I Am?

TW: Mentions of suicide and gender based violence.

For Safeguarding purposes the names of the writers are not published.

Post Traumatic Growth

What does this mean to me?  

It means I now  have words for what I have always clumsily called my “Collateral Good”, my “giving back”, my drive to “Make things better for others like me”, to “use what happened to me for good”. 

It gives me a name for the journey I went through over the last 20 years which led me to firmly believe I would be half the person I am now if I hadn’t survived domestic abuse as a young woman. 

 The question I ask is - If this hadn’t of happened would I have spent the last 20 years working in the DA sector trying to make a difference to the service Police officers given to victims of DA; Would I be the person who challenges victim blaming, ignorance around DA and societies clear misogyny? Would I be calling out friends, family and strangers on their ignorance around DA and many other social injustices. I think not. 

Somehow having the experience gifted me bravery, resilience, negotiation skills, how to listen, have empathy and an ability to read others thoughts and feelings, see danger at 30 paces and diffuse others anger. These are all skills I use everyday and if asked if I would swap these for a life where abuse did not happen to me, the answer would be no thank you.

When I explain this to those in life that have not suffered trauma they generally are flabbergasted and for some I watch myself slip into their “she must've liked it” bracket in their closed mind, with a pitying look on their faces.  But when I meet others who have survived and then thrived not just despite trauma but because of trauma I see the understanding in their eyes, the kinship and the strength of them.  

I am not a fragile, vulnerable, unable victim of DA.  I am a strong, feisty, brave survivor of DA who is part of a team of thousands, changing the journey from victim to victor for the next thousand, making it smoother, shorter, and never lonely.

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 "Sitting for Allie, we talked about reframing the gaze and how portraiture isn't just about being looked at – it's about looking right back, telling the story you want to tell and using this as a way to process trauma. We talked about where trauma lives in our bodies and shared where we were at in our journey of processing and dealing with our experiences. But as well as trauma, the session was about looking forward – and celebrating the places in us where we can be at ease with ourselves."

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I am Aissaita Haidara’s daughter, she is a strong black Malian women. A child bride and survivor of domestic abuse. Although she transitioned to paradise when I was 8 years old, she has remained with me throughout my life. I know she is with us today in spirit. Her legacy is Amour Destiné.
Amour destine is a wonderful community that I set up in honour of my late mums life initially to unite, inspire and empower black women affected by trauma in care and/or domestic abuse / sexual violence in london. I didn’t consider that my voice was important enough to be heard and my desire was always to get my mums voice heard as I was frustrated that many women today are still struggling with the same barriers that I remember experiencing as a child that affected my mum.
I later discovered it was ok for me to also meet my own needs and I started to share my own experience of being sexually assaulted as a 16 year old by a group of older people I considered at the time were my friends. As I didn’t know any better and I was living independently so I didn’t have anyone looking out for me. Now I understand my trauma was as a result of me being groomed. It wasn’t until I had launched Amour Destiné that I spoke about my experiences and we now focus our support specifically for Black care experienced young women. So that no one ever has to feel they are alone and that they can define their own future .
The care journey is incredibly important aspect to understand and get right for those who’s journey it will become. As we know that many survivors of domestic abuse at some stage have been looked after, either as children or young people. I hope my voice will be valuable to many allies that have not grown up in care, to learn about the importance of listening to the voices of the care experience community so we can ensure they have the very best opportunity to develop support they need to experience safe, healthy loving relationships in life and not just survive.
The importance of how much love we invest in interventions can have such profound positive impacts on those leaving care. Despite challenges I’m proud to know and stand in solidarity with truly amazing human beings that have gone onto become some of the greatest leaders of our time from Dr’s, Teachers, Entrepreneurs, Artists, Activists to Therapists.
Our next chapter must include more emphasis on operating from a space of love which means meeting the needs of our children & young people and less about providing only what’s available to them. I would like to see a national intervention that provides better emotional intelligence support for children entering the care system affected by abuse. As too often we see our children taken into care and this act itself considered to being the solution. Well it is not, this is where the next chapter of that persons life begins, where they will need real meaningful emotional support that continues with them right through to adulthood.

May reading this be like a rainbow in the cloud for your heart if it is needed and give you hope it be all that you want it to be. 

Love & Light 

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My survival, my thriving again is my success.

