Tearing Myself Apart

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RS.

Five Years Free

It’s been five years.  I don’t even know how to quite process that.  Five years.

For the first time, I’m not anxious, not really.  Usually, in the weeks running up to this date, I’m so hyper-aware of it, I find my anxiety is building more and more as it gets closer and the flashbacks get worse and worse.  But I have to say, this year, I’m just not really feeling it so much.  I’m aware it’s there and, as I said last year, there’s really traumatic memories involved, but I’m just not feeling the same sense of panic and emptiness and fear that I’ve felt in previous years around this date.

I guess, maybe, it’s because I’m doing better?

I know I’ve had a rough patch, the DWP will always throw me into a rough patch and I’ve really been suffering the past few weeks, but overall, I have been doing a little better.  Or, at least, I’ve been able to process a lot of trauma and do a lot of that whole ‘healing’ thing and as a result, I’ve been able to get a lot of things straighter and clearer in my mind.

I’ve found my voice, as a result, has gotten so much clearer too.  My voice doesn’t shake quite as much, my hands don’t hesitate when I’m typing quite as frequently when it comes to saying words like trafficking, rape, domestic abuse, incest.  I’m not hesitating, I’m not doubting myself.  For years, even if on some very logical, objective level I’ve known the words were real and relevant and applied to me, I’ve doubted myself so much.  I’ve always had that moment where a pit of guilt in my stomach bubbles over.  How dare I use those words?  How dare I say such horrible things about my family and people who (supposedly) cared for me?  How dare I take words away from real survivors?  I have no right to use these words.  It’s taken me such a long time to believe them, to really believe them.  To fully understand their weight and how they apply to me.

I guess, I’m finally starting to reach a point where I can truly put the blame and the shame and the guilt where it belongs.  I’m finally starting to reach a point where I can see that I was a victim.  That they victimised a child, a traumatised young woman.  That they did these things to me.  That I’m not the one that made them happen; either through my own actions or ‘bad’ behaviour or through some weird twist of fate that deemed me nothing more than a ‘whore’ and deserving of everything that happened to me.

I’m not there completely, not yet, I still have those moments of doubt, those moments where the guilt bubbles up inside me.  But I am getting there and I really have moved so far in the last few years.

I think, in all honesty, one of the most important things I’ve done in the past five years is focus on me.  Which is odd, considering how much of a class based theorist I am.  You’d think I’d’ve done more than this blog to try and reach out, do more for women like me.  But I couldn’t and it was right that I didn’t.  For a start, I crashed in a seriously spectacular way five years ago today and even if I wanted to do more for others I just couldn’t.  Immediately after exiting I was a mess (as I discussed a little in this post).

I was in such a severe dissociated state that I barely remember anything of those weeks, months.  I remember that I spent the first night just sitting in my friend’s flat.  Just staring, barely even blinking, at the wall.  I didn’t sleep, I couldn’t sleep.  All I could think about was how much I wished I was dead.  That was a recurring theme for those months, really.  I was basically just an empty shell and I wished for nothing more than death.  Weirdly, I never actually tried to kill myself at that point in my life.  Which is odd considering how much I wanted it.  I’d like to say that there was some innate survival instinct in me that recognised the magnitude of exiting, the freedom and the potential life that came with that.  But to be honest, I was probably just so empty and running so much on auto-pilot that I barely had the strength to even just kill myself.

The one thing I remember more than anything was just how alone I felt.  I wasn’t alone, not really.  People who really truly cared about me had helped me escape, they’d saved my life.  I played a role, of course, I had to want to leave, I had to want to accept their help, but without them I simply wouldn’t be here now.  But, I still just felt so alone.  I had ‘support workers’, but I didn’t feel like I had friends any more.  I was hiding out in a hotel for the three weeks immediately after escaping and I just felt so alone.  I had a few friends come and visit me there, though they were distant friends, old friends.  Friends who had no real clue about what was happening to me, why I was really in that hotel.  I may have let a few details slip, but they didn’t really know.  My closest friends, the friends I considered to be my ‘family’, they were absent.

I understand, actually.  Dealing with trauma is never easy, even if it’s someone else’s and they were all young.  I mean, we were all in our early-mid 20’s and while they were all experienced workers, none of them had ever really dealt with anything like me.  I understand why they kept their distance, why they didn’t know what to say, how to talk to me.  I understand why my old ‘support worker’ had to take me to them, why they never came to me.  I don’t really blame them, I don’t know if I would have wanted to be around me either.  But, understanding doesn’t stop just how much it hurt.  I felt so abandoned.  They were a big reason why I escaped in the first place.

Before them, I’d never really had real friends.  I’d never had anyone that really cared about me or had taken the time to try and understand me and my life.  And while some of them were older friends and had been around for a long time and while it is possible I had people that cared about me before that point, well, frankly, I’d never felt the same.  Not because I didn’t care about them, not really, but because I couldn’t let myself.  I couldn’t let myself care about anyone or anything else and I couldn’t let anyone care about me.  I’ve had so many people tell me that they care about me, that they love me, but that always resulted in my getting hurt.  So I stopped letting people in.  Until them.  Until that group of friends showed me so much love and care.

