Please be aware this piece contains references to abuse and addiction, which some people may find distressing.
I’m one of 12, I’ve got 8 brothers and 3 sisters. I was born in prison and we were brought up by mum on her own. I was taken away and given to foster parents for the first 18 months of my life, then after 18 months I was given back.
All of my lifetime with my mum till I was 15 was very chaotic. We were moving house, moving schools, always running from bailiffs, from different men all the time. We were always running away. My mum was violent, and I saw things happening to my mother that made me think that was normal, to be violent and lash out at people you care about. I thought that was OK. When I was 10 or 12 I was having sex with older men, and I’ve only recently realised that was abuse.
I first got into trouble with the police at 12 years old, for shoplifting or stealing. Then I got pregnant at 16 and left home.
When my daughter was 9 months old she was removed from me because of how chaotic my life was. She was injured by someone else while in my care and I was too scared to take her to hospital. That was when I first experienced social services.
My life went really downhill from there. I started drinking, taking drugs, sleeping around. I was thrown out of every home and every place I stayed for antisocial behaviour, I was arrested for being drunk and disorderly, or for antisocial behaviour. I was in and out of custody. Then at 18 I got pregnant with my son, who was taken into care at 5 days old by social services while we were still in the hospital.
I continued with the drinking, the drugs, and sleeping around. But after a while I straightened out a bit and when I was 20 I got my children back. Then I was witness to a murder when my brother was the perpetrator. I had to give evidence and we went into witness protection: we were moved all over the place, all over the country but I couldn’t settle. Then it was decided my children should be put up for adoption; that it was all too chaotic and I couldn’t care for them. I wouldn’t be able to get them back this time.
After that I started sleeping around again, doing the drugs and everything, and eventually I went to prison for 18 months.
After I came out of prison I got pregnant again and I was in a relationship but then because of everything I’d experienced I was the violent one. There had been lots of domestic violence before that, lots of my partners were violent. I was violent to her dad, and being abusive in front of her, and she was taken away from me and given to her dad. I got chaotic again. I used to see my daughter every other day through contact centre but I was turning up drunk, on drugs, with black eyes. My daughter’s father said I needed to sort myself out or I wouldn’t be able to see her any more, and then it clicked, that I needed to do something. So I did.
I got into a specialist service, and they got me counselling. I’m seen by someone under mental health now, and they’ve diagnosed me with trauma. I got help with stopping drugs from them, and some parenting classes too. They helped me find somewhere to live.
About 15 months ago I had another baby. Before he arrived I did everything I needed to, and sorted myself out. I’ve been with my new partner for three years now and I see my daughter regularly. I have a contact order from the courts and she stays over with me.
Now I speak out, I volunteer. I haven’t been in trouble with the police or probation since 2008. I speak at conferences and events and now I’m about to start volunteering with probation.
It’s still an uphill struggle, because I feel like I’m reverting back when I’m stressed. My home is so important, it’s the first bit of stability I’ve had and we’ve made it really nice but I worry about being able to afford to stay here.
My mum used to say to us we couldn’t trust anyone in authority, they’d take us away. Then when I was getting arrested and going into custody it just made me hate them. They were always involved in my life but in a negative way not positive. I didn’t trust them.
Now I get help from every source. I used to never trust any authority because I saw them as the enemy but now I engage every day. I do courses every day, and now I’m older and wiser and I know the help is there to help.