Amy (female)

The abuse happened for three years of my life but its impact has shaped every day of my existence, and will continue to do so until the day I die.

I was abused by my uncle from when I was six until about nine years old, without even knowing that it was abuse. This has had many consequences, physical, emotional, psychological, and behavioural and it took me over 20 years to make sense of the abuse and to heal my wounds. The abuse was disguised by love, affection and secrecy. It took many therapists, personal development workshops and finally a friend to help me realise that what happened to me was not right and that it never should have happened. It took courage to tell my family, to disclose, to name the abuse and take ownership of my life, my sexuality, my body, my emotions. I felt used, abused, confused, and finally I became free. Free to be myself, without shame, guilt or secrets; secrets that I had been carrying all my life. Physical illnesses I had to suffer (at age 30, I was diagnosed with an unexplained chronic genital illness), emotional turmoil, identity loss, always pleasing others and only getting love and acceptance from giving. Giving while feeling empty within.

The abuse forced me to lie, to lie to others but most importantly to lie to myself. To pretend nothing wrong was happening. To pretend it was all part of being a good girl. It was all part of being loved and accepted. How many years have I been carrying this burden and sometimes I still am? I need to keep reminding myself of my patterns of self-harm and destruction, of self-sabotage.

The inner struggle of not being understood, of not understanding myself, of having to suffer more sexual abuse as a teenager because that was all I knew. That was how I got love and affection, so I ended up repeating the patterns unconsciously.

I felt weird for many years; I felt like I was a bad person because I wasn’t like anyone else. I started stealing to align myself with the feeling of being bad. Trying anything possible to not be a good girl because being a good girl meant giving in to the disgusting desires of this messed up man. He would love me, kiss me, touch me and tell me how wonderful I was as long as I met his sick sexual needs. I started stealing from sweet shops and moved onto stealing money from my parents to be able to buy sweets and later drugs.

Drug abuse: the only thing that would make me feel good temporarily. I started smoking and drinking at 13 and continued to smoke cannabis daily since age 14. By the time I was 15 I was taking amphetamines, ecstasy, LSD and then moved on to ketamine and cocaine as well until I finally stopped at age 21. I saw many of my friends have psychotic episodes and some of them being hospitalised. I started training to be a counsellor at age 19 and through going for weekly counselling and writing personal development journals for my course, I was able to understand myself and find inner resources to stop taking drugs.

The turning point for me was when I gained insight about how I was using drugs to numb the pain. At that point, I had been raving and living in squats for two years. Once I understood why I was using drugs, I had to make a decision on whether to continue using drugs to numb the pain and follow my friends’ path, or be brave and stop using drugs and change my life. It wasn’t easy but I left my then boyfriend, left behind most of my friends and continued with my self-healing and training to be a counsellor.

I hate this man and, sometimes, I resent my whole family for pretending it never happened. For pretending he is just a sick man. He was the abuser and I was the victim but somehow he always ends up being the victim. They say: “He had a difficult childhood himself” and people always feel sorry for him. My hatred comes from the loneliness and fear, the emptiness and sorrow that I had to live with because of what he did to me.

I escaped from that agony by coming to London alone aged 17. Years of counselling and other survivor friends helped me make sense of the abuse. I now love myself, I do. However, my identity struggles continue, my need to comprehend and heal continues. I still find myself looking for the answer and solution to fill in this emptiness that even today cannot be calmed with food, cigarettes, meditation or acceptance. Now that I love and accept myself the emptiness I feel is getting smaller because it is being filled with self-love, peace, understanding and acceptance.

I would like to mention in my personal experience, that the impact of the abuse comes and goes. I was in denial for many years. I had flashbacks at one point, I tried to tell myself that other survivors had to endure worst than me and that what happened to me wasn’t so bad. Accepting that it was bad, that it did affect me was the beginning of my healing journey.

I would like to encourage all survivors to go for therapy and speak to other survivors about their experiences. It is still a taboo subject that it is not spoken about openly but I have met many men and women who have been abused and who are still fighting to make sense of, understand and heal from their traumatic experiences. I think understanding that it wasn’t my fault was the key to getting confident and being able to deal with the trauma. Understanding that I was only a child and an adult should never have taken advantage of a child who was starving for affection and love.