I never thought I'd be brought so low, I never ever thought it would happen to me, I truly didn't think I'd rise again....I was, it did but I have.
But I didn't do it alone...
In the poetry that is Women Who Run with The Wolves...Clarissa Pinkola Estés:

Though her soul requires seeing, the culture around her requires sightlessness. Though her soul wishes to speak its truth, she is pressured to be silent.
The doors to the world of the wild are few but precious. If you have a deep scar, that is a door, if you have an old, old story, that is a door. If you love the sky and the water so much you almost cannot bear it, that is a door. If you yearn for a deeper life, a full life, a sane life, that is a door.
Bone by bone, hair by hair, Wild Woman comes back....
Having a lover.. who regards you as a living growing being, just as much as the tree from the ground, or a ficus in the house, or a rose garden out in the side yard... having a lover who looks at you as a true living breathing entity, one that is human but made of very fine and moist and magical things as well... a lover who supports the being in you... these are the people you are looking for.'

I Am.... One of the lucky ones.
Not everyone survives this. 5 women a week during lockdown... Every other day, another woman murdered by someone purporting to love her. They are the women that are counted...that society has no option but to count as there is a dead body to deal with.. We read about it, say 'oh that's dreadful' .. Then get on with our lives.. There are so very many more who are existing in terror, barely able to survive but they are doing and with every ounce of strength they have left.. Hanging by a thread to life... and there are those who can take no more, those who die to protect those they love, those who are murdered by proxy..
Then... there's the children.....
I have seen
I have walked through the door.
I am learning to wear my scars with love because they remind me that I am alive
I know....deep deep in my bones. I know..
I know who I am
I know I'm not mad, I know I didn't imagine things, I know.
I know, absolutely, who and what he is.
I know he did it before and he's doing it again..
I will not be silenced anymore.
He nearly killed me. But he didn't... And that's his failure.
What I didn't know, what I want you to know, is it can and does and will happen to anyone. Not because they have a 'weakness' , or 'let' it happen, or are 'flawed' or must 'attract' it somehow...that she must have 'done something wrong'.. that she must like or want or be complicit in it somehow otherwise 'why doesn't she just leave'... She didn't follow the 'rules..' it's her, its her upbringing, its her past, her class, it's how she looks, dresses, breathes, sleeps, eats, cuts bread, mops the floor, it's the sound of her mouth, she's 'mad', she's 'difficult'..it's because she's insane, she rejects his 'care' for her, his 'protection' of her.... the pain she causes him because she's not who he's decided she should become, he's the 'victim', he 'suffers' not her..He does it, they say, ' because she is'.. Fill in the blank.
It actually happens because they choose to do this. Because they can. That is the one and only reason. And they know, every single time, exactly what they are doing.
And we, as a society, allow them to. Time and time and time and time and time again.
I know it will, likely is, happening to someone you know and love..
Don't be like me. Don't wait until you or someone you love is killed, destroyed, annihilated on every single level to understand..
It can and does happen to anyone. And it will never stop until we all, as a society take a stand, shoulder to shoulder, with those who KNOW.
If you do, you won't ever have to know, you can just trust us that's it's something you wouldn't wish on your worst enemy let alone someone you love.
We do this... go on about it, shout, campaign, fight, fight, fight.. We know we annoy, confront and berate.. We know we keep saying the same thing over and over again.. we know you're sick of hearing it.. We do it for no other reason than we don't want any other person, whether we know you or those you love or not, to have to experience the sheer soul, body and mind destroying brutal hell on earth that is intimate relationship and familial abuse. We don't want for you and those you love to have to know like we do.
Please, trust us. Please stand with us. That's all we ask you to do.
We know...
We're doing this so you won't have to.

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 "It’s imperative that stories like mine are heard. You felt my emotion today as a woman, mother and nurse. I’ve had to bury that for over a decade until today when I sat for my portrait, there was no voice for me.”

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"I see being the survivor of a controlling and abusive relationship as now being someone who can speak up, I can be confident in controlling my own life, my own needs and not letting myself be a victim but letting it shape the person I have become today, a mother, a wife and a successful career person.” 

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"I know that my disability and wheelchair make me vulnerable and an easy target for some men.”

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 “ I was heavily pregnant and slept in my car outside the refuge. It was full.”

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I am recovering from domestic abuse I experienced throughout my childhood and in my adult relationships, some of these have been so traumatic they are infused and have impacted on my life.

It’s been way to difficult to undo the harm, I cannot change the past, not, not be triggered by everyday things such as sounds or silence, words, places and objects.

I do not want to undo the harm its too much for me and I find it is actually patronising in some ways to suggest this is even manageable. I mean how do you quiet your 6-year-old inner child who tried to stop her mums bones being broken, when she has to go to the doctors with her 6 year old child. How easy is it really, to get your super ego to stop nourishing off the abuse its savoured on? How easy is it to trust professionals who are so fearful of hearing your story they chose to ignore your voice and see your situation, like the Police thinking it was ok to let a young women and her two children sleep on a bench.

