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There was so much going on. I stepped in and looked after my siblings because my mother couldn't cope. My brother was buried on my seventh birthday so basically I have never been able to celebrate my birthday.  Every year when my birthday comes up, I feel more sad than happy. I feel almost like I shouldn't celebrate my birthday because it has so many bad connotations surrounding it. So many bad feelings for me, that I have never celebrated it. I always celebrate other people's birthdays, and with my children I always do a week long birthday. I get excited for everyone else, but when it comes to mine I can't connect. Which is a real weird thing.

Amongst all this, I actually got my period when I was 8. I didn't know what it was so I hid it for two years. In the process, my breasts grew so fast. I was only nine and I looked like a fifteen year old. Because I had to grow up so quickly, I didn't act like a nine year old and that's when I started to notice that boys and men were looking at me in strange ways. I started to get quite withdrawn as I didn't like the attention my breasts were getting . I would bandage them to try and make my breasts look flat.

A family member took notice of me. I'd go to family homes and during this particular time, I had this really cool nightie and I would spin around in it and felt like a princess. I was doing a spin and I realised that he was standing watching me and I got really self conscious about it. He said something quite rude to me and I remember thinking he shouldn't be saying things like that. He followed me around and had a thing for my breasts. He would come up behind me and really squeeze my breasts, to the point it was very painful. It didn't feel right to and I was wondering why was he doing this to me?
He hadn't done anything further at that point. I did try and tell my parents and they either didn't believe me or didn't want to know about it. All of a sudden I wasn't allowed on family trips, so  maybe they must have believed me.
In amongst it all I met this girl. She was really lovely and she confided in me that her mother's boyfriend had been having sex with her. She was ten and she had a couple of big brothers who were also doing that. I said I would keep that a secret. I went to school one day and she wasn't there. I went to her house after school and as I arrived as they were pulling her body out. There were cops everywhere. I saw this black bag that they were putting it into the police car and I knew it was my friend. I was so upset.
It came out she had been brutally raped and beaten by this group of men that her mother had at her house. Unbeknownst to me, her mother was a prostitute. So I also had to deal with my own pain, and the guilt that I didn't help my friend. To this day I still feel very guilty about it. She could have been something in her life and now she's gone.

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So from there that's when I started drinking. I would go to a friends house and I would smoke cigarettes and became wayward. By the time I was 13 I was a fully fledged alcoholic. Our family was dysfunctional, and we would always fight. I couldn't cope and I got into a really serious fight at school, so my mum took me to live with my Nana. My Nana was the only one who ‘got me’ because she was also artistic and eccentric like I am.
She really nurtured me and helped me to get through these things. Even though I didn't tell her, she kind of knew something was up. This was where I started drawing things and taking interest in art. Nan would always encourage me and say all these positive and wonderful things to me so when she died I was devastated.
That's when I went off the deep end. I started smoking marijuana and going to parties and going out with older boys. I had no self-respect whatsoever, and I was very angry all the time. I would get into fights and would carry this big flip-knife. If anyone even looked at me in the wrong way I would pull this knife on them. I got into this group who were involved in carjacking. I was just going off the deep end.
Then I met my oldest daughter's dad, he was interesting because he had a career and he seemed like he was going places. For the first time I was thinking things would be positive. However it wasn’t long before alarm bells started going off. I was still only 17 and I was trying to iron his pants and I burnt a hole in them. This is the first time I saw this other part of him. He back-handed me and I went flying into the wall and I wondered what the hell was going on. He was standing over me screaming and he kicked me on the side of my leg and left. I was left sitting there, crying my eyes out, wondering what I had done. He came back a few hours later and was very apologetic, and I forgave him. As our relationship progressed, he continued to yell and say nasty things.
That's also the time when I got my first real job. One day I was on a bus coming home from work and this guy gets on and chooses to sit next to me. All of a sudden I felt his hands come up underneath my arm and he was touching my breast. I was so stunned. That's when I felt the knife in my side. I couldn't work out what to do. In sheer panic I just sat there and did nothing. I could feel the knife digging into my rib and it was the most terrifying thing I have ever felt in my life. I wished I could just whip off my breasts and then no one would ever look at me or touch me again. I wondered why I didn't fight back and thought I was a wimp.
