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Jessica’s Story: Better Days Are on the Way

Trigger Warning: This article contains information about child sexual abuse which may be triggering to survivors.

My name is Jessica, I am 25 years of age. Though originally from England, I currently live in New Zealand.

I am the owner of the blog littlestlady.com where I detail my story of recovery and my beliefs in the possibilities of it. Behind the brightly colored images, illustrations and sharing my passion and love for life is what I had to recover from.

This is my story:

My abuse started from a young age, in fact shortly after I could first open my eyes and my first steps were on egg shells. My mother, the person who was supposed to love and protect me was my main abuser and my father was out of my life and backed by an elaborate story by my mother that he had passed away.

By the age of 12, I had left school due to bullying and was not only left confined by the words and actions of my main abuser, but had also fallen into the hands of sexual abuse by a close family friend too.  Don’t get me wrong, prior I felt like my candle was slowly burning out, but at this point someone had taken one fell swoop and diminished the flame. I was trapped in a world of violent words and violent actions with no where to escape.

Regular visits to the perpetrator’s house were made where I would be shown images of a graphic and sexual nature and would hear of how I too would perform in such ways. On the rare occasions that I would go out, I would be followed by this person and would be recorded and have my picture taken wherever I went.

I didn’t understand what was happening and was not only too scared to say anything but the way my main abuser acted about it all left me feeling that it was nothing out of the ordinary. In fact, her friendship with this person was only blossoming further and before I knew it, he had offered to decorate various rooms in my home which left him in my safe space and my life spiraling further.

My only solace was found with my grandma who I would visit on the rare occasion. I often say she brought me up and my time with her would be spent listening to the late Frank Sinatra, dancing round the living room and her teaching me various hairstyles of the 1940’s and 50s. It would become a focus in my life and my time at home was spent practicing these hairstyles and experimenting with dressing in such ways. One day, I found myself being questioned by her in regards to why this person was constantly in my home and when I responded that I didn’t like his presence and that he wouldn’t leave me alone, I was told that it was no great surprise due to how I had started to dress.

I was not only left with the weight of abuse heavy on my shoulders, I was also left with words that told me that what happened to me was nobody’s fault but my own and that I was to blame for everything that happened to me from bullying at school right through to my sexual abuse. That due to my fragile personality which left me unable to stick up for myself and opting for a dress sense that was inspired by those I loved and admired I was asking for it and deserved no different. I was also told on the daily that I was treated in such ways at home by my main abuser due to her own abuse and she was only making me feel how she once felt. With all that I had sort of started to accept my own fate.

By the time I was 15, I found myself in a small education centre for those who had little to no education. They quickly realized what had been happening at home and I was taken from there and placed into a hostel. From there, life was no less of a whirlwind. I was further assaulted twice, found myself in and out of homelessness and was diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and a complex form of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

I was in and out of therapies like a yo-yo. In fact, I had spent most of my life in and out of therapies even when I was unaware of what therapy was, why I needed it and what I was doing there. However, I ended up going back into therapy but this time something had changed. I found myself telling myself that I was going to recover and that I was putting a full stop to how I was living. I wanted change. In fact I was demanding change and it was from myself.

I opened up about the things I had been through and pulled things out from the deepest darkest parts of my being. I worked through my trauma, the cycle that had spanned generations and how it was all attached to my symptoms and behaviors with my disorders.

Honestly, it was exhausting. A continuous exhaustion that never let up and it felt like I was trying to get to the finish lines of a race with weights shackled to my ankles. Speaking things never spoken, battling with my own mind and trying to untangle it all.

Reclaiming my power back after my sexual abuse was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do. A game of tug of war between me and someone taking my body from me. Abusing it, and tossing it back. Only, I didn’t want it. I wanted someone to remove my head from my body and swap it with someone else’s.  It took me a long time to realize that it wasn’t me nor my body that was the problem, but the crime done to it. I had to reconnect to it, make friends with it and tell it that it was okay. I had to realize that this had nothing to do with how I dressed and those words were nothing but a desperate attempt to throw a blanket over the whole situation.

Luckily the exhaustion and games of tug of war were worth it, and you know why? Because I walked out of that therapy with not enough symptoms to be classed as having my disorders. No OCD, no PTSD and no crippling Anxiety. My life was no longer plagued by intrusive thoughts, terrifying nightmares and a deep lack of trust. I slowly started to dress in the way that I was once taught and reclaim my love for it. I was a human being, more than just an empty shell. I had become me.

Even though I told myself I wanted more for my life and demanded that change, I don’t think I truly believed I could do it until it happened. My last therapy session was spent with a mixture of tears and clapping. I was no longer chained to my past.  Those sleepless nights and being swamped in piles of homework whilst wondering if it was all really worth it, and it was.

The fear of life had been removed and I had the world at my feet. I decided to move to New Zealand, travel the world and do all the things that I once thought were so out of reach for me.

Shortly after my big move to New Zealand, I heard the news that my main abuser had passed away. I decided to make the trip back to England to my childhood home and close that chapter of my life.

Let me tell you, it was one of the most empowering experiences of my life. Closing that door for the final time was closing the door on it all. A great big full stop on a cycle of trauma that had spanned decades and it ended with me.

In the midsts of it all I started my blog which at first was just a place for me to journal my thoughts through therapy, but it grew and blossomed with me. I somehow have since found myself on stages, radio shows and front page magazines talking about my recovery and my belief in its possibilities.

When I’m not fighting for the rights of people like my self and sharing my story, I’m usually exploring my own my backyard. Though I have been in New Zealand for 5 years now, there is still so much to see and I love the endless wonders it keeps presenting me with.

Don’t get me wrong, my upbringing and lack of education left me lacking in certain areas and having to teach myself a lot of the basics and ways of the world. Teaching myself how to write, how to cook and basic social skills, but its water off a duck’s back. Im so incredibly grateful for my life and all in it. I live in safety which is something I never thought would be a possibility for me and my only real worry in life is how much garden I will have left after my 1 year old boxer puppy has gone on a digging spree.

You know, I don’t like the whole ‘you were given this life because you were strong enough to live it’ theory, but somehow there is something in it. I truly believe if we take the time to work through our struggles we see life better than most. I have realized through my journey that often those who haven’t suffered at the hands of trauma don’t have that appreciation and gratitude for the simple things in life and you know what, I think they’re missing out.  I see life very differently now. I find gratitude in most things when at one point I would have been merely insulted by the thought of being grateful as a victim of abuse.

This year was my 5 year anniversary of being symptomless of my disorders. I have achieved things that I never thought imaginable as the girl who spent the majority of her life mute and terrified of the world and all in it.

From one survivor to another, hear me out. I know it’s tough, I know you’re hurting, but you got this. What happened to you wasn’t your fault, never was and never will be. You have the power within you to change your life. Oh, absolutely trauma changes the brain but we have the power to change it right back and let my story be the proof of that.

You deserve to live a happy and fulfilling life and you deserve to live YOUR life. Take it back, don’t let anybody have it but you.

Better days are on the way, I promise.

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If you have been affected by sexual violence and need help, we urge you to reach out to RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800.656.HOPE or hotline.rainn.org/online.