For me to recover I actually have to get naked, take off the clothes that were handed down to me as a child, get designing a new brand and use them to recover myself.  Ahh so I am a life fashion designer! Bear with me as I master sewing and open my eyes to new textures, patterns and colours.

My life history has led to me developing protective skills and be attuned to every aspect of my environment and by doing so I have kept pieces of my mind, as a means to find peace. I accept that my behaviours are sometimes informed by the way I view the world and also how I have felt viewed by it and that my fears around death, harm, loss, abandonment have fuelled some of my survival structures. Ahh so I am an architect! Stand with me as we stare at the shapes and beauty of the roots.

What do I want in this moment? I want to be seen because you didn’t hear me, I want to shout because you chose not to see me and I want to wear my own clothes, ones that fit me are comfy and express how I am feeling not the ones handed down to me and most of all I want to be around others like me that understand the codes of domestic abuse and racial trauma. That is all.  Ahh I am a human stay with me whilst I live.

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So I speak out .... 

Coerced and cold, frozen in fact, blunted, bland and broken. A marriage of battery had become my normal. Bruises, scars and aching from being grabbed, snatched, slapped and beaten - my life felt fractured. I was envious, angry, furious; with my jaw wired and my eyes clamped shut.

I was not allowed to be me, a pretty little accessory and spoilt with anything as long as it made him money. Sick to death of his so called friends who did the same, drugs and drink. I was diminished and detached, silent and full of shame. To the outside he was jovial and charming, my situation was not funny.

There was no counselling for me, no refuge, drop in or escape. I wanted to flee but had no where to go. My daughter had become more vocal, unsure of her father or being alone. She called our home “The Crying house” this phrase had to resonant a change.

Unhelpful comments “you’ve made your bed lie in it”

“He loves you”, “sick of hearing you say the same things”

Failure and failing to protect was not an option. I went to work nights, as she still napped, and it meant I didn’t have to see him. I realised I needed to return to my forte as a Nurse and that education and University was the most feasible, ticket out.

Hold my gaze it tells my story.       

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I am… a mother, first.  An advocate, second.  A strategic domestic abuse lead in my region working at the front line of the endemic mess than is men harming women and girls.

I am… also, a survivor.  It has been ten years since the moment I woke up and realised that the only way to keep myself and my son alive was to leave.  My baby was three weeks old and in my arms while his father compressed my neck for the third time that night when I realised that we were no longer treading eggshells, and rather, I was walking a carefully calculated plank with someone who was extremely dangerous.

The odds were in my favour, as a young woman who had a good income and a supportive family; I was able to leave.  But it took me another three years of navigating the criminal justice system, agencies who abandoned me, poorly advised coparenting and deeply painful family courtrooms before I was finally seen, heard and we were relieved of all contact with him.  The damage my abuser and the system caused my son and I in that time will stay with me forever.  What happened to my younger self and my little boy, and the way in which it was allowed to happen, was unforgivable.

I am… here, for victims and survivors.  Here, for the women and children like us, and most especially the women and children who are not necessarily like us.  Who do not have resources.  Who do not have support.  Who cannot trust this system.  

I am… trying really hard to be the change.

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When I tell people that I was sexually abused by my older brother I always say it started when I was 8 and he was 14 but really I’ve no idea when it started, I can’t really remember a time before the abuse except for maybe the old house. I always hated the new house. It was so different from the old house. Not just the actual house but everything it represented, everything seemed to change when we were forced to move. My Dad had run up huge drug debts and the sale of the house funded his habit. The new house had no garden and was on a busy road, far away from all my friends. In the old house my Mum had stayed at home with us but in the new house she had to work full time and I was looked after by my older brother.

I’ve always felt like the domestic abuse we experienced from my Dad provided a backdrop to our lives. It was always there even when things were going well. We always knew that things could change in an instant depending on what mood he was in. 

I don’t really think of the domestic abuse as the worst thing that happened to me or the thing that has caused me the most damage as an adult because so many other horrible things happened at the same time. I realise now that the context of domestic abuse allowed the other things to happen – it made me and my brothers vulnerable, it meant neither my Mum or my Dad was around a lot and often it meant there wasn’t enough money. We learnt to look after ourselves and each other.

There are a couple of memories I have that have entwined themselves together and I struggle to separate them. One that I remember as being a really exciting and funny story to tell about my Dad to shocked friends as I got older and one that is just sad and seemed like the very beginning of the lifetime of self destruction that would follow. In the first My Dad has woken me up in the middle of the night to tell me he loves me and not to be sad. He must have broken into the house because he didn’t live with us then. I can remember exactly how I felt when he woke me up – not frightened or upset, just resigned to ‘here we go again’. I was only around 9 or 10, still at primary school but it had happened so many times already, I was just wanted to roll over and go back to sleep – which I did. 

