From victim to survivor, one young person refused to let their history of sexual abuse determine their future.
...no one had ever explained sex to me very clearly, so I didn't really understand what it all meant.
I used to see myself as a helpless victim of child sex abuse, but now I see myself as a survivor of it.
It started around the time I was eight, and it wasn't until I was fourteen that I got away. For six years I was paralysed by fear and confusion because somebody I trusted abused their power.
I'd had a very unconventional upbringing and no one had ever explained sex to me very clearly, so I didn't really understand what it all meant. He used to explain things to me and convinced me that they were normal. I was told no one ever talked about it, that's why my parents and everyone else hadn't told me about sex. He told me it was very private and it was a bad thing to talk about it to anyone else. I guess I was naive enough to believe him, so for years I didn't question him. Soon enough, drugs became my only way to escape the reality.
When I was fourteen my own personal miracle occurred- he took a job in another city and left. I haven't seen or heard from him since. But even though he was out of my life, the psychological scars remained for years.
I've just turned 21 and it's only now that I really think I'm beginning to move on. For the first few years I had no real concept of meaningful sexual relationships and got into unpleasant situations all the time. I've been assaulted by a whole string of men emotionally, sexually and physically. I had really poor self esteem and even still at times have this feeling that no one will ever really love me for who I am- I'll only ever be someone's play toy.
But I believe that one day, things will be different. But nothing will ever fall into your lap while you're waiting. So I'm working hard at becoming the best person I can. I've thrown myself into building a good career and started studying at uni, I'm rebuilding my relationship with my family and I take time out to do things I enjoy and that make me feel good. The biggest change in my life is that I only allow people into my life who mean something to me. I've learnt to walk away from people who hurt me, or try to own me.
It's doing all this that has helped me realise I am good enough. I am good enough for myself, and if I'm good enough for myself then I'm not going to let myself fall back into the cycle of abuse again.
What I've been through has made me stronger, has given me a different outlook on life and has taught me lessons I may not have otherwise learnt. When you walk away seeing yourself as a stronger person than before, that's what makes you a survivor, not a victim.