Submitted by M
I was 11 years old, when my Auntie Esther had introduced me to her new partner Uisdean.
He took an instant like to me, he always bought me things, always affectionate but too affectionate, now looking back I realised this.
I remember one time, when me, my auntie and him were in a supermarket in the south side of Glasgow, he put his arm around him hugging me tight and this women in the supermarket gave him and me this strange look, like out of disgust or something like that and I always remember that, but that was before this abuse started
When I was 12 years old, my auntie Esther's ( now ex partner and my cousin's dad ) would touch me in a sexual way and sexually abuse me when I was sleeping ( but woke up ) on the couch in their home.
This abuse was repeated over several occasions until I was 15 years old.
I remember when auntie and him argued, I would always take his side, I loathed him, although I didnt have the words to say this was sexual abuse but felt nothing was not right but very wrong.
But I think I also loathed my auntie as well, more in a way because I thought she should be protecting me and as I seen her as a mother.
The situation was that my grandpa and nana brought me and I was very close to them and loved them very much
At weekends, holidays and sometimes after school I would go to my auntie Esther's house to look after her kids ( my cousins) from when they were babies to 5 years old.
I looked after them even although I was a child myself
I made their dinner, charged nappies, took them to nursery, took them to the park, while losing my childhood, while losing innocence because my auntie Esther's partner made an informed decision to abuse me
I personally think he knew exactly what he was doing and planned it
I don't think he just woke up one day and decided to abuse me, he made that decision, long before he started the actual abuse.
When I went home on Sundays to my nana and grandpa, I would just cry and cry
Then when I reached 2nd year in school around the age if 13, I started to self harm, through using coproxamol (strong pain killer)
My nana experienced kidney failure and had to go for dialysis a few days a week, so she had different tablets, one of which was coproxamol.
I would take this in my room with no one knowing and just woke up hours later
I did this over several years until I was 16 years old
I told my mum's brother, that I was abused, his response was that it would go through the courts and no one would believe me
My mum's response was even worse, she said my auntie Esther's partner could get what he wanted from my auntie, so he got it from me
What the hell I said
I thought imagine my own mother saying this to me
So I kept it inside myself for years until I i couldn't any longer as still self harming, suicide attempts, go out clubbing, had several sexual partners, one which was not good for me at all and was involved in the drug culture and dealt drugs.
I was just looking for some sort of love and recognition but realise that was no way the right place
During this time I was in and out of homelessness, I stayed in mainstream hostels as part of Glasgow city council, which was horrendous, I stayed in supported accommodation for young people, I stayed with so called friends, etc etc.
I stayed in say women project and then got my own house, and met someone.
However, that was not plain sailing either, as he and his sisters had past trauma at the hands of their dad
My boyfriend was physically violent and emotionally abusive as well.
He sought help and recognised me was an alcoholic and was never abusive again
He changed his pathways, he addressed his pain and in doing so became a good-hearted person.
I recognised in 2010, that I needed support as my mental health was becoming an issue and so I sought support from Flourish House, which is a mental clubhouse in Glasgow that does amazing work and follows the ethos of mental health recovery, building resilience and promoting well-being.
I have been a member at flourish house for nearly 10 years and love going there and being part of something meaningful.
Through flourish house, I was able to rebuild my self esteem, confidence and most importantly HOPE.
I started helping every day in flourish house by cooking in kitchen, to doing admin work to reception work to then having the confidence to use flourish house as a springboard for other things.
I then joined Venture Scotland as a young person and completed a 12 month outdoor personal development programme, gaining outdoor pursuit awards and essentially building my self worth, and resilience.
I then completed a community action and leadership award through Scottish qualifications authority and lead Scotland.
But I realised even through doing all this that I was still adversely affected by the abuse I suffered as a child, so I decided to get help and report it to the police.
However, it was harrowing and although the police were supportive, things were still worse.
Because none of my family and none of my cousin dad family would tell the police where he was and for pretty much a year the police were looking for him
I was hounded by my family, through emails etc
They tried to say I was lying, they said awful things to me
But i thought well, why did none of them help the police and tell the police where my auntie Esther's partner was.