The next morning when I got up for school there was blood all over the living room – on the chair, on the mirror and on the carpet. 

The phone had gone missing and the chairs had been slashed with a knife. My Mum had to go to the phone box to call the police. 4 police cars arrived and a police van with dogs all lined up outside our house. They called in a police helicopter as there was so much blood they thought my Dad must be dying somewhere in a ditch. I can really remember finding the phone down one of the slits on the chair and that the police really praised me. I think they were worried he would come back with the knife and we wouldn’t be able to ring them. They never found him that day. I knew they wouldn’t, even at that age I had known this was all for show – a grand gesture for my Mum. ‘Look what you made me do’. 

It was a story he loved to tell too, how he escaped from the police dogs and a police helicopter. In reality he rang his Dad who took him to the hospital to have his wrists bandaged up. 

The other memory was a bit later, I was 12. It was a normal Sunday. My Dad always came to see us on a Sunday. After they split up he insisted that my Mum let him come on Sundays and Christmas day. She didn’t have much choice. If she said no he would turn up anyway and break the door down or stand in the street screaming at her through the letterbox. Some days he sat on a wall across the road for hours and hours just watching us so mostly we let him in. This day was like most of them. He sat on the couch all day drinking and watching us. He never played with us or even talked to us really. He would watch and we would tiptoe around him trying not to be the one who said the thing that might make him explode. I can remember the tension in the air this day – odd comments here and there that showed us what mood he was in and put us on extra heightened alert. But nothing happened. As the day went on the inevitable thoughts of how do we get him out would start and what time would he go. He might say he was going to get a particular bus and we’d all be desperate for him to start getting his stuff together to go. Then he’d miss the bus (it went right past our house) and we’d start again hoping he’d get the next one. At about 6pm I was curled up on my Mum’s knee watching TV and he was still there sitting on the couch, still just watching us. He hadn’t spoken to us for hours and we knew something was coming but not what or when. Suddenly without making a noise he threw the glass of wine he was holding across the living room at the fireplace. It shattered into hundreds of tiny pieces and made a noise like an explosion. I started screaming, and screaming and screaming and couldn’t stop. 

I don’t think my Dad knew what to do. He had been building up to this for hours and my reaction confused him. I started to hyperventilate and ran from the house to the local churchyard where I morbidly liked to hide. I calmed myself down eventually and went back. My Mum had cleaned up the mess and managed to get rid of my Dad. The house was in order again, like nothing had happened. 

The next day when I got home from school I cleaned out the fire ready to light it before my Mum came home from work and found a small fragment of glass that my Mum must have missed when she cleaned it out. I picked it up and stared at it and held it to my arm. That was the first time I cut myself. I felt instantly better. In control for the first time ever.

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'I often don't delve too much about the darker times we experienced as children, I think often because it can feel so far away. But recently, I have started thinking more about the past.
Interestingly, when Allie photographed me, we spoke about the anger I felt and sometimes still do feel about it all. It's funny, because I think often as women we are taught and told not to be angry, so when we spoke about anger, part of me felt I shouldn't feel that way. But I think in many ways I am angry, because no one should be treated with such low disrespect.

I think it is ok to be angry at times, that by allowing ourselves to feel what we need to, we are able to accept it and slowly move forward. It's all a bit of a journey, I think, as cliche as it sounds.' 

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The first time I kept dreaming of being free somewhere far away just my daughter and I, away from him and his family, no one knew where we were. I escaped it all by listening to Beyonce, her song Listen was so powerful and was everything I wanted to say and do!

Second time I coped by plotting how to get rid of him! I went for a drive on my own loads and I'd always end up at an old friends house telling him how I felt and he secretly would message me so I could get out for a bit but tell him that my friend Kat had messaged me and needed me! Over the weeks I planned how to make him leave and literally all it took was for me to be snappy for a week and give it him back! My friend gave me the strength to fight back for me and my my daughter!

Jo Lock

River

Where there was once chaos, only emptiness remained.

Survival was all consuming, I was left drained and without the mental capacity for escapist day dreaming about my happy place or what it would be like to be living another life far removed from all of this.

We were long term friends and you were my rock. Then as my partner you remained that rock, even when times were difficult as we both untangled ourselves from our respective lives with others so we could start anew together.

Then you became overcome by the tsunami within and my rock shattered into thousands of pieces and as I tried to pick up the pieces and put them back together again, I became collateral damage.

Random people would arrive and leave the weekend parties at all hours and you would light your touch paper with drink.

On a lucky night, I managed to flee before the explosion.