It gave me a taste.  It gave me a taste of freedom.  It gave me a taste of love.  It gave me a taste of mattering.  It gave me a taste of things I had never, ever had.  And it was them I had in mind when I finally made the decision to leave.  I didn’t want to be alone and closed off and hurt any more.  I wanted friends, a family, I wanted to be cared for and able to care for others.  I wanted a ‘normal’ life.

But then they backed off and I was alone and heart broken and hurting so much.  To have one of the biggest reasons you exited in the first place taken away from you so soon after actually exiting.  It really fucking hurts.  And it became my biggest reason to go back.  What was the point in escaping to a life of loneliness and emptiness and hurt?  I had that where I was and I also didn’t have incredibly violent people searching for me.  What was the point in trying?

I understand their reaction and distance, but it really did hurt.

Where was I going with this?  Oh yeah, the hotel and the months after.  The sum up is that I was a complete fucking mess for a really long time and even if I wanted to do more, do whatever I could to help and support other women like me, I simply couldn’t at the time and I wouldn’t have been able to for most of the last five years.

And the simple truth is, it’s good that I didn’t.

Now, I have so much fucking admiration for the exited women that throw themselves right out there.  Who have devoted their lives to helping and supporting other women to exit, to campaigning, to setting up safe houses, to setting up amazing organisations.  I just have so much respect for them and I’m so in awe of their courage and their strength.  But it’s not something I could have done straight away and it’s not something I should have done straight away.  And I have to say, that part of me does worry about some of these amazing women, I see how much they hurt and they struggle and it sometimes makes me so sad that they never had the chance to heal.

I’m not saying I did it better, I’m not saying I did it the right way, I’m not saying that these women are stupid (like I’d ever say that?) for putting their work before their own healing and recovery.  I’m saying that it definitely wasn’t the right thing for me and I’m saying that I do have some concern for my sisters who I see struggling now.

I’m not stupid, I know that not everyone was as lucky as me.  I know that not everyone has the chance of exiting and getting good therapy, with an experienced trauma therapist (or somehow, magically, even a therapist with a lot of experience in working with prostituted women) straight away.  I was very lucky in that regards.

Really lucky, actually.  Lucky because it has given me the chance to really try and process and heal from some of that trauma.  So many women have processed and healed from their work, but I just couldn’t do that.  I wasn’t strong enough to do that.  And now, now that I’m five years from exiting, I’m glad that I didn’t.  Therapy and healing and processing trauma has made me so much stronger and more determined than I was five years ago.  I know that as and when I’m ready to go into that kind of work, (Which seems almost certain to me, if not trafficking and prostitution directly then at least some support work around other women who have experienced trauma.) I’ll be in a much more stable and capable place than I’ve ever been before, I know that I’ll be able to do that work and do it to the best of my ability.

I’ve done similar work before and each and every time I’ve just ended up burning out and quitting/leaving because I’ve just not been able to take it, especially not with the weight of my own ongoing trauma.  Looking after myself first and foremost has put me in a position where I know I can spend the rest of my life doing what I can for other women.  My future plans belong to another post, though.

It’s been an incredibly long journey and I’m nowhere near done yet.  In reality, I’ve only had a handful of EMDR sessions (again, the detail for this belongs in another post) but already they’ve made such a fundamental difference to my life and I know that with more sessions and more of a focus on processing and dealing with trauma will make such a difference to my life and put me on track for that future.

I’m in such a better place than I was five years ago and not only because five years and one day ago I was still being trafficked by my family and having the crap beaten out of me by my ex.  I’m in such a better place, mentally and emotionally as well as physically.  And for the first time in my life, I actually believe that not only is this gonna stay the case, but I’m gonna end up in a even better place.

RS.

This Shit is Hard

Healing from trauma, regardless as to what that trauma is, is hard.  It’s not even easy to put into words just how hard this work is.  It requires so much strength and energy and time.  I’ve been trying to ‘heal’ on and off for years; all my earlier attempts were completely unsuccessful, trying to heal from trauma while that trauma is still ongoing is nearly impossible, especially if your mind has successfully dissociated to the point where you can’t even remember all aspects of your trauma, even trauma that is still happening or the fact that it’s still happening.  This time around, I’ve been working on this whole healing thing for about five years, since I exited/escaped.  And as a result, these last five years have been complete and utter crap.

Trauma itself has such a massive effect on the mind and mental health; the brain works in such a way where it will do anything and everything to keep you alive, the thing it values almost the most is your own survival.  Our brains, however, aren’t especially good at their job.  They can and will fuck you up in the name of your own survival.  And well, it worked, for me, but it doesn’t mean that I wasn’t incredibly fucked up and still am.

Basically, that’s what flashbacks and trauma related memories and pain and suffering is.  Your brain is trying to give you a wake up call, trying to tell you that something is and was wrong and that ultimately you need to deal with it or everything is gonna be fucking terrible forever.  A lot of people try and silence this, distance themselves from it, either through dissociation, drugs, alcohol, convincing themselves they love it and it’s a choice, self-harm, eating disorders etc. etc. etc. they try and funnel this pain into something else or just try and numb it out altogether.

I’m no professional, this is just my best understanding after everything my therapist has taught me over the years.  Basically, the brain gives you flashbacks so you can process the trauma because unprocessed trauma will try and eat you alive.  The brain gives you flashbacks and other symptoms of trauma so you can realise, on some level, just how much of a mess your life is and how unsafe people in your life are and how you need to try and get away from those people.

