Permanent Reminders

My body is a minefield, a map of memories and hurt and pain.  I can’t look at my own body, I can’t even let myself connect with my body without that pain coming to the surface.  It’s so often assumed that the pain of exited women is all mental and emotional, which a good chunk of it definitely is, but similarly to other survivors, we also have to live with the, often permanent, physical ramifications of trauma.

Living with these permanent reminders is one of the hardest things for me.  Each time my knees give way or suffer a particularly violent shot of pain, I’m reminded of exactly how they were broken, exactly what caused them to be so weak and left me needing regular physio.  Same when I suffer a migraine or a fibro. flare-up or when my shoulders are especially painful.  I was naive to think that the pain would stop upon exiting.

In a lot of ways, I’m lucky.  My body isn’t quite as much of a mess as it should be, considering what it’s been through, but living with those permanent reminders, whether they be physical scars or pain or old injuries flaring up gets harder and harder each day.  And it’s not just the direct results of trauma, it’s the indirect results too – it’s the fibro., the migraines, the UTI’s, the IBS and possibly even the asthma.

Studies show that all the above conditions, as well as many others, have very, very strong links to trauma.  That the body holds just as much trauma as the mind does and it doesn’t respond to it overly well.  Between the physical remains and the chronic conditions, my body is constantly trying to remind me of the trauma I went through and whilst it’s vaguely possible to escape your own body with dissociation, it’s not always.  I can never escape the pain and trauma of prostitution.

It’s hard enough living with the mental effects of trauma, but having to live with the permanent physical reminders just makes life so much harder.  I can’t even walk without being reminded of what they did to me.  I can’t lift up a cup of coffee without risking dropping it from nerve damage.  I can’t lift my shoulder too high because of an old dislocation.

And I’m not the only one.  Whether it’s a direct result of injuries, old scars or the chronic health conditions that we’re left with as a result of trauma, I’m not the only exited woman to live with constant reminders, constant pain.  It’s not just the emotional and mental aftermath we have to deal with, it’s the physical, too.

So often survivors, and especially exited women (because it’s just a ‘choice’ and therefore can’t possibly be traumatic) are told to just ‘get over it’, to just ‘forget it’.  But we’re not just fighting the emotional aftermath, it’s the physical, too.

And that’s not even considering the effect that the physical aftermath has on our emotional states.  Besides the sheer levels of dissociation we have to reach to distance ourselves from our bodies and thus the pain, we also have to deal with the associated depression, memories of trauma, shame and humiliation, deal with the crap people with invisible disabilities deal with and deal with the extreme levels of body hating that exited women are able to reach.  Whether we respond to this body hating with self-harm, starving ourselves, binge eating, purging, over-exercise, body modifications, hiding our bodies with big, baggy clothes, dissociation or any other numerous responses, the root cause is still the same – hatred of our own bodies.  And can you blame us, can you blame us for hating our own bodies so much?  Our bodies were the source of our trauma, the vessel, the ‘thing’ it happened to.  And then it feels the need to remind us of that trauma each and every single day with the pain and the scars and the injuries and the body memories.  Of course we want to dissociate right out of our bodies, of course we want to destroy our bodies, change our bodies, take control over our own bodies.  Just anything, anything to make the pain of trauma finally stop – even if it takes years and years and years after trauma for it to finally stop – and with the ever lingering fear that it never, never will.

(Please note, I’ve been too ill – I’ve ironically had migraines all week whilst writing this post -to actually read the links provided above in full, but they show a relationship between the mentioned conditions and a history of trauma.)

RadSurvivor.

How Much is Too Much?

This is a topic that comes up for me from time to time, usually after I’ve shared something in more detail than usual, regardless as to whether that’s with my therapist, my girlfriend, my friends or here on this blog.  I have a constant, overwhelming fear that I’m saying ‘too much’.  Logically, I know that a good chunk of that is in relation to trauma.  I’ve spent my entire life having silence and secrecy enforced upon me, either in really direct ways or more indirectly, but either way, the message was the same:  you say anything, terrible things will happen.  So it’s not surprising that now I have the same response – I open up and I start to panic that I’ve said too much and used too much detail to say it.

But regardless of those old messages and those old fears, I still feel as if I am saying too much, particularly here, particularly in a space that is quite so public, particularly in a space where people don’t need or want to hear all of those details.  I always feel so guilty, honestly, I feel so guilty for putting those thoughts and those images into others heads, especially those who know who I am, who know me as a person rather than just as the anonymous blogger that I am to most of my readers.  I always feel the need to take back the words, to edit them into vagueness and obscurity, to find a way to write them without the detail and the trauma.

I never understood why I have always had such a need to ‘get it all out’ in such graphic detail.  I’ve come up with so many theories over the years.  Ranging from my being a sick freak who just gets off on it for some reason to being a huge attention seeker.  But, logically, I know neither of those things are true.  Even if I was ‘attention seeking’, that wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing.  ‘Attention seeking’ is a phrase thrown at, particularly young, women to dismiss their perfectly legitimate emotions and ways of expressing trauma, trauma they’ve usually suffered at the hands of the patriarchy.  ‘Attention seeking’ wouldn’t be a bad thing, whether it was for my own individual sake or collectively on behalf of other exited women and other CSA and rape survivors.  But, it’s not the case.  I know myself well enough to know that’s not why I write and that’s not why I write in such detail.  I’m not a fan of attention.  I don’t like people paying attention to me, I don’t even really like people noticing my existence.  I reject pity and people telling me they’re ‘sorry’.  If I wanted attention at any point in my life, it wouldn’t be something I wanted as a result of this.  I don’t want to be typecast as a survivor, a victim, an exited woman, an activist.  I’m a person, a whole person, and I want any attention I do receive to be on the basis of who I am as a person, survivorship included, but not exclusively limited to that.

