Since I decided to do a series on inspirational women of the past who managed to either break their shackles or do something for women’s rights or were simply just kickass, a friend of mine offered to do a post for the blog of her own experiences. After reading it and knowing what she has achieved, I shall let her post stand as the first in my series of inspiring women.
Over to Her …
Everyone has childhood memories about being tickled. It’s funny, annoying, it makes you laugh; it makes you cry …
My stepfather’s tickling was an attempt to make me vulnerable. Tickling me gave him an opportunity to take advantage of my inability to control what position my body was in. I soon began to dread tickling, because it led to other things.
I cannot really remember the first time he abused me. In a way, it’s as if it always happened. All of the incidents are rolled into one horrendous memory. My parents divorced before I was ten, my mother met him soon afterwards; he moved in, it began.
I didn’t really understand what it was he was doing at first. A little part of me knew it was wrong that he would interrupt my reading time with an order for me to do something, or for him to let himself into the bathroom and put his hands under the water while I was in there. It was confusing. He told me this was the way he made friends, the way he showed people love.
Of course, I didn’t stay naïve forever. I started secondary school and we started doing social and sex education. It dawned on me that he wasn’t trying to make friends with me; he was trying to take advantage of me. Still, I didn’t have the confidence to confront him about it.
Eventually I did. I asked him to stop it and leave me alone. I was beaten. So now I knew his ways; allow me to abuse you, or suffer violence instead. For a while it was a mixture of me shutting up and putting up, or asking him to stop and getting a pasting. What the hell do you do in that situation?
I told my mother. I was fourteen years old, and quite simply couldn’t take it anymore. My friendships were suffering (in that I didn’t have any left), my schoolwork was suffering, I was suffering. I just couldn’t take it anymore. I plucked up the courage to talk to my mum.
“You’re a liar.”
I was devastated. He left, but mum didn’t believe me. I heard her on the phone at night, begging him to come home, that she loved and believed him, that she knew I was telling vile lies and they could work it out. So instead, I told my school social teacher.
“You’re a liar.”
I couldn’t believe it. Had mum talked to her already? Why did everyone think I was lying? I needed someone to believe me, so spoke to my friend N. She believed me. She was the only one. We are still friends now and I will never, ever forget she was the one who believed in me. Even my father refused to believe me; his only apparent concern was that people might think I was accusing him, not Him.
I was totally lost. He came back to my mum’s house, which of course meant my suffering continued- but on a much bigger scale. My body was his. It was appalling. I started to think in a dangerous way; that this was my fault, that I deserved it, that I needed to be punished for my daring to exist. He knew now that he could get away with it, because nobody of any importance in the world believed me. Who would believe two teenage girls against a big group of adults?
It was about now that the rumours started. That I was having an affair with my stepdad, that I was a dirty tramp who would sleep with anything, even that I was the real mother of my little baby brother. With the exception of mothering my sibling, I began to believe the rumours. I was dirty, filthy, deceptive, immoral and a whore.
I left home at sixteen and ended up going down a very dark path. I got involved in drugs and alcohol, and with older men that took advantage of me. I began to cut myself and even attempted to take my own life. I was in a pit; a dark, deep pit of depression that I could see no way out of.
Then something amazing happened. I fell pregnant. This was it; this was my wake up call. I was nineteen, working a dead end job, I had a reputation as a drunk and a whore. I was so depressed I wanted to die. But still I was pregnant. I had been blessed.
It would have been easy to carry on down the path I was on. It would have been so easy to abort, or give the baby up, or carry on regardless without caring for the life inside me. But I decided to turn myself, and my life, around.
I sought help. There is a lot of counselling services out there for young people like me that had suffered abuse. I received my help. I began living in supported accommodation, with keyworkers who helped me rebuild my life. I applied to take admission to college.
Changing my path was not easy, and my recovery wasn’t quick. It took five years of counselling before I realised that nothing that had happened to me was my fault. It took just as long for me to learn how to build a stable, loving relationship based on mutual respect and trust (something I am still working on now). I am still learning that not every man in my life is a monster who wants to hurt me. But everything I have achieved in the last eight years has been positive. I do not smoke or take drugs anymore, and my alcohol consumption is minimal. I have been in a stable, loving relationship for four years (and counting!). I have re-sat my college exams and am now doing a degree at a renowned university.
I am telling you my story in the hope that you do not judge me. I hope that by reading my story, you will learn that not all victims of childhood trauma are a mess as an adult. Some of us work hard to achieve greatness. Sure, I’m 8 years older than most of my peers, but I made it in the end with a lot of knowledge and a wealth of experience. My ultimate aim though, is if you’re reading this and are suffering the way I did, seek help. It’s never too late.