That’s what happened to me, slowly, in stages, but it’s what happened.  When I was fourteen, I started getting flashbacks.  I was still in a really fucked up point of my life, still being raped and abused on a regular basis by both my mum and my step-dad (despite them being separated at that point, though that’s definitely another post) and I was still being trafficked.  Dissociation is a wonderful and weird thing, though.  At this point in my life, I only really knew a few things consciously, clearly and consistently.  I knew I was depressed, I knew I was having regular panic attacks, I knew I was self-harming, I knew I wasn’t eating, I knew I was drinking (and probably too much), I knew that I was always high and always needed to be high, I knew I was engaging in a lot of dangerous things (again, that’s another post), but what I didn’t know was why.  I had no memory of the things that had happened to me and my dissociative disorder was so severe that I equally had no recollection of what was still happening to me.  It was like, the me at school, the me during the day, was a completely different me than the one who went home and got sold to several men.  One me couldn’t really, properly remember the other me and her experiences.

As I said, I got my first flashback when I was 14, a memory of what I now know to be the first time that my step-dad raped me, when I was 8.  From there, I started to get more and more flashbacks about him and also about my maternal grandfather/my father.  I still had no conscious recollection of the fact that my mum was also raping and abusing me and selling me.  However, I did have flashbacks and memories that made it clear that my mum knew what my step-dad was doing to me and by the age of 16, after a few suicide attempts, some serious self-harm, numerous interventions by mental health services which were sooooo useful (if anyone has any experience of CAMHS you’ll know what I mean) and some seriously bad mental health, full on crisis days, I decided I couldn’t deal with any of it any more.  I couldn’t deal with knowing that my mum would let someone do that to me.  I couldn’t deal with the increased numbers of arguments with my mum, all the yelling, all the times she hit me, burnt me.  I couldn’t deal with being treated like a slave all the time (if only I knew back then the extent of that), doing all the housework, doing everything in that house.  I’d had enough and on my 16th birthday, dead on at midnight, I packed a few things into my school bag (mostly school books because I apparently still valued my education?!), called my dad to pick me up and went to my grandma’s house.

I got there and after long argued conversations over the phone with my mum, which included her telling them about my step-dad, with a typical my mum spin, namely that I’m a giant whore and I fucked her boyfriend, I finally got told that my grandma would think about me staying and both her and my dad kicked me out, past midnight, on to the streets and told to come back after school the next day.

The flashbacks built up to the point where I was able to realise enough and process enough of my trauma to try and make myself safe.  It didn’t work, not completely.  I had limited contact with my mum in the following years, but I was still being trafficked and hurt by her and her boyfriend, especially as he lived just round the corner from my grandma.  While my brain put me through hell with the flashbacks, it was also trying to ensure my own survival.

It did the same five years ago.  In the months prior to my eventually escaping and exiting, my mental health went to shit.  I was getting constant flashbacks and this time not just limited to Paul and the things he did to me (memories of which eventually included some aspects of trafficking).  I basically got the full play-by-play of my entire life.  I eventually reached the point where my mum had been and still was trafficking me, I could remember client after client after client, I could remember my mum raping me and abusing me and hurting me, I started to make connections between the way my family and clients treated me and what my now ex was doing to me at that time.  Despite putting me through absolute hell and crashing my mental health to a point where it had never been before, I was learning the lessons my brain was trying to teach me.  I wasn’t safe.  I wasn’t safe with my now ex.  I wasn’t safe with my family.  My life was in danger and it always had been.

This massive crash eventually made me make a decision.  I had to leave, I had to escape.  I had to cut off almost everyone and everything I’d ever known to keep myself safe.  I had to not only make myself safe but I had to process the trauma and the memories and the pain or it’d kill me just as surely as they would.

I did leave, five years ago next week.  And it was because of the flashbacks, it was because of what my own brain was doing to me that I did.

My brain screwed me over, though.  It might have saved my life, but it’s now left me in a place where I cannot deny my own trauma.  Where I can only dissociate myself from those memories to a certain extent.  Where I know that I have to deal with or die from it.

I still get flashbacks, I still have dissociation, I still get severe anxiety and depression, I still can’t go outside without getting so panicky, feeling that everyone around me is either going to hurt me or has already hurt me.

This post has gone so off course.  How do I always end up rambling so much?

I’ve been working on healing and processing trauma for the last five years, very seriously during very intense therapy.  And it’s not easy.  I’ve spent the past five years feeling like I’m fighting for my life, even if I’m not actually physically fighting for my life any more.  Trauma work is so draining and so painful.  One of the only real ways to process trauma is to relive it, fully, to be able to process what it was we experienced and what we were actually feeling at the time.  Not relying on dissociation or numbing techniques.  Really feeling it and then really processing it and then really healing from it.  And that takes time, especially if you have a complex and extensive history of trauma.  It takes time and it’s painful and you will hurt almost as much as you did when you were going through it.

I’ve been working so hard for the last five years and I’ve actually made so many significant steps, but I’m not done yet, I’m nowhere near done.  Most of those five years were focused on just staying alive, building trust and safety, surviving the flashbacks and the suicidal ideation and the sheer mental hell that trauma leaves you in.  I’ve only really been working seriously and consistently on traumatic memories for the last year or so, now doing EMDR to be able to really process them.

