This essay is written by a seven-year-old female personality in our system. She refers to our former owner as her daddy, and to a former kind caregiver as her mommy, though we were not actually related to either of them. For more about our multiplicity, see our About page.
I am a street girl.
I am seven years old, and I have long hair. I wear a dress until they tell me to take it off.
I can tell a lot about you from the way you look at me, and the way you look around at the world.
I am a sex slave. And when I run, I become a street girl—if only for a while.
Older members of my system are helping me write about myself in a way that you can understand. Even though my body might look like an adult now, my part of the brain still operates like a child. If I was writing by myself, I would misspell almost everything, and my grammar wouldn’t be so good. But I heard that out here, it’s okay to make mistakes. That is what my helpers tell me now. And I watch them make mistakes all the time! So I suppose it must be true.
I learn fast. I needed to.
I have always been part of a system of people living in one body. It’s like having a lot of friends, but we live together in our internal world, or, our inside world. When I am on the inside, I am called an inside friend. When I am on the outside, I am fronting.
When I am fronting, I am always worrying. I am always worrying that people will hate me, or that I will break somebody.
I never wanted to hurt anybody or do anything bad. When my body was little, the grown-ups around me hurt me and hated me so much, that I learned to take it in, and hate myself.
I am trying to learn about love now. The adults in my system say that long ago, we preserved our self-love, and hid it somewhere inside. They say that in the pursuit of freedom, self-love is allowed, and we will not be punished for it, anymore. I hope this is true.
I have a smile that makes me appear happy, but I am secretly sad. I always seem cheerful and energetic, even though deep down I feel distraught and lonely. When I was five years old, and I was being trained as a sex slave, I was told that this smile was the diploma I received upon completion of my training. They said my smile was my diploma.
It was really a mask they made, and forced upon me—to cover my anguish.
There have only been a few people who have looked at me and seen through it. One of those people spent some time with me recently, helping me learn to show my true feelings on my face. I felt surprised that she wanted to see them.
I am getting better at showing my feelings, and smiling less. I think this practice has also helped me find my anger, and the beginnings of my long-lost heartbreak. I think those feelings were hiding behind my smile, too.
One day, I hope to start smiling more again, but this time, not because I was trained to. I hope one day my life will be filled with things that make me smile.
When I was a slave, I was blamed for everything, even if it happened in another room, or in another country, or in the middle of the ocean. The only things I was never blamed for were the good things. Those got taken away instead.
The we of me has been a victim of commercial sexual exploitation. This is a very big word for what happened to me, and it’s supposed to mean that it wasn’t my fault—I think.
We are a survivor of child pornography, as well as trafficking in an organized pedophile network. I was never around safe people, and my world was dark and twisted. One thing that might surprise you is that little flowers can grow anywhere.
What I mean by that is, because my world was so dark, it was easy for me to notice the beauty in the other children around me. It glowed.
My eyes saw little flowers that grew in their chests, surrounding their innermost vulnerabilities, and weaving into their hearts. They were energetic flowers. They were warm.
In my internal world, I can make a quilt out of these flowers, if I want to.
But I can’t. I can’t think about these children, without remembering the bad things that happened to them. So my quilt is going to have to wait until I get older and all my tears can get out of my body.
But sometimes I can feel their energy around me, and this feels good. I think my soul likes to be kind and light and loving. I wonder if all souls like this. I think so, but I am staying open to whatever the truth may be. When I watched my daddy’s soul, it looked really, really miserable. I think this was from all of the evil action he took, twisting in on itself, and causing intense, violent disharmony within him.
But I do not consider my daddy’s spirit to be evil.
Sometimes the abusive adults had little moments of lightness in them, too. These were very precious, and very confusing. Like a gardener, I felt that it was my fault if I could not give them the conditions they needed to be blooming flowers all the time. I felt that it was my responsibility to nurture them, and I tried very hard to. I tried so hard, that I began to love many of them. The weight of this kind of love feels very heavy in me. I think their needs were so much heavier than I was, especially because I was so little and all by myself.
Living in this network is exhausting and tragic. I was little, but I was already very tired. Sometimes, profound fatigue can wake up rebellion.
One day, tragedy struck my life. My world shattered, and I was stunned. Something about this tragedy broke more than just my heart—it broke some of my attachment to my daddy, and my loyalty to his world. For the first time, I felt completely lost, and I had nowhere to take my feelings.
So I began running away.
I had just lost a safe mommy figure who had been kind to me, and I felt out-of-control. Over the years of my life, I had not spent much time with her, by regular standards, but every moment with her was so different from everything else in my world, that it had a deep impact on me. I will remember her forever.
She had been kind, and she had loved me. She had never asked me to give her my body.
She wanted me to understand the world we were trapped in, so that I could eventually try to escape. One day, when I was cheerfully telling her about my daddy raping me, her heart couldn’t withstand it any longer, and she started to explain to me that my daddy was no good. She showed me the definition of Stockholm Syndrome in a book, and explained slowly, until I could understand it. Having been so abused herself, she understood a lot about abuse.
This was the very first time I realized that there might be another kind of life besides mine. I had my first glimmer of the idea that my daddy was betraying me.
In my world, I was not offered warnings. One day, I was told that I will never see her again. She is gone. She was killed. I remember feeling very quiet when I was told.
