There have been so many courageous posts [on Facebook by women in support of the #metoo campaign that I feel inspired to tell my story, daunting though this may be.
The first experience of abuse that I can remember was with my uncle when I was 5. It was our secret and I became very good at keeping secrets. Soon afterwards the husband of my grandmothers friend slipped his hand into my knickers. I tried my best to avoid his lap. I was mostly horrified for his wife. It would have killed her if she had known.
My grandmother (who I lived with) died when I was 6. I thought it was because I was bad. When I was almost 7 it happened again with the father of a woman who was taking care of me. This time I spoke up but was called a ‘nasty little liar’ and was put into a children’s home where I was the only girl.
Between the age of 7 and 8 I was never safe. For many months I slept in a bedroom with 4 older boys. Day and night I lived in fear. I remember the time I reached out to the housemaster who told me ‘I couldn’t come crying to him’. Between the ages of 8 to 18 years old I lived in children’s homes and foster homes. I had become attuned to know who would prey on me, and I continued to be constantly afraid.
When I went out into the world aged 18, with no home to return to, I was extremely vulnerable to abuse. My first adult experience occurred with the son of a family I was living with. He heard me crying and I thought he was going to comfort me ~ leaving me with no where to live.
After that there are too many incidents. I remember trying to count how many times my need for connection and friendship left me used and devastated. For a while I lived with a young man where I felt safe, until one day he broke my front teeth. I remember once saying to a man that I liked ‘if you have a girl friend I can’t sleep with you’ – and he promised he didn’t, and assured me he was a good man. But as soon as he was satisfied he told me, with a smile, that he had lied.
There are so many stories, and my body took them all, but the day my grandfather crossed the line, after years of feeling safe with him, that was a sad day indeed. When I was 22 I travelled to Australia to find out about my mother who had died when I was 8. I discovered that as a child her father had locked her and her sister up for days at a time, which resulted in the kidney disease that killed her.
Out the streets at aged 15 my mother had ended up in prostitution. Out on the streets age 23, and with no other alternatives I could see, I followed in her steps. To cope I remember telling myself that at least now I was being paid for what had always been grievously taken. I thought I’d only do it for a while in hope for some security. I had no idea how hard it it would be to get back out again.
Perhaps one day I will tell my story, but in these few lines I would like to say, on behalf of all those women still trapped there, that prostitution is not how it is portrayed in the media. It’s a multi-billion dollar industry and the majority of women who work in that world have been conditioned for it, survivors of sexual abuse living out their trauma, again and again. And the men, they have no shame. I had friends who died or disappeared. I rescued girls from groups of men in packs like hungry demons. Oh the horror stories I could tell.
After numerous attempts, I managed to get free … In my quest to heal I found a healer, who assured me he had been taught by Lamas to get the etheric threads out of the womb, by sticking his fingers into a woman’s vagina. There were about 150 women on his books.
Then there was the doctor I went to see when I was worried about a breast lump. Young, with a very expensive car, who invited me to talk because he ‘understood how frightened I was of dying young, like my mother’. He was one of the most manipulative men I’ve ever known. After he got what he wanted he gave me the number of a breast surgeon. I never wanted to see a doctor again and for a year I thought I would die. A clairvoyant eventually told me there had never been anything wrong with me. I did report it few years later but nothing ever came of it.
As a social worker I’ve heard hundreds of appalling stories of sexual abuse, and I’ve witnessed the devastation trauma causes. It lives underneath mental illness, it hides beneath drug use, and destroys people’s lives. It happens everywhere. It seems there has been no where for women to escape from it.
My experiences broke my heart but more than this, they stayed in my body. They left me unable to be touched and took their toll on my marriage. For the most part of 20 years I’ve lived without the intimacy my soul so desires.
I never can tell the cost of what has been taken from me, but I write this for all women. I am telling my story publicly because I know I am not alone. I am writing this for all those who have been abused, in the hope that we can reclaim our bodies from the stories that have been written upon them. I pray all women can take back their power and sacredness ~ and be honoured for the extraordinary beings they are.
The personal is political. We need to change the laws and institutions that govern our lives, and we need to lead the way. Today there are over 2 million children in prostitution across the world. Never in all history has there been a more important time to rise up in sacred action. And speak our truth. With deepest love to my daughter who encouraged me to write this …
With Love, Diane*
22 October 2017
[*Name has been changed according to our Privacy Agreement]