I need more time, I just need more time to be able to carry on working.  For the first time in my life, I can see a future, I can see something other than what I’ve always known.  I can see that ‘better’ that so many people keep promising me.  But I need time, I need time to work on the trauma, to process it and heal from it.  Bit by bit, I am working and even just working on the smallest aspect starts to make a real and noticeable difference to my life, but there’s still time to go before I am a real, functioning human being again (well for the first time, let’s face it).

I know that with a few more months of EMDR (if there’s anything even vaguely close to being a ‘miracle cure’ for trauma, this is it, seriously) I can be in such a different place than that I’m in now.  Already I’m starting to see so many changes; I’m more confident, more assertive, I’m starting to be able to make eye contact, I’m starting to be able to communicate more clearly, I’m starting to value myself, see myself as worthy, I’m starting to think of the future in a way I just never have before, I’m starting to be able to go outside more often without breaking down with fear and terror of getting hurt again, I’m starting to be able to eat more consistently again – even in front of other people.  But I’m not there yet, these progressions are time-sensitive, it doesn’t take a lot to knock me back again, especially because, in the short-term, the work I’m doing to reach these milestones is the exact thing that will knock me back again.

I actually really believe that I can do this.  I can see the me in a few months time being so incredibly different from the me I am now.  I’m working so incredibly hard.  There aren’t even words to fully explain just how hard this work is.  It’s like you have to completely break yourself down, destroy yourself over and over and over and over and over again in order to really closely examine those broken pieces before you can even attempt to put yourself back together.

It hurts, it hurts so badly.  Each time I do trauma work I’m left suffering.  I’m left with incredibly strong, vivid flashbacks; the kind where it’s almost impossible to ground yourself, the kind where it’s so hard to hold on to the here and now and convince yourself it’s not really happening, that it’s over and you’re safe.  I’m left with such severe dissociation that I just lose track of everything around me; I can’t keep track of time or conversations or TV plot lines or just about anything.  I have little to no focus and I basically become utterly useless.  I’m left so depressed and anxious; I can’t sleep, I can’t make myself go outside, I can’t eat properly, I can’t find the motivation or energy to do much of anything.  My suicidal ideation and my thoughts of self-harm increase massively.  You can’t stare into hell without it looking back at you.  You can’t focus on your own memories of extreme trauma and pain without feeling at least some of that pain and hurt in the here and now.  In the long-term, this therapy is making such a massive difference to my life, but in the short-term, immediately after sessions and for some time afterwards there’s nothing but pain.  That’s the price you have to pay to heal from trauma.  You have to heal or it’ll kill you, but the pain of doing it can be so severe that it feels like it’s gonna kill you, regardless as to how good your therapist is.  And I have a damn good therapist, who makes sure I take it at the right pace and I’m as grounded as possible afterwards, but that doesn’t change the fact that just doing this work is so beyond painful.  The long-term effects though, it does work, I really am working towards getting better.

I’m not better, I’m not even all that close to being better, but I’m getting there and I’m working on it and I just really need the time and the freedom and the support to do so.  And that leads me to the post I had every intention of writing with this and is now clearly going to be my next post, which will be posted tomorrow.

RS.

Branded – Part Three

This post is so long overdue, in fact, there’s a number of posts that are overdue, posts that I’ve been half writing in my head but never made it as far as here.  My life has been… complicated the past few months.  Not all ‘bad’ complications, in fact a lot of ‘good’ complications, but I’ve just not had any energy leftover to try and come back here and write the things that I need and want to write.  A lot of those complications are for other posts, though.  Here, I’m planning on writing about my tattoo and just how much of an effect getting it has made on my life.

If you haven’t already read parts one and two and you’re too lazy to go back, then here’s the sum up (if you’ve read my writing before, you’ll know my version of succinct and summing up is about six pages):

At the age of five, my mum lost her shit with me and after throwing a glass at me and beating the crap out of me, she picked up a piece of broken glass and carved the word ‘whore’ into my thigh.  It was carved into me numerous times over the years, by my mum, step-dad, clients, the scars overlap one another.

Back then, those 22-23 years ago, I don’t think she intended it to be a branding as such.  If anything, it’d be a little on the nose if that was her intention, but it’s definitely what it ended up being.  Then again, being on the nose doesn’t exactly discount it.  My mum was arrogant, confident that she wouldn’t be caught, wouldn’t be stopped.  And you know what, she might have been right, despite several investigations into CSE (Child Sexual Exploitation) in my home town (Which is now infamous in this country, you think trafficking, you inevitably end up thinking of my home town.) my mum and her ‘colleagues’ are still high and dry.  Whether it was her intention or not, it did become a branding, though.  Not just for myself, but for the other women and girls I was trafficked with, though, theirs came with numbers as well as the word ‘whore’.

It was perfect, not only was it a great thrill for clients, to see the word ‘whore’ carved out on the piece of meat they were about to rape, to see it in a place that only themselves and others that were raping her, me, would see, but it worked so well in destroying us too.

