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I’m Joanne, 18, from Belfast

Updated: Aug 29, 2023

...I used to argue a lot with my mummy and all, coz I was so stressed out…Obviously she didn’t know why...

My story started whenever I was 11. I was joining first year, picking what school I wanted to go to. Mummy worked all the time, my daddy was always at my house, but him and my mummy weren’t together… and I was abused by my uncle from I was 11 ‘til I was 13. I told on 1st of October 2013 and that night the man was arrested before my daddy had found out.

It was hard, weird, different, sad, uncomfortable. I’ll tell you the story about how it came out. I’d asked my auntie to pick me up from the Youth Club. I was scared of the dark because I obviously knew there was bad people like that about there. I didn’t want anybody else abusing me or nothing. So, I asked my auntie, would she pick me up. Her car was broke and obviously she didn’t know, so she sent my uncle down to keep me safe. But nothing happened. Then, it was just weird, I felt annoyed about it, this was when I was 13. This was on the 30th. I got home, I was wearing a grey and purple Nike tracksuit, white

Nike trainers, pink Helly Hansen waterproof coat and I sat down on the sofa while my mummy was watching TV. I just turned away from her and just sat on my phone. She said, ‘what’s wrong?’ coz she had heard me crying, but I didn’t realise. I said ‘nothing, it’s alright’ and she kept saying ‘there is something wrong, tell me’.

During the process of me being abused I acted very weird, I used to argue a lot with my mummy and all, coz I was so stressed out… Obviously she didn’t know why. I told her, I said that he had been abusing me and she started crying and just hugged me.

Then she phoned him and just started shouting and he was just saying ‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry’. My mummy phoned the police because they were based facing us. So, I went up to get my jammies on and that’s when I heard her shouting at him on the phone calling him a bastard. So, I got my jammies on and came down and the police was there. They were asking me questions and all. Two police officers went and lifted him out of the house and put him into custody overnight. About half an hour after that we phoned my daddy. This was when he still drove a motorbike. We didn’t tell him before he came down in case he flew that fast he came off his motorbike or something or ended up in a serious accident. But we also didn’t tell him because he literally would have killed that man and done time for him. I would rather lose the other man than my daddy. So, my mummy phoned my daddy and asked him to come down ASAP. He came down and he said, ‘What’s wrong?’ and I was sitting there in my jammies and he said, ‘Alright JoJo’.

...I’d never missed a day of school because I knew when I went to school that there was less chance of me getting abused as much...

The police went back over to the station to get more requests or something. Then my daddy came down and my mummy told him, and he started crying and just hugged me, he was screaming ‘I’m gonna kill him’ and all.

Then, obviously my auntie had found out, like she didn’t sleep for a couple of weeks and all after it. I felt like it was all my fault. Now my auntie still doesn’t really bother with me. She would say hello and all, like she wouldn’t be nasty toward me, but I feel like I’m an idiot. I don’t speak to her either because it’s not worth it. If she doesn’t wanna know me, I’m not gonna know her.

I’d never missed a day of school because I knew when I went to school that there was less chance of me getting abused as much. So, I went to school every day and then that day I had to take the day off because I had to go up to the … it’s like a centre for young people, it’s called the Rowan Centre, it works between doctors, nurses, and police. They had to record a CD and all and I had to get tests done and stuff like that and make sure there was nothing wrong with me, make sure I wasn’t harmed. And I had to take my clothes and stuff that I was wearing the night before in case he did try and touch me, and I didn’t say.

Then I went home, me and my mummy got a taxi back and we stopped at my other aunties. Everyone started crying and giving me hugs and all, it was just weird. Then I went up to my other aunties and waiting on my cousin getting out of school and sat with her really. It took my mind off things. But then, it was only like last year I found out that my auntie, like the man’s wife’s two sisters had went up to the jail to ask why, but apparently the two of them sat in the waiting room in the cafeteria. None of them even told me, the fact they even went up to see him just hurt me. I’m sure they probably just wanted answers, but they didn’t even let me know they were going up.

I didn’t have to go through any of the court cases or nothing because I was too young. I think it was after a couple of months he pleaded guilty. It was very hard. He got 9 years, but if his behaviour’s good it’s cut down to 4 and a half. But he got put away on the 1st of October, so it’s 4 and a half years then he will be getting out in April 2018. So, I’m really scared about that and like, I’ll be having a good day and if that comes to my head I’ll just have a bad day and have really bad panic attacks and anxiety and stuff. I just, I think I can’t do it no more. Obviously, I can do it but that’s what I think at that moment in time.

