May 19 2013 Latest news:
Monday, February 11, 2013
A lifestyle blighted by sexual and emotional abuse threatened to spill from one generation to the next without the Magdalene Group’s help.
Raised by an alcoholic mother, herself a victim of abuse, Emma spent time with foster families and in care homes. By 17, she was on the streets of Norwich working as a prostitute.
Now 33, Emma is trying to overcome the violent legacy of her past and care for her autistic son, with the support of the charity.
Looking back to her childhood, she said: “We were very poor. We had no clothes, no toilet roll, no food, absolutely nothing.
“None of us knew our dads and our mum was either asleep, wasted or in the pub.”
Young and without support, Emma was raped twice in her teens by men who took advantage of her vulnerability. When she left care at 16, a friend introduced her to sex work.
“I hated men so I thought I’d use them back,” she said. “But it wasn’t just revenge, it was also about survival.
“Now I think ‘what an idiot’, but then I was young and didn’t have anyone to guide me.”
She left sex work at 18 with the help of her boyfriend, but he soon turned violent. She fled into another abusive relationship.
“He’d lock me up and once he kicked me in the head, knocking me out,” she said.
“But the threat of violence was worse. I stopped talking and couldn’t laugh. At times I thought he was capable of killing me.”
They split before Emma’s son was born with severe autism. She struggled for eight years to bring him up before making the heart-wrenching decision to place him with a foster family.
“I want to be a good mother and it breaks my heart he isn’t with me, but I know realistically he needs specialist help I can’t give,” she said.
She still struggles to escape her past.
“Last year I was struggling for money and I went to my mum for help,” said Emma. “She said ‘Why don’t you become an escort? You’re sitting on a gold mine’.”
It is only now, with help from the Magdalene Group, that Emma is beginning to come to terms with her problems.
“What saved me was having my little boy. Because of him I can’t afford to get into any trouble. I need to be there to look after him,” she said.
“I beat myself up about my past and having people to talk to who aren’t judgemental really helps.”
As well as emotional support, Emma is catching up on things she missed out on growing up – simple things like money management that others take for granted.
“Without the Magdalene I’d have no one,” she added. “They’re like parents I never had.”
Nearly 3,000 people have supported a Facebook campaign demanding safety improvements on the A47 near Dereham set up after the latest fatal crash.
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