Tearing Myself Apart

I’m so tired.  I’m so tired of having to tear myself apart again and again just to be able to qualify for things that I (at least used to) believe I deserve.  I just want a break, more than anything, I just want someone, somewhere to give me a break and not to require that I tear myself apart to get it.

This has mostly been prompted by Student Finance, but the PIP stuff definitely plays a role here.  Both require me to go into far too much detail, painful detail, about my past to deem me eligible or worthy or deserving.

Now, it’s not that I expect to be handed something for nothing, but I wish the systems just had a little more breathing room sometimes.  I really, truly believe(d) that I deserve a second chance at university.  I had so much working against me the first time around (abusive relationship, trafficking, homelessness, mental health stuff, massive amounts of debt from financial abuse and working several part time jobs just to name a few) and I really just want and need a break.

Student Finance doesn’t work like that, though.  I get given a slight break in the fact that not completing my third year last time around works in my favour and assuming my ‘Compelling Personal Reasons’ are accepted, then it’ll go through giving me two years of tuition fee funding including the free year that I have (because all students get four years).  But the fact that I went through hell and forced myself to finish my second year counts against me.  It doesn’t matter that I struggled, it doesn’t matter that I was dealing with significantly more shit than the average student, none of it matters because I scraped through and finished the year.

I know, this is sounding seriously ‘woe is me’.  But like, objectively, I did go through more shit than most and it was a constant battle to even just stay alive, never mind complete my first attempt at uni.

I just want a second chance, and there is a vague hope of that, I can appeal the decision that I know Student Finance will make and hope that they grant me ‘Compelling Personal Reasons’ for both my second and my third years considering my circumstances.

But to do that, to reach that point, I need to tear myself apart again.

They’re not gonna accept a casual letter saying it was hard, they’re not gonna accept a brief letter saying it was hard from an old support worker or my therapist.  They want details.  They want me to go so in depth that they can’t possibly deny that I had shit going on.

And it hurts.  Imagine having to go over and over and over and over the worst day of your life, to complete strangers.  It leaves you feeling so incredibly vulnerable and exposed; especially when copious amounts of shame are bundled in there too, which it always is when trauma is involved, no matter how logically you know the shame is ‘theirs’ and not yours.

It really does feel like you’re tearing yourself apart, over and over again, just so you can put yourself back together.  What kinda system requires that you have to destroy yourself and keep going backwards just so you can go forwards?

It’s so soul-destroying and re-traumatising.  I don’t want to have to keep going over the details of my trafficking and abusive relationships and experiences of homelessness and whatever fucking else they wanna drag out of me.  At least, not when I don’t specifically choose to.  Writing this blog is different, therapy is different, I’m choosing to expose myself, make myself vulnerable but when I have to fill out forms and go into so much detail that I don’t want to share is just… it’s not my choice, I don’t want to have to keep doing this over and over again.

I’ve been working so hard to get myself out of these shitty systems.  To be well enough to work, to be well enough to not need benefits any more.  But to even vaguely get out of this system I have to make myself worse again and again just to qualify for help, a second chance, a break, just to be deemed worthy and deserving.

If the appeal doesn’t go through, I’m out of options.  Student Finance will only pay tuition for my second and third years which means I need to somehow find £9250 to be able to even start.  Because exited women living off of disability benefits just have £9250 lying around?

Like I said, I don’t expect to be handed something for nothing (though I am vehemently against tuition fees, universities making a massive profit and the fucking Tories screwing everything up even more), but a bit of compassion would be so welcome right now.  I’ve had some good, sympathetic Student Finance advisers over the phone, but they can’t change the rules and the rules as they are say that I can’t start uni. without coughing up £9250.  My best hope is the appeal process where they can break their own rules, but then, we’re back to me tearing myself apart and putting myself through hell, making myself feel so vulnerable and exposed.

I’ve spent my entire life feeling vulnerable and exposed, not even just feeling it, I was always just so vulnerable and exposed.  Feeling that is never comfortable, but feeling it again, after spending your entire life feeling like that is just so triggering.  Flashbacks can be triggered by emotions just as much as they can be triggered by physical objects or experiences.  Feeling something that you felt in the midst of trauma again just takes you back to that point of trauma and in my case in seems especially so when you’re forced into that position by someone or something else and it’s not just a natural or accidental thing.

I don’t know what I even want to happen here; I know that they can’t just hand me the money, I know that it requires me proving that I deserve a second chance.  I just wish it wasn’t all so cruel.  I wish this wasn’t going to be a consistent fact of my life.  I hope that once I’m off the benefits and once I’ve secured myself tuition fee loans that I won’t have to do this any more, I can’t imagine any other system or part of my life where it’ll be required that I go into so much detail about my rapes and abusive relationships and trafficking, but I’m just so scared this is going to be a constant.  I’m so tired and I just can’t keep tearing myself apart like this.

Being told over and over that I don’t deserve help, don’t deserve support, don’t deserve a measly fucking break is just so painful.  I spent basically my whole life being told that I’ll amount to nothing more than a ‘whore’ and being basically told the same thing again and again just ends up being so painful.  And when you reach that level of pain, it’s hard not to think that maybe they were just all right.

I think, more than anything, I just hate how much of an impact they’ve had on my life.  I hate knowing that none of them will ever have to tear themselves apart like this.  The biggest reason university was so hard for me the first time around was Dom.  Trying to survive an abusive relationship (particularly one in which you are also being trafficked) is almost impossible as it is, trying to do it and also focus enough and find the time and energy to write essays is even more impossible.

