The people who have most trouble believing my past are those who knew me in childhood or young adulthood, who were around when I was trafficked, who knew my mother and were charmed by her, or those for whom my story touches their own lives a little bit too closely for comfort.
I was also charmed by my mother. I also believed her to be the wonderful, modern, open-minded parent she wanted to be. I felt protective of her, tried hard to love her and had my heart broken in the most terrible ways, again and again, until I allowed in the whole truth and wasn’t blinded by her surface demeanor anymore.
My rescue from the network at age 11, came with a long, detailed set of instructions for my continued survival. After listening to surreal notions of how to avoid prostitution, drug addiction, the cities where I should live, the kind of man I should marry and to keep quiet about the network or they would find and kill me, my immediate future was addressed. I was going back home to a mother who would not be able to sell me to the network anymore. I was given a bag with sleeping pills and opioids, which I should use conservatively, one half a day at the most, to deal with my mother’s certain anger (for not being able to sell me anymore) and desire for revenge. I did need those pills. And could have used more.
The gangster who rescued me could easily predict my mother’s reaction, because he knew her. He knew her quite well. He had slept with her. In front of me.
It had been the moment that my mother’s sickness had reached its zenith, a perverse climax towards which all her actions with regards to me had led. My mother never sold me to adult men for the money - which we had plenty of - she entered me into sexual relationships with men so that she would be able to steal those men from me, to restore the righteous balance of adults loving and sleeping with each other.
This last reason may sound much too generous, coming from her primary victim. The restoration of adult love was the deepest layer of an entirely unconscious process performed by a psychopathic woman, who was completely caught in the trauma story of her own past and who perpetuated that story relentlessly.
Though my mother never told me that her father had sexually abused her, she was stuck in an incestuous triangle. From the photos I’ve seen, my grandfather and grandmother seemed to be really into each other. My mother was born in 1939 and her father left to fight in the 2nd World War soon after. He was captured and interned as a POW at Bergen-Belsen. He lost his middle finger in a work accident and would later reveal to me that being hospitalized had saved his life, because he was given more food there. There exist photos of him in his striped prison suit, skin over bones. He was released before the end of the war and returned home in 1944.
My mother’s emotional development seems to have come to an abrupt halt at age five, which was in 1944. Her town suffered famine and bombings in the years prior, but I never observed any anxiety around food or noise in her. The only way one could detect she had any issue at all was that she acted like a flirtatious, sexualized five year old girl. It looked like her greatest aim was to please men, especially by offering herself to them in any way possible, either sexually or through performing some other service. Even though my mother was far more eager in this endeavor than any other woman I’ve ever met, it is not exactly an uncommon thing, for women to please men, sexually or otherwise.
My mother’s psychopathology did not stop there. She was highly invested in pleasing men, yes, but even more invested in getting revenge on me.
When my mother first saw the gangster, she was picking me up from a night I spent at a castle after a network orgy at the age of 10. He drove to drop me off near where she was parked. She noticed his red Porsche and blonde hair and was extremely excited, chatting on our ride home as if I had found a great boyfriend and prospects for marriage were good.
Once he started sexually assaulting me, he also started an affair with my mother behind my back. I was extremely attached to this gangster/perpetrator, who offered a reflection of some of my positive qualities to which my mother had remained completely blind. He was a parental figure. I had bonded with him, as per his invitation and suggestion that my mother was no good.
One day my mother drugged me with a half bottle of Valium. I forced myself to stay awake, but was unable to move any part of my body. I overheard his car driving up, and the two of them coming into my room.
“You drugged her, didn’t you?” I heard him say.
“Nooooooo,” my mother answered in a sing-song voice.
My mother still had her usual childish excitement in her voice, but also, for the first and only time I ever heard it, she seemed to be mocking her own tone, like she had self-awareness and a sense of humor about her evil character.
“You’re so bad,” he praised her.
A long silence followed. They left my room. No matter how hard I tried, I could not lift my head. I could not move