Branded – Part One

I’ve been writing this post on and off basically since I started this blog (on another platform), each and every time I’ve found an excuse to not write it and even when I have I’ve done so in the lightest way I possibly could, I’ve done so in a way that doesn’t really say anything at all because to do so would hurt me too much.  This is a topic I’ve struggled with, well, for as long as I can remember.  It’s one that’s always caused me so much pain, shame, turmoil and to even just think about it leaves me feeling sick.

I decided to write this post today for one reason and one reason only.  Tomorrow, I won’t be able to write this post.  Or at least, I wouldn’t be able to write it from the same perspective that I have now.  Tomorrow, it will be gone, hidden.  Tomorrow I’ll no longer have the permanent reminder of trauma and pain and hurt etched into my skin.  Tomorrow, at least this one aspect of my trauma will start to heal.

My life as a five year old wasn’t easy.  I’ve been told five year olds should have it easy, but that certainly wasn’t my experience.  By this point, I was already being sold to men, but nowhere near to the same levels that I would experience later on in life.  My main concern at the time was my mother.  Each day, after school, I would have to pick my younger sister up from nursery, before long, they stopped questioning where my mum was, they got the usual response of ‘she’s outside having a cig’ each and every time and eventually just accepted it.  Whether they suspected that I was my sister’s primary carer at the age of five or not, I don’t know, but otherwise she would have been there all night before my mother remembered so it was much easier for me to take her.  Upon getting home, I had to both take care of my sister and clean the house to perfection.  My mum’s levels of perfection were beyond anyone’s I’ve ever known, and I’m a pretty huge perfectionist myself.  If things weren’t done to her standard then that meant trouble for me.

This one particular day, after picking up my sister, taking care of her all evening, feeding her whatever I could find and cleaning, cleaning, cleaning, cleaning my mum finally came home.  I was kinda proud of myself, I knew I’d done a good job on the cleaning, I knew I’d done everything she’d expected.  She went to inspect the house as she usually does.  After a while, she came back downstairs with a glass in her hand, a glass I had apparently missed.  Now that I’m older and now that I understand my mother a little more, I think I hadn’t missed that glass at all, I think she had hidden it somewhere in her room so as to set me up, so as to give her ‘justification’ to punish me that night.

She threw the glass at me and then proceeded to beat me for not having cleaned properly.  She beat me with her fists, her feet, a plank of wood she always kept near the back door for this exact purpose.  The wood had nails hammered in one end.  Thankfully on this day I hadn’t done enough to deserve that end.  I dissociated.  Completely disconnected myself from my body so I couldn’t feel the pain.  I went as far away as I possibly could.

At some point, she took off my pants and sat on top of me.  She picked up a piece of the broken glass and started cutting into the top of my right thigh.  The sharpness of it drew my attention, a different pain than the one the beating had given me and breaking me out of the dissociation.  It hurt so badly and I panicked, trying to push her off of me, but I had no chance, the weight of an adult on a five year old body is not one that can be easily moved.

She laughed at me, said ‘it’s not going to stop until you learn to behave or you’re dead.  If you want it to stop so bad you should just kill yourself.’

When she got off of me, I clearly remember already knowing what it was that my leg said, leading me to think that this wasn’t the first time she’d done this and just merely the first time I remember it happening.  I knew that she had (once again?) carved the word ‘whore’ into my leg.

As she walked away, leaving me lying on the kitchen floor, my leg still bleeding.  She threw the first aid kit at me, stocked full of painkillers and nothing else (my mum got a lot of hangovers), she said again, ‘if you want it to stop’, I knew what she meant and I can say I seriously considered it.  At five years old I knew what it was to want to die, to want to take my own life.  It’s my earliest memory of having suicidal thoughts, but certainly not my last.  I spent most of the night on the kitchen floor staring at those painkillers and wanting more than anything else to just make it all stop.  There have been so many nights since where I wish I had taken an overdose that night, knowing that if I just had I would have saved myself seventeen years worth of pain and the pain of living with that trauma since.  Though, I know now, that I would have missed out on so much good, too, even if that is only recent.