And maybe this is just all my fault, maybe I should never have even attempted uni. the first time around.  But it was the only escape I had, it was the only chance I had.  I had no real work history at that point (thanks trafficking) and I was destined to either do menial work and barely survive, especially considering all the mental health conditions I was fighting – and struggling even more than I did considering Dom liked to nick every penny I earned.  Going to university and getting a qualification was my only route out of the general working class trap of menial work and the addition of abusive, thieving dickbags.  It was also my only escape from him most of the time; he wanted me in the house consistently, he didn’t work and didn’t like the idea of me working (barring ‘working’ of course), at the age of 19 he was already an adept benefits scrounger (he claimed he was a carer despite never going anywhere near his step-dad) so was home all the time himself and had no qualms about potentially dragging me down with him; my only way to be out of the house, away from him, the only way I could negotiate it was uni.  I don’t know why he let that slide, but he did.  Maybe it was the ‘free’ money.

But, anyway, he’s not gonna have to deal with any of this shite.  He’s never gonna have to beg, expose himself, make himself vulnerable, tear himself apart again and again.  He’s never gonna be in the position I am now.  He’s never going to suffer from what he did.  And I am, again and again, it’s gonna come back and fuck with my life somehow; whether that’s flashbacks, a bad credit score because he fucked me over so many times, fucking up my chances at uni., a crash in my mental health, health problems from old injuries, my ability to even fucking vote safely etc. etc.  The life-long consequences of domestic abuse are never ending, but only for me/us, never for him/them.  Even if I was to report him to the police and assuming the police and the CPS actually take my case seriously (haha!), he’ll face what?  A few measly years in prison at most?  Not exactly a life-time of consequences.

I just hate it.  I hate that I have to keep tearing myself apart and I hate knowing they don’t have to do any of this shit.  I hate knowing that my life was left in pieces and that it’s my responsibility and my responsibility alone to try and put it together.  I hate knowing that I’m always going to be the one facing the consequences, big or small.  I hate knowing that they’re living the good life out there somewhere, high and dry and little to no consequences ever coming their way.

RS.

A Fresh Start

I am ready to have the upcoming
year bring me new life.

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

This is another one of those kinda things that I just scorn at.  I don’t do self-care, I don’t do mindfulness, I don’t do hope, I don’t do future.

The thing is, when you spend your life being prostituted, abused, raped, used, manipulated, controlled; when nothing is yours, when you have no choices, no freedom, no rights, then you kinda give up on the whole ‘future’ thing.

I spent my life barely expecting to see the next sun rise, never mind the next month or the next birthday or the new year.  I didn’t plan any further ahead than I had to.  When I was forced to plan further ahead, I either made it up, not holding on to any real expectations or I just nodded along, not really expecting to be here when the time came, not really daring to hope.  I knew that at any moment I could come across an extra violent client, that my mother could completely lose control, that Dom would kill me, that I’d just give up, that I’d just become another statistic.  I never expected to see the next day, so I never planned any further ahead.

I lived my life in a way that reflected that, even after I exited.  I made sure that my flat was reasonably clean, that I never owned too many things, so once I was gone, there wouldn’t be too much for others to handle.  I always had my important paperwork organised so, again, it wouldn’t be too much for others to handle.  I made sure I always had a bag packed, ready to go, either back home or to just up and leave here if I needed to.  I had the number for the Cat Protection League in my phone, so I could ensure my cat was taken care of.  I always had a stash of pills on hand so I could check out any time I needed.  I’ve nearly always lived in a way so that if I don’t see that next sun rise, I’d never be too much hassle to anyone else.

I never made New Year’s Resolutions.  I never made plans for my birthday.  I never actively planned future career choices.  I refused to play ‘in five years time…’ style games.  I refused to engage with my therapist when she tried to get me to plan for the future.

It’s just not really a skill I have.  It’s an alien concept to me.  So often, it really does just feel like I come from an entirely different world; a world where futures don’t exist, a world where career options don’t exist, a world where needs and wants don’t exist and when it comes to engaging with this world I just feel lost and confused.  Plan for the future?  Why the fuck would I do that?  I’m probably going to die today.  It doesn’t matter anyway, this is all I’m ever gonna be.  I’m never getting out of here, so what’s the point?

I’m still slightly bemused each time I see the sun rise; even more bemused when I see a New Year come in or I reach another birthday.  I don’t quite understand how I got as old as I am.  I should have died by now.  Statistically I shouldn’t be alive.  Medically I shouldn’t be alive (I have technically died before now).  I just shouldn’t have made it this far and it’s always a little bewildering when I realise I have.  I’ve been free for nearly four years and I’m still utterly bewildered when that sun rises.  I’m still so surprised that I’ve somehow managed to survive another day.

So yeah, when it comes to hopeful little messages like this one, it’s hard to just not laugh.  A year?  An entire year?  Ha, like I’ll make it that far.

But then, I guess things are different now.  There’s no more pimps.  No more punters.  No more abusive boyfriends beating the crap out of me each day.  There’s just me.  And my girlfriend.  And my cat.  And the biggest risk out of those is, well, me.  (Though, the cat does have a tendency to try and trip me up!) 

My life has changed a lot, recently.  There’s the obvious, having escaped prostitution and escaped Dom, but it’s changed in so many other ways, too.  I built closer and stronger connections with my friends, I made new friends and allies, connected with my sisters – both survivor sisters and not, engaged more and more with radical feminist theory, started to find some level of joy in simple things, started a really healthy and positive relationship.  And all those changes have meant that, for once, I am actually planning for the future.  At least for the short-term.  I know where I want to move to.  I know what I want to go back to Uni. to study.  I know who I want to be with.

