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.

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Loss of Safety

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RadSurvivor.