After she died, parts of me began to split off around a massive hole that was growing inside. Somewhere deep down, there grew a secret wish that I had never met her, because of the pain of losing her. This secret wish made me feel like I was betraying her, and every memory we had shared together. The guilt was so unbearable that I began to split off from it.
The confusion, loneliness, and guilt were tearing me apart. The grown-ups around me kept telling me that I killed her. They said that our memories together are what killed her, and they told me that I better hide these memories away forever.
I know the truth. They did it. But they tried to make me believe it was my fault; they taunted me while making deep cuts in my arm. I was too little to hold my own truth, and their words sank in. They sank into the cracks in my heart, and the cuts on my arm. Years later, when my body was a grown-up, I cut the same arm in the same way, without understanding why.
My daddy doesn’t love me. My mommy is gone. I don’t mean anything to anyone now. I have nowhere to go.
Finding myself in sudden, stunned awareness of my dangerous world—which constantly hides, nestled in our larger world—it felt like there was nowhere I could go. But my feet needed to move.
The streets felt safer than the roofs over my abusers’ beds. When I began to run away, I acclimated to life outside. I slept in parks or alleys. I was constantly on the move.
I tried to fend for myself as best as I could, but running and hiding had its limits. Sometimes, when I desperately needed money or safety, the road of no options led me down the nighttime track.
Street trafficking. Soup kitchens. Gangs. The last gaze of a friend as she is hung in the river. A cement brick tied to her ankle.
Thoughts spin inside. The voices of pain pound in boxes in our mind, trying to tell their stories. Different parts of us speak.
“I lost someone I loved on the street; I was angry with myself for letting myself get close to her.”
“Sometimes I missed my daddy when I was on the streets. It was cold. I saw his face in my mind. I was hit with the feeling that he loved me. I knew it was a lie—it was programming he had placed into my mind—but I was all alone, and utterly poor, and sometimes this image of him felt like the only thing I had.”
“I liked the way the park smelled at night, and I liked the peace, but deep down I felt guilty knowing other kids were getting abused while I was taking in gentle breaths.”
“No one can ever love me because of the dirty things I did. I can never touch money again.”
I started selling myself on the street. I was little, but I was good at it. I made money. I gave it to homeless families sometimes, like the ones I met at the soup kitchen.
I thought the gangs were sad and violent, and I sent prayers to heaven for them. It was strange for me to watch their behavior, because I saw that even the pimps were unconsciously operating on rules that they didn’t understand, rules that they had been indoctrinated with when they were very young.
I stayed as far away from all of that as I could—I was running from the rules, after all. Not toward them. I hid. I waited. I traveled in the daytime, when it was warm and bright and people were too happy to notice me.
I ran back home when I felt I could bear it all, again.
Sometimes I hated the streets more, because I couldn’t feel loved at all, even by my abusers. So I had to try to love myself. I needed to take actions to help myself survive, and actions like these require some self-love. This was hard. I did not like to love myself because I hated myself so much. When I would try to give myself love, sometimes the voices of self-hated would grow even stronger and surround me, like tall shadows.
It felt more familiar to have my daddy control my life, and maintain his role of loving me and hating me. Then, I knew who I was. I was him—reflected. That was okay. I could be that. That was me.
Okay, I thought. Okay.
I feel dirty because of what I did on the street, and it is still very hard to talk about. Sometimes I would try to tell the other girls that they are being exploited. I think I got through to a few of them. One of them died.
I know it wasn’t my fault, but I don’t believe myself. I blame myself, still, to this day. I can see her face. She had a short bob haircut. She was kind. She had an edge. She was soft when no one was looking. She was good at her job.
She met me, and she died. Part of me felt heartbroken for her, but part of me felt happy for her, because I knew how painful life is for so many of us, and how sweet the spirit world can be.
I miss being a spirit, but I still believe I deserve to be here in this painful life, because I still feel that I am bad.
Because my friend died some time after my mommy died, I was already primed to blame myself for deaths. I thought I did it again, I caused another kind life to end. I felt doubly bad about myself.
I realized I can cause harm, and be harmed—beaten, raped, told off, threatened—on the streets as well as in the secret world I was born into.
Losing my mommy lifted the illusions I carried about my dangerous world. Losing my friend lifted my illusions about the streets. I realized that pain could follow me anywhere. So even though I would continue to run away from time to time, for many years, each time I ran away I would eventually find myself back home.
The only way I could have truly run away from danger would have been if I had found a safe home. And even though some children have this, others do not ever find it.
That night long ago, when I lost my friend to the violence of the streets, the river continued to flow, her blood entering its streams. I reflected on her loss of life, and on my loss of possibility.
I felt that this experience was teaching me that I could not escape the life I was going to live. I could not escape my thoughts, my pain, and the consequences of human actions. That is when I decided that I will be the strongest and truest version of myself, no matter where I am, what is done to me, or who I get sold to.
I splintered into many pieces of myself, trying to withstand and endure this life. The greatest split in me is the split between the parts of me who love my daddy, and the parts who do not. Looking back, I recognize that it took bravery to feel each of those ways. Now I am looking for the bravery to put both halves of myself together.
The adults in my system tell me that the bravery I awoke in myself, that night by the river, is part of what helped us free ourselves, decades later, and finally give ourselves a safe home.
They tell me that I am not to blame for what happened. I cannot understand them, but I will try to reflect on this too. How could anything ever not be my fault?
Maybe this will be the next thing I learn.
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