This part of my story contains a discussion about sexual abuse. Please do not read it if you feel you may be triggered. I mean it. I am able to be very honest about what happened and I would hate for that to have a negative effect on you
Chapter 10 — the nice bit
The year I spent living with my mother in Stockport was nothing short of idyllic, especially considering where we’d come from.
We lived on a terraced street. My mother’s husband was a long distance lorry driver, so he was gone for long spells. Soon after being told we were staying, my mother suggested we call him dad. Neither of us really wanted to, but we couldn’t exactly say no, so the deal was done. We called him dad and we took his last name.
From this point onwards my brother and I very much went our separate ways. He was in high school and I was in primary. I loved my school. They had an aviary, pet corner, and garden area in the middle of the school. Kids were given responsibility for different bits. Even though I would have loved to work with the animals, I was given plants. The headmaster took those of us looking after the plants to a local garden centre and we got books and products to look after them. He also would take those of us who loved learning and gave us extra maths and english classes. I was a swot. I used to run home after school and without even taking my coat off, I would sit at the table and do my homework. My brother was the opposite!
Because the houses were all attached to each other, my mother was good friends with all the neighbours. Our door was always open and one of the neighbours was often round for a coffee. There was a lady that lived across the road called Mary and she had a young daughter. I loved to go over to her house and play with her daughter. Mary taught me how to make nest cakes out of Shredded Wheat and chocolate at easter. In fact, I loved going to her house so much, she had to create a code so that I wasn’t running over and waking them up. She would put a fan in the window if it was ok for me to go over.
My mother always had lots of friends. She was a very loving and engaged mother, despite the physical limitations and battling pain.
I knew what if felt like to feel safe and loved for the first time in my life. When I first went to see the therapist that changed my life in Harley street in May 2011, he went looking for significant memories. As soon as he tapped into my memories everything went very black in my head. Eventually he went looking for a happy memory. That was also quite tricky. Eventually it was a memory from my time in Stockport that came to mind.
Chapter 11 — Nothing lasts forever
I’m not sure how long we lived in Stockport. If I work it out, when we returnrd to Anglesey I did about 6 months in a local primary school. As we go to High School at 11 years old in Wales, it must have meant we were there about a year.
As I mentioned, my brother and I had gone our separate ways, and I was aware that my brother was getting himself in trouble, but I was too young and too self-absorbed to know much about it. One day something happened that was shocking to me. My brother was getting told off by my stepfather. My mother and I were standing watching. He took out a stick and explained that this was my brother’s punishment and he needed to change his behaviour. He then proceeded to cane my brother. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I couldn’t imagine what my brother had done that was so bad to warrant being caned. Before we’d been hit for all sorts of things, but it was always done with anger. This was scary because it was calm and calculating and deliberate. And my mother just let it happen.
It was around that time that my stepfather lost his job and we all moved back to Anglesey.
Chapter 12 — The dark days
From the brightness and sunshine of Stockport we moved back to a dark and bleak life. My stepfather went through various jobs until he eventually got a job as a store manager that had him out of the house for longer hours.
My brother continued to do his own thing. He wouldn’t let me anywhere near his room or his stuff and regularly shouted at me. If we got in trouble for anything, my brother would start crying and it would look like it was my fault — because, of course, I never cried.
My stepfather turned out to be a controlling and domineering man — a smiling assassin. Smiling and charming everyone outwardly while controlling and manipulating us at home. He had us do chores and they had to be done just right. Bread had to be buttered right to the edges when we made his packed lunch. Dishes had to be washed and dried perfectly. Ironing had to be done with the collars perfect. Each morning he had strips on the windows to collect condensation and we had to go round and squeeze them into a bucket. I complied because that’s what I’d been conditioned to do. I suspect my brother rebelled more.
My mother was getting more ill. She now had Crohn’s disease and would not get up until after lunchtime. She had foods that only she could eat, and while we never went without food, it was always hard to have chocolate bars etc in the fridge that we weren’t allowed to have. Each day she would spend over an hour doing her make up to make herself feel more human.
Nothing was the same again once we moved back to Anglesey. My school was rubbish. I was way ahead of the other kids. Home was rubbish. The bright days of Stockport were soon long forgotten. I was no longer safe, and I no longer felt loved.
Chapter 13-It got worse…
(don’t read this bit if you are worried about being triggered)
My stepfather liked to play fight. More so with my brother, but also with me. He used to get pretty rough with it. I think he used it as a way to attack my brother.
He used to come and say goodnight to me and would often tickle and play fight. My mother would be in the room next door watching TV as this was a bungalow we lived in.
One night, he went to kiss me goodnight, and he forced his tongue right into my mouth. It was disgusting and I couldn’t breathe. The next night he went to do it again but I closed my lips as tight as I could. “Not like that, a proper kiss” he said. He said he was going to teach me what boys did to girls. From that first kiss, he did more and more each night. Eventually the only thing he didn’t do was rape me. He did everything else. I never had to touch him, and he never touched himself in my presence, it was all about me.
I didn’t know what this was, but I knew I didn’t want it. I thought an orgasm was something very wrong and was breaking my body each time it happened. I tried to resist. I always fought, but he always managed to get through. At that point I would just disassociate and give up and escape into my head. I started switching the light off so I could pretend it wasn’t happening to me.