For a while, I thought I took the graphic detail route to really highlight the extremities of prostitution and domestic abuse and rape and CSA.  Because whilst so many activists and allies say they understand, that they care, that they’re here no matter what, I do believe that so many don’t understand.  They can’t understand.  Not really, not fully.  I’ve been there, I’ve lived that, I somehow survived that and there are times where I even feel like I don’t fully understand, where I can’t possibly find the words to express the sheer level of hurt and pain and trauma.  It’s impossible to fully understand the depths of depravity and sorrow and hurt that exist if you haven’t lived it – it’s almost impossible to grasp even if you have lived it.  The more that we shy away from the detail, whether it be for our sake or others sake, the more we minimise the abuse and rape and torture of that world.  How can we truly advocate for the abolition of prostitution and pornography if we get all wishy-washy when it comes to the details?  If we’re constantly playing it down and hiding the worst from others?  I don’t want to be the one that puts those images into others heads, but let’s face it, we’re not listened to at the best of times and are often dismissed as being overly-dramatic or because ‘some people choose it’, we need to speak on the realities or we’ll forever be silenced.

But even that I don’t feel is the reason why I so automatically go for the graphic detail option.  Going for that level of detail is something that I’ve done for a long time, whether it be in my own journal or in therapy etc. but it’s something I’ve always just done.  If it was just to raise awareness and ensure those realities and my truth was heard, then it wouldn’t be something that I do so naturally outside of those situations.

I guess for me it’s just something that I need to do, it’s just my brains way of processing what happened to me.  Some survivors need to process through art, some with body based therapies, some talking through metaphor and around the actual words, some through really graphic detail in order to purge every last painful piece.  I guess I’m just one of those that has to purge out every single detail.  It’s never been enough for me, never been overly healing or resulted in much processing to just talk vaguely around it.  My brain insists on remembering far, far, far more than it should and the only natural response I have left is to get out as many of those details as possible in order to process them and heal.

I hate it, though, I hate it more than anything.  I hate dumping my trauma on other women.  Men caused my trauma, they caused this pain and they should be the ones to feel the weight of it.  I don’t want to cause distress or pain for my sisters, but let’s face it, since when did men give a shit anyway?  And I know it’s going to be my sisters that will advocate for all of the prostituted, I know it’s going to be my sisters that really care.  Men generally only care on the basis of their mothers or their sisters or their daughters or their girlfriends or any number of their female ‘possessions’.  They care on the basis that it is a personal violation to them.  We care because we know it’s a violation of all womankind.

Caring is hard, it’s painful.  It means opening ourselves up to the pain and the traumas of all women.  It means being so painfully aware and it’s probably one of the hardest things to accept and deal with as a radical feminist.  I think Dworkin said it best, really –

One of the things the women’s movement does is to make you feel pain. You feel your own pain, the pain of other women, the pain of sisters whose lives you can barely imagine. You have to have a lot of courage to accept that if you commit yourself, over the long term, not just for three months, not for a year, not for two years, but for a lifetime, to feminism, to the women’s movement, that you are going to live with a lot of pain.

– Andrea Dworkin, “Feminism: An Agenda” from “Letters From A War Zone”

I never really wanted to be the one dumping my trauma on other women, I really want men to be holding that pain because it was men that caused that pain, but as the quote above says, being a part of this movement means we do feel that pain and it’s hard, beyond hard, but it’s what we’ve committed ourselves to.  I feel that pain every time I hear my sister’s experiences, I feel that pain every time I talk to friends and other womyn.  I don’t mind bearing others pain, I’ve never cared about myself enough to care too much about what I take on, but I never wanted to be the one causing pain to others.

I guess it doesn’t really matter, there’s more than enough ‘good’ reasons to be using the level of detail that I do.  It helps me on a personal and an individual level and it gives a voice to all the prostituted, all the exited women, all the women that didn’t survive along the way.

I still feel guilty and I’ll always feel guilty about the level of detail that I use and the harm I may be doing to other womyn, but these words are far too important, they need to be heard both for my sake and for the sake of thousands upon thousands of other womyn.

RadSurvivor.

Four Years and Counting – Part Two

What happened that day, the 3rd May 2012, still haunts me in a way that I can’t even describe.  In the run up to this week, I’ve been doing my best to not even think about it, but part of me knows that I will never process memories if I keep avoiding them completely.  Sometimes, despite it seeming like the most illogical thing to do, the best thing we can do is sit with those memories, acknowledge those memories and do what we can to process those memories and our truth.  One of the ways of processing memories is to actually get them out, to tell them as they happened, detaching ourselves from the shame and the guilt and the overwhelming sense of dirtiness that we so often feel.  So here I am, processing and telling what happened on the day I finally exited.

(Once again, this will include graphic detail and will be long.)


The day started off actually OK.  I’d gone to therapy first thing in the morning and agreed to meet up with a friend right afterwards.  We were going to go shopping – she needed help getting some Doc Martens and I needed to get some tops which I could vaguely survive the heat in but would cover my SI.  We’d had a nice morning together, but I hadn’t slept the night before and by the time it reached dinner time, I was beyond exhausted and decided I was going to go home.  I wandered off to get the bus, sat down, dozing against the window when I felt someone sit next to me.

I didn’t even need to look, I could smell her, smell her perfume.  I knew it was my mum.  My stomach folded in on itself; I felt so sick and so scared.  I don’t know why I felt any more scared than usual, it was like I knew that day was going to be so much worse than any other.  I was terrified and I knew there was nothing I could do.  I don’t know why she was on that bus.  It did in theory go towards her house, but it wasn’t the best bus to get.  I usually pay so much attention to what happens around me, but I guess I was maybe so exhausted that I didn’t see her, that she’d seen me before I’d gotten on the bus and followed me, but I really just don’t know.

