a pimp, at least I’d be going to school in the process.  I reluctantly agreed, figured at least I’d see my friends again, at least I’d have some kind of freedom during school hours and maybe she was right, maybe with my GCSEs I could be something more.

We got him to agree to let me and her go for a walk.  I’d shoved the important things under my clothes, everything else I left to her.  I suddenly panicked, realised I was sending her in back alone, that she’d take the blame for me going missing.  I tried to change my mind but she insisted.  Said she got beaten on a regular basis anyway so what’s it matter, said this one was worth it.  She took me to the bus stop, kissed me and told me to make something of myself, to be better than this, I promised her I’d try.

I’ve seen her since, begging on the streets of the city centre.  She looks so much older and drawn out.  She recognised me, I saw it in her eyes.  I was with my friends so she didn’t say anything other than the usual ‘got any change?’ but she didn’t break eye contact with me, she smiled and gave me the thumbs up sign.  I went back later when I went out for a cig. she was asleep, but I left her all the change I had and a little note saying it was from me.

I’ve seen him since, too.  In the papers, wanted on drug charges.  If only they knew of all the things he was guilty of.


 

The lingering threat from DWP leaves me so terrified that I’m going to end up there again, so terrified that at any moment I can be made homeless and left with no other option but to prostitute myself.  I know I have friends, people that care about me, people who would never let that happen, but how much can they really protect me from homelessness?  They can’t expect to protect me forever, there’s not much you can do when you have no income.  So I’ll continue to have nightmares, continue to be terrified of being made homeless again.  At least until I’ve somehow, magically, been successfully reassessed or until I’m in a place where I’m able to work again.

Rad-Survivor.

Loosening His Grip

It’s been a while since I’ve wrote here and that’s been for a few reasons.  It’s because I’ve not been doing well, because I struggled massively over Christmas and the New Year.  It’s because I’ve been doing well; I’ve got a taste for happiness and a sense of safety and I’ve not wanted to poke the hornets nest and ruin that for myself.  It’s because I’ve honestly just not known what to write.

For the past few months, I’ve barely been focusing on the prostitution, the pornography, the trafficking; any of the areas of trauma I set up this blog to focus on.  Part of it’s been deliberate, I’ve pushed my mind away from those thoughts, from those memories, from those experiences; I can and will do anything to deny to myself that it’s all real, even if that’s counter-intuitive to my own healing and my own survival.  Instead, for the past few months, my brain has felt the need to focus overwhelmingly on my past abusive relationships, on the rapes and the abuse and the torture and the stalking and the captivity that my ex partners put me through and whilst that has involved pornography and prostitution, I’ve kept my mind well away from that.  It’s not surprising, to be honest, not now that I’m in a relationship with someone who truly loves and cares for me and treats me with respect and compassion; I’m noticing more and more the differences and the more I notice them, the more I’m starting to see just how abusive those past relationships were.

Whilst I’ve been half aware of it for the last year and a half, the last few weeks I’ve realised something more and more and it’s something I’m so deeply ashamed of, it’s something that I feel I should have been long free of, it’s something I feel like just shouldn’t be there any more, it’s something that feels like a gross betrayal of the woman I love.

Just over four years ago, the end of November/early December 2011, I broke up with my ex-fiancé.  Not that it made much difference at the time, our relationship was officially over, but he refused to move out, refused to give me my key back (and like fuck could I afford to change the locks) and all it did was make him more violent and more open and vicious with his abuse.  He continued to rape me and took pleasure in telling me it was ‘now’ rape (as if it wasn’t before), that he was going to fuck me no matter what, that he enjoyed knowing he was raping me.  He told me he could do whatever he wanted to me, that I was just a worthless whore, that if I didn’t belong to him then I was worth nothing.  His messages were mixed; one moment I didn’t belong to him and I was a worthless whore, the next moment I still belonged to him and nothing was going to change that, not even me, that the only time I’d stop belonging to him was when I was dead.

I spent those months convinced that that point was quickly coming.  Dom (because why the fuck shouldn’t I name him?) was still around, still beating me, still raping me, still punishing me, still torturing me despite my having finally got the guts to break off the engagement that I never even agreed to and break up with him.  My traffickers had tracked me down and were completely back in my life, prostituting me out of my own flat and when they felt they could, dragging me back to where I’d always been prostituted before.

I never expected to survive, I never expected to escape.  I’d basically given up.  On the night I did escape, after having very, very reluctant conversations with friends, everything was a blur.  I remember clearly thinking I had a few choices and I barely had any time to make those choices – I knew my main trafficker, my mother, was going to be back in the morning.  I’d already gone through a day of hell.  I still don’t know how I survived that day.  I knew my choices were to wait for her to come back – to be dragged back into that world completely, to end up dying there just as I was always meant to.  Wait for her to come back and kill me out right, that she knew she was already losing control over me and that she’d never be able to control me in the same way again.  Kill myself and save myself all the trouble.   Or make that call, send that text, ask for the help I’d been offered and take a chance on escaping.  I don’t remember sending that text.  I don’t remember packing my bag.  I don’t even remember putting clothes on.  I just remember sitting in her car, very conscious of the fact I was bleeding and terrified it was gonna soak through to the seat.  I didn’t even really know where I was going or what I was doing.  Several times I nearly panicked, begged her to take me back, terrified of what my mum, Dom, my other traffickers would do if they found I wasn’t there.  But I was too frozen in fear, too numb, too stuck in my own head and dissociated to say a word.  I found myself out my best friend’s house and my life changed from that moment on.