Running down the hill to the river, where I would hide under the bridge. Hidden away from harm and unseen by the weekend revellers crossing the bridge on their way into town.

Space and quiet to think. 

What lay in store for me on my return home?

You say you love me constantly, then how can you do this? 

Too painful to let that one in and be able to survive day to day.

What would it feel like escape by sinking silently into the dark depths of the river?

Would it be calm down there?

No not like that, how can you find the light you crave by fleeing from darkness into the dark.

The best way would be to head into the light, with the sun sparkling on the river like ‘Wind In The Willows’.

Finally, finding myself alone. Devoid of feeling, looking around the empty room and faced with empty weekends with no inclination or energy to fill the hours.

Thoughts of sinking into the river, were eventually replaced by time on the river.

Routine and order were instrumental to my recovery.

Three times a week, I would assemble on the river bank with the others anticipating the coach’s arrival to open up the boat house and reveal the order within.

‘A place for everything and everything in its place’.

All eager to get out onto the water, the order and organisation of the boathouse allowed many crews to manoeuvre cumbersome but delicate and costly fours and eights out simultaneously in the confined space.

For the next two hours my world would shrink down to the simplicity of a fibreglass shell, shared with eight others who like me were entirely absorbed in working as one with the sole purpose of rising and gliding through the water in the smoothest way possible.

Clearing my mind and tuning in completely to the sounds of the boat, sliding of seats, the dip of the blade into the water and the clunk of oars as they feathered when raised or lowered into the water. 

Ensuring that you play your part by keeping the sounds in time with each other by executing each and every movement in time and perfect with the single purpose of achieving balance is in turn cathartic.

Gradually learning to place my trust in others once again, a lot like that team building exercise where someone stands behind you and you close your eyes, fall backwards and the other person catches you.

You come to rely on the encouragement, support and nurture from your crew and in turn this becomes reciprocal. Collectively you find yourselves overcoming obstacles and through achievement my self-esteem restored.

As a crew you are attuned to each other, you are there for each other and they won’t let you go under.

Instead of finding an ending on the river, I found myself, friends and a new beginning.

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This should have been the happiest day of my life.... instead what your looking at is a girl who’s terrified who knows that she’s making a huge mistake and feels the fear and shame of being in an abusive relationship. This was 2003 and I was about to get married. I left my ex husband 2 years later. I some how found the strength to walk away from this abusive and destructive relationship even though I feared for my safety. What happened next changed everything. After a final and pre mediated assault there was no going back. I was left to face myself and what I saw was a girl that I didn’t like very much, I felt the self loathing that I’d hidden in the walls of this abusive relationship because it confirmed to me that I was right that I was unliked and unloveable. Stepping away meant I had to face it all, it physically hurt it was so painful and tried desperately to mask it through another abusive relationship, self harm and alcohol. I just couldn’t see a way out of the pain. Then something happened I was thrown a lifeline the police put me in touch with victimsupport uk I not going to say it all ended there it was actually a long process of counselling and court cases. These issues don’t just go away but you learn to cope, you find the strength and ways to deal with your stuff. Our shadow side in some ways is our strength because it allows us to really see ourselves, what we’re hiding from is often whats holding us back. If you’re in a relationship like this please know there are choices there is help. The police will help you and if you don’t want to go to them Refuge Charity and  Women's Aid, are also options. I hope by sharing my story it shows there is a way out. I can’t imagine being in this relationship during this time of lockdown. You are not alone, reach out there are so many people wanting to help you right now. 

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Many of us have our issues growing up and it is rare to make it to adulthood completely unscathed. My issues centred around feelings of abandonment, loss, rejection, and abuse. Being adopted, the traumatic loss of my adopted dad at 13, plus years of mistrust and abuse that followed. This all left me with an exceptionally low opinion of myself and a lack of self-worth, which then led me to a violent relationship. 

Why am I sharing this? Well part of me wants people to understand how ‘ a nice girl like me’, as has been said to me numerous times, can end up being the victim of domestic violence. I also want to share how powerful yoga can be in the journey to healing the past. 

I never wanted to be seen as a victim I knew how much strength it had taken to leave this relationship, but without the distractions and chaos that this brought I was left alone to face my demons and it wasn’t easy. I turned to drink, another abusive relationship and behaviours that would mean I did not have to feel what I was experiencing, which was physically painful and mentally challenging. Through my yoga practice and counselling I began the road to recovery. It was tough and there were times when I wanted to run out of the room. I would miss sessions by practicing avoidance, convincing myself I no longer enjoyed the class or did not like my counsellor anymore.

I kept going though. One of my favourite inspirational quotes is by Winston Churchill “if you’re going through hell, keep going”, and that is exactly what I did.