She put her bags on my lap and I resigned myself to what was going to happen.  This had happened a million times before, from when I was a child and I’d stopped caring so long ago.  I still felt the shame, still felt so incredibly dirty but as for what she actually did, I didn’t care at all.  Right from when I was a child, she always felt the need to try and humiliate me and shame me further.  To molest and abuse me in public where others could potentially see but inevitably never, ever seemed to.  This time was no different, she was touching me beneath the bags and I just zoned out, dissociated, did whatever I could to pretend it wasn’t happening.  Except, my friend rang me.  She was ringing to check to see I’d gotten the bus OK because I hadn’t answered her texts.  My mum made me answer it, made me talk on the phone to her whilst she carried on assaulting me.  I had never felt so humiliated.  So disgusted with myself.  So dirty.

When it came to my stop, a stop that was long before hers, I knew she was going to get off the bus with me.  I briefly considered shoving past her, running as fast as I could and locking myself in the building before she could get in.  But I knew it wasn’t going to happen.  I’d have to get past her, get across a busy road, dive in front of the bus, pull open the heavy security doors and wait for them to painfully close before I was safe.  I knew it wasn’t worth the effort, I knew she’d manipulate me into opening the doors again anyway.  I was terrified of what she was going to do to me, but I was more terrified of what would happen if I pissed her off and made it worse.

Those next several hours are a blur and frankly, that’s the way I’d prefer them to be.  I remember bits and pieces, here and there, but they’re fragmented and they’re far too painful to look on properly for too long.

She was angry at me, more angry at me than I’d seen her be in a very long time.  I think she knew, I think she knew that there was something different about me, that I was starting to get stronger, starting to reach out, starting to tell people the things I was never supposed to tell anyone.  I think she knew I was making plans to leave and disappear completely and whilst I didn’t believe myself that I’d ever go through with them, even just the thought of doing it was enough to show just how much control over me she was losing.

She kept asking over and over and over again what I was planning, what I was doing.  I couldn’t tell her at first, I was far too scared to admit to her I’d been planning on leaving, disappearing and never coming back – I knew that would piss her off even more than my not answering, I just couldn’t bring myself to open my mouth and say it to her.  She did anything she could to make me tell her, hurt me in ways I don’t even know how to put into words.  The pain was more than I could stand, I kept passing in and out of consciousness, both in a physical sense and in a dissociative sense.  She raped me, repeatedly, with anything she could find but kept coming back over and over to the knife she’d used on me so many times before.  She beat me, she cut me, she re-branded me, going over and over the same scars that had been there for as long as I could remember.

I reached the point where I wanted to tell her.  Wanted to tell her that I was planning on changing my name and what to.  Wanted to tell her about the flat I was possibly moving in to.  Wanted to tell her I was in therapy.  Wanted to tell her about all of the help and support I was being given.  Wanted to tell her exactly who was helping me (even though I knew it would put them at risk – something I still feel so much shame for even considering).  Wanted to tell her everything I’d said and who I’d said it to.  I wanted to give her what she wanted, just so I could make the pain stop, but I couldn’t.  I was too far gone, I was too overwhelmed with pain and fear and trauma to find a way to say the words and because I wouldn’t tell her, the pain wouldn’t stop.

Logically, now that I’m a few years away from it, I know it wouldn’t have made a difference.  I know that regardless as to whether or not I’d told her, the outcome would have been the same.  I’d put her ‘business’ at risk, I’d put her freedom and that of the men she worked with at risk, I’d put the freedom and reputation of her ‘clients’ at risk.  Nothing was going to calm her down from that, even if I had told her, her suspicions were enough and confirming them would most likely have put me at even more risk.

The pain, the rapes, the interrogation, the torture lasted for hours.  I don’t even really know how long.  I thought she was going to kill me, she was so angry, I wanted her to kill me, I wanted it to stop.  I woke up in the bath, I don’t know how long I’d been there, the bath was covered in my blood, I was covered in my blood.  I don’t remember getting out of the bath, putting clothes on, the next thing I remembered was sitting on the sofa, looking at my phone.

I knew I had a choice.  I knew she’d come back, I didn’t remember her leaving but I figured she’d gone to work, meaning she’d be back first thing in the morning.  I knew she was angry, angry beyond words.  I knew that even though she was angry about how much risk I’d put her and her ‘business’ in, she was angry about something else so much more.  She knew she was losing control over me.  She knew, even if I hadn’t confirmed, that I was planning on leaving.  She knew I was reaching out, telling people the things I was never supposed to speak of.  And now I’d refused to tell her what it was I was planning when as a child and a teenager I would have just broken instantly and told her without hesitation.  My mum didn’t like to lose, she had to win, always and her losing control over me meant that I was winning and that would have gotten to her more than anything else.

I knew I had a choice.  I had the choice to wait for her, to wait for her to come back and either drag me back into being prostituted daily, with no chance to ever escape, no chance to ever tell anyone ever again, be dragged back there forever.  Wait for her to come back and just kill me.  If I was dead, I couldn’t talk, I couldn’t escape, I couldn’t put her or her ‘business’ at risk ever again.  I had the choice to just kill myself there and then.  To make it stop myself, to ensure that I never had to go back, didn’t have to be trapped there forever, never had to be raped or tortured or hurt ever again.  I had the choice to send a text and ask for help, to reach out to those who had offered me the help and the support and to let them help me to finally escape and disappear.

