Tag Archives: abuse

Video review of Hear My Roar: A story of family violence

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Front cover of Hear My Roar. A sad little bear sits under a tree.

I review this great book up on my YouTube channel, Team Me, Team Us. There are Trigger Warnings for both the book and the video: Domestic Violence – no details. Head over to https://youtu.be/eFyRVkttnr4 to watch.

When Abusers Die

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Trigger Warning: Details of incest, childhood and adult sexual abuse and physical violence.

I ran away from my violent, abusive family 28 years ago.  Last night I discovered that two of my worst abusers died – my mum and my eldest brother.  I awoke from a nightmare about one of them, and then I did a ill-advised thing: I looked up my old surname on the internet.  My old name was pretty unique, and I’d never met anyone with it unless we were related.  Looking up my old name is something I have only ever did when I was drunk or petrified, but I still wish I’d never done it.

I always thought I’d feel a sense of relief when one of my abusive family members died.  But I felt a howl of pain build up inside me instead. A few of my Alters went into a state of panic and dread. I started crying and couldn’t stop for hours.

My mum sexually abused me once.  I’m trying hard to not say, “just the once,” because one time is too many.  What she did far more was physical and emotional violence.  I still have terrible flashbacks to a beating she administered to me on Christmas Eve in the middle of Ridley Road Market, as all the other shoppers looked on.  She also set up weird ritual stuff that makes me want to vomit just thinking about it.  I grew up terrified of her, and that I’d become just like her.  Many people don’t want to acknowledge that a woman can sexually abuse someone. They don’t have a penis, right?  Women don’t need a penis when they have fingers, hairbrush handles or bottles.  The shame felt by survivors of abuse, where the perpetrator was a woman, is incredibly hurtful. We shouldn’t have to silence ourselves because so few will believe us.

Where my mum was pure rage, my eldest brother was totally charming.  He was the rebel of my old family – a soldier, a painter, an open drinker, and non-religious in a community where church was only thing you did on a Sunday.  He would give me booze and pills in secret.  He would talk to me like we were equals, instead of 15 years apart.  He also sexually abused me right up until I ran away.  

There’s a page in my zine about surviving abuse, where I write of a time I once woke up in a pool of my own blood.  That was his doing.  The thing that stayed with me the most though, was of how neatly he’d adjusted my nightie, folding it under my armpits in a concertina, so none of my blood got on it. I realise how my Alters and my own brain employed amnesia to protect my fifteen-year-old self from the worst of that incident, but I still feel so messed up about that.

For most Black people, family is the most important thing in the world.  For survivors who are Black, we face meagre support from medical and social services who don’t even think these things can happen to us.  We also face ostracism from other Black people who see us as ‘deficient’ for not having a family or at least a good relationship with them.  As survivors, we are often seen as broken and potential abusers instead of victims of terrible crimes that were done to us as children.

Support adult survivors of child abuse. Because right now it feels like nobody does. 

Black and…

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I was recently interviewed for a project that amplifies the voices and experiences of Black People and People of Colour who live with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). The interview is up on YouTube, and will also appear on Spotify too.

It was a real pleasure to talk openly about my frustrations and difficulties, as well as the positives that come from living with DID. I also speak about fatphobia, racism, ableism, and how all of these impact one another. I ultimately see it as a positive piece, as Black people in the UK are rarely heard when it comes to physical and mental health, even though we are disproportionately affected by it.

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Self Harm as Survival

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TRIGGER WARNING: Self Harm, Suicide, Mentions of sexual abuse.

Below is a small zine I made whilst on a secure ward in a mental health hospital.  I wanted to create something about self-harm in an honest way. Self harm often has the stereotype of only being something done by white, young, cis het women/girls.  Well I’m old, Black, bisexual and nonbinary.  I self harm, and it’s very difficult to talk to anyone about it who understands about how living with multiple marginalisations, as well as being a survivor of long term sexual abuse, affects me.  My experiences are different, and not the typical discourse you will see.  So here we go: I hope you get something out of it.

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Rare Racism Topics: Targeted Harassment

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People of Colour are often punished or harassed for the same things that white people can and do get away with.  From things like being arrested, imprisoned and ‘mysteriously’ dying in police custody (very U.K specific example), to being targeted for harassment online.  This is a sometimes-subtle way that POC receive racism.  And the further down in people’s estimation we are, the poorer treatment we receive.  I’m going to concentrate mostly on online harassment, although these are often played out offline too.  The more life-ending examples are too painful for me to write about right now.

Example 1: A cisgender man of colour makes a post on social media about fighting racism.  He will get the inevitable pushback and defensiveness from white people, the “what about..?”, the “Not all whites,” and “You’re the real racist,” alongside some other horrible responses blaming him for the situation.  A few days pass and things will mostly die down.