The word yoga means to be present and to be embodied, to notice what is really going on both physically and mentally. You cannot escape you. I enjoy this practice now – noticing how my body feels physically, where I am holding my tension and how I am feeling emotionally. I listen to my feelings and responses with a sense of curiosity and interest. Through yoga I understand that I am not defined by my past and these experiences have actually equipped me with a huge understanding and empathy towards others, an ability to bear witness to the stories of other peoples’ pain.

It is my belief we can all heal from our past, whether you are on a journey like myself or want to increase your sense of wellness and are curious how yoga movements and mediation can help. The teachings offer us all an insight into how we can help ourselves and navigate our way on our true path.

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Growing and Surviving 

 Two words that I have never really acknowledged or associated with myself. Before I met Allie and sat for her I had never thought of myself as a survivor. I was enduring my past not surviving it. It was in me, I kept it locked away as best as I could so that it could do as little damage as possible but every now and then the box it was locked in would crack open and the poison would seep out, like a sickness of childlike confusion, vulnerability, hurt, disgust, fear and guilt. 

 How on earth could I call myself a survivor? I hadn't survived, I had just been broken by events in my childhood, scarred by them, they'd wrapped their tentacles around me and I could never escape their effects for the rest of my life. My life as a mother, my life as a wife, a daughter, a sister always effected by the poison.For years I have battled beneath the surface, I've kept the battle hidden put on a brave face, put on my mask so no one would know. Or so I thought. 

 The process of taking off my mask and allowing the emotions to come out was witnessed by Allie, by a stranger with a camera and smile. I had no idea how powerful it was to be witnessed, truly witnessed by another human, no judgement, no emotion just seeing your truth. I sat, I spoke, I thought. I opened the box and I allowed the thoughts to come. I acknowledged them, I accepted them, I embraced the child inside me. I thought I had been protecting that child for all these years but in actual fact I'd been trapping her. 

 I see now that for all those years that I'd lived in fear of the poison dragging me down, in actual fact it had been guiding me. It had driven me to such heights of love and passion and care and kindness and appreciation. It had been my backbone of parenthood striving to help my children, my 3 sons grow into the men and the fathers that I should have had. 

Our home is the very home I longed for as a child.So, you ask me how I have grown and survived domestic abuse and I can finally look at my life and tell you that I have done so in a very positive way. My greatest achievement so far is my children, 3 loving , caring, empathetic, fun boys who will become incredible men capable of loving and being loved. I am finally letting go.

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How do you begin to tell a story when that story is full of memories and feelings for which the words don't exist? How do you tell it when even one fragment that lasted only a few seconds might be so rich and vivid that you could fill a chapter describing the experience, how it scarred you, how it shaped you?

I've always tried to do the right thing. I hope that when I don't, I hold my hand up. I lost myself for a while. When you have two choices, A or B, and either will get you belittled and berated on a different day, you shrink with fear. Become gaunt. Hollow. Turn into a shadow. Which is the right one today? How do I keep them happy? It's all about keeping them happy, and every day feels like a spin of a roulette wheel where the house always wins.

There comes a point when you have to choose to live. That is the greatest gift you can give yourself. It doesn't make the demons disappear, but it stores them away in manageable little boxes. And you can often recognise, without saying a word, the people who have similar boxes to yours.

Now if I spin the wheel, it is on my terms. My choice. I'm alive again - and will be for the rest of my days.

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THIS IS NOW ABOUT YOU

I am writing this letter to YOU who will never get to read and know what YOU did to me how you emotional broke me how you hurt me how you destroyed me YOU can never know 

HOW I survived I don’t know but I did because I was crushed and wanted to die not love again not exist anymore

Why because YOU was my reason for living because YOU was my life my world nothing was too much trouble for me with regards to YOU I wanted to see YOU happy to see you smile laugh enjoying life I stood by your side no matter what life threw at us I never turn my back on YOU I trusted YOU I loved YOU I worked so hard to understand YOU I worked so hard to listen and understand YOU we had conversation until the early hours with YOU about how your life has been all the hurt YOU went through in your life before we met I worked hard to help YOU with your demons your alcohol addiction and your FM’s YOU told me YOU never knew what true love was I showed YOU what true love was 

I even forgiven YOU when YOU hit me because I loved YOU and didn’t want to give up on us but when YOU threaten to cut my throat with a 8inc knife and threaten to put me in a wooden box that was too much for me I even put up with your mental cruelty YOU put me threw because I loved YOU and didn’t want to give up on us 

YOU were once the man I wanted to spend my life with YOU wasn’t always like this YOU were kind and loveable YOU made me fall in love with YOU for 14yrs I thought YOU were happy with us I had no reason to doubt YOU 

Until I found out about your secrets via your phone finding out your dating apps finding out the videos YOU had on there of other women finding out about your history finding out that YOU were deceitful finding out my world had ended with YOU 

YOU lied through it all YOU messed with my whole being my mental health my emotional being YOU were cruel and why because YOU couldn’t deal with the things YOU did to us YOU had no remorse about what you did to me YOU even wanted to put all the blame on me I pressed the wrong buttons YOU even tried to be the victim 

YOU made me fight YOU because my life was in danger because of YOU your lies your deceit  

Getting found out YOU was losing me and didn’t know what to do so you tried to kill me 

YOU made me believe I was the only women for YOU  

But YOU lied.

