That is a scary isn’t it? I know a lot of people at 16 / 17 think they can take on the world, you are at an age when you aren’t classed as a child any more, but you aren’t an adult either. You fall between the cracks in so many ways.
I was removed from child and adolescent mental health care at 16 and moved to adult, not long after coming out from hospital, but in reality I was too old for one and too young for the other, no one knew what to do with me. Which made things worse and at 17 I was admitted again for a two week stay this time to an adult mental health ward, but they couldn’t help and being in hospital often made me worse as I pick up on the suffering of those around and take it on as my own.
At the end of those two weeks I was moved to a half-way house for those with mental health issues and while I can tell you some funny stories of my time there, it also became the start of dark chapter in my life for reasons other than mental health.
You see I was groomed, this was back in the days of dial up and the existence of “WAP” websites, awful looking things that connected you to others via your mobile and it was there I was taken advantage of. I was always an open and honest person and you can probably often read me like a book. I would have told you back then I was far from vulnerable, when the truth is I really was.
I was 18 by the time I ran off to meet this man (I believe he was 32), at first he was amazing, he brought me presents, treated me like a princess, but something niggled at me under the surface. A week after our first meeting he said he was coming up to get his jacket (something I had tried to give him back as I got on the return train). I tried to put him off, but he came anyway – I should have not gone to meet him, he didn’t know my address, just my phone number, but for some reason I felt I had to and I took him “home” – he never left.
That ordeal lasted just a couple of months, within which time I was physically and emotionally abused, I was raped both where I lived and in my parents’ home, I was humiliated and forced to eat things, I was locked in the bathroom without the lights on if he thought I might “tell”, he even shaved off parts of my hair at the front as they “got in the way”.
A neighbour finally had enough of my screams and told him where to go – for some reason he went and that was the last I saw of him. But I was left broken, I had to ask my parents if I could use the toilet, for a number of days I had to be sedated as I would freak out, saying I needed to go back to him as I didn’t know how to cope without being told when and how to do everything.
I went to live with a pair of amazing friends, friends who I truly believe saved me in the end, however I was too deep at that point and I was stuck in the cycle, it wouldn’t be till I was 21 that I finally got out of abusive relationships and began to piece my life back together.
These days I’m still affected by what happened, there are times I was flinch because memories return when someone is doing nothing more, than going to give me a hug or being silly. I still can’t stand the pitch dark, it reminds me of being shut in and I still worry what that letter might contain after he managed to run up £20,000 worth of debt.
So today I stand with The Children’s Society and ask the government to strengthen the laws to help all children being abused and exploited get the help they need.
To find out more about the #SeriouslyAwkward campaign visit The Children’s Society’s dedicated website now.