I wanted to die, more than anything.  I just wanted it to be over.  I was sure that that was the decision that I’d made, I was sure that it was what I wanted and what I was going to do.  Whether it was by my own hand or theirs, I was going to die, I wasn’t going to be hurt any more.  I didn’t believe that I could be really helped; I thought it was impossible to escape and that even if I did, it wouldn’t be for long, they’d inevitably track me down and kill me anyway.

I guess it was that thought that made me do it – that maybe it was worth a try, because worst case scenario, they’d find me and kill me anyway.  Best case scenario, I might be able to try for something different.  I didn’t believe I deserved anything different.  I didn’t believe that different or better was even remotely possible for me.  I figured that no matter what I’d end up back where I started, that I’d end up dead, just another statistic, so why not maybe at least try?

I don’t remember that, though, I don’t remember the thought process, I don’t remember sending the text.  I just remember finding myself packing a bag, not quite sure why or what I was even doing.  Holding my phone for dear life, waiting for it to ring.  I don’t remember sending the text, I don’t remember reaching out for help, I don’t remember making the decision to live, especially not after being so, so, so set on dying.

I barely remember the journey.  I know I ultimately ended up going from my flat to a friends where I was going to stay the night.  I don’t remember saying anything or doing anything.  All I remember of that journey was sitting in absolute silence, feeling so disgusting and dirty and ashamed, completely aware that I was bleeding and so terrified of leaving blood on the seat, just so overwhelmed with feelings of dirtiness.  I felt so disgusting, I didn’t want to be in her car, I didn’t want to be near her, she deserved better than having someone as disgusting and dirty as me in her car.  She had been so kind and so caring to drive that far, incredibly late at night to come and help me get out of a mess that I’d gotten myself into and how did I repay her?  By potentially bleeding all over her car seat.  I hated myself more than anything and found myself repeatedly asking myself why hadn’t I just gotten it over with, why hadn’t I just killed myself?

I didn’t sleep that night.  I don’t remember much of that night at all.  I know I very probably freaked my friends out.  I didn’t move, I didn’t speak.  I just sat in the same place staring at the wall, barely even blinking.  I was free, but I couldn’t process that fact, I couldn’t process that fact for a long time.  I didn’t know what to do with the fact that I was free, didn’t know what my life meant without constant rape and torture.  I shut down, I completely shut down.  I couldn’t even slightly process or understand what I’d done.  I couldn’t function.  I didn’t know what I was doing or what I was supposed to do next.  I still just wanted to die more than anything.

I still don’t really know what it was that made me leave.  I don’t know what it was that made me decide to live.  But I can say that now, finally, four years later.  I think I am glad that I did.

I spent the next few weeks in the same kinda daze.  Not knowing what I was doing or why I was doing it.  I spent three weeks in a hotel, paid for by the people that were helping me to escape.  I don’t remember those three weeks.  There’s pictures of me during that time, with a friend from the other end of the country visiting me.  But I spent most of that time alone, begging for help and support, begging for a reason to not just give in and go back, but I was still just so alone, my friends seemed unable to deal and left me in the hotel alone.  Early on, the people that had helped me leave took me back to the flat, with a large group of people and with the police on standby in case something happened, to get my cat and to get a few of my things.  I freaked out when I found myself back in that bedroom.  Freaked out when I saw the evidence of what was done to me.  I never went back, though the people helping me did despite my fear for their safety to clear out the flat, grab what was left of my stuff and sell what was needed.

They paid for the deposit for my new flat, helped me apply for benefits, paid for me to go to therapy, covered anything and everything until my benefits came through and I was able to support myself.  But still, I was in such a daze and was in that dissociated state for months to come.

The only clear thought that I had was that I had to go back.  Dom had my number and was calling me constantly, leaving threatening texts, insisting I get in touch with him, tell him where I was.  My mum sent me an email, in the same vein of the letter I described in my last post, telling me how sorry she was, telling me how much she wanted to make it up to me.  Guilting me and manipulating me into going back.  The niceties quickly faded away, though and the emails became much for violent and threatening.  For years, for so many years afterwards I was still just so convinced that I should go back.  That being away was making everything worse, that when they found it me was just going to be so much worse.  Was convinced that I was worth nothing, that I didn’t deserve anything other than the life that I had, that I didn’t deserve ‘better’, I didn’t deserve ‘different’, I didn’t deserve anything other than the pain and the violence and the rapes.

There were so many points where I just almost gave up and went back, but something always seemed to stop me.  Something in me, no matter how much I wanted the exact opposite, always kept me alive.  I somehow defied all odds and actually survived.


If you had asked me three years ago, I would have told you that I’d run away from my mum and my ex, but it was a mistake and I was gonna get in so much trouble and that I had to go back.

If you had asked me two years ago, I might have told you that I’d gotten away from mum and my ex, but that I was going to get in so much trouble, that it’d be easier to just go back before they found me.

If you had asked me a year ago, I might have told you that I had escaped my mum and my ex and that it might be easier to just go back, that there’s still a chance they could find me.

Now, now I’m finally realising that I wasn’t just running away or getting away or escaping from my mum and my ex, I realise that it was so much bigger than that, so much more than that.

Four years ago today, I made it stop.  I exited prostitution.  I escaped my traffickers, my abusers, my rapists.  I wasn’t just getting away from my mum and my ex, I was getting away from all of my traffickers, all of the Johns, all of my abusers, all of my rapists.

RadSurvivor.

Four Years and Counting – Part One

Four years ago today, I actually exited.  I didn’t use the word ‘exited’ at the time, it would be a long time before I’d use the word ‘exited’ or realised it even applies.  For most of the last four years, I completely underestimated what I did that day, that night, I completely dismissed the magnitude and the seriousness of it, I completely dismissed the extent of it.  I didn’t understand what I’d done, I didn’t understand it at the time and I didn’t understand it for a long time afterwards.

