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.