YOU made me believe YOU were loyal

But YOU lied

YOU made me believe I was safe with YOU and no one would ever hurt me.

But YOU lied and I had to keep YOU out of my life forever because YOU was now a threat to my life and couldn’t be trusted with my life anymore  

YOU made me love YOU said YOU wanted me to be your wife 

But you lied

YOU said I was jealousy and it was all in my mind I was crazy thinking 

YOU lied I had evident in black and white and shown YOU had your face book set to only me to see and tried to say it now reads unfollow your phone bill had your dialled numbers on YOU went mad when YOU knew I checked it how dare I do this get proof of what YOU did

YOU made me fight YOU to save my life

YOU did this to me made me fight YOU came at me with the knife twice after taking it of YOU causing an injury to my right hand thumb making it disable to use only 40% movement YOU were charged with unlawful wounding 

YOU said YOU would support me when I needed the support

YOU didn’t support me when my dad was very ill you told me when my dad improved I was to pack my bags and go that YOU were a nice man and could wait my dad was dying at the time YOU was full of alcohol and drunk  

YOU said you would never be the reason why I cry 

YOU made me cry at night on my own YOU knew and didn’t care I cried in front of YOU and all you did was watch the telly and carried on eating your dinner and told me tell someone who cares

YOU ruined my birthday forever because it should have been our wedding day

YOU did this to me my one special day of my life that belonged to me 

YOU let me go and deal with the aftermath of us ending something that could have been lovely YOU gave me no choice

This letter YOU will not read today maybe in the future but not now

YOU freed me so I would like to say thank YOU I am sorry if I hurt YOU I wish YOU love and happiness going forward I hope YOU learn from this and not do to another women who is true and genuine has I was so I do forgive YOU because my new life is now just beginning I am not a victim I am a survivor because of what happen to me I am now more stronger and able to support other women going through the same situation I was in I feel empowered and able to understand men like YOU my life is worth living for I know my worth I am able to have dear friends around me able to discover me again and grow with each new day to take back my life and now live for me  

YOU see I have met a lovely man now who wants to be with me who shows me love and companionship who is there for me and support s me and can give me what YOU could never give me we have a future together he has shown me I can love again and it is ok to feel safe with him and he won’t lie to me he has helped me heal I am not there yet but on my way to healing I will keep going with love in my heart and promise of a lovely life in the end I truly hope YOU find peace and get the help YOU need and hopefully be at peace but please believe me I did love YOU I only hope one day you will reflect back on us and realise YOU did have true love but threw it away 

So I end this letter with it was all about YOU in the end

***********************************

Chip chip chip away, don’t wear that, don’t eat that, don’t say that, wait til you get home, you know my triggers, you made me do it.
My life !
My boundaries!
My body!
My decisions!

Just three words
Fuck you perpetrator.

Keep staring … I’m Stronger than ever Out with … control, fear, shame & pain
In with boundaries, decisions, happiness & peace.

*********************************

Face Me after the Fade

When you look at me, you stare intently
Eyes asking, ‘Why didn’t you tell me?’
Your mouth isn’t moving, though
Because you don’t know what to say
And that’s okay because all I need is to know you’re here
And that I’m safe

The longer you stare, the more the bruises will fade
From black, to purple, to yellow
The blood has long since dried and washed away
The cuts are healed, renewed skin hiding the truth
The longer you stare, the better I look
The better you think I am
 
After a while, time will pass as it always does
And you will stop looking at me like that
There won’t be anything to see any more
He will be gone
My bruises will be gone
Smiles will frequent my face more and more
And you will smile back, safe in the knowledge
That I am doing okay

Face me after the fade
Please
Ask me how I’m doing
And when I say I’m fine

Ask me again

For many months from now
Every night, I will wake up
Certain that he is there
Sweating, my heart bursting out of my chest
My mind screaming at me
That I can’t get out of this room
Or out of this life

Face me after the fade
Because my heart is still broken
The bruises have long disappeared
But some days I hurt all over
And everything you think is gone

Is right here where he left it.