Waking up each and every single day, seeing the sum of what you are, what they made you, carved into you, knowing you can never wash it away.  You can wash away the body fluids, you can try and wash away the memories of what they did to you, you can dissociate so far away that you barely even remember, but you can’t get rid of a scar.  Each and every single day there’s a reminder right there, you’re a whore, you’re just a whore, you’ll never be anything more than a whore.  Your body isn’t yours, it belongs to them, the ones who sell you and the ones they sell you to.  Trafficking already has such a profound affect on the body, physically and emotionally, branding and in my experience, one that’s so on the nose, has an even greater effect.  How are you supposed to ever forget, move on with your life, deal with the memories and the trauma if there’s a permanent representation of it carved into your skin?

I didn’t look at my body for years.  Every time I did, I saw their hands, their bodies, I was reminded that my body wasn’t my body, that I had never had autonomy.  Even after exiting, so close to five years ago now, believing my body was mine was near impossible.  I hated my body, every single inch of it, but especially my thigh, especially those scars.  Even after they started to fade and reading the word became harder and harder, I couldn’t help but hate it, I couldn’t help but want to throw up each time I saw those shiny strips of skin.  Being able to read the word or not made no difference, knowing it was there was enough.

And that was where Survivor’s Ink came in, those wonderful, amazing and so caring women do so, so, so much to help women like me.  They fund tattoos so women can get their branding covered and that’s exactly what they did for me.  Despite being at the other end of the world, despite having never met me, these women reached out and gave me a level of love and care and understanding that I had so rarely seen before.

They found an amazing woman based here in the UK who was so kind to me, who did everything she could to support me, to find someone who would be willing to cover up my scarring as part of a charity project, to make sure she found someone who would do it right and not leave me with a sub standard tattoo.  She also offered to give me a voice, to get my story out and was so compassionate and understanding when I said I wasn’t ready.

That amazing woman found an amazingly talented tattooist and artist.  I have to admit, I was wary and on edge at first, I have not let a man touch me, especially not anywhere near my thigh in more than five years.  I wasn’t comfortable and I was incredibly anxious at the thought even though I trusted the women who had helped me so far to not put me at risk and I knew that my girlfriend would never let anything happen to me.  However, he was so gentle and understanding and professional that my fears were eased almost straight away.  Which is a pretty impressive step for me.  I can’t usually even cope being in a room with men without freaking out, never mind actually letting one touch me at all without freaking out.

I got the first half of my tattoo done on the 5th Nov. last year and from that point onwards, my life started to change.  I think I maybe underestimated just how much of an effect getting it done would have on me.  I knew how much of an effect the scars, branding, being there had on me, but I don’t think I truly understood just how much of an effect them not being there would really have.  I think, well, I think I’d just gotten too used to things not going right for me, for things not changing for me.  Part of me didn’t even really believe it was going to happen, I was partially expecting to turn up there and for it all to just be an elaborate prank because of course I don’t deserve things like this.  And even when I get things like this, it’s so easy to believe it won’t make a real difference because what can really heal the pain and trauma of having been raped for the majority of your life?

I seriously underestimated it, but even from just having half of my tattoo done, where not even all the scars were covered had such a profound effect on my life.  I found myself not hating my body quite as much.  I couldn’t stop looking at it, even though I’ve spent the majority of my life conveniently pretending my right thigh doesn’t exist, letting my eyes just slip over it, but all of a sudden I had a new part of my body, a part of my body that was really feeling like it was mine, like it belonged to me.  I even wore shorts that revealed part of that area in the hot weather recently.  Something I have basically just never done before, if I’d ever worn shorts in the past, it was always with tights or leggings, I never just wore shorts, especially not ones where even just a small portion of my thigh would be visible.

My body, even with only half the tattoo, was starting to feel like mine again.  For a start, my mum would fucking hate my tattoo.  Even before I actually started looking like an ugly dyke, she said I looked like one and my tattoo will just emphasise that for her.  Strong women?  Pfft, not something my mum even slightly appreciates.  (It’s much harder to prostitute and abuse tough women, right?)  It’s kinda almost like a little ‘fuck you’ to her, to all of them.  Not only have I covered their branding, but I covered it with something that is me, because despite what I feel, despite what I believe, I do recognise that on some level I am strong because hey, I’d probably not be here now if I wasn’t.  It’s a sign of me healing the damage they did, it’s a sign of me getting stronger, it’s a sign of me valuing my body as my own and not theirs, it’s a sign of me taking my life back as my own, it’s a sign of me deciding that their rules have no place in my life any more.

And I truly believe that she (the tattoo) encompasses all of that, there’s such a quiet strength about her and I’m just so happy, she’s just so perfect.

Now that she’s complete, I’m in love with her even more.  I finally, for the first time in my life, feel like my body is mine.  If I could have a bath yet (I can’t for a little while longer), I actually would and I wouldn’t care, I wouldn’t care that I was able to see my thigh, I wouldn’t care that it was right there in front of me.  It’s mine, it’s supposed to be there and now all I can see is me, I can see my own strength, my own healing.