Example 2: An Asian person makes a post on social media about fighting racism.  They will get all of the above, plus accusations of being a terrorist, Islamaphobic slurs (whether they’re Muslim or not), and in some cases they’ll have their photo, if they used one, altered in photoshop so they appear to be carrying an explosive (yes, that’s happened).  Some respondents will send DMs to the poster, with pics of atrocities against Muslim people (I’ve also had that happen to me).  Things will take a very long time to die down.

Example 3: A black woman who is heterosexual and cisgender makes a post on social media about fighting racism.  She will get all of the above two examples, but in much higher numbers.  She will get these reactions from people of all ethnicities and genders.  Her DMs will be full of thinly-veiled, or outright death threats, rape threats, details of personal information that go on to be shared (doxxed).  She will be hounded off social media, live in fear for her life and that of her family &/or friends.  She will receive very little support.  The police (U.K example) will not help unless she is very famous, which isn’t that likely.

Example 4: The most subtle and insidious example is of people who are not often considered human by bigots in the first place.  People like me: Black, nonbinary, fat, disabled and bisexual.  So I’ll use my own personal experience here:

I don’t make a post about racism.  I only press the “Repost” button, or maybe I respond to a post on racism with, “Thank you for this.”  Bigoted people of all ethnicities and genders inundate me with horrible responses, using many of the things in the three examples above.  The original poster does not receive anything near the volume of abuse that I do.  I wonder why this is the case, and then remember that I am open about who I am online.  I have photos and posts about fatness, blackness, gender, disability and bisexuality.  The abusive respondents have taken a few minutes to have a look at my online presence.  I am deemed to be “bottom of the barrel,” or an “Easy target.”  They know, and are often correct, that nobody is going to support me or respond to their public hate.  I also receive sexually violent images and threats in emails outside of the social media platform.  Many people will blame me for my own harassment.  I am told to “Ignore them!” Or “Don’t feed the trolls.”  The original poster will often ignore what is going on in their mentions/replies/comments section.  This has happened to me so many times online and offline too.  Things don’t move on until months or even years have passed by.  I leave social media, or at least leave for a very long time before I return, scared in case anyone still remembers me.

In the first three cases, the original poster will experience stress, worsening mental health, fear, and physical reactions to trauma, whether potential or not.  In the fourth example, people like me, who are often the most vulnerable in society, experience thoughts of suicide, self-harm, alcohol and drug abuse, desperation, and all of the things experienced by the victims of the first three examples.

Racial Harassment is not equal.  Even within minorities there is still a “pecking order.”  Bigoted people of all ethnicities and genders carry out this kind of thing.  So called Progressive people carry out this sort of thing, particularly when it comes to Fatness, especially if that person is fat and black.  It is a soul-destroying thing to be on the receiving end of.  Social media is often the major means of communication for vulnerable people like me.  When we leave, our world becomes infinitely smaller.  More needs to discussed about this.  But for now I just want you to acknowledge it as an often hidden racism topic that is far bigger than it seems.

The Forest Inside me

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This isn’t Epping Forest, but a pic of Muir Woods that I took on my visit to San Francisco in 2013.

Thanks to @DualityDreamers on Instagram for reminding me of this poem, written by several of my Alter Personalities: Forest Jacq, Larry, Munro, Shadoe, and Outside Jacq (me, the host)

This is probably the most open I’ve been about Dissociative Identity Disorder, and it’s no coincidence that this illness is one of the most demonised in mental health (along with Psychosis & Schizophrenia).  Before I was diagnosed with DID, I only knew about it through horror films by its old name (Multiple Personality Disorder).  People with DID are not the evil villains in life – if you want to see that, look at the people who hurt and abused us when we were so young.

Trigger Warnings in the poem: Mentions of child abuse, but nothing graphic or detailed.

The forest inside me

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TRIGGER WARNING: Mentions of Sexual Assault and Abuse.  Transphobia, Victim blaming.

These are all my own experiences as a Survivor of physical & sexual abuse.

Holidays are rarely good for me.  Where other folk spend time with their families, I am left with solely bad memories of the people I grew up with.  Long before the rise of Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists, there has been a strong belief that women cannot be sexually abusive to others.  Women are seen as carers, nurturers, Victims, not perpetrators – if they are “bad” then it’s only ever as emotionally or financially abusive, never physically or sexually abusive.  People who readily believe me when I speak of the men in my old family, and how they hurt me, rarely believe me when I say similar things about my sister and her female friend or my mum.  Once I ran away from my old family, I’ve been pretty open about my experiences, but this refusal to even acknowledge women can be abusive, is incredibly painful and stops me sometimes from seeking help or sharing my experiences.  Acknowledging women can be sexually abusive isn’t a way to put women down or pass the blame: it’s a way of  believing survivors and what they say when they talk about painful things.