He got off the bus and I was left sitting there. Unbeknown to me the bus driver had a thing for me, and on that particular day he had plucked up the courage to ask me out for coffee. When he asked me, I burst into tears and ran off. I arrived back home and told my boyfriend what happened, and I didn't realise I was bleeding. I pulled my top up and I had a cut which I was bleeding profusely from. I had to get that stitched up, and after that we went down to the police station to make a report. I couldn't give a description because I was so terrified, I couldn't even look at the person. All I knew was that he was male.
That's when things started escalating with my boyfriend. The beatings would get worse, and after each beating he would get aroused and force himself on me. He would tell me if I didn't shut up I would get it. I was terrified and I didn't know who to turn to. He had alienated me from my family and friends so I had no one to talk to or go to and at this point. My dad started questioning him because he had seen the bruises and I had become withdrawn.

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We moved away from my family, and I felt alienated again. I didn’t know anyone and he would beat me continuously. I would just get to that point where I was so compliant because I was terrified that he would kill me. Then I found out I was pregnant For the first time in my life, I actually felt some form of strength. I moved out, and when I told him he basically told me he wanted to end the relationship. I was ok with that.
The last time that I saw him he basically picked me up in front of everyone. He dragged me to the car and tried hitting me again. This was the first time that I turned around and tried to defend myself. I punched him clear in the face, and just started kicking him, and wouldn't stop. I remember thinking that would be the last time he would ever touch me. I rang my mum and dad and asked them to get me and they were there within hours. The next time he was at my flat, my flatmates told him I had moved back home.
I met up with more crappy boyfriends because as far as I was concerned, I deserved to be treated like crap and I deserved everything I got and I was drunk all the time. I was in my early 20s my drinking had escalated into something really bad. I was trying to deal with all of these problems. I was suicidal and depressed and cutting myself and doing all these crazy things. I would go off and do all the most crazy things then I would have self loathing and wonder why I was so stupid. I had no control over anything.
Then I got so drunk one night and I was trying to get back home. I was waiting for a taxi and I had my head down, looking for something in my bag. I was staggering all over the place and the next minute I felt this huge pain in my head. I remember going down on the ground and I was dragged into this alleyway. I was stunned. I was flipped over onto my back and I remember looking up and seeing this  random guy. He beat me so badly and punched me so hard in the face that he broke my cheek bone.
He broke my ribs and he brutally raped me in this alley way. In my head I'm thinking, ”You obviously deserve this because you are drunk, what's wrong with you?" I asked him why he was doing this, and I started thinking about my baby. I realised I had to go home. I remember begging him to not hurt me anymore because I had to go home to my baby. I was thinking I was going to die.
He took off and I remember wondering what I was going to do. I tried to make myself look tidy because I didn't want to go to the police again. I was drunk and I didn't want to be questioned and made to feel like I was shit. I was doing a good enough job of that on my own. I managed to get into this taxi and the guy asked me if I was ok. I had really long hair and was trying to hide my face. This guy kept looking at me as he was obviously worried and didn't know what to do. I gave him a false address so he wouldn't bring the police to my house.
My little one was staying at my mum and dad's place. The cliché was that I went straight into the shower and sobbed for hours and curled up in a ball. I was in so much pain and my face was swollen and I didn't know what to do. I had to call my mum and dad, who ended up taking me to the hospital. They asked me if I had been sexually assaulted and I said I had just got into a fight.
They had to repair my face. You can't do much with broken ribs, but they wanted to check me over fully because they did suspect rape. They were calling the police and that was when I started getting scared because I didn't want to tell anyone, In the past no one really believed me. I didn't make a report even though everyone knew. I didn't want to do anything because all these thoughts were going on in my head.
It was from there that I decided, "I'm a mess. I need to start pulling my life together". At the time, I was cutting myself, on drugs and an emotional and mental wreck. I wasn't the person I am today, I was only just coping. Basically what I would call myself was a fricking loser.