One night my mother walked in on him abusing me. The light was out so the only light was that coming in from the hallway. She asked what was going on. I was mortified. I don’t know what I said or he said, but I do know that my mother closed the door and walked away, and he carried on.
He began to use the chores as a means of punishing me for not cooperating at bedtime. One time he had me lay all the dishes I’d dried out on the table for inspection. He found a wet bit on one of them and threw them all back in the dishwater.
And then he did the thing with the belt. Him and my mother had a serious conversation with me. Apparently I was not demonstrating the right attitude and the right diligence around my chores. He took me into my bedroom, closed the door and told me to lean over the bed and pull my pants down. He then took a belt and whipped me on the backside with it 6 times. When I pulled my pants back up he sat down next to me and made it very clear that the punishment was actually for me not cooperating at night.
I still fought, but maybe less so. Although on one particular night, because he was play fighting before he started, I manage to kick him right in the ribs. It cracked his rib and he had to go to hospital. Good luck explaining that one! I wasn’t sure if I’d made this up but it was brought up at his trial and he confirmed he’d had a cracked rib.
He would also tell me to call him in to “wash my back” when I had a bath. I did. Because I did as I was told. And abuse would happen while I had a bath. I find it hard to understand how my mother thought it was ok for her husband to go and help an 11 year old girl have a bath…but clearly she chose not to notice.
Chapter 14-another lesson in not speaking up
I don’t know how long the abuse went on for. I vaguely think it stopped when I started my period.
When I was around 12 years old I went to stay with my mother’s friend from across the road in Stockport, Mary. I was with her for at least a week. She kept on saying that I would learn to like my stepfather. I kept saying I wouldn’t. I went to bed the night before I was due to travel home and made a decision. I went back downstairs to where she and her husband were watching TV. I told them what my stepfather had been doing to me. They looked at me and asked me if I was sure, as it was a very serious accusation. I got the sense they didn’t believe me. I asked them not to tell anyone and went back to sleep.
But telling someone, somehow made it so much harder to be at home and know it could happen at any time. So I wrote to Mary (days before the internet!) and asked her to tell my mother. She did.
I remember the conversation with my mother. I was sitting in the lounge, and she was standing. She was raging at me. “What do you expect me to do?” she yelled. My mother wasn’t a yeller, so seeing her so mad was confusing. I begged her to get me out of there, send me away, do anything. She said she’d fought all of those years for custody of us, she was not going to lose me. And then she told me never to speak of it again.
Nothing was going to be done.
I went back to my room and sat on my bed. I felt utterly helpless. Devastated. I’d told and got in trouble. Luckily there was no internet because I didn’t know you could kill yourself and I didn’t know about self harm. Otherwise there is no way I would be here writing this.
From the age of around 12 to 16 I have absolutely no memories. My brain coped with this my just locking off that space. When I recently reconnected with old school friends, I had to ask one of them what I called her, because I couldn’t remember. I don’t have vague memories. I have none. I was frustrated by this and asked a fellow therapist to help me unlock that space. We started, but as soon as I peeked through that door I realised the abuse had not stopped. So I walked away and am now happy to leave that space blocked off!
Chapter 15-My brother
Everyone loved my brother. He was a real character. When we lived with my stepmother, he got hit more than me. And then I think when my stepfather started showing his true colours my brother found it really hard. He was always out. In later years I learnt more about it, but we really only shared a house, not lives. He wasn’t great at school, more because he had other stuff, but he was a talented artist and did really well at subjects like graphics design.
My brother got into punk music and culture at around 14/15 years old. He actually converted a mining action man into a punk by shaving his head, and modifying the orange miner jumpsuit and the boots. It was actually really good and I bet it would be worth some money now. It was also around this age that he ran away for the first time. He hitchhiked down to London. Because he was still a minor, my parents went and fetched him back.
Then, soon after his 16th Birthday, and before taking his exams, he ran away again and this time they left him.
As a side not on unfairness, because he needed extra motivation, he was offered £10 for every exam he passed, and £20 if he got an A. Me? I was not offered anything and got nothing for getting 3xA’s and 5xB’s on my exams…
When my brother left it gave me a chance to get at his stuff, but I wasn’t allowed most of it. One thing I did grab was a bomber jacket that he had. It was the style of those American Football player jackets and I loved it. One of my good friends begged me to give it to her. Turns out that most of my friends fancied my brother. I had no idea!
My brother lived on the streets for many years. He got into taking drugs, and has been on heroin since then. He’s 50 at the time of writing this. He is still a punk and lives in London. He is still a drug addict. He has never escaped his demons.
He visited home occasionally and was always treated by my mother as the prodigal son. He would visit my father too and my father would talk to him. Years later I learnt that my father had been supporting my brother financially down in London, a long time before he had anything to do with me again.
I was mad at my brother for running off and not taking me with him. He left me with the burden of everything: looking after a disabled mother, doing the chores for my stepfather, and all the other stuff. I was the one who did what I was told and I got left behind and abandoned by him.
And so begins the next part of my story…