I felt that was not people who had nothing to hide, but more trying to gain self preservation
My auntie Esther's partner had a lot to hide
The police eventually found him, he chose not to comment during interview and it didn't go to court, even although he we t on the run for a year.
I thought the law needs to change more positively and people like my family should be made to be accountable for refusing to help and hiding him and he should have been made to be accountable.
One aspect that helped me to move forward as such was from the criminal injuries compensation Authority who after years, recognised what happened to me should never have happened and was wrong and It helped me that from the letter from CICA, it said what happened was wrong. So in a sense seeing that in writing was recognition of my pain, was acknowledgement that what my auntie Esther's partner did was wrong.
I continued with venture Scotland and achieved so much
I think that through education, learning and achievement, that this was my journey to recovery and healing.
I gained opportunities and regained my life, I thought, well continuing to achieve, educate myself is me grabbing and gaining opportunities I never got the chance to do, because I was too busy dealing with the abuse i suffered, i was too busy picking myself up from self harming and suicide through the abuse i suffered.
So now i was taking back my life.
I got the chance to go on a weeks sailing experience around Scotland and see Ireland with the Ocean Youth Trust and Venture Scotland, so I tool this opportunity and it was an amazing experience.
I healed that little bit more.
I then applied to college and achieved my social care qualifications, but was still raw from reporting abuse, and when things came up like modules in the course relating to abuse and harm, it did affect me
But I achieved my qualifications..
I then took some time out and helped in my community through doing community achievement awards and highlighting the need for mental health awareness and the importance of hope.
I was a host city volunteer during Glasgow 2014 commonwealth games, I wanted to give back and volunteer as well as again heal that little bit more.
I then decided to learn again and do courses through Futurelearn, so I did psychology and mental health, then forensic psychology modules, then gender based understanding violence, then I achieved learning regarding crime, society and justice through Futurelearn.
It was this point that I felt ready to learn more and do CPD Accredited training with Victim Support in Glasgow
I did the impact of crime training, domestic abuse awareness training and hugely for me, I attended the training on awareness of victims of sexual crime.
I then felt more inspired and wanted to learn more about mental health, so I decided to enrol and got my PDA (Professional Development Award ) qualifications in Mental Health Peer Support from Scottish qualifications Authority and Mind's Well Training.
I then achieved 2 more PDA's in Understanding HIV and Aids and Sexual Health Training and Awarenesd of Gender Based Violence training.
I wanted to gain these, as in my future academic and vocational aspirations I may be working with people ( such as offenders or victims and survivors) affected by these issues, so I wanted make myself aware and be knowledgeable.
I feel that I have through each of my journeys, healed more and more.
My mental health is very good, the act of the abuse I experienced doesn't affect me in the same traumatic way it used too, I dont feel angry
But in the same token, the abuse did take away my innocence as a child, my right to feel safe and secure and I should have been protected and i was betrayed in the worst possible way ( my experience)
I don't think I came out of that the same child, nor the same person.
It has lasting effects, regarding mental health, trust, loss of being able to just be a child, just be me, loss of childhood, the fact the this man ( my auntie Esther's partner at the time) through his nasty actions introduce me to evil and evil acts when all I should have experienced as a child should have been love not misguided or warped love, but complete trust.
There is things that come up in my life, where I revisit the abuse I experienced.
This has been both positive and negative, through college, education, when xmas and birthdays come up and because I dont associate with my family ( apart from my mum), who through it all even when I reported, she stood by me.
So I think for me although the abuse doesn't adversely affect me in the same way, one aspect which is sometile raw is the fact people I'm related to ( I dont call them family) have chosen to deny, ignore what happened to me, which is their problem really not mine, but occasionally it does still come up.
I received an email from my other aunt called Evelyn who said she believed me, but I found it hard as to why she denied all knowledge when I reported it to the police.
She even in the last 18 months sent me a request on LinkedIn and Facebook, which I ignored, because she decided to be physically abusive in the street to me and I refuse to accept that kind of behaviour, so I reported her the police.
