Permanent Reminders

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RadSurvivor.

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Four Years and Counting – Part One

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And that was when everything really got worse.

RadSurvivor.

 

Christmas. Bah Humbug.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rad-Survivor

Breakdown – Guilt

I figured this needed two titles, because let’s face it, this isn’t gonna be the one and only time I’m gonna write a post called ‘Breakdown’.

The 15th was my grandma’s birthday, a day that comes with flashbacks and memories and triggers, but strangely, it was none of these that pushed me into almost completely breaking down.  If anything, I’d half forgotten or forced myself to forget.  I’d spent the entire night writing and avoiding sleep, November is never a good month for me as I’ve said in earlier posts and my sleeping has been a whole new layer of bad as a result.  I gave in and finally tried to sleep at around 9am on the morning of the 15th.

I was lying in bed and despite the lingering sleep deprivation, found myself struggling with insomnia and my mind wandering.  I ended up, weirdly, thinking about my other grandma, the one on my ‘dads’ side (he’s not my dad, but just go with it), I guess my head had half realised the day and had vaguely clicked on ‘grandma’ as a theme.  I don’t really have any memories of my dad’s mum, I never got to see her that often and when I did, I was generally so out of it and just more focused on having a chance to breathe and not be hurt that it’s hard to hold on to memories of her, now.

What I do remember about her is that she was nice to me, she genuinely cared about me and she never hurt me, at all.  I remembered how no matter what I put her through (breaking down and acting out in her house – I was around four-five years old and for some reason I cut up her shower curtain before cutting myself, it was around the time that my mum started selling me out, so I guess I just dealt the best way I could, but my grandma wasn’t even remotely mad at me.  Suicide attempts.  Lack of contact.  Dropping completely off the radar etc. etc.) she always stuck by me, never got angry with me, was still just nice to me.  She wasn’t exactly a nice woman, she was horribly racist and a working-class Tory and I was often ashamed of her and the things she’d say about various groups of people, but she was nice to me and with a family like the one I had, that meant the world to me.

I was lay there thinking about her and I suddenly realised that I couldn’t remember her face, I couldn’t remember what she looked like and I had to really force the memory.  I ended up feeling so sick and guilty, realising that I hadn’t seen her or been in contact with her since I escaped three and a half years ago, that I hadn’t seen her properly at all for quite a few months before that.  I know she’s worried about me, when I escaped, I found myself sending a letter to my ‘dad’ and left a care of address (this was a bad move on my part, but barring the emotional impact each letter I receive has on me, I am safe.  I have never wrote to any of them or replied to any letters since.) and my grandma has been writing to me and sending me cards on birthdays and Christmases since, she’s repeatedly said she’s worried about me and that she hopes I feel able to get in contact with her soon.

I just ended up curling up in guilt and shame.  This woman who had never been anything but nice to me, who had never hurt me, who had no hand in my being trafficked is worrying about me because I left with no warning, completely disappeared.  I callously cut her off purely on the basis she was related to me, connected to my traffickers, I punished her just as much as I punished them.

My brain kept spiralling, I felt so much guilt over all of them, my entire family, including my traffickers and those that enabled them and/or abused me in other ways like my other grandma, the ones whose birthday I finally remembered it was.  I curled up in guilt knowing that I was missing her birthday, that I hadn’t been in contact for so long, that I didn’t even know if she was still alive or not.  Despite the fact that I know she hurt me, despite the fact that she knew I was being trafficked and abused and did nothing, despite the fact that she abused me herself, I was the one feeling guilty and so sick.  I missed her, I missed her so much because she was one of the few members of my family that could be some semblance of nice to me outside of the abuse.

I ended up in a huge spiral, missing my family, feeling so guilty for cutting them all off, especially those who had never hurt me (especially my little brother) and I just kept getting worse and worse.  I started questioning myself, questioning if it was even true, questioning what I’ve done.

