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Six degrees of separation

November 01 2020

WarnIng: contains upsetting content. McGinlay’s focus on this issue’s theme unpicks the links between abuse, power and corruption.

In the late ‘90s, during my teens, I remember hearing a black woman in her 40s, fiercely vocalising the institutional racism she was facing. She wasn’t being ‘over emotional, aggressive or dramatic’ – all dismissive slurs against assertive women. After telling me her experiences, it was apparent she had every reason to be furious. I thought three things:

1. This woman has been screwed by the system & it has f*cked with her head.

2. This woman is talking about something I don't fully grasp and there’s nothing I can say to change her mind or ease her pain.

3. My gut screamed, ‘You might wanna look this up, it’s already happening to you.’

I had just come out of (escaped) foster care, so was starting my independence at 16 years old, thanks to social services’ incompetence... Hold that thought. You know that saying, there are six degrees of separation between people? Well at this point, get yourself a cuppa and a box of tissues, because here are my six degrees:

1. I ran away from home to social services at 14 because my violent mother and cokehead stepdad are abusing the f*ck out of me and I'm petrified on a daily basis. Paedo pappy knew I was raped at knife point at the age of 6 by my mum's Satan-worshipper brother, who threatened to kill me if I told anyone. Bearing in mind I couldn't speak properly until eight-years-old, due to Autism/Asperger’s, I only finally managed to tell my mum at the age of 11.

2. Between 14–16, I’m abused further by foster carers’ family members, sneaking into my room at night. I start experiencing blackouts and nightmares on a daily basis. By 16, I can’t take foster care anymore because social services have now moved me around four foster homes in two years.

3. At 16, social services agree to put me into a semi-independent living situation. Thanks to them, I’m placed in a grotty cockroach infested B&B, also crawling with crackheads, groomers and gang members, in Sussex Gardens, Paddington, just around the corner from St Mary’s Hospital, where I was born.

4. Within six months of staying in this hell hole, people were trying to groom me into the sex industry. I was beaten up on a regular basis, drugged and raped for not joining the gangs. One punishment involved being beaten up by two girls in the corner of a shower, while a third girl turned the temperature up and down to freezing, then boiling, and stripped me naked. They didn’t know this, but I was two months pregnant. Without explaining the whole horror of my ordeal and losing my baby, I convinced social services to move me again to a young women’s hostel.

5. Let’s fast forward to 2019, Jeffrey Epstein’s crimes, Netflix's show Dirty Money and that pathetic Prince Andrew TV interview. I believe every word of all the victims.

6. Are victims chosen to be abused based on family disfunction? Like in my case: my mother was an alcoholic prostitute. Is this why I have been targeted for a large part of my life by predatory individuals?

I feel like I have missed something here... Oh yes, institutional racism, did I forget to mention I am a woman of colour?