Something I read on Twitter recently made me despair: “Women can’t rape, because women don’t have dicks!”***  And other tweets along the lines of trans women are really men, hell bent on sexually abusing women and girls.  The fact that these kind of statements often come from other women, is the icing on the cake of wretchedness.

1: Men don’t have to pretend to be anything or anyone else in order to sexually abuse others; they will just do it if they want to.

2: Perpetrators of sexual abuse don’t need to have a dick, when they have fingers, bottles, handles of hairbrushes or anything else insertable.

3: Trans women are women. Some are abusive, and some are not, just like any type of human.

Transphobia only adds to the silencing and dismissal of survivors of sexual abuse, but this problem was there long before the addition of trans folk to the argument.  I’ve been called a liar for saying anyone in my family could be abusive, because “That doesn’t happen to black kids**”.  There is such a desperate push to mantain the narrative of abusers solely being men, that it railroads over the experiences that take such bravery to talk about in the first place.  I wish my mum and my sisters had not sexually assaulted*** me, but they did.  i wish I wasn’t forced to run away from my old family and everyone I knew, but I did.  and 26 years later, I wish I didn’t have to deal with people who deny and dismiss the things that almost cost me my life.  But I still have to.

** I gave this horrible quote as the title to my first zine, on surviving child abuse. https://writteninshadows.files.wordpress.com/2016/01/surviving-csa-zine.pdf 

*** In the UK, non-consensual sex between women is defined as sexual assault, not rape.  Other countries have different definitions, so please don’t generalise or use this as a way to derail survivors.  Whatever it is called, it’s still a terrible thing.  

A link to a few UK specific resources for survivors of all genders https://www.met.police.uk/advice/advice-and-information/rsa/rape-and-sexual-assault/support-for-victims-of-rape-and-sexual-assault/

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Tattoo reads, “When words become inadequate, I shall be content with silence”.

There are words waiting: a poem

My fingers, pink side up

Hold stories made of gestures, 

Signs and twirls.

The whorls 

Of each fingerprint start a chapter, a Sign Language tale.

Violence made me mute when I was younger;

It still returns as an adult – the silence

I surrender

To a fractured part inside my soul.

Another name, another author

Of my life takes hold.

And when I stare at my palms, the lines,

So fractured, divides

Into several paths, many lives

I have carried:

A library of personalities tallied.

My fingers move, my body remembers

Trees towering above me

And a book burning

As another part of me rises from the embers.

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Touch-starved, but don’t touch me.

Trigger Warning: Sexual abuse

Consent means a lot to me; as a survivor of abuse and violence, there have been far too many times in my life when I was touched without my permission.  Touching used to be the start – invasive fingers and sexual organs being forced on me often followed next.  Abusive people look like ordinary folks, because they are.  There are few abusers who look like monsters from horror stories – they are people who live next door, who stand beside you at the bus stop, and who live with you under the same roof.

I have had no voice in the past.  Selective Mutism and fear of additional punishment usually meant I knew I could never say “No,” and even if I did try to stop them, my actions and my pleas were ignored.

I have a voice now.  When an adult comes toward me with arms wide open, hands raised, my mind, fractured and scarred from twenty years of abuse, doesn’t think ‘hug’.  My mind thinks ‘DANGER’.  I am touch starved, but it doesn’t mean I want people touching me without permission.  I want to be asked, “Would you like a hug?” Or “May I hug you?”  And I want my answer to be respected.  For there is a small part of me – a frightened child who takes over when I am distressed.  I freeze, my voice changes, and I get prepared to strike back.  All of that changes if my consent is asked for first.  Yet it seems impossible for many people to understand that.  

Here in the U.K, people are usually quite reserved.  But I’ve noticed that when it comes to those perceived as women, especially if black, we don’t get to have a say in how we are touched.  We are presumed to be open and here for everyone’s use, but never for our own.  This needs to change right now.  So the next time you want to express affection or joy toward another person, ASK THEM FIRST.  Consent isn’t just about sex.  Consent before embracing, bear hugging or picking someone up and swinging them around with joy, may seem needlessly polite to you.  But that’s the thing – it isn’t just about you.  Consider the other person who may have emotional/mental/physical issues that make it a bad idea.  Show you can be a good friend to them.  Ask them first.

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I decided to put the complete zine on surviving child abuse up on this blog for free.  You can download, print and read it.  You can also repost it with Credit to Jacq Applebee.

There is a massive trigger warning – abuse on this zine.  Please be gentle with yourself whilst and after you read it.

Why free?  Survivors of childhood abuse (especially People of Colour) are more likely to experience poverty.  I usually sell this zine, but it is too important a subject for me to keep aside for those able to buy it.  Plus, with many of my followers living outside the U.K, postage costs are prohibitive.  So I hope everyone gets something out of this free resource.

All the best,

Jacq 2016

Zine: That doesn’t happen to black kids!