Getting this done was a decision on some level.  It was a decision to not give up, to not go back.  You’d think five years being exited would mean I’d already made that decision, but I hadn’t, not really.  Whenever things go wrong, whenever my independence and freedom is even slightly threatened, my mind goes back there.  The DWP threaten me and I potentially may lose all my income, my head goes there.  Whenever my mental health takes a turn for the worse, my head goes there.  When you’ve spent your entire life being a ‘whore’ then it’s easy to believe that that’s all your worth, all you deserve.  Especially when it’s been beaten into you, carved into you.  Especially when everyone around you has reinforced the idea over and over and over and over again.  How are you supposed to fight a lifetime of conditioning?  How are you supposed to ever believe you’re worth anything more?  And when your freedom is so fragile, as it always is because us exited women don’t exactly have it easy – mental and physical health conditions from trauma, low incomes, relying on benefits, no or very little work experience, no or very little education.  I’m actually one of the lucky ones, I have a partial university education, I was able to get placement and paid and voluntary work experience throughout university.  My mental health is fucked, my physical health not exactly great and I am relying on the DWP not trying to kill me, but as and when I’m able to work again, I do have a bit of a footing that not all other exited women have.  Though, then again, who looks favourably on a five year employment gap because you’re so bat shit crazy you could barely look after yourself?  But yeah, our freedom can feel so very fragile.  The risk of homelessness, not being able to find a legit job, loss of income because the benefits system is fucked, our own mental health (and the subsequent lack of care) and not being able to shake the feeling that we’re worth anything more.  Yeah, it’s easy to go back, it’s easy to believe it’s your only option.  Our own personal hells are also our own personal safety nets.

But, I think, I think I’ve decided I’m not.  Getting my branding covered up, it was a decision to not go back.  It was a decision to go forwards.

It’s weird, how a bit of ink can seem to change your entire life.  But then, I guess I knew that, not all brandings are scarifications, most are tattoos.  But this little bit of ink, it has completely changed my life.  It’s changed my life in so many ways and in such ways that I can barely even put them into words.

This body is mine now.  This life is mine.  And I could never put into words just how grateful I am to the people that made this happen.  I don’t think I’ll ever have the words.

The words I do have are this, please donate to Survivor’s Ink.  I know I’m not especially good at putting into words the effect that they have, but they do so much good and tattoos aren’t cheap, travel isn’t cheap but the effect that it has, the fundamental difference it’ll make to the lives of women who have been prostituted is immeasurable.  I can’t put into words just how much they’ve done for me, just how much of a difference this has made to my life, but they really are just so amazing and do such important work.

I’ve not included the names of the individuals who helped me because I don’t know how comfortable they’d be with that and I’m too lazy/out of it to text/email and check.  But know that I truly appreciate everyone involved, from the amazing women at Survivor’s Ink, to the wonderful woman and journalist over here who helped me so much and offered me a voice, to the amazing tattooist who so kindly designed and tattooed this wonderful piece of art and my wonderful girlfriend who stood with me and supported me every step of the way – even when I was crushing her hand during the tattoo!

RS.

Oh, whoops, I almost forgot to share my beautiful art work!!!

Before

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Halfway There

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Done!

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Any name suggestions would be greatly appreciated!  She’s a Valkyrie so a Nordic/Valkyrie name would be great, but I can’t decide!!

RS.

Branded – Part Two

As I said in my last post, today is the last day that I have to live with all of this.  Tomorrow, all of this is going to change – I’m no longer going to have to live with the ramifications of my branding, I’m no longer going to have to look at ‘whore’ carved into my leg, I’m no longer going to have to hate my body (or at least not quite as much) and this is all thanks to the wonderful Jennifer Kempton and all the other wonderful women at Survivor’s Ink.

Tomorrow I will be going to get my tattoo, covering my scarification, my branding.  For the first time in my life, I’m going to be able to look at my leg and not see the word ‘whore’.  I’m going to be able to look at my leg and not see what it was they made me be.

I don’t even really know how to feel about this.  Part of me is so excited and so hopeful that it’ll change so much for me.  That it’ll help me not hate my body quite as much.  That it’ll help me feel like my body is actually mine for a change.  That it’ll hide some of the more obvious and visible signs and reminders of my trauma.  That it’ll help me feel like I no longer belong to ‘them’.  I don’t know, I’m just rambling at this stage.

I have so many mixed emotions.

The thing is, this is a massive step in my healing journey and I’m starting to question if I’m ready for it.  I am, I know I am ready for it, but it’s also such a massive change.  I know it’s ‘just’ a tattoo, but it’s so much more than that, it’s something that I’ve wanted for so, so long but never really believed was possible for me.  I’m skint and I’m basically always going to be skint and paying for a tattoo is so far out of my budget, but then, this wonderful and amazing organisation is offering me the help and support to make it happen.

I haven’t really believed it was going to happen at all.  I’ve been talking to Jennifer and other people connected to Survivor’s Ink on and off for the last few months and I still just never believed it was actually going to happen.

Nice, positive, good, healing things don’t happen to me.  Let’s face it, I have terrible fucking luck and I was constantly waiting for there to be a problem or some reason why it wasn’t going to happen at every turn.  That’s part of the reason why it’s taken me so long to write these series of posts because, well, what was the point in getting my own hopes up when it still might just not happen?

That, of course, isn’t a reflection on Survivor’s Ink, I trust that they absolutely would keep their word and do whatever they could to help me, but as I said, good things just simply don’t happen for me and I just couldn’t let myself get my hopes up.

But now it’s here, now it’s happening, this time tomorrow I’ll be on my way to get my tattoo and for the first time in my life I’ll be able to look at my leg and not see the word ‘whore’ carved into it.