My grandpa who was my rock and who was always there for me, passed away in April 2018.
That meant i would see the family again, which was difficult for me
I have great friends now and my best friend Judy, came with me to my grandpas funeral last year.
What I found astonishing was how nice and I mean OTT overly nice the family were to me, which confused me even more
They were coming up to wanting to hug me
I thought omg, really
After all the verbal threats, intimidation, physical abuse and violence, telling me I must have done something to deserve to be abused as a child
I didn't deserve anything like that, no one does.
Even although it was my grandpa funeral, I said to myself, right ok I will be respectful because it is my grandpa funeral, but no way on earth will I be hugging them
Not a chance
I maintained my dignity and integrity.
During the funeral, I went and gave an eulogy about my grandpa and my cousin Rebecca ( bearing in mind it was her dad who abused me) decided to come up and support me as I was getting emotional, but I just could not let that happen because she was the one who said I deserved to be abused.
I'm sorry I just could not do that, let her stand with me.
I still gave my speech, but my best friend stood with me while I was giving my speech.
My best friend, who is a qualified psychotherapist commented to me that my cousin trying to come to support me while I was giving my speech, was a message fo me that my cousin most likely now realizes her dad did abuse me
But I thought well, she isn't coming to me telling me this, none of the family are so no I'm not going compromise my integrity and where I am as a survivor for more trauma.
During the wake, my auntie Esther'
came up to me asking me for a hug, she needed a hug
I replied why does she want a hug from me, bearing in mind her behaviour and actions
So I let her hug me, but could not put my arms around her, I just couldn't.
My best friend Judy got it right when she said in her opinion it is clear that my auntie Esther made a decision or choice to ignore my abuse, to deny all knowledge and be cruel to me, she chose to sacrifice me and my pain and suffering ( even although she hated her now ex partner for her own stuff that went on the their relationship and hated his family ), just so she could save her own skin and own face.
That says everything to me.
Although since last April, I went on another journey and wrote to them and chose to forgive them, not forget what happened to me but forgive them, not for them but so I could find inner peace.
I then decided to finally pursue my lifelong ambition and what I wanted to learn and apply to university to study Criminology
I think I have healed and moved on and came full circle
I could not have decided to follow my passion of studying criminology unless I did address my abuse and life.
Myself and my best friend bumped into my auntie Esther and I commented how fantastically well I'm doing and that I've got my social care qualifications and now going follow my passion of studying criminology and criminal justice
Well, if looks could kill
Her face gave it away and said everything to me
I don't need to say anymore really on that.
I applied to The Open University Scotland and start in October this year, studying on the BA Honours Degree In Criminology.
I believe in justice and that people should be held accountable but also strongly believe that people should be given chances in life and people can change if they want to change and need to support to also do that as well
I firmly believe and am passionate in rehabilitation and value that children should STOP being criminalised and that adults to a certain degree need to stop being criminalised and helped to turn their lives around as well.
I think and really feel I have came FULL CIRCLE in my life, to get to where I am now and I BELIEVE IN HOPE.
I have a small painting with a butterfly and the word hope wrote on the painting, which is on my coffee table and look and say it every day.
I think, well I have healed and regained my hope and that is something my auntie Esther's partner at the time never took and never will take from me, none of them will.
I just have to look now at all the things I have achieved and on the road to achieving.
Lastly, I think that my experience of abuse and suffering, gave me a fire within me to achieve, achieve and achieve.
What happened to me, has contributed to my driving force to following all my dreams in my life and part of the reason I wanted to pursue a vocation in criminal justice ( although only part of the reason, I was always passionate and have a strong desire to help others within criminal justice)
What happened to me has released a strength to go on and on and on in my life.
One thing I wanted to add, was that my mother who I am very close to now and have good relationship, she had phoned me and said how she is incredibly proud of what I am achieving in my life and that after what happened to me and what I have been through in my life, she says I deserve all the happiness and success.
Now I suppose I take from that as a admission from guilt on her part maybe for what she said when I first told her about the abuse, but also an admission and acknowledgement that the abuse I was subjected to happened and was wrong.