I needed to distance myself from that knowledge, from that reality.  If I hadn’t, I would have broken down.  I was already breaking down, I had broken down.  I’d crashed far worse than I ever had before and far worse than I ever have since, even in comparison to the crash that came with the recent disability benefits reassessment; to add the knowledge and the reality of my exiting into conscious thought would have broken me beyond repair, it would have killed me.

I barely knew what I was doing at the time, really.  Even now, those hours, days, weeks, months afterwards are incredibly blurry.  But the events beforehand, or bits and pieces of them anyway, that last day, those last rapes, those last hours are etched so incredibly clearly into my mind.  Before that, though, everything was a blur again.

I’m going to start this post almost a year before my exiting, though, as that is where everything started to change, that is where I started the path into finally leaving, though it is a path that got progressively worse, first.

(Whilst it should be obvious by now, if you’ve followed this blog for a while, there are trigger warnings, there is graphic detail and there are incredibly painful things in this post so read ahead carefully.

Equally, if you haven’t realised by now, I have a distinct inability to be succinct.  This post may end up being in two parts.)


Before March 2011, I’d already partially exited.  Only very partially, but still, enough to have gained even a tiny amount of control over my own life.  I had moved out of my mother’s house when I was 16 years old, on my birthday in fact, for some reason I’d gotten it into my head that at 16 I could legally move out without a parent’s permission.  I don’t know where that ‘knowledge’ had come from, but it became my motivation, my hope, my dream and when the day came, I made no hesitation, I rang my dad, told him I was moving out and told him to come and pick me up.  My mum lost her shit, but that’s another story.

From that point onwards, I was sold on a much less frequent basis, what had been a several times daily experience grew into something that only happened the odd few nights a week and over the weekends as the years went on, it became something that only happened on the days I was dragged back.  Which yeah, still not ideal, but it was a massive improvement.  The freedom I’d gained for myself allowed me to go to college after I left school, something that had never been in the plan for me – once my mum had gotten me out of mainstream education without arousing too much suspicion, I was going to be trapped in prostitution forever and always.  Having the freedom that came with not living with her meant college, it meant friends, it meant potential relationships, it meant getting a job, it meant a future I’d never had before.  I was still being sold, still being raped, still being abused, still being drugged up, but I had a level of freedom.

I was actually happy with that level of freedom for a year or two and eventually, I started to realise I needed to be away from my mum completely.

I didn’t have many of my memories back then.  Dissociation can be both a wonderful and a terrible thing.  I’d completely blocked out any awareness of the trafficking, of the things she had done to me.  In fact, at that point in my life, the only thing I could clearly remember was being raped and abused by my grandfather and being raped and abused by my step-dad.  I didn’t even have any memory of what was still happening.  Dissociation can work in such a way where it completely splits your life into separate categories; one part of yourself dealing with life and school and work and whatever else, having no real conscious awareness of the atrocities you live through each night, another part of yourself dealing with those rapes and those abuses.  Dissociation meant I had little to no memory of what had been and what was happening to me; all I remembered was two abusers who (I believed) were no longer a part of my life.  However, I had a vague awareness that my mother knew about both of those abusers and that became my reason to avoid her completely.

I did everything I possibly could to cut her off from my life, even though parts of me were constantly and instinctively trying to reach out to her; partly out of fear, partly out of a warped sense of devotion and loyalty.  I was homeless for a good chunk of that time, so moving around constantly came with the territory, but it seemed that no matter what hostel or flat or sofa I ended up in or on, she was able to track me down.  I changed numbers frequently, I would beg and beg and beg that other family members wouldn’t pass it on to her, but no matter what I did, she’d always find me somehow.  But I did my best and I kept my distance and I was actually able to not see her for a good chunk of time, though I was still often being picked up by the men that worked with her and was still speaking to her on the phone whenever my ex bankrupted me and I needed to ask for money, which of course I had to earn.

In March 2011, I got a letter.  My mum didn’t have my number, I only ever rang her and I always made sure it was withheld, writing to me was the only way she had of communicating with me.  I can’t remember exactly what that letter said, but I do remember that she said she was sorry.  Sorry for what Paul had done to me, sorry for what she’d let him do to me, sorry for how bad a mother she’d been, sorry for everything and how she wanted to start again, wanted to meet up, wanted to have a proper relationship.  Asked me to come to her house on the 12th at 3pm.  As soon as I opened and read the letter, I knew I was going.  It was like there was no way I could possibly ignore it, I had to do what she said.

I got there at 2:45, I remember really anxiously checking the phone and the time over and over and over.  I didn’t want to be late, didn’t want to piss her off before I even got the chance to try and fix our relationship.  I equally didn’t want to be early, something I knew would piss her off just as much.  I stayed in a back alley near her house, the same alley I used to hide in when I was a child and far too scared to go home.  I’d always go back though, always.  And this time was no different.

I got to the door at 2:58 and she answered it before I finished knocking.  She came and sat on the sofa with me.  Right at the other end.  Not too close, making me feel safe, not crowded or threatened.  I can’t remember what she said exactly.  She kept apologising for what Paul did to me, apologising for being a bad mum.  Kept saying that she wanted to be a good mum but that I made it so hard, that if I could just do as I was told she knew she could be a good mum.  She talked to me for half an hour, I couldn’t get a word out.  Just as I was summoning the strength to try and talk to her, there was a knock at the door.  I was thinking too much on what to say in response to think of looking to see who it was.  Nobody spoke, but I heard them come inside and I heard the door lock behind them.