I know this is such a rambling post, but I haven’t even really had time to process how I feel about all of this because I just couldn’t let myself believe it was actually going to happen.  How are you supposed to emotionally process something if you don’t actually believe it’s going to happen?

On top of not really believing it’s going to happen, I’ve been so scared that it’s just not something that I deserve.

Other women had it worse than me.

It was never really meant to be a branding.

It’s so faded now compared to what it was, why am I even complaining?  It’s not as obvious or vivid or anything as a tattoo, it’s just an old faded scar.

I’m not worth this level of care or attention.

I’m not worth people spending money on me (especially not this much, omg).

I’ve self-harmed in the same place in the same way myself, so I’m just as responsible for it as they are.

More than any of the others, it’s been the stuff about how it’s so faded now compared to what it was.  I suppose you can barely even make out what it’s supposed to say any more, though I certainly can.  So many more women are having to live with so much more vivid reminders than me, yet for some reason I’ve been deemed worthy to get this help.  Surely I can live with a couple of faded scars?

But as I said in my last post, I’m not living with them, not properly.  The thing is, no matter how much they fade, no matter how obvious or not they are compared to what they used to be, they’re always going to be there.  I’m always going to be able to see them, I’m always going to be able to notice them, even if they’re not obvious to others at all.  I guess what really matters is the effect they have on me.  And I do know that even if they fade to the point where I’d need a magnifying glass and extremely good lighting to see them, they’re still going to have exactly the same effect on me and my mental health and my view of myself.  I need this gone.  I need to be able to start my life again.

And the thing is, I know this really will be a new start for me.  It’s come at the perfect time, at the time that I’m making so many other changes in my life (on which I’ll write about more in another post) and at a time where I can really start claiming my body and my life as my own.  It’s such an important and huge step for me and I think that right now I can never fully know just how much of a change this is going to be for me.  I can’t possibly know just how much it’s going to change my life for the better.

I know it seems like such a small, silly thing.  I mean, at the end of the day, I’m just getting a tattoo (my first, actually) and for most people that’s not a big deal at all, but for me, it means the entire world and I can’t possibly thank the amazing women at Survivor’s Ink and the amazing tattooist that is going to be doing the work enough.  I never expected nor felt I deserved an opportunity like this and it truly means the world that it’s actually happening.

I can’t say that I’m not scared or anxious about tomorrow, but I’m definitely excited too.  I can’t really put what I’m feeling into words, I don’t think I even really know what I’m feeling at all.  I’m just so… happy that this is finally happening and I’m so happy that I’m going to have the woman that I love right there with me, holding my hand (here’s to hoping this supposedly great dissociater and bearer of pain isn’t a total wuss when it comes to tattoos!).  I’m so happy and so grateful that this is finally happening.

This, right here, is my leg as it is.

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Tomorrow, it’ll be something so entirely different, something that is me, something that is mine.  The start of something new.


Survivor’s Ink is truly an amazing organisation that provides so much help, support and relief to exited women.  Please support this amazing organisation and provide tattoos like mine by donating here.  And if you’re also an exited woman and want support, there’s an application form here.  They’re all truly so kind and so caring and I really do recommend getting in touch with them if you need.

RS.

Coming to Terms with How Two-Sided He is

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RadSurvivor.

Some Simplicity in All the Confusion

In response to an earlier post, I decided to take this healing thing and cutting those ties seriously.  I’m partially doing that in therapy and I’m partially doing it myself; through journalling and through reading.  A few months ago, I bought myself copies of Why Does He Do That? and Daily Wisdom for Why Does He Do That?.  A lot of it may not be relevant for me any more, considering I’m no longer in those relationships or those kinds of relationships and a good chunk of it on the basis that I don’t have kids, but the introduction alone for Daily Wisdom talks about finding a sense of self and a sense of freedom from those abusive partners, and that’s exactly what I’m looking for.

I’ve had a few people in the past said they’d be interested to hear more about the healing process, about my healing process, that I write in such a way that it’d be useful to get the perspective from someone who’s still going through that process (though, I’d argue that none of us ever stop going through that process) and well, it’d be useful for me to actually write out my thoughts as I’m working my way through this book, to have them somewhere where I can look back on them and process where I am now and where I was.

I imagine these posts could quickly become annoying and I apologise for that if so.  I’m not going to neglect writing my other posts, in case you’re here just to hear the odd token story from an exited womon.  I guess I’m going to be writing these posts for myself and for other womyn who have been in abusive relationships; maybe there’d be some insight there that can help them, especially those that can’t afford their own copies of the books.  Whatever the reason, I’m doing it anyway (or at least I say that now, I have no sticking power with anything) so if that does become annoying, I am sorry.


I don’t make him do the things he does.
When men blame women for their behaviour,
that’s one of the benchmarks of abuse.

Everything was my fault when I was with Dom, literally everything.  I was responsible not only for the things I did, but the things he did, even the things the cats did.  If one of them woke him up early in the morning, it was my fault.  Everything was my fault.  Everything was always twisted in that house, I’m loathe to call it a ‘home’ because it really just wasn’t.

He twisted everything.  Anything I accused him of, he twisted back on me.  I was the abusive one, I was the one yelling, I was the one controlling everything, I was the one who always started the arguments, I was the one who made the flat messy, I was the one that spent all the rent money, I was the one that did everything.