If I’m being honest, I think I’ve already had my ‘fresh start’.  It started the moment I decided to exit and simultaneously get away from Dom.  But I was so trapped in flashbacks and memories and trauma and pain that I could barely have that real ‘fresh start’.  I was stuck in a limbo.  No longer being prostituted or beaten or abused, but not healing or moving forwards, either.  I was just stuck in a limbo.  Constantly teetering on that edge.  Constantly on the verge of returning to my own life, because whilst it might have been so horrific, beyond what words can describe, it was at least something I knew.  And this world?  This isn’t something I know.  I understand the language of abuse and threats and violence and trauma.  I don’t understand the languages of love and compassion and care and freedom.  But I’m learning.  Good Goddess, I’m learning.

It’s only really been the last year or so that I’ve been able to make any real changes at all, that I’ve really had something that resembled a ‘fresh start’, that things have actually been getting better for me.  I can’t really remember what it was that changed.  I know I was working on an incredibly hard memory; a memory that left me with so much guilt and shame.  A memory I couldn’t deal with and I was more than prepared to just kill myself over it.  As far as I know, the people around me had no idea how badly I was doing.  I was hiding my suicidal ideation from everyone.  It was so far past suicidal ideation.

I don’t know what got me out of that.  I honestly don’t.  I somehow managed to forgive myself for Nicky’s death, which is surprising considering I still blame myself so, so much.  I at least stopped holding myself quite so accountable.  Honestly, I don’t even know, I don’t know what got me out of it.

But things changed quickly once I was out of it.  I was really engaging in therapy, in healing work.  I was building more and more connections.  Making new friends; friends who would persuade me to stretch out even further and build even more connections.  I started a relationship (which is something that I never, never would have been able to do before).  I even started doing things like travelling.  Meeting up with large groups of people.  Going away for the weekend with people I barely knew.

I already had my new start.  Whilst last year was filled with terrible, terrible things.  With so much pain.  So many flashbacks.  Even though I barely even made it through that year, considering how close I was to either killing myself or going back.  Despite everything, last year was quite possibly the best year of my life.  (Holy fuck, I have low standards.)

I still might not really believe in the concept of ‘futures’, but I think I might actually kinda have hope, this year.

Who’d’ve thought it possible?

RadSurvivor.

Your Family Isn’t Good For You – Part 1

I’m going to be on guard when he says
he’s trashing my family to ‘help’ me.

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

For a while, I didn’t really have an idea what to write when it came to this entry.  I am very aware of the tactics that abusers use; isolating you from your family and friends so you have no real support network, no strength and making his abuse easier.  But frankly, Dom wasn’t wrong when it came to criticising my family – they are the people that trafficked me, after all.

But even if it was a good idea to be away from my family, the reasons he tried to distance me from them were not in my interest, they were only in his.

He always made it sound like it was for my own good, which yes, it was, but that wasn’t his motivation, it was never his motivation.  He didn’t give a shit about me, he didn’t give a shit about my well-being, about the fact I was being trafficked and abused, about the way they treated me, he only cared about himself and my being isolated, about my not belonging to anyone other than him.

I had to be his.  I had to belong to him and only him and he knew that as long as my family were around that they would always have the most control over me; that I had been so conditioned and groomed and abused that I would always refer to them before him.  He approved of their abuse of me, I knew that, especially as it made me more pliable, more vulnerable, easier to abuse and manipulate without fighting.  I know that’s exactly the reason why he picked me, because I had been severely abused before, because he could get more violent more quickly without facing resistance.  But whilst he admired and appreciated the abuse from my family, he still wanted me to be his.

When I was nineteen, I was pressured by numerous people to press charges against my mum’s boyfriend, but the majority of that pressure came from Dom.  He repeatedly told me it was the right thing to do, told me I needed to do it, told me he’d stand by me no matter, told me I needed to get out from under his control (ha), repeatedly guilted me, playing on the one thing he knew would push me into doing it – that if Paul abused other girls it’d be on me (this was a message repeated to me by numerous people – including the police).  All the pressure meant I ended up doing it, I ended up pressing charges, but it was mostly Dom’s influence that got me there because there was no way I was doing it without interpersonal support, even if it did come from an equally abusive man.  I don’t want go into all the details of that case, that’s definitely another post, but Dom spent that entire time trying to chip away the control and gas lighting that Paul had over me and replacing it with his own.

He repeatedly told me he’d never treat me like that, that I didn’t deserve to be treated like that, that I deserved to be away from my family.  And I believed him, believed that for the first time someone was actually on my side, completely unable to recognise that he only wanted to take that control for himself, completely unable to recognise that he was treating me like that.  As I’ve said in other posts, I never loved him nor wanted to be in a relationship with him, but during those months, he was my main support; I became incredibly dependent on him and really trusted him and needed him.

I was deliberately ignoring the things he was doing to hurt me.  I ignored the beatings, the rapes, the criticisms, the violent words.  I ignored every time he called me pathetic and stupid when the pressure of the case got so much I ended up self-harming.  I ignored the times he told me I must be lying about Paul.  I ignored the times he said I was pathetic for letting it all affect me so much.  I ignored the times he poked holes in my memories, making me doubt myself and the abuse.  I ignored the times he took advantage of me, raped me, whenever my mental health spiralled because of the case – the times he raped me when I was too drunk to know my own name, the times I passed out from drinking, the times I was too dissociated to know what was going on, the times I was so stuck in flashbacks and so triggered and not wanting to be touched at all and he forced me anyway.

All I could see were the times he was ‘there for me’.  The times he came with me to give my video statement.  The times he sat with me in hospital so they could stitch me up once again.  The times he rang into college for me because I was too ill to go in, too ill to call in myself.  The times he cooked for me and cleaned for me and cared for me when I was too ill to even move.  All I could see was the support that he gave me throughout the case – completely unaware that he didn’t care about me, didn’t care about the case, didn’t care about my well-being, was only seeking the ways to gain more control over me.