What if I’d just made it all up?  What if none of it is real?  What if it never happened?  What if I over-exaggerated?  What if I’m remembering wrong?  I felt so fucking guilty, like I’d destroyed my family and my life over fucking nothing.  That I’d never be able to fix it.  That too many people know now; how do I explain to my girlfriend, my adoptive ‘family’, my friends, my therapist, other exited women that I just made it all up?  How do I get myself out of the mess that I made?  How do I fix things with my family now?

I cast around for proof that it was real and it was as if my brain had completely shut down, I couldn’t find any memories or flashbacks of abuse.  I was finding excuses for the physical proof I had.  The old injuries, I obviously got them some other way, clearly not trauma related.  The scarification, the branding, on my thigh – I’m a self-harmer, I clearly did it to myself (I casually ignored the fact that it had been there for nearly my entire life, I ignored the fact that I remember it being there before I could even spell the word). 

I started doubting everything, convinced myself I’d just made it all up, convinced myself that I was just a fucked up piece of shit and a disgusting human being and that I should just die.  I couldn’t stop crying, sobbing, screaming; so disgusted with myself, so overwhelmed with what I’d done.  I just curled up and I just wanted to scream.  I just wanted to cut, so badly, cut out the sin, cut out the dirt, cut out my lies, bleed out my guilt and my shame.  I just wanted to starve myself, stop eating again because how could someone like me deserve to eat anyway?  I just wanted to kill myself, because I knew that was the only way out of my lies.  I managed to avoid actually hurting myself, purely on the basis that I couldn’t move.

More than anything, I just wanted to go home, to go back to my family, to try and fix the mess that I’d made.  I just about managed to convince myself to wait, knowing that if there was even the slightest chance my memories were true, that I’d be putting myself at suck risk if I did go home.

I eventually cried myself to sleep, stupidly exhausted and drained and I woke up feeling marginally better.  I still felt so guilty, I still missed them so much, but I was just about holding on to my truth again, just about able to tell myself that I wasn’t lying, that my memories were real, that I couldn’t go back home.  But for those hours that I lay there crying, I was just so convinced that I’d made it all up, just so convinced that I should go home and try and fix everything.

I’ve spent the rest of the week kinda numb, kinda in a daze.  Thursday was my mum’s birthday, usually one of the worst days of the year for me, the day a breakdown is basically guaranteed but I got through it… OK?  I knew, I knew from the moment I woke up that my joviality and the fact that I was OK was an act; it was too much, too much OK-ness, my brain was clearly trying to make me feel more OK than I was, but it was what I needed to get through the day.

I didn’t even care that my adoptive family had all forgotten; they usually make sure they’re here on the 19th, make sure I’m not alone because each year since I’ve left I’ve been more prone than ever to go back  home.  My girlfriend was here, so I wasn’t alone, but honestly I don’t think it would have mattered anyway, I was just so numb.

I cancelled therapy on the 19th because I didn’t wanna poke the hornets nest, I didn’t want to spoil what was even a false sense of feeling OK on a day that is usually one of the worst for me.  I didn’t want to take away one of the very few things what was gonna get me through the day.

I have just been in such a daze, since, I still feel it now, still feel kinda numb, kinda not anything.  Not like I should be, not like I know is under the surface.  I’m still struggling to hold on to knowing that I am telling the truth, that it is all real.

Other than really bad sleep, a lingering sense of anxiety and nausea and my head occasionally drifting, I’ve actually been OK since I broke down Sunday.  I know it doesn’t sound like an especially bad breakdown, but I know I can’t put exactly what I was feeling in words, but I was in so much pain, felt so much guilt, just missed my family so much and I wanted to hurt myself more than I have in a long time.  I just wanted to tear myself apart, destroy myself completely.

I’m so scared of those feelings coming back.  I know I’m far too numb and I know there’s so much under the surface of that numb.  I know there’s so much hurt and so much pain and so much guilt just waiting for it all to wear off and to be able to overwhelm me again and I’m just so scared.

RadSurvivor.

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.