I panicked, then and turned around, seeing three men who I knew oh so well.  They were friends of my step-dad, men who had been involved in trafficking me for so many years of my life.  I remember feeling sick straight away, I knew I was in trouble.  I knew I couldn’t get out.  I watched as my mum put the key inside her pocket, watched her as she looked at me and smiled.  I still see that smile.  See it so clearly.  She looked so happy and so excited, like she’d finally won.  That smile makes me sick if I think on it for too long.  So many times I close my eyes and see that smile.  I just want to throw up when I see it.

Everything gets kinda blurry from there.  At the same time it seems to move so, so quickly but so, so slowly too.  I don’t know how, but I somehow went from sitting on the sofa, to lying on the floor, my clothes having been ripped off but somehow not torn.  My glass of water had been knocked over in the process, I could feel the puddle under me.  They took turns raping me while my mum recorded it.  Still, no-one had said a word.  They beat me, still using the same clever ways they’d used my entire life, making sure to aim for the places that no-one else, or at least no-one who’d care, would ever see.  Eventually mum made them stop, came up to me and whispered that this was because I put Paul in prison.

I didn’t care, it didn’t matter why, this was nothing less than I deserved, it had always been what I deserved.  A small part of me protested, I wasn’t the one that had gotten Paul imprisoned.  He was there because he’d raped the wrong girl.  He’d raped someone that mattered.  My case had fallen through completely.

It was her turn to rape me.  She’s been inventive over the years, finding whatever she could to assault me with, but that day she was just looking to punish me and hurt me as much as possible.  She’d raped me with knives before that point, and since, but that didn’t make that instance any less painful and horrific.  It was recorded, in the same way that the other rapes that day had been, I could see the men masturbating out of the corner of my eyes.  I didn’t make a noise.  I didn’t want to piss her off, I didn’t want to move, I didn’t want to make it worse.  I just froze, I let her do it and I got as far away as I could so I wouldn’t make a noise.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, dissociation can truly be a wonderful thing.  I think I blacked out completely, though.  I can’t remember much for a few hours after that and it was dark when I came to.

The rest of the week was a blur.  I know I was kept there for 8 days in total.  I wasn’t allowed food or water or sleep or to use the bathroom until I was given permission.  My mum always had the keys, no-one could come or go without her permission.  One of the men, Martin, who was there that first day and who had trafficked me for many years, the one who had always called me his ‘favourite’ kept coming back day after day.  I don’t know how many times I was raped by both him and my mum (with whatever she could find).  The whole week became a blur, I don’t want to remember.

I do remember one specific point where Martin came back and raped me really viciously.  He put something in my vagina and raped me anally while choking me.  He kept saying ‘I love a girl with something to hold on to’ and ‘I like fucking girls with fat rolls’.  He said something to me which stuck with me ever since.  After he was done, leaving me lying there, he got the keys off of my mum and put them near me.  I was naked and bleeding and hurting and scared.  He challenged me to take the keys and run.  He started laughing then, said ‘you’re so fat, I bet you can’t even actually run.  It’d be funny to see you try.  It’d be funny to see someone so fat run.’  That was about the point where I massively relapsed with my eating disorder.  I swore to myself that I would never, ever be so fat and unfit and vulnerable ever again.

I spent most of that week or so either trapped and bound or being raped or tortured or hurt or beaten.  On the last day, after I’d been alone for a few days with just my mum, she came at me with a knife.  She held it to my throat and said that she could kill me right now if she wanted to.  That she’d never have to worry about my leaving again.  I thought she was going to do it.  I wanted her to do it.  I prayed for her to do it.  It felt like we were there for hours with her holding the knife to my throat.  She didn’t.  She forced me to get dressed then called Martin, got him to drive us both back to my flat.  Dom was out.  She forced a load of pills down my throat and left, I didn’t fight her, I still don’t even really know why she did it.  I ended up being sick and spent the next few days really ill.  I survived it, though, even if it wasn’t what I really wanted at the time.

On the 26th, I had to go to work for the whole weekend.  A residential.  I was sharing a room and I just didn’t sleep at all, I didn’t feel even remotely safe or able even though I was with women I knew and trusted.  I got changed in the dark, super early in the morning so the women around me wouldn’t see my injuries.  My ankle had gotten really hurt at some point.  I was so scared someone would find out why.  So I had to lie.  But lying about injuries was something I’d gotten very, very good at.

After that week, my mum came round to my flat on a regular basis.  Always managed to time it for when Dom was out.  I later found out that they’d arranged for him to be gone, he knew what she was doing to me, knew she was selling me again.  In the November of that year, Paul got out of prison and everything got progressively worse.

From March 2011 till May 2012, my life had become what I had just about managed to drag myself out of when I was 16.  I was being raped on a regular basis.  I was being sold on a regular basis.  I had lost all sense of freedom, all sense of hope, I had lost everything.  I knew it was only a matter of time before I was dragged back permanently and I knew that I would never, ever have as much freedom ever again.  I knew that I would be dragged back and I knew that I would die there.

I was in a stupor most of the time.  Part of me was so, so aware that something was wrong but I couldn’t put my finger on it.  I was dissociating and forgetting almost constantly and living a life of confusion as a result.  I was waking up with injuries I couldn’t remember getting and I couldn’t possibly have done to myself, even during a dissociated bout of self-harm.  I was waking up to find my bin filled with used condoms.  Finding semen all over my bed even though I knew Dom hadn’t been there.  I didn’t know what was happening to me.  I still didn’t clearly know what had happened to me, though I was starting to remember in tiny little pieces.  Older things, not the things that were happening and I was forgetting instantly.  I was remembering being raped by my mother as a child.  I was remembering being trafficked as a child and a teen.  I was remembering a lifetime of abuse and rape, but I couldn’t put that together with the gaps in my memory for the last few days and weeks and months.  My brain couldn’t quite get there and  I was scared, confused, lost and so, so alone.

