By Jenny Molloy
In her first article on her experiences of CSE, Jenny described how she entered a ‘living hell’ populated by predatory adults in her teenage years. Here, she describes how her experiences have affected her adult life and the happiness and joy she now feels.
I wanted someone to claim me. Anyone. Instead, the system allowed a predatory group of men space to take this place. However, I would not allow them to claim my spirit. Recovery gave me the realisation that I had a choice of what to do with these experiences, and I made, for me, the life changing decision that I would reclaim the power that this had held, for so many wasted years, over my life.
What is an appropriate, loving, kind and supporting relationship? I had no idea. Men wanted sex and that’s what women give them. Some men pay for it and some just get given it. Either way, we, as women were sexual objects. My thinking around relationships and men was fixed. Control wasn’t really control; it was about love.
I had to clean the house better in order for him to love me.
I had to keep the kids quiet in order for him to love me.
I had to lose weight.
I had to speak less common.
I had to, I had to, I had to…
What other way is there to be in a relationship? I burnt with shame about the men from my younger years, the squat, the flat with the axe. I didn’t want men to do that to me again, so best to keep them happy, give them what they want.
From loathing to love
I must be a slag, that’s why I get what I get. Someone like me isn’t going to get the sort of relationships that I see other people have. You know, kind, loving, fun and, most of all, respectful. Women like me, who have given men what they want, don’t get this.
Well, actually we do. Once we shed the shame of our appalling experiences, we realise, slowly, that we deserve to be given the opportunity to be loved and to love just like anyone else.
Of course, this doesn’t happen until you begin to like yourself. The process from loathing to love takes time. Usually a therapist is needed, a good one. Not a basic GP referred counsellor, a quality skilled therapist. A therapist who takes you to places that you thought would be buried deep inside you forever. Slowly, but surely, shame evaporates, anger appears, then sadness, with the final act being contentment.
Therapy for care leavers
You are offered therapy in care. I didn’t want it then. I wasn’t ready. When I was ready I couldn’t afford to access it. I was lucky; I received therapy through my addiction treatment service. But what of others who are not so lucky. Where do they go? Sadly, often they go nowhere. This has to change. I dream of there being a ring-fenced national therapy pot of money for care leavers. A fund they can access when they are ready, to give them a real chance at spiritual recovery.
I have that. I feel joy, happiness and excitement for the first time in my life. Real, belly laughter happiness. Today, I know I have good qualities, something I had never considered through my years of struggling to survive emotionally. I now see my character assets and reflect on my defects.
I no longer see the world as a place to fear, and people with potential to harm. I see life as much more than something to survive.
I refuse to be called a CSE survivor. I am not. I am much more than that. I am someone who has experienced CSE, and while it has had a part in shaping my outlook and experiences, it does not define me.
I will never give over my identity to anything other than this. I am a strong, independent, successful woman.
Jenny Molloy is a patron of BASW England and the author of Hackney Child, Tainted Love and Neglected.