I have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, so I do, and bad depression because of it. It doesn’t really affect me apart from that I’m a worrier. If I walked, I would probably worry that my shoe’s not tightened. Or if my mummy is watching TV and I say something and she doesn’t hear me, I think she’s angry at me or annoyed or something. Being depressed, it doesn’t really annoy me like because I don’t know if I show it. Its only once in a while that I would show it and that’s when I’m having a really bad day.

My advice to other people is to tell someone who they can trust and not someone who is just going to let it pass by like a bit of wind. Tell someone who’s actually gonna believe ya and that’s gonna look further into it and get something done about it and get justice for ya.

No sentence is long enough for abuse. He only got 9 years and that’s not long enough because he cost me my life. That’s 2 years of my life I’m never gonna get back. 2 young years, never gonna get that chance to go back through my education properly. I’m always gonna have that at the back of my head, even when I have kids and everything. When I have a partner, that’s always gonna be there.

In 1st and 2nd year, I did try and focus but I knew what was coming. Now and again, like it didn’t happen every single night but majority of it, yeah. But I knew what was coming, so I was constantly preparing for it and thinking about it, worrying, what’s he gonna do? What’s

gonn happen? I threatened I was gonna tell my daddy before and he told me if I did, he was coming back to kill me. So obviously I’m worrying about that now because I did tell my mummy and daddy. Coz you never know, people say it’s not that easy, he’ll not be back and all, but anybody can go under disguise. That’s just me being realistic that’s not me trying to create another scene or making up excuses, that’s me being realistic. Knowing

the possibilities. I’d feel safe from him if I knew he had passed away, I don’t wish it on him but sometimes I do. He does deserve it, but a lot of other people won’t agree. That’s their opinions.

R: Where do you see yourself in the future?

I see myself working with children. I think I’m so over protective and I wanna work with children because I want to protect them and safeguard them. Like with my cousins and stuff, I’m so protective I don’t think anything could get past me because I’m constantly there. I didn’t have anybody that close with me. Nobody. What I went through was tough but if I was to give anybody advice now it would be to speak up before it’s too late. Because it has ruined my life and it always will, it will haunt me… but I have to learn to live with it. People

can stop that if they stop it quick enough. It will not leave them, but it will not affect them as much if it isn’t happening on a daily basis.

I can’t remember how it came about that I had depression. I think I was always upset and my mummy booked me a hospital appointment. I think maybe that was what they said I was diagnosed with. I have PTSD – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I don’t take tablets or nothing for it, it’s after you’ve been through a traumatic point in your life, most people would get it.

I don’t think I would ever trust anybody the same, but I’ll have to learn to be nice and give things a go.

People won’t go to the doctor because it’s hard. It’s one thing knowing you’re feeling that way yourself, but it’s harder to admit that. Because you don’t want people to have a bad opinion of ya. That’s a part of it. I know everybody is judged in life, but some more than others on certain occasions.

In my opinion, I think doctors do as much as they can because if you think how many people there is in Belfast and there’s like 3, 4 hospitals. They can’t help everybody. They try but they can’t. And some people just don’t want the help, but you need to want to help yourself before you can let anybody else help ya. And a lot of people as well, their mental health becomes worse when they start using drugs and abusing alcohol.

...Tell someone who’s actually gonna believe ya and that’s gonna look further into it and get something done about it and get justice for ya...

I’ve had to go to A&E before because of it. I wanted to end my life. They kind of calmed me down and gave me a sleeping tablet and stuff. I was referred to Beechcroft the next morning. I had my very first appointment the day after. It’s a hospital for people with mental health problems. They were really helpful like, I think I’ve went to maybe 6 counselling places and there’s only 2 that I have really liked and that I could go back to again. Beechcroft is one of the best places to help ya and I believe that once I had their help I didn’t need as much help anymore. I just went to basically a lower down counsellor. In my opinion, I think there is enough being done. It will improve in the future; the numbers aren’t going to increase.

It seems to be that people are giving more back to the community nowadays and looking after each other and offer help. I think the place is good. There are obviously a lot of bad things that could happen. But that’s people with bad thoughts, it’s mistakes that they make. Sometimes it can be evil people, I don’t want to give everyone a label.

R: Do you have any advice to give to young people in similar situations?

Don’t look back coz you’re not going that way anymore. Keep going forward. If you wanna keep going, then try hard. If you believe, achieve, and succeed. If you believe it, you’ll achieve it, and if you achieve it, you’ll succeed it. I was going to get that as a tattoo before, but I just have ‘believe’. I have a Friday 13th tattoo but it means I got a lucky escape when I was 13. Coz 13 is meant to be luck, either bad or good, but this one was good because I got the escape.

20 years on from the creation of the Good Friday Agreement we ask a group of young adults, women, refugees and asylum seekers from North and West Belfast to tell their stories, detailing their past and current situations and aspirations for the future.

You can read the full book "MY STORY" click the link below

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