Except I wasn’t alone, because I was starting to reach out.  The people I worked with, the people around me, the people that cared for me (though I didn’t really believe that at the time) were starting to notice that something really wasn’t OK, they had noticed the massive weight loss, how withdrawn I was, the fact that I was appearing with injuries – broken fingers, broken ribs, a black eye and I was so dissociated and so out of it and so barely aware of what I was doing that I started to tell them some of what was happening.  They offered their help and their support but for a long time I wasn’t able to really accept it.  They said that if and when I was ready, they would help me leave.  But I wasn’t ready, I still didn’t really believe what was happening and I saw no reason to leave.

It wasn’t just that, though.  I didn’t believe I deserved that help.  I saw myself as nothing more than a worthless whore.  I didn’t believe I deserved anything other than what was happening to me.  I couldn’t see how it wasn’t just my fault.  I’m the one that opened that letter, even though I recognised the handwriting.  I’m the one that went to her house.  I’m the one that let it happen.  I’m the one that let her back into my life.  I’m the one that started the process till it got as bad as it did before I left at 16.  I’m the one that had no strength, no willpower, no will to live, no energy to say no to her, no energy to keep the door locked and refusing to let her in.  I was what had caused it all.  But it was getting worse, so much worse and I knew that if it didn’t stop soon it was going to get to the point where I was just not going to survive.

I half made plans with those people so wanting to help.  I looked at flats that they would help pay for.  I let them help me quit uni. as I couldn’t deal any more.  I let them make plans for me, things to distract me and keep me safe through the day.  I let them get me into therapy (the same therapist I’m still seeing now).  I let them do what they could but I wouldn’t make that final step of letting them help me leave, not yet.  I wasn’t ready.

Making those plans ended up being what made me leave, though, in a roundabout way, or at least I think it was.  I’d like to say it was knowing there was a safety net, people that cared and would help me as much as they could, but it wasn’t that at all.  My mum knew something was different about me, I think she could feel her control over me slipping.  I think she knew I was starting to remember and starting to get a clearer picture.  I think she knew I was planning on getting away.

And that was when everything really got worse.

RadSurvivor.

 

Disability, Benefits, Homelessness and a Catch Up

It’s been quite a few months now since I made my last post, life has been, well, kinda all over the place.  But then, if you hadn’t figured it out already, life is kinda all over the place for victims of prostitution.  The mental and physical health conditions that we live with after exiting are numerous, the effects they have are powerful and best of all, they intersect with and play off of each other – one gets worse, the other gets worse which makes another get worse which makes yet another get worse; until you’re left with a big, tangled mess that feels utterly impossible to get out of.

This whole process is exacerbated when something happens in the first place – whether it be something basic and day-to-day or something much bigger, but if something happens to set us off, we just keep spiralling until it either works itself out or we reach such a level of dissociation or numbness we just simply don’t give a shit any more.  I’m starting to reach that level of dissociation and numbness with what’s been happening to me the last few months, now, but then it partly has actually gotten somewhat better with reassurances from those I love.

If you read my blog frequently, you might remember one of my last posts before my hiatus.  It was a post around homelessness and some of my experiences whilst I was homeless as a teenager.  In that post, I expressed a fear of what would happen if the DWP and the Tories finally came for me and the disability benefits I receive as a result of my mental and physical health – I was scared of what so much seemed like the inevitable road from losing my benefits, to homelessness, to being forced back into prostitution just to be able to survive.

It appears I somewhat jinxed myself writing that post because less than a month later, a letter arrived in the post with my ESA50 form.  For those of you that don’t know what that is, it’s a form the DWP sends randomly to people claiming disability benefits to re-assess them.  They’re sent with no warning, no specific reason, no necessity.  They’re random, sent out to catch out the so called ‘benefits cheats’ and they’re fucking devastating and terrifying as well as generally being soul-destroying.

I crashed very quickly after getting the letter.  Slipping into a severe state of depression and anxiety.  I stopped being able to eat or sleep; even when I could manage to eat it made little difference because I was throwing up several times a day from the anxiety; even when I could manage to sleep, it didn’t really matter as I was having so many nightmares I was unable to sleep properly.  My immune system took a battering with the stress and within a few months I managed to get two bouts of the flu, a chest infection and norovirus as well as an increase in my general level of un-wellness – allergies, migraines, joint pain, normal headaches etc.  To top it all off, my C-PTSD got so much worse, I was having so many more flashbacks and to put it lightly, everything was just terrible.

To explain it mentally and emotionally is hard.  I was worrying about and fearing so many different things at once; the form and the letter and the whole situation plus the potential futures it might result in did a serious number on me.  The futures aspect is fairly self-evident – I was terrified of losing my income, becoming homeless and being forced back into prostitution, but it was also so much more than that.  I was given a safety net; told by the woman I love, the woman I am planning on moving in with later this year anyway, that if it came to it, I could stay with her and she’d look after me.

You’d think the offer of such a safety net (and the knowledge that friends would offer the same if it came to it) would be amazing, but there were points where I genuinely believed that living on the streets and being exploited were actually the better options.  This might be difficult to explain, if you’ve never been in a situation where your trust and dependency on someone has left you at serious risk then you’ll never be able to fully understand it.  I’ve been independent for more than a decade, now, since I was 16.  I’ve lived with abusive partners who have stolen from me and abused me and exploited me, but I’ve never depended on them – I’ve always been the ‘breadwinner’, always the one working and earning.  If I was to ever have left them (which I clearly eventually did) I was the one that was going to be financially OK (even if they had robbed me blind and left me with lots of debt), I was the one with the income.