‘Whore’ was carved into my leg repeatedly over the years.  Either as a punishment, whilst I was being raped or simply because it had faded to an unacceptable level.  Mostly it was my mum, but occasionally my step-dad/mum’s boyfriend and sometimes even clients.  The scars overlap one another, now, but I can still clearly see it.  Can still clearly see what they always deemed me to be.

I’m ashamed to say there were times where I carved it in to myself as an act of self-injury.  At times I just became so overwhelmed.  Overwhelmed with shame, guilt, self-hatred, disgust at what I was, what I did, what my life was.  Where I would just be so disgusted, hated myself so, so much that I would carve it into myself in anger because that was what I was, right?  That was all I was worth.  That’s what my life was and I hated myself for it, I hated myself more than words could ever say.  Even this paragraph seems so empty compared to how I felt at those points.  I’ll never be able to put into words just how much I hate myself at times, especially back then, especially when my body was being used each and every single day by gross, disgusting men.

It’s a little on the nose to be a branding, but that’s what it ended up being.  I don’t think that was the intention, really.  It started as a way for my mum to shame and humiliate me, to make sure I knew exactly what I was worth.  But as the number of clients increased, as the trafficking of me became more and more organised and as my mum became involved in a trafficking ring, it became so much more.

I was, in a way, different from the girls trafficked alongside me.  I was owned by the same people, but I was more exclusively a possession of my mother (and at times her boyfriend, depending on her mood and whether she was pissed at him that day or not) and I was treated differently as a result.  I was simultaneously more special and worth less than the other girls.  I belonged personally to one of the traffickers in the ring, but was deemed public property for all, deemed most worthy of some of the worst punishments because I was worth less.  I don’t know how to explain this, I don’t know how to say this.  I’m not gonna say I had it any better or any worse than the other girls, but at the same time, I was in a different position.

Before my mother joined that ring, it was really small, just a handful of girls and no branding in sight.  It was barely even really a trafficking ring as such, it was more a group of paedophiles and violent men who were sharing out girls to rape amongst themselves.  It was more for their personal enjoyment and less about profit.  It was her influence that made it grow, that victimised more girls, brought in more clients and therefore more money and introduced branding to the group.  My ‘whore’ scarification was repeated on the other girls, though theirs included numbers.  Despite my not having been the first girl trafficked there, I was considered number one, zero even.  I was the prototype.  Years of abuse and rape and conditioning at the hands of my mother meant I was considered the best example of what a whore should be, a training regime to be modelled.  I didn’t fight, I didn’t kick up a fuss, I didn’t cry unless it was expected, I could dissociate well enough and far enough away to take un-imaginable amounts of pain.  Once again writing any of this sounds like I’m bragging, sounds like something that I’m proud of.  I’m not.  It’s not something I wanted, it’s not something I worked for.  It’s what I was made into.  My being the ‘perfect whore’ (as I was so often told I was) was purely the result of repeated rapes and beatings and pain and conditioning from my mother.  I became what they wanted so I could survive.

Again, it seems really on the nose for a branding, but the clients lapped it up.  It was private, the top of the thigh where only they could see, only if you was raping one of us would you see that part of our body.  It suggested pain, having a knife digging into your leg isn’t a pleasant experience and the clients got off on it, knowing what we must have gone through to be their ‘whore’ for the night.

More than anything, it was a sign of our ownership.  When I was thirteen and pregnant, I went out looking for my own ‘work’.  I was convinced that if I could just make enough money, I could run away with my child and start a new life.  This lasted all of thirty seconds.  I found myself in the back of a local take-away with men who have since been arrested for running a trafficking ring in the same town my mother ran hers.  They had agreed to rape me and were willing to give me a good chunk of money for doing so and were willing to let me work from there if I proved good enough.  One of them saw the scarification on my leg and freaked out.  He’d recognised it and had decided he did not want to fuck with any of my mother’s property.  He gave me £50 and told me to leave and not tell her I’d been there, that he didn’t want any trouble.  I don’t think he knew who I was, he just knew I belonged to her.  There have been times since where I’ve realised I could have gotten significantly more than £50 if he’d known I’d been her daughter.  Seeing a grown man actually scared made me realise just how much power and influence my mum had.  He’d given up the chance to rape a vulnerable, pregnant teenage girl because of her.  I belonged to someone else, I was not his to rape and definitely not his to sell.

