My biological dad was always in and out of prison and my stepdad died when I was 6. I don't really remember things being bad, but things changed massively when I was 13. My dad got his own place and I started staying there at the weekends. He only had a one bedroom flat so I used to stay in his bed with him. That's when the abuse started. He would touch me and put his hand up my top. I remember him touching my back and going further down.
The abuse continued for about 3 or 4 months. It stopped when I told my mum he'd hurt me. I didn't say what he'd done but she stopped me having contact with him straight away. I was so scared and confused. It changed my life for ages. It took me 4 or 5 months to actually tell my mum exactly what had happened. We reported my dad to the police but there wasn't enough evidence to convict him. The police basically accused me of lying and I remember crying and mum asking them to leave.
"In the year that followed, I began self-harming and I tried to kill myself three times."
It was a relief to get things out in the open with my mum, like something had lifted. But I couldn't sleep on my own for the next year. My mum had to sit on the end of my bed and talk to me until I went to sleep. In the year that followed, I began self-harming and I tried to kill myself three times. A month or two after my first overdose, my mum organised for me to see someone from a local child sexual exploitation service. We didn't talk about serious stuff, just what was bothering me at the time like getting bullied at school or friends falling out. We didn't talk much about what had happened with my dad.
"They talked to me like I was a child. I refused to talk because they wanted me to speak about things at 13 when I didn't have the words to express how I was feeling."
I was referred to a mental health service for young people too. They did try to help me but it just wasn't the right support. It was a scary place. I remember it looking like a mental hospital. They talked to me like I was a child. I refused to talk because they wanted me to speak about things at 13 when I didn't have the words to express how I was feeling.
By this point I had started misbehaving. I was drinking and I was smoking weed every day. I remember the night before my 14th birthday, I went out and I got hammered. I was sick everywhere. I went home the next day, hung-over and looking a state. My mum had all my presents laid out for me and my cake. I can picture her face in my head now. She was happy that I was alright but she was gutted. It was horrible and I still feel guilty about it now.
I started staying out overnight. I sometimes didn't go home for days or weeks. I was raped twice. I remember being in the bath and scrubbing my skin to try and make myself feel clean. I've got blotches all over me from where I've ripped my skin off.
I started seeing a counsellor called Angela* when I was 16. She was great and she changed my life. She just made me see everything differently, see myself differently. She helped me to start thinking of myself as a young woman who has the right to say no rather than a vulnerable little girl.
"If I'd received support earlier, then it might have stopped me putting myself into risky situations. I think there needs to be more support out there, especially free support for young people who can't afford to pay. "
When I was 17, I took coke heavily for 2 or 3 months. There were so many times when something would switch in my head and I would get angry. I remember coming home covered in blood and I couldn't remember why. After coming off the drugs I had so much guilt because I'd hurt so many people. Angela made me realise that it was ok and that good people do bad things.
Angela gave my life some worth. If I hadn't had her support I wouldn't be where I am now. I told her everything that I'd done and she told me that I probably just needed to get some anger out. Angela helped me to accept the things that I can't change and do what I need to do to make it ok.