Since the age of 16, I have never allowed myself to financially or for much of anything depend on another person.  I’ve been in relationships with them, lived with abusive men, been exploited and manipulated but I’ve never actually depended or relied upon another person.  Tenancies have always been in my name, I’ve always been the one with the income (even if it has at times only been benefits) or at least not the one without an income, I’ve never emotionally depended on another person for my own survival.  Until recently, I’ve never really even trusted another person.

To put myself in a situation where I completely relied and depended on another person, especially in terms of money and housing was terrifying.  She’s my girlfriend and I trust her more than anyone and we are intending on moving in together, but whilst I would only be contributing a pittance of benefits, at least I would be contributing.  If I was just living with her, relying on her financially, that would be unthinkable, the thought was so incredibly terrifying to me.  I was so scared of allowing myself to be that vulnerable, to be at risk of homelessness (again) after a single argument, to have my entire life in someone else’s hands.

I know this seems awful, I know if there’s anyone I can trust, it’s my girlfriend, but I really just couldn’t get myself to the point where I could trust it, where I could let myself be that vulnerable and that dependent on another person.

I’ve gotten past that, now, or mostly anyway.  I still have reservations in terms of the strain that it would put on our relationship if the worst happens and I lose my benefits, but I know that I could accept her offer of a safety net if I need to.  I trust her enough to accept that offer.

The form itself sent me completely spiralling in a different direction; in fact, it sent me spiralling in two opposite directions all at once.  This isn’t just me, this is the typical response to these forms that I’ve seen from many other disabled people.  You see the form has a magic ability to make you feel both like you’re a complete and utter fraud who isn’t disabled at all and just swindling the system and like you’re a useless piece of shit who can’t do anything without help.  It both makes you feel as if you’re not really disabled while simultaneously making you feel the full weight and extent and limitations of your disabilities.

The system itself is set up so disabled people are no longer disabled, set up in a way so that as many people as possible get refused benefits.  A few years ago, one of the questions was along the lines of ‘can you manage 12 stairs?’, 12 stairs being a normal flight of stairs in a house that many people with various disabilities struggle with, now the question is ‘can you manage 2 stairs?’.  How does that even make a difference, really?  A person might be able to handle 2 stairs, but if they can’t handle 12 that still means they can’t make it to the top floor of their house, still means they can’t make it to the bathroom without support, still means they can’t live life without constant supervision, but that’s all OK, because they can handle 2 stairs.  I’m one of those people that falls in the gap.  My knees are screwed from past trauma and resulting injuries and weakness.  I can handle 2 stairs, most of the time, though there may be times where they give out or lock or dislocate, but when we reach 12 stairs I often wobble, fall into the side of the wall, my knees give out and I’m generally just a bit wobbly and shaky and definitely not going to be winning any races.  But most of the time I can handle 2 stairs, so not a problem.

The questions are dehumanising, unclear and unfair.  You fill in the form feeling like you’re a fraud, like you are one of those ‘benefit scroungers’, like you’re going to get caught out at any moment.  But on the other hand, it leaves you with a stark reality of your life when you start ticking the questions off.  If they’re designed to be almost impossible to successfully get through, then how can you be ticking off quite so many boxes?  Realising just how much you’re unable to do alone, just how much your life is affected by your disabilities can be so soul destroying, can leave you feeling so useless and so worthless – which are feelings we already have an abundance of after being trafficked and prostituted.

Realising that actually, I can’t always pick up heavier things with my hands without randomly losing grip (nerve damage); that I can’t walk from here to the tram stop, just over 100 meters without being in a massive amount of pain and so completely exhausted I have to sit down if I can; that I haven’t been outside by myself more than 3-4 times in the last few months because I’ve been that terrified; that I dissociate not just now and then but almost every single day I spend in my own head, barely aware of what’s happening around me; that I’m still a massive risk to myself, that suicidal ideation crosses my mind every single day and whilst I know I won’t act on it, the thoughts are still there as are the self-harm related thoughts – every time I cross the road I think how easily I just could, every time I chop vegetables I think how easy it could be, every time I light a cig. how easy it’d be.  Every aspect of my life, the ones above and so many others, where I had briefly acknowledged that I was struggling and maybe slightly disabled, I realised the full extent.  I realised that these were things that I struggled with on a constant and permanent basis, not just one-offs.  I realised that I hadn’t had a single moment where I hadn’t at least had a background of slight anxiety in my entire life.  I realised that I’ve never been fully connected to my body and my surroundings, that I’m always at least partly dissociated.  I realised that I hadn’t come anywhere close to ‘recovering’, that ED thoughts plagued me on a daily basis and I’m constantly thinking how easy it would be to just fast, to just skip this meal, to just start losing weight again.  I realised that my life is a complete fucking mess and that I’m really, really not well and definitely not able to work.

The combination of thinking that I’m a fraud and the true extent of my disabilities and the lingering threat of losing my income, potential homelessness and the vulnerabilities that brings all resulted in the same thing – unmanageable levels of worthlessness and uselessness, overwhelming depression and anxiety, practically giving up on caring for myself and such an increase in my suicidal ideation.  I stopped sleeping, barely ate, stopped managing my home, stopped leaving my home, practically quit therapy and healing and recovery, took a massive hit to my immune system and was throwing up daily from the anxiety.

I’m finally starting to get past that, a little, and starting to be able to put my life back together but I know that I’m going to spend however long it takes living in fear of that brown envelope and I know that when it arrives, I’m probably just going to end up right back where I started with the first envelope.

RadSurvivor.