I thought it was time to get myself sorted and I started looking for counsellors. I went to the doctor, and that was when I found out I was pregnant from the rape. That just absolutely knocked me. Something in my brain snapped, and that was when I had a complete break down. All the pain and anger and feelings that were inside me blew up.
I can't remember a lot but I ended up having an abortion and I didn't tell anyone about it. What happened was that afterwards I was in the shower and all of a sudden I started haemorrhaging in the shower. I could literally feel my life start to fade away. I had to tell my little girl to get me the phone. I tried to stay calm so she wouldn't sense that anything was wrong.
I rang my friend and told her that I was dying, and she got there so quick. I had to tell her about everything. She told me to go to the hospital and I had blood transfusions and antibiotics. Basically she was the only person I had told about what had happened. She came with me to counselling sessions, and she was basically a really solid friend. She has always supported me. She has never judged me about anything, and she has only just ever been my friend. She said, "I love you just the way you are. Don't ever change. Only for the good." So for 25 years we have been each other's rocks.
I went to counselling and spoke about it, and started doing art and that's when I started to feel like I was starting to deal with it all. I decided that I was going to go to special effects school, because I had trained as a makeup artist. I could draw and design all these negative things that were going on in my head and I could put them to good use.
When I met my next daughter's dad I'd been single for a long time. I should have seen the signs early but I didn’t. He was also mentally abusive as well. I remember having to flee with two children. This time it wasn't just me, I had two children I had to provide for.
Then my husband came along. We had known each other for a long time. I'd only just really recently told him about everything. At first he asked me why I had hidden it and I said it's not like I'm going to advertise I'm a victim of rape. Then he got angry. He wasn't angry at me but he was angry because he couldn't protect me in that way. I thought this is strange that someone cares for me that much that he is willing to take on my feelings and feels bad for me and wants to protect me.
About two months ago I got a phone call from my ex, who is the father of my middle daughter. He had called quite a few times that day which was unusual for him. I called him back and I could tell in his voice that something wasn't right. When I heard that tone it was like my mum with my brother all over again and my heart just stopped. He told me that he had sent our daughter down the road to the dairy, which wasn't very far, and someone had approached her. A man wound down the window, and stopped and grabbed her and tried to get her in to their vehicle.
She had managed to stay calm, and was able to get away from his grip and run away. She managed to get back to her dad's house, and he said she let out a type of cry he had never heard before. He said he never ran so fast. As he was telling me this every instinct in me wanted to protect my child and search for this guy. I actually vomited and was so consumed with my own emotions, I can't even describe them because there are no words for it. I was shaking and sobbing and the absolute shock of it all was too much.
I had to stop thinking of all the things he could have done to her. My husband pointed out that you can't worry about what could have happened, what did happened was that she had got away and she was safe. He said If you start thinking about what could have happened it will start to eat you alive. That made me feel calmer. At that time he didn't realise the extent of my own past, and why I was feeling the way I was.
When I did tell my husband about everything, he said things started jumping into place for him. He has a different type of understanding and there was a different level to our relationship now.  I just needed to acknowledge that it was ok to be scared and nervous for my children, and allow myself that space to cry and to feel those emotions, not bottle them up like I normally would have done. Everything has a reason and obviously this happened for me to acknowledge those patterns.
There is many times I have thought in my head that I have come out relatively normal from all of these experiences. I've seen a lot, but the best way I can think about it is that I'm like a three legged dog. When a dog loses their leg, they are a bit wobbly on their feet at first, but after a while they get used it and they can still run. I am a three-legged dog because even though this stuff has happened, I have managed to find a way to get through and in a way I am more together. I feel I have managed very well with everything that I have been through. That's how I would describe myself.
My innocence and childhood have gone because after my brother's death, I didn't have a childhood anymore and had to grow up super fast. That is my missing leg. Sometimes I find myself wanting to let go, and just be carefree like a kid and just feel that feeling of being free, but I can't do it. I don't know how to feel free.