This is the bit I don’t want to write, the bit I’ve been avoiding writing fully for so many years.  You see, those scars are still there.  They were last carved into me on the 3rd May, 2012, the last time I saw my mother, the day I exited.  And each and every single day I have to live with them.  And trust me when I say they’re not easy to live with.

Every time I have to change my clothes, have a shower, even just sitting on the loo, those scars are right there staring up at me.  Right there reminding me just how little I’m worth, reminding me of all the pain and the trauma and the rapes, reminding me of everything I’ve had to live through.  They feel me with such shame and guilt and humiliation, each time I see them I get flashbacks and memories pushing their way into my head, reminding me of everything I’ve been through so as to live up to that word.  Reminding me of everything that was done to me because that’s all I’m worth.

I’m a trafficking survivor, so finding a comfortable space within my own body is almost impossible as it is.  Each part of my body has been touched, hurt and violated by waves and waves of men.  Each part of my body holds a memory.  Each part of my body remembers the trauma that was done to me.  But this?  This just adds a whole new layer of pain and hurt that I can’t even adequately put into words.  It’s one thing knowing just how little you’re worth, but having it quite literally carved into you is a whole new layer of pain.  Having to see each and every single day that you’re nothing more than a ‘whore’.  Knowing that that’s how you’ve always been viewed.  Being scared that that’s how you’re always going to be viewed.  I can barely look at myself and especially at those scars without feeling so disgusted with myself, so ashamed of myself and all the things I ‘allowed’ to happen to me and my body.

I can barely allow myself to be naked, to look at my own body (what kinda body-positive feminist does that make me?).  I can’t shower without getting panic attacks and flashbacks.  I can barely touch that part of my skin.  I can’t even have a piss without it being right there in front of me.  When I was younger, I used to wrap bandages around it, so I could hide it from myself and others.  Now I just opt to never wear shorts that don’t cover it.  To never let others see it.  I don’t swim unless I’m wearing trunks (and swimming used to relax and calm me so, so much).  I still flinch and freak out if anyone touches my thigh, remembering all the clients that used to stroke and lick it as a part of their own sick pleasure.

But it’s not just about comfort, either my own or other’s, it’s about me.  This is supposed to be my body, but whilst their word, their views, their ownership is carved into me, it can never be mine.  It’s always going to be ‘theirs’.  And I can’t live with that constant reminder any more.  I can’t live with it always right their in front of my face.  I can’t live with seeing it each and every time I undress or shower or go to the loo.  I can’t live with the reminders every time the scars itch.  I can’t see ‘whore’ every time I look at myself – I need to see something else, something of my own choosing.  I want to be able to reclaim my body, reclaim myself – or well, my body has always belonged to them, so it’s less about reclaiming and more about finally making my body mine.  For the first time in my life, having my body belong to me.  I don’t want to be their ‘whore’ any more.

The thing is, as of tomorrow, I won’t be!

But more about that in my next post as this one has already been rather wordy!!

RS.

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.

Birthdays and Fireworks

I know I was writing the second part of my last post, but I felt the need to write this first.


A good chunk of my family, in some bizarre twist of fate, were born in November, or at least, the more prominent members were (there’s a reason why I have a slight mistrust of Scorpios, now).  In a family filled with incest, rape, abuse and trafficking, there was always an obvious special gift for each birthday: me.  And in many cases there would be arguments and jealously, usually from my mother, she did not like to share and so would use others birthdays to justify her having a ‘gift’ too.

Today is one of those birthdays, or at least it would be if my grandfather, my biological father*, was still alive.  My memories are limited, as is the nature of dissociation, but I have enough to know that his birthday was never a good day for me.  Whilst the rapes and the abuse might not always have happened exactly on his birthday, more likely the weekends either side, today still holds such a high level of connotations and memories for me.

His birthdays were usually celebrated with fireworks, what with it being so close to the 5th and as a result, I find fireworks to be a major trigger.  Every time I hear or see them, I feel my mind starting to slip back.

