Mia's Story -Her personal journey from victim to survivor after being sexually abused at a young age
Now, if you have picked up this book or short story or whatever this is, be prepared that this is not going to be a story about a sad child who was sexually abused, it’s going to be about a very brave child and woman who has overcome her pain. There are two types of people who have endured trauma, there are those that are victims and those that are survivors. What people don’t realise is that you have to first be the victim to become the survivor. A victim still allows that pain to control them, some can let that pain last for years and you must be gentle with them. A survivor is free, free of the pain and the shame. Sometimes, a survivor goes back to being the victim but then they find the strength again. I’m not writing this to teach people to become survivors, I’m writing this to tell my story of how I went from a victim to a survivor.
I was sexually abused by my father and his friend. That’s the truth and it’s so hard to say, much less to have it written on paper. It’s as though it becomes more real. Of course, I know it’s real, but slowly I become less ashamed of saying it. It has taken me so long to realise is that what happened to me when I was younger doesn’t define who I am and was NEVER my fault. My flashbacks used to scare me, it made me feel cold and alone. I felt like the very breath I was taking in was poison, that my skin was fire and my body no longer belonged to me. I remember the darkness taking over my body, like a fog rolling over every inch of skin. My mind going blank, my body going numb and floating. I could see my body taking breaths but I felt no control of what I was doing. What I don’t remember is the first time I did it, dissociate, that’s what the doctors and therapist call it. If you look up the term in a dictionary it would say it describes an experience where you feel disconnected from the world around you or from yourself. This is true of course, but to me, it wasn’t just a disconnection, it was a safety, I am so grateful every day that my mind was so smart and strong to know that I needed to not see it, hear it, feel it.
To tell my story I have to start in the present. Today, I told my story to a friend, but this time I didn’t cry or feel shame, I felt proud. I felt so proud of the person I have become, proud of the little girl, teenager, young woman. My therapist said to me once, that I need to stop referring to her as ‘little Mia’- ‘you are little Mia, she is a part of you, you need to find a way to connect yourself to her’. Today I did that, I am who I am because I saved myself. I used to hate myself, blame myself, I was angry at ‘Little Mia’ because she didn’t say anything or do anything. How could I be angry at a child when I was that child, she is me, I am her, we are one. Today I truly believed that I felt the strength in our unity.
The Caribbean. A place that is meant to hold so much beauty, for me it’s just a reminder of the pain. I don’t know how old I was, but I was young, maybe 7. My room was in the middle of the house, mum’s room was right from the top of the stairs, dad’s room was left. I remember I had bunk beds, I had always wanted them, dad made them for me. When I was young and under his control, he always showered me with gifts. I got whatever I wanted, it came at a price, one that I had no choice in. My room was pink, I had a little closest on the left as you walked in. My bunk bed was on the right up against the wall, with a white side table and a lamp. I had stuck Disney princess stickers on the side of the bedside table. Belle, she was my favourite. I dressed up as her once, the yellow dress, the curls in my hair. Her pink lips and dark brown hair, holding her dress up with such grace. I had a sofa chair in between the bunk bed and the window. It was white with flowers, green, red, orange, it didn’t look right in a child’s room, but I guess I must have wanted it there. I had a desk against the window and then a door to my own balcony. On the far left corner of the room was the door to the bathroom. The bathroom sat in the middle of mine and dad’s room, if you walked through it from my room you would end up in his room. I was in the perfection position some would say. It’s funny how I remember all of that, yet I can’t remember the colour of my bed sheets or how comfortable my bed was. I think that’s because every time I was in that room I was always floating above the top bunk looking down at the layout of the room or out the window, to the house on the opposite hill. The way the light seemed to flash on the neighbour’s house when really it was a tree or leaves swaying in the wind, covering it from time to time.
He had come in to read me a story, not that I can remember any of the story’s he read me. His glass of rum on ice would sit on my white bedside table. It looked like a whiskey glass, cuts in the sides showing different patterns. The ice would cause the glass to precipitate, the water slowly rolling down, causing a puddle to form. He would always leave a perfectly round water circle on the table when he was finished. I would watch the precipitation form on the glass and the droplets of water. Then I would be floating. I was on the top corner of my room. If I looked down I would see the mattress on the top bunk, it never had sheets on it, only when I had friends staying over, which as I got older got less and less. It would be silent, I would see the flashing of the neighbour’s lights in the distance. On the night of this flashback, it was raining. I focused on the droplets of rain. My mind blank. I don’t know how long I was up there for but I returned to my body. Confused. My pyjamas bottoms and pants were no longer on, they had been discarded to the end of the bed. There was blood on the sheets. Not much just a few drops. No one would question it, not even my nanny, she knew better than to question a white, wealthy, government official. I pulled them back on, my body feeling empty. I started to hear the rain on the roof now. It was light patters, I let my thoughts turn to the rain and imagine what it would feel like on my skin. Could it wash away this feeling? Could it wash away this dirty, disgusting feeling I felt? Could it melt my skin so I wouldn’t have to feel it anymore? I would sneak into my mum’s room. Although she had a few to drink, at least he wouldn’t touch me if I was there. I don’t blame her, she didn’t know, he was good at controlling people, at convincing those around him he was perfect.
We honour Mia's bravery and courage to share her story with us. Her strength shines through every word and we know that by sharing her story it will help so many other women by assuring them they do not have to face this alone. Thank you Mia for being so fearless, we love you and are honoured to share your story.
If you or someone you know is affected by the topic in this blog post, please reach out to a friend or talk to us in our community at @iam.arla or other organisations such as Womens Aid, Refuge, Rape Crisis and Solace Womens Aid.