I was in a hotel for three weeks at first; completely alone, my friends refused to visit me there and I barely had the energy to go visit them.  That first night, before I’d had a chance to change my number, Dom rang me, shouting and yelling at me for leaving without telling him, screaming at me because my mum was pissed and was blaming him and I was so close to breaking, so close to telling him where I was.  I completely dissociated and found the strength to hang up and take the SIM card out; the people that needed to contact me knew where I was.  I’m ashamed to admit I still have that SIM card (and my old email address), I could never bring myself to destroy it or throw it away; knowing my traffickers and Dom can still use it to contact me, get back into my head.  I know I should, I just haven’t been able to.

I was completely away from Dom, I still am.  I’ve been completely away from him and safe from him for nearly four years.  Except, in a lot of ways, I’m still not.  There’s still so many ties that haven’t been cut.  Ties that I’ve been too scared to look at, too scared to acknowledge, too scared to touch and do anything about.  They’re the emotional ties, the mental ties, the gas-lighting, the control he still has over me, the grip he still has on my life.

I’ve tried to deny it so many times, despite for the last few years being aware it’s there.  I’d insisted so many times that Dom was the least of my worries, that I wasn’t even remotely affected by what he’d done to me, that I was an exited woman – I couldn’t be worrying about an abusive relationship when I had so many other things on my plate.  But it wasn’t true and I knew it wasn’t true and pushing down those flashbacks and those memories and the consequences they had on me just made everything worse.  Around summer, 2014, things got really bad.  I was in a constant state of high anxiety, I was having constant flashbacks.  I was almost constantly curled up and scared and unable to move.  Every single sound left me breaking down completely.

I currently have a needlessly aggressive neighbour.  A neighbour who shouts and swears, slams doors and bangs on walls, throws things around and generally throws weekly tantrums.  Logically, I know him throwing tantrums has absolutely nothing to do with me and thankfully he’s living alone so I know there’s not a woman suffering in there, but without fail and especially throughout 2014 and the start of 2015 his actions would leave me in a complete mess.

That doesn’t even begin to describe what was happening for me, honestly.  Every time he started, I’d be left curled up in fear, completely unable to move, completely unable to make a noise myself, of any kind, terrified I’d make it worse.  I wasn’t even able to breathe properly because I was so terrified of making too much noise and making it worse.

Whilst my neighbour is an arsehole and needlessly aggressive and loud, I know I wasn’t responding to him, I was responding to Dom, I was stuck in flashbacks and I was stuck in the past.  I read a post on Tumblr, recently –

Men who slam doors and furniture are making sure you hear how much they want to hit you. – hmsindecision

and that’s exactly what my life with Dom was like.  Yeah, he frequently beat the shit out of me anyway, but before he reached that point it was a constant building up of slamming doors, punching walls, slamming furniture, throwing things, knowing it was leaving me terrified of what was to come.

Once those noises start, whether they’re Dom or my neighbour, all I could do was wish it was over.  Wish that he’d just hit me already so the cycle would stop and I didn’t have to live frozen whilst the noises carried on.

I started self-harming whenever my neighbour started, just so it would end the cycle, so I’d get the hurt that would leave me able to breathe again once the banging had started.  I felt like I couldn’t relax, couldn’t breathe, couldn’t move, couldn’t do anything again until he’d just got it over with and hit me.  But my neighbour wasn’t going to hit me, there was no Dom, all that was left was me and my self-harm.

That was my first realisation as to just how much control he still has over me, how much he’s still in my head, how much he still has a grip on me.  And yeah, I’m ashamed of it, I wish I could say I was over it, I wish I could say he was the least of my problems (which in a lot of ways is true when you have a history of being prostituted and being used in porn) but I’m not over it, he still has a lot of control over me.

In therapy this last Thursday, I completely froze when my therapist was asking about him.  She was trying to get me to admit he was abusive, that his behaviours were abusive.  I froze, I became panicky and it took me a long time to be able to say anything.  I was so terrified of saying anything negative about him, so terrified of what the consequences would be despite the fact that I’ve not seen him for nearly four years, despite the fact that I know I’m safe now, despite the fact that I know he won’t be able to find me.  He still has so much of a grip on me that I couldn’t even admit just how abusive he was in a private therapy session, where no-one else will ever know.  It’s taking so much self-control to not delete these words here, despite very few people knowing Rad-Survivor = me and despite very, very, very few of those people even knowing who Dom is.

The truth is, Dominic still has a massive grip on me, still has so much control over my life, still frequents my flashbacks and my nightmares.  I can’t just shrug it off and ignore it just because I have bigger things to deal with.  I have to deal with both.  I’m so ashamed to admit that he still has so much control over me after all this time.  I evidently took some of that control back by calling off the engagement, breaking up with him and eventually leaving the night I did, but he still does have so much of a grip on me and it’s really about time I started getting rid of it.  I can’t live my life constantly terrified he’s going to find me at any moment, I can’t live my life constantly terrified of consequences that aren’t even going to happen.  I deserve better than that.

Rad-Survivor.