************************

I was powerless then

It's different now

I can make my own decisions

It's up to me 

and I say how

Yes, I make my own decisions

It's my choice now

What colour I paint

What clothes I want to wear

It's my choice now

When I go to bed

No more body full of dread

My life is my own

My music, my rules

No more football night after night

My life is my own

My children, my rules

No more pretending, no more fright

There's no more egg shells on the floor

I'm not tip-toeing round any more

No more doing what you say

I'm here living my own day

I'm free to look to my left or right

I can even smile and have a good night

Chat with people, say hello

It's all right now, it's ok to go

It will always be a part of me

But I'll make damn sure that it's small

The control is no longer over me

I am proud and I'll stand tall

This is me, like it or not

I've survived and am getting stronger

It will always be a part of me

But it won't hurt me any longer.

I'm finished with the silence

I'll not carry your guilt myself

The shame is gradually dying

Happiness is my new wealth

I've got my family who love me

My friends and their support

I don't need to hear your lies now

Honesty and kindness are what I've sought.

Don't sit in this room

Sit in that

What the hell is wrong with that?

This is my family

This is my life

I make the rules now

And that is that!

***********************

Finding Me?

It’s November 2020. I have just been shot, again.

By ‘shot’,I mean that photos have been taken of me.

Photos, a reflection or look inside a soul or a person who can or who has.

However, during the photoshoot, it became very apparent that I’d become a ‘hider’.

Hiding myself to not get noticed. 

Making myself look and feel smaller.

Being submissive so that no one could take offence.

I’m 41 and Trans. I am in a situation where I can say that I have not been in a single adult relationship without abuse. I have become so adept at hiding, moulded or trying to not take up space or being subservient that it has become second nature.

In this shoot  the idea was to try and find me, coax some smidgen of reality buried amongst coping mechanisms, amongst survival. It was apparent that it was difficult to find what me laid bare was.

The thing is, I do not know, what that is. I’ve been punched! I’ve had broken bones! I’ve had so much more and those words I do not want to use or share. I have been moulded by trauma to become someone who can survive, someone who can endure, what seems like never ending punishment.. Finding myself or the real me or something inside that isn’t crafted to suit is beyond a challenge. 

I am a disaster and crisis specialist because of that.

Because of the things I have been through.

Because of the things I have had to see.

Because of the things that have happened.

This body at 41 has taken me through so much. It is tired. I want to stop and let be me. Let me be free. Let me rest and not take the aches and ills through the next chapter. 

 The next thing or the next hope is never where it wants and breaking the cycle of abuse and repeating the self same, inflicts more pain, more suffering, more torment.

I drag this carcass, though complete but war weary, hoping that there are no more battles, that there are no more scars and that people are aware how much these things will change every single aspect of life. 

**********************

The Best of Me

I am ……happy to be ME!

My voice is as loud as the lioness's roar, 

but you can only hear it with your heart, not your ears. 

My mum once told me that a loving relationship or marriage was one of the best thing life could offer you. 

Today I have learned that it is only true when both partners love and respect each other, and look in the same direction and. 

I was hurt so badly; I nearly gave up on life. 

Domestic violence is not acceptable regardless of the "why". 

Nobody should wake up every morning being afraid of the person they woke up next to.

Nobody should be afraid in their own home, then it is home no more.

I was her, afraid to live, afraid to think, afraid to smile in case I hurt someone.

I had no confidence, I did not feel the beauty of a woman, I was just a living being,

Today I am happy to be ME!

I am free, I feel alive, I am a proud black woman, mother, sister, friend

I am unapologetic about my happiness, my confidence, my strength, my ambitions

Domestic violence is not hereditary, my mum suffered, I refuse to suffer.

I say yes to live, yes to happiness, yes to pulling the strings of my own life.

I am the indomitable lioness.

Do not be quiet, say yes like me and be FREE TODAY!                      

**********************

I am

I am – a woman who once was a girl

I am – a mother, a sister, a wife, and a girl long ago, in a faraway life

I am – a pupil, the lessons were scary and hard

I am – still here, even though I may be scarred

I am – not a victim, I won’t grant them that power

I am – a survivor, like a lovely wildflower

I am – not perfect but I don’t need to be

I am – okay when I am just me

I am – a reader, a lover of books

I am – not someone who regularly cooks

I am – scared of spiders and water; dark, enclosed spaces are sheer torture

I am – a woman touched by trauma, fear and pain but if things had been different, I wouldn’t be the   

            Same

I am – strong at the places that are broken, a dragon that the pain has awoken

I am – a dragon that is strong and calm but springs into action when she senses harm

I am – strong

I am – safe

I am – loved

I am - me

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