Even whilst writing this, I’m doubting myself.  Maybe he really was just a good guy, maybe he really was just trying to help me?  How dare I accuse him of being abusive and having ulterior motives when he put so much effort into supporting me during those months?  What if I’m wrong?  What if he genuinely just wanted to help me?

Logically, I know I’m not wrong.  I know he only helped me so he could transfer that control over to himself.  I know he wasn’t helping me cut off my family, press charges, gain freedom for me.  He didn’t want me free, he just wanted to secure his ownership over me and he knew he’d never have full ownership over me when my family still had so much control, so much prominence over my life.

I know how that can seem odd to others, maybe hearing it from another perspective is what’s making me doubt it myself.  I know other survivors will recognise and understand the two crazy sides of him, though, can understand exactly how this worked.  Abusers don’t work with much logic; they work in a way that is beneficial to them, that leaves their victims feeling the most crazy and the most dependent.  Stopping someone else being abusive to me, pushing me to cut ties with my abusive family might sound great on paper, it might make him sound like an amazing guy, but his intention was to never give me freedom, it was to take control himself.  If my family hadn’t actually been abusive, he would have found some other way to try and force me to cut contact with them, it’s just the way abusers work.  Dom just had a legitimate reason to get me to cut contact with them.

After that police case was dropped, after Paul violently raped me in retribution, all of Dom’s care, all of his support disappeared instantly.  He accused me of ‘cheating on him’.  Said I was a whore and I obviously wanted it anyway.  That I was lying about Paul ever having had raped me and that I was the one that sought it out, that I was in a relationship with him and always had been.  The next day, I attempted suicide but was stopped.  Dom got angry at me because I didn’t ring him first, said how worried and concerned he was, how hurt he was that I didn’t reach out to him when he loved me so much.  The entire time I was in the hospital and then recovering in my room at the hostel, he was texting me, calling me, constantly.  Then he switched violently, called me an attention seeking little bitch and went on again about how bad my family was for me.  That I only did it because I felt so disgusted with myself for having sex with my own family again.  Those following days were filled with him jumping from one extreme to the other.  Caring and loving and concerned.  Violent and abusive and criticising.  His overall message, throughout, was that I couldn’t ever contact my family again – that I’d fucked up so much that none of them would ever want anything to do with me.  That he was all I had left.

There were, however, family members who were ‘nice’ to me, or at least appeared to be and for a long time I would have argued that they were absolutely not abusive and separate from the others.  I now know that’s wrong and that they were equally abusive albeit in different way, but at the time, I considered them to be safe, amazing people, people I actually wanted a connection with, people who I saw as a support system.

These people, mostly, were my dad (at least, I always assumed him to be my father and he thought he was my father), my half brother (although a child, he gave me a lot of emotional strength and support) and my grandma and by extension her new husband.

Dom did everything he could to try and cut my ties with those people, too.  In hindsight, I needed to cut contact with them long before I did, but once again, Dom’s motivations were not for my benefit, they were for his.  It was not something I wanted.  I believed them to be the only family I had left after mostly cutting ties with my mother and her boyfriend, after my granddad/father had finally dropped dead, after mostly cutting ties with my sister and I didn’t want to lose those last connections with my family, regardless as to whether or not they were good for me.

Dom was constantly criticising them, pointing out every little thing they did and often twisting it.  He repeatedly said it was for my own good.  He’d make it impossible for me to see them.  Insist we have to do something else on the days I agreed to meet them.  Insist on coming with me whenever I saw them.  I didn’t see any of my family alone for all of those five years – which ironically possibly worked out for me, it was the most peace I ever got because both Dom, my dad, his girlfriend and my grandma completely toned down their behaviours towards me around one another.  But again, that wasn’t Dom’s intention, his intention was to make sure I didn’t say anything, that I didn’t try and reach out to them.

Always, always, always it was for my own good.  ‘They’re just going to put you down, they’re just going to criticise you.  You do so much better when you’re not around them.  They just want to control you.  My family would never do that.  They don’t want you to be happy.  They don’t support you – I do.  You’re going to turn into them if you keep spending so much time with them.  You’re better off without them.  You only need me.’

He was trying to drive a wedge between me and my family and it was absolutely a wedge that needed to be there, which makes this even harder to process.  I needed to be away from my family.  They weren’t safe for me.  They were awful to me.  And I did need to cut off those ties.  Which makes it so much harder to view him in a bad light because ultimately, it was for my own good.  But he didn’t have my ‘own good’ at heart, he never did.  He drove a wedge between myself and my family for his own intentions.  To secure control over me and to ensure no-one could interfere with that – either by splitting us up or by securing control over me themselves.  My mind, my trust, my compliance, my submission was a battlefield.  So many people wanted it, so many people never wanted me to have it myself – I didn’t even know it was something I could have myself.  Dom just wanted to take it for himself; he never wanted to free me from my family.

RadSurvivor.

I Admire You

I’m still here; I’m still on my feet.  I will keep moving
until I find the freedom and the peace I deserve.

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

Being nice to myself, self-care, taking care of myself, being my own best friend, whatever you wanna call it, is definitely not one of my skills.  Self-hating, self-doubting, low self esteem, low aspirations, low sense of self worth are the tool marks of prostituted womyn, of abused womyn.  Trying to regain those skills, to find some sense of positivity is much easier said than done.

This is true for any womon, we’re all socialised in a way where we’re seen as less than, but womyn who are abused and raped and bullied by violent men are inevitably going to face extra challenges when it comes to trying to regain that sense of self-worth.