When I was about eight or nine years old, we were setting off fireworks in the back garden of his house.  He told everyone I was cold and he was taking me inside to watch from the kitchen.  I tried to protest, I was enjoying the fireworks and I wasn’t cold at all, but one look from him and my mother silenced me and I followed him back inside.  I can still feel my stomach turning in knots.  I knew what was going to happen, I knew there was nothing I could do about it.

He stood me in front of the kitchen sink where I could still see the fireworks, I can still see them, see the colours, the beauty, I was entranced with them, I really did think fireworks were so beautiful (and besides the triggers, I still do.).  I can still hear every single bang, or maybe that’s just the fireworks I can hear now in the present.  He pulled my trousers and underwear down, touched me, molested me.  His hands and his actions hidden by the sink and worktops, so even if the rest of my family were to turn around, nobody would see.  All I remember clearly is the weight of him pressed up behind me, grinding against me.

After a few minutes of this, he picked me up, sat me on the edge of the sink and told me to twist my head to carry on watching the fireworks.  He raped me whilst I watched, but being the dissociative expert that I am, I barely remember the rape.  I remember the fireworks, more than anything.  I remember him telling me to wave at my sister, who had apparently turned to wave at us.  I remember feeling so sick, remembering the years of threats that if I didn’t behave it would happen to her too, remember feeling so bad for waving at her while he was hurting me.  But I quickly zoned out to the fireworks once again; focused so intently on them that I was barely aware of anything else.

I don’t know how long any of it lasted, I don’t want to know how long any of it lasted.  I don’t want to remember clearly.  I just remember the fireworks.  The sound of them, the way they looked.  I remember the pressure of him leaning against me and the repeated thought of ‘don’t turn back around’, though I couldn’t quite put my finger on why (again, the wonderful nature of dissociation) but more than anything I remember the fireworks.

I know that my mum and my sister went home afterwards and I was to spend the night at my grandparent’s house.  I remember them leaving and wishing I could beg to go home with them, but I knew that would just get me in more trouble.  I don’t remember that night and once again, I don’t want to remember.

A few years later, when I was about twelve and his birthday came round yet again, things were different.  There was less hiding, there was less pretence.  We arrived at my grandparent’s and straight away my mum sent my sister off to help my grandma with cooking and took me upstairs where he was waiting.  Mum told me we were going to give him our ‘presents’ together.

By this point, I had many more years experience.  I’d been being trafficked since I was four, five years old; I’d been being trafficked for around seven or eight years and I knew the deal.  I knew what to expect, I was older, I knew what I was doing.  I knew how to make life easier for myself (the quicker they get off, the quicker it’s over with), I had a young teenagers (albeit a traumatised and trafficked ones) understanding of sex.  For years I saw this as participating in my own abuse, but there was no consent, there was no wanting; on a very simple level, I was a child, I could never have consented and my active participation was a result of years worth of trauma and training and survival.  I was never actively participating in my own abuse, I was doing what I could to survive.

And that day was no different.  He slept (raped?  I don’t know any more, but that’s an entirely different blog post) with my mother first, they made me watch, then she brought me over between them and they both raped me.  I didn’t fight, I didn’t argue, I didn’t try to get away.  I just shut down, completely, went through the motions.  Motions my body and my mind had long ago learnt.  The rest is a blur.  I know they both raped me, I know they both touched me and abused me.  I know my body responded to their touch (something I will eternally struggle with, but an experience that is not unique to me and is one known by many survivors.  Bodies are complicated things, but again, that is another blog post) and they mocked and celebrated me for it.

I was the ultimate birthday (and Christmas) present for him and for many others and as a result, their birthdays will always stick in my mind.  I’ll never again be able to sit on the 1st November and not remember that today was his birthday, today was the day where I was given to yet another man for his pleasure, his control, his sadism.  I’ll never be able to get through this day without seeing those fireworks (and it doesn’t help that they’re quite so common at this time of year).  I’ll never be able to get through this day knowing that if he was still alive, if I was still under their control, that that would be exactly where I would be in this moment.

Maybe one day, I’ll be able to appreciate the beauty and extravagance of fireworks once again, but I very much doubt that this will be the year I do.

*  –  Yes, I’m a child born of incest on top of everything else.

RadSurvivor.