He was an expert when it came to gas-lighting.  I believed him, I believed every word.  There was a long period of time where I genuinely believed that I was the abusive one, where I genuinely believed I had no right to complain because he was just defending himself when I abused him; it’s what kept me trapped in that ‘relationship’ for so long – what right did I have to kick up a fuss and leave him when I was the one being abusive, if I could just be better then there wouldn’t be a problem.

I’ve been out of that relationship for four years and I still have those doubts; still doubt whether he was really the abusive one, if it was in fact just me.  I question every single behaviour, every single word, every single thing I do with my girlfriend; convinced I’m really just an abusive person, I’m constantly watching myself for any slightest signs of abuse.  Logically, I know it’s not me, I know it’s never been me.  I know I treat my girlfriend with the love and the respect and the care that she deserves.  I know I’m just actually a genuinely nice person; that I can have moments where I get frustrated and maybe say something verging on mean about people in my life, but that’s more just venting in response to normal day-to-day frustrations exactly so I don’t actually say anything mean to them.  This isn’t even me just trying to say the nicest things about myself (trust me, this is definitely not a habit) to alleviate any sense of guilt, I am just a nice person.

And regardless as to whether or not I am a nice person, I didn’t make him do anything.  I guess.  It’s still hard to believe, let’s face it, I’ve not exactly been programmed to see the worst in abusers, I’ve been programmed to see the absolute best in them and the absolute worst in myself and going against that is difficult and painful and scary.

It’s difficult for me to accept the above quote; it’s difficult for me to accept that the responsibility for his own actions lies with him.  There’s always a ‘but’, there’s always a loop-hole.  ‘But if I just hadn’t…’, ‘if I’d just done…’, ‘but if it wasn’t for me…’.  There’s always a reason why it’s my fault, there’s always a cause and an effect and I am always that cause.  Trying to get myself out of that way of thinking is difficult and it’s painful.

It’s difficult and it’s painful because it’s easy to blame myself and not only because that’s what I’ve been taught and manipulated and programmed into doing for the majority of my life.  It’s easier to blame myself because if it’s my fault then there’s something I can do to stop it happening again.  If I just change my behaviour, just change the way I think, just change everything about myself, then I won’t get hurt again, right?  Blaming myself means there’s a problem with me and I can fix me, I can whittle down and change and warp every single aspect of myself, I can be a whole other person and then the abuse and the rape and the torture would stop.  If I’m the problem, then I can fix it.  Blaming myself is easier because it means I don’t have to face up to the fact that I was a victim, I don’t have to face up to the fact that I was abused and I was raped and I was tortured for the majority of my life, for the entirety of that relationship.  If I blame myself, if it was my fault, then words like ‘rape’ and ‘domestic abuse’ become meaningless because I of course wasn’t living with an abusive, violent man, he was the one living with an ‘abusive’, ‘infuriating’, ‘difficult’ woman who caused so much trouble that he was forced to defend himself.  Blaming me means I don’t blame them.  Not blaming men means I can free myself of the label of victim.  It means nothing happened, it means I have no right to whine about it now.  It means I don’t have to admit just how horribly I was hurt, to either myself or anyone else.

So changing that thinking is hard for me, just as it is for any other survivor.  We have so many reasons to blame ourselves.  When we’re in the situation we do it for protection because goddess help us if we try and blame him, when we do it later, it’s still for protection, it’s protecting our own minds from the overwhelming reality of being a victim.

Logically, of course I can see it.  Of course I can see that he was responsible for his own actions, just as I was responsible for mine (barring the things he and others forced me to do – that I relented and agreed to do for my own protection).  Of course I can see that my not putting the shopping away fast enough didn’t make him hit me; he chose to hit me.  Of course I can see that me saying ‘hi’ to a friend didn’t make him turn on me and assault me for cheating on him; he chose to do that.  Of course I can see that my lying next to him pretending to be asleep wasn’t me playing hard to get, wasn’t me asking for it, wasn’t me trying to turn him on with a kinky game; he chose to rape me.  I logically know those were his choices, his actions, not mine.  I know I never wanted to get the shit kicked out of me, I know I never wanted his gross, sweaty self all over me, I knew I was a lesbian even so I definitely didn’t want his hands on me.  I know I didn’t make him do any of those things because why would I, they weren’t anything I wanted?  I know I didn’t make him beat me and rape me and torment me for five years; he chose to do that.

But logic isn’t the same as belief, it just isn’t.  I’m too scared to believe, I’m trying, goddess trust me, I’m trying but it’s just so hard to believe that I didn’t make him do each and every single one of the things he did to me.  It’s so hard not to believe that if I was just a better person, if I wasn’t as ‘abusive’ as he convinced me he was, then none of it would ever have happened, it’s so hard to put the blame on him without shaking in fear at what the consequences of that would be if he were to ever know, to ever find me.

I’m trying, I really am.  I’m trying to believe it wasn’t me.

I know if it was any other womon, I’d be saying the same; I know I’d be telling her it’s utterly disgusting that he blames her, I’d be saying it is most definitely abusive, that she doesn’t control what he does.  But when it comes to me?

Well, I’m working on it, I am.

I’m not responsible for what he chose to do.

I’m not responsible for what he chose to do.

I’m not responsible for what he chose to do.

Rad-Survivor.