I’m no exception to that.  I’ve spent my life being told that I’d never be worth anything more than a whore; to simply be reduced to my body and what men could do to it.  Even if I wasn’t a whore, the best I could hope for would be a man deciding to marry me (in my case it was supposed to be my mum’s boyfriend).  I was never meant for anything more.

Even when I partially escaped prostitution, I was trapped in abusive relationships and any sense of worth I had was made in relation to them.  I wasn’t worth anything barring the status that they gave me.  I wasn’t worth anything except in light of my being their ‘property’.  On my own I had no worth and Dom made damn sure to destroy any sense of worth I had left, which, after a lifetime of being prostituted, wasn’t much to start with.

So when it comes to healing exercises, healing wisdom, whatever, like this, I always struggle.  I’m always tempted to just turn the page.  I still don’t consider myself to be worth anything.  I balk at compliments.  I dismiss anything positive said about me in any light.  I massively struggle with saying anything positive about myself; I’m left feeling arrogant, disgusting, up my own arse.  So reading this was difficult, finding truth in this was difficult.  Or at least, finding the truth in this for myself was difficult.  And it wasn’t even that much of an in your face, you’re awesome kind of message.

But you see, we can be kinda stubborn.  We don’t mean to be, not really.  We don’t mean to throw your compliments and kind words back in your face, actually, we tend to really, really appreciate them and they’re so welcomed in the midst of all of our own self-hatred and the hatred that’s been spewed at us for the majority of our lives, but those words, even coming from those people that we trust and love are still just so hard to believe.  How are we supposed to believe the minority of people who tell us we are worth so much when for the majority of our lives we’ve been told we’re worth so little?  How are we supposed to see value in ourselves when seeing ourselves as worthless and as nothing is exactly what kept us alive?

Any time I seemed to place any kind of value on myself whilst in that relationship, Dom reacted badly.  If I was proud of myself for doing well on a uni. essay, I was an arrogant little bitch, I thought I was better than him, I was rubbing it in his face.  Whenever I managed to get a new job, he’d say I was deliberately making a point, that I was saying he was useless and lazy and wasn’t pulling his weight.  Whenever I slightly liked my own body, he’d tear me apart, again say I thought I was better than him.  If I placed any value on myself, it made him angry, gave him an excuse to tear me apart and prove to me once again what I was really worth and what I really deserved.  My placing value in myself meant that I could potentially leave him; if I feel so worthless and so useless and he ‘loves’ me anyway, then I best stay with what little I have, right?  Because I’m never gonna have anything better, I’m never gonna be worth anything more.

One of the main messages in the book was that your partner, or ex-partner in my case, is the absolute last person you should trust and believe when it comes to talking about who and what you are; what you’re capable of, what you’re worth, what you deserve.

I remember the way Dom used to see me, what he thought of me, so, so clearly.  Those words still go round and round my head and shifting them is nearly impossible.  I’m working on it, of course I am, but I still can’t help thinking that actually, maybe, he was right.  Maybe I really am just that useless, just that worthless, just that stupid, maybe I really just didn’t deserve anything other than him?

I know I’m wrong, now.  (Sort of, anyway, I’m probably gonna go back into my self-hating spiral at any moment).  I was actually talking to my girlfriend whilst writing this post and her words actually got through to me.  More so than the words in the book did.  Having a real life person, a person who has shown me time and time again that she cares about me, that she values me, that she loves me, tell me just how much I’m really worth, tell me just how amazing and strong and intelligent I am registered a little more with me than a book ever can.  It registered in a way that meant that I could maybe, even if only slightly, believe that I am worth more, that I do deserve more.  That I deserve more than to be in an abusive relationship.  That I deserve more than to be prostituted.

Now that I’m in a slightly better mood than what I was when I started writing this post, the words in the book are even starting to seep in a little more.  I know why he said what he did to me, why he viewed me in the way that he did.  The more he tore me down, the weaker I got, the weaker I got, the more power and control he had over me.  How can I trust the word of a man who ultimately sought out to only hurt me, destroy me and gain control over me?  How can I trust what he says about me to ever be true?

I know part of the reason why I trusted it, because I valued myself so little long before I met him; because I’d spent my entire life hearing the same things repeated to me over and over and over.  Nobody (barring my ex-girlfriend when I was much younger) had ever told me they’d loved me, ever told me I was worth more, ever told me I could have aspirations, ever told me I was anything.  I’d had the same messages repeated over and over and over; that I was useless and that I was worthless.  That I would never be anything other than a whore, that that was where my only skills and strengths lay.

I know not to trust anything he said, not to believe it, that I should be doubting it and seeing the exact opposite in myself, but it’s honestly not as simple at that.  Those words stick, they stick for a long time, especially when they’ve been reinforced over and over and over again.

I barely see my own strength.  I barely see any sense of deserving anything better.  I barely see my own resourcefulness or resilience.

On some level, I know they’re there or I never would have left.  I never would have left those abusive relationships.  I never would have left prostitution.  I know that I didn’t fully believe his lies, if I had then again, I never would have left.  But I can’t believe in my own strengths fully, not yet.

If nothing else, though, I know that I can admit to at least part of the quote that this post starts with.  ‘I’m still here; I’m still on my feet.’  Or just about at least, I’m struggling, of course I’m struggling, with such a history of trauma how could I not be struggling, but I am still here, I am still trying, I am still fighting.  I might not believe I deserve that peace and that freedom, but I have it, at least physically and I’m working on the mental aspects.  I might not believe I deserve it, but for the first time in my life, I actually want it and I’m gonna fight for it.

RadSurvivor.

