Content Warning: Please be aware that some of the stories on these pages contain details and descriptions of abuse which you might find disturbing or upsetting.

As a child, I knew the torture and the pain, and as an adult I began to understand it

30 years old, and sitting in a Safeguarding training session I heard the term Cuckooing and it all suddenly clicked.

My mother always had an addiction to drugs, my whole life was consumed around her drug-taking. Looking back now, the “friends” the “uncles” that used to be around the house at all times were actually using the house (I can’t say the word home – as nowhere as ever felt safe enough to call home) as a drug den, to sell drugs from, and to use mum, and then me when I was born.

I was sexually assaulted on a daily basis, physically and mentally. I used to believe, or want to believe, that mum didn’t know that this was going on.

I would come home from school, never knowing what I was going to come home to – mum unconscious from alcohol, men that were drunk, waiting for me to come home so they could rape me, they could hurt me, do whatever they wanted to. For them, there were no limits.

I learnt at a very young age not to cry, not to say no, not to fight them, when I did there was always more pleasure for them it felt – and nothing would stop it. No amount of pleading, praying, never would it stop.

I used to try and keep the house clean, tidy away the drugs, needles, in my mind if the drugs and needles were hidden there would be no more drugs. No more sex, no more pain, and a “normal” mum.

I hand washed my school uniform, I did this daily so I could look like everyone else. School used to be an escape, used to be the place I learnt to keep my head down, to learn. Education was going to be my ticket to “freedom” whatever that felt like. I wish a teacher or someone at school had seen what was going on, had picked up on all those little signs that something wasn’t right…..

However, school and education became low in my priorities, as I felt I just needed to survive on a daily basis. Being what I think now, drugged myself, because I used to be in and out of consciousness with men, what felt like endless amounts of men, lights flashing, when all I could feel was pressure on me, a weight I couldn’t lift and a smell I will never forget.

I never felt I could escape, as I felt I had a sort of protection over mum. Through the abuse that was happening, I used to want to protect her so she wouldn’t come to harm. I maintained what to the outside world, and my friends and my colleagues seemed a very normal life.

I went to college, I had a part-time job – I went to University to study Nursing but behind the smile, behind the “normal” I was used and abused and hurt. I always came back, always to bail mum out. I paid her rent, I paid her bills – in my head thinking it would one day get her clean, and free from these abusers.

Fast forward to last year I had finally had enough, and I finally managed to break free – or so I thought.

I moved away, mum promised me she was clean, she promised me that she was ready to leave them – so I told her to come and live with me – I’ll save you. I’ll help you. I fell for it again; mum wasn’t clean, I think now it was a way to get to know where I lived, and for them to find me.

In the time she was visiting, she had a key cut whilst I was at work (not known to me then), scored some drugs from the local drug dealer and I sent her away, telling her I never wanted to see her again.

A few days later I had a phone call – mum had taken a fatal dose of heroin and she was dead. I did not know how to feel. I felt my world had been ripped apart and I felt to blame for this.

It was not over. The abuse carried on, and for me, this was worse. I had moved away from friends I loved, a nursing job I loved and finally felt I was good at something and had found a bit of freedom, only to have that all taken away again.

One day I came home from work. I knew something was wrong straight away. They were in my house. I endured a night of torture from the same men that I was brought up being abused by. I didn’t know what to do. Sadly in this night of torture, I fell pregnant and ended up having a termination which I found very traumatic emotionally.

New years Eve I had phone call. It was the police asking if I would be involved in a case. A young girl had come forward, she was telling the police that her mother took drugs with a group of men, and they abused her a number of times, she subsequently took an overdose and had mental health issues and they felt she was an unreliable witness. However they found some photos, and they wanted to see of I could identify myself in the photos as they believed that I was in them as a child.

With very little support and mixed emotions of feelings, I went and identified myself in these photos. A number of photos of me and these men having sex, videos and well just not nice things. I felt pressure to look at these, and with absolutely no support. I felt at times that I was being blamed for this by the police, I felt that I was just a piece of evidence rather than a person and I felt very traumatised by this and this stays with me.

But it’s the day to day life things I struggle with. I put on a brave face, almost like an armour, but underneath I’m struggling.

I have flashbacks, I have panic attacks, I have injuries that have changed my life, I have guilt. I have shame, I have blame and I am grieving still.

I love my job as a nurse. I truly do, sometimes there are incidents at work that take me right back. I feel like I am playing dress up – when I have that uniform on, I am a nurse, I am not me. Nurse me is confident, is competent, is kind and caring.

Me Me is scared, broken, damaged and I feel I am to blame and unlovable. Many mornings I used to cry because I was alive another day – and I didn’t, and sometimes still don’t, want to be alive.

In time I hope the scars of my past will fade slightly. I know it won’t ever go away. I know this pain, these memories, these feelings won’t disappear completely, how can it. It was 30 years of abuse.

But I hope that one day I don’t have to rely on Nurse Me to get me through – that Me Me is enough. It's easy to feel alone, it’s easy to feel the world is a dark place, it’s easy for me to feel low. I hope one day I see the light more than the dark.

Thank you, Maggie Oliver.

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