Coming to Terms with How Two-Sided He is

My feelings about him are a jumble,
and I need people in my life who can let me
feel all the different emotions I have.

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

This is probably one of the hardest topics I’ve had to write about in regards to Dom, so far, even more so than my fears that I maybe really was the abusive one within the ‘relationship’.  It’s one that I’d do anything to deny.

But sometimes, sometimes I actually liked him as a person.

I never loved him nor wanted to be in a ‘relationship’ with him, I know that, but there were times where I almost valued him as a friend.  He was intelligent, we had some similar interests, there were times where we were able to laugh together and spend at least neutral, if not good, time together.  There were times where he could be genuinely kind to me, or at least he seemed to be.

It was quite likely that I was doing anything I could to see some kind of good in him; it made the abuse more bearable, it made it easier to blame myself because he wasn’t truly like that, at least not all the time.  Though, at the same time, it was fucking crazy making.

Most violent males quite often appear to be anything but, at least to people on the outside.  I guess I was slightly lucky in that most people seemed to instinctively dislike Dom upon first meeting him, though with time they’d slowly fall in love with him, slowly see the charm and the sociability that he had underneath.  At first, though, that just wasn’t there.  Most people found him arrogant, unlike-able, weird and off putting as well as overly friendly and overly demanding of other people’s time.

I remember our first Philosophy lesson, the day I first met him, September 2006.  It was like every womon there had some kind of natural instinct to stay away from him, I saw looks as he sat next to them and they’d lie, saying they’d saved the seat for a friend.  He worked his way round the room, I trusted my own instincts and the instincts of the other womyn in the class and hoped he wouldn’t come near me.  I thought I was OK, I’d sat next to a womon on the end of a row, he couldn’t sit next to me.  But he decided to pull a chair over and sit on the edge of my table, uncomfortably invading my space.  Already a survivor, I nowhere near had the confidence to tell a man to leave me alone, so I tolerated him being there.  The womon next to me, uncomfortable with him being there, turned away and focused on the womon the other side of her, leaving me with only him for company.  I notice, looking back, he never once made an effort to socialise with the other males in the class, he focused solely on the womyn.

I should have trusted my first instincts from that first Philosophy lesson.  I should have trusted the instincts of my sisters.  I should have at least understood what kind of obnoxious, arrogant little shits of men apply to do Philosophy A-Level.  And he really was.  He automatically considered himself to be more intelligent than everyone else; consistently arguing and debating with everyone about everything, including our newly qualified female tutor who he obviously thought he had more power than.  I found him incredibly distasteful and a horrible person and I know I wasn’t alone.  I doubted myself, though, thought I was being harsh.  Figured everyone deserved a chance and he was probably just nervous with it being his first day of college.  Tolerating him and giving him that chance was probably the biggest mistake I ever made.  And it’s not one I’ll make again.  Men are not welcome in my life, in any capacity and I’ll certainly never be giving them second chances.

Most people responded the same as me, though.  Hated him and found him distasteful and off-putting at first, but later found a somewhat likeable person underneath.  Someone intelligent and with a sense of humour, someone who could be genuinely kind and charming, someone who had all the right leftist dudebro language to at least briefly believe he was a good person.  He was a self-proclaimed ‘feminist’, he thought homophobia was horrible and even described himself as ‘bisexual’ (this however, is not true, he’s straight.  Raping and abusing and manipulating under-age teenage boys just as or just before they come out as gay is definitely not bisexuality), he spoke strongly against racism and bullying and classism.  How could a guy like that possibly be abusive?  How could a self-proclaimed feminist be an abuser?

There were times where I actually kinda liked him.  Not romantically, I knew I was a lesbian long before I got into a ‘relationship’ with him, but in a platonic way, to an extent.  He could be charming, he could be funny, he could carry a conversation, he could be fun to spend time with, we had similar interests, interests that not many of my friends had.  Back when I was younger (I’m aware that a good chunk of you still consider me young!) I very much had a ‘not like other girls’ thing going on; I think it was my way of embracing my lesbianism and to distance myself from femininity.  This meant that I made a lot of effort to not socialise with those ‘other girls’, I mostly socialised with men (good Goddess have I learnt my lesson) and Dom potentially seemed like he could be a good friend.

Things are different now; the quote suggests that I need someone to be able to see the good and the bad within him, and to an extent I do still.  I need people to realise that I didn’t always hate him, I wasn’t always scared of him.  I was always on edge, always waiting for things to change, always waiting for him to get angry again, but there were also times where I genuinely enjoyed his company.  Unlike some other survivors who did, I wouldn’t say I loved him, I never did, but there were times when I did consider him a friend and it did make everything much more complicated.

How was I supposed to put together the violent man who beat me and raped me and belittled me and sold me to his friends and family and humiliated me and controlled me with the friend who’d quite happily have a gaming marathon with me, who’d some mornings get up with me at 6am to be able to go to uni, who’d make me a coffee and keep me company even though he didn’t have to do anything that day, who supported me (albeit he also pressured me into doing it) when I pressed charges against my mum’s boyfriend, who supported me when I tried to break contact with my family (though, isolating me from people definitely worked for him), who bandaged up my self-harm, who defended me when a guy attacked me at college, who bought me flowers, who bought me jewellery, who would do sweet little things to surprise me?  How can I put those two people together?  I didn’t love him, but he could be kind to me, he could be caring, he could be sweet.  And yeah, usually that kindness came after a violent assault, but that just fucks with your head even more, you see the two extremes one after each other, you see the pain and the apologies and the regret and you believe that good person is the real person, you believe that they just slipped, just lost control, just lost their temper, that they really, really didn’t mean to do it because how could this kind, sweet, caring person ever mean to be that cruel?

It was a constant head-fuck and even now I feel guilty about being so cruel to him, about being so honest about who he was.  I feel like, like I should be protecting him.  That in reality he is a sweet and caring guy, a survivor of domestic abuse himself (his father beat his mother and then threatened to turn on him causing her to leave when he was five), who was possibly a survivor of sexual abuse (though, I’m not inclined to believe this, actually, the only reason I believe he’s a survivor of domestic abuse is because I believe his mother and frankly, she’s the survivor, not him), who was bullied throughout school but who still had a kind heart to so many.

Logically, I know he only ever let me know any of this to do… well, exactly this.  To have me doubting who he really is, to feel sorry for him, to justify what he is and what he does.  I don’t even know if half of it is true and I guess it doesn’t even matter.  He got my sympathy anyway and I’m still working on getting rid of its traces.

Living with the dichotomy of who he is is still so difficult though.  A good majority of my friends are radical feminists, lesbian feminists, a few lib-fems dotted in here and there and they all hate him or would hate him if they knew who he was, what he did.  I know that a lot of the womyn in my life know how domestic abuse works, I know they understand the dual relationship with an abuser, but it still leaves me feeling so ashamed for not completely and 100% hating him.  I know he was a violent, abusive person who does not deserve my sympathy, I know that that kind and caring side was merely a disguise to hide who he really is, I know that that dual nature was used to manipulate me and control me further – but that doesn’t stop me and it certainly didn’t stop me from appreciating that nice side of him because well, frankly, if you’re getting your head kicked in and your body violated pretty much every day, you appreciate any act of kindness after a while.

Sometimes, even now, even now I’m out of that relationship and have been for a long time, I do need people to acknowledge just how difficult that dual nature is to live with.  Just how confused and hurt and torn it leaves us.  Even if we don’t actively love our ex’s, even if we never loved them, it still leaves such a sense of confusion and doubt.  We need people to meet us where we are, to acknowledge both sides of our abusers.  They’re not good, of course they’re not and that ‘goodness’ is very often an act to hide their violence and their cruelty, but we did and do see that kindness and it does fuck us up.

Especially for womyn still in those kinds of relationships, saying that their partners are out-right bad people, evil people, abusive people just simply isn’t going to work.  It’ll have us running a mile, honestly.  We have to admit that those acts of kindness do mean something to victims, we have to acknowledge that the reality for domestic abuse victims is dual in nature and they need to be met on that level.

Those acts of kindness fade, eventually, they become so much less frequent and they become so half-arsed compared to what they once used to be.  Especially when the abuser is sure they have complete control and their victim isn’t going to leave them, is too scared to do anything other than forgive them, who is living a life of such constant violence that even being handed a tissue to mop up your own blood can be such a ray of light.

I can’t remember the last time Dom was nice to me, it was long, long before I finally broke up with him and ended our ‘engagement’ (my sealed destiny of captivity), I honestly can’t remember at all.  He’d clearly decided it was no longer needed, that I was so stuck and so hurt and so broken that he didn’t need to pretend he was sorry any more, he didn’t need to be nice to me.  I had no-one and nothing left as far as he knew, I had no reason to fight it, he had no reason to carry on manipulating me and controlling me, I was always going to be his victim until he finally killed me.  He was wrong, he was so very wrong and him being wrong was ultimately what saved my life.

RadSurvivor.

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.

 

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.

Finding My Healing Path

So much of me wants to take into account the advice of other exited womyn; to take heed of their words when they say we don’t need to remember everything, that we need to accept and acknowledge our pasts and our realities to the point where we can heal, but we don’t need to remember each and every moment of pain, trauma and torture.

But my brain seems far too reluctant to pay much attention to that; it seems intent on remembering each and every single little detail (though it could just be that after close to twenty years of rapes and trauma and abuse there’s just so much of it that I’m inevitably gonna end up having to process so much just to reach the point where I don’t have to remember it all.  I’m gonna end up, no matter what, remembering at least something or I won’t have anything to accept and acknowledge and heal from.) and no matter how much I try and ease the flow of flashbacks, they just don’t seem to stop.

Logically, I know that part of this is because once again I’m actively avoiding healing, I’m actively pushing away my memories and actively avoiding therapy and not really engaging with anything.  There’s one simple reason for this and that’s that I’m happy.

For the first time in my life, I actually know what happiness is.  I’m starting to actually understand concepts such as happiness, calmness, trust, safety and I don’t wanna mess with that.

My trauma’s become this big, looming hornets nest and frankly, I don’t wanna poke it.  And why would I?  I’m experiencing positive things for the first time in my life and I have the option to welcome pain and trauma back into my life (they might be diminished as they’re based on memories, but it’s still pain and it’s still trauma), I don’t only have the option, but it is something that I’m inevitably going to have to do and that terrifies me; I guess you can understand my reluctance?

Despite all of this, despite my reluctance, I know damn well that I have to do it.  I might not exactly be old, but I’ve lived with trauma long enough to know that the more I ignore it, the more that it’s gonna come back and bite me in the arse.  Dissociation and distancing has served me well, it’s kept me alive this long, but there’s gotta be a point where I let go of those coping mechanisms and actually try and heal.

I sometimes really, really, really hate being smart enough to understand the healing process and understand the way that trauma works.  I wish I could just enjoy this happiness, blissfully unaware, but I do know that the longer I avoid engaging with the healing process, the worse the consequences are gonna be.  There really is only so long you can ignore trauma before it comes and bites you in the arse again.

And so, once again, reluctantly, I’m making a commitment to all this healing malarkey.

I had a realisation, yesterday, realised exactly where the starting point for me was.  The frustrating thing?  This is the same realisation I had about three years ago; I was right then and I’m still right now.  I know myself well enough to know what it is that I need and how to reach it and I did know the same three years ago.  I on some level knew that there was a specific starting point for my healing and whilst other aspects of my trauma might come up in the process (and has done) that this is where I need to focus the work I do, first.

So, this starting point.  I think it’s with my ex, which I hate, because I’m still utterly fucking terrified of him, but I do think it’s where my healing work needs to start.

You see, the thing is, despite this blog, despite the way I write here and elsewhere, I haven’t even remotely accepted my trauma as trauma.  If I was to write this blog and spend every other post going ‘nope, it’s not real, I’m just crazy, of course that wasn’t rape, la, la, la, la, la’ my voice would be silenced almost instantly.  I know how much people cling onto their token exited womyn and I know that if a good chunk of those people found out their token was just a bit… crazy, then they’d be gone in an instant.  (Newsflash – we’re all a little crazy because trauma is horrific, we just hide it because we know how quickly we’d be silenced if you got even the briefest glimpse of that 😉 )

It’s one of the most difficult parts of being a trauma survivor; accepting that our experiences actually count as trauma.  Even if we can get past the point where we insist that our memories aren’t real and we must just be making them up (which we usually reach because our brains unrelentingly throw flashbacks at us until we do reluctantly accept they’re real – which yes, painful) we still then have to try and acknowledge those experiences as being abusive and that’s where we get especially good at denial and loopholes and excuses and justifications.  You know all that victim-blaming nonsense?  Well trust me, no one is better at it than survivors ourselves.  We’re capable of finding excuses and loopholes and justifications in just about every single scenario – and of course, this only applies to ourselves.  I’ve never seen another survivor question her sisters, only her own experiences.  What’s true for our sisters simply isn’t true for ourselves.  We’d never, ever think of telling a survivor sister that her trauma doesn’t count, that her experiences weren’t abusive, but holy shit are we happy to tell ourselves that.

‘If I just hadn’t pissed him off.’

‘If I’d just kept the door locked.’

‘It can’t be rape, I was just a whore.’

‘It was just a job.’

‘Well, I mean, I was drunk.’

‘I kept going back…’

‘I chose to go into that relationship.’

‘I chose it.’

‘It wasn’t that bad anyway, that’s not real rape, that’s not real abuse.’

‘I’m not a survivor, that’s taking away from real survivor experiences, I’m a disgusting person for claiming their words.’

‘Real abusive relationships don’t get that violent that quickly.’

etc.

etc.

etc.

We’re full of excuses and loopholes and justifications; excuses and loopholes and justifications we’d never impose on anyone else.

The simple truth is, despite logically knowing what my experiences amount to, despite knowing how others view them, despite me telling any other survivor with a similar past that it’s abuse, despite the way I talk on this blog – I don’t believe I’m a survivor, not really.  I can’t really believe that my experiences are abuse.

And that’s where my sticking point is.  I can’t accept my trauma as trauma.  I can’t accept abuse as abuse, at least for myself.

Except maybe, maybe with my ex.  I’m too lazy to come up with a pseudonym so here I am naming and shaming.  Except maybe with Dom.  (This isn’t the ex I spoke about here – this is the one after, my last ex.)

Something with Dom leaves me catching myself, leaves me questioning my own words.  He’s the only one out of a multitude of perpetrators where I find myself thinking, well, maybe it was abuse?

I think it’s partly because I realised, on some level, at the time that he was abusive.

I remember about three years into the relationship, I ran a session at a Summer Camp around healthy relationships with a colleague.  I already knew all the ‘red flags’ for abusive relationships, heck, I helped prepare the session and write out the information.  But for some reason, on that day, looking at all the flipcharts with all the red flags up there, something clicked and I started really questioning what I’d be leaving that safe space for, what I’d be going home to.  I ended up talking with that colleague afterwards, gently questioning the possibility that I actually was in an abusive relationship.  I very quickly backed away from it; it was nowhere near safe enough for me to question it at the time, but the seed had been planted.  It was possibly there beforehand, but that’s the first clear moment I remember questioning if Dom was abusing me.

I tried to leave Dom a few times, it never really worked out that well for me, but I knew, I knew on some level I needed to get out.  I broke up with him at the end of November/start of December 2011 and I finally escaped him completely May 2012.  The sheer fact that I was able to leave him means that on some level, I really did know he was abusive, I really did know that he was hurting me, I really did know my life was at risk.

And that’s why, I think, he has to be my starting point when it comes to healing.  He’s the only one I can even slightly recognise as being abusive.  And that skill, that ability to recognise abuse for what it is is undoubtedly gonna be a key part of my healing.  How am I ever supposed to heal if I can’t even see my trauma as trauma?

I instinctively know that once I can very clearly see Dom as abusive; that I can have that fact clear and stable in my mind, that I can recognise those behaviours for what they are, then I’ll be able to apply that same thinking to the rest of my experiences, slowly but surely.

I just instinctively know that this is where I need to start.  Which I fucking hate because yes, I’m still fucking terrified of him.  I still wake up from nightmares, drenched in sweat, nightmares that feature nothing but him.  I’m still constantly terrified he’s going to track me down somehow, even if I know he’s engaged to someone else, even if I know he has no idea where I am.  Even the mere thought of him freezes me in fear.  I broke up with him four years ago around now; I’ve been completely safe from him since May 2012, but I’m still just so scared of him; still just as scared as if he was right here.

But I frustratingly know that this is what I need to do, that he has to be my starting point.  Gah.

I decided, yesterday, that I’m finally gonna read Why Does He Do That?  I have a feeling it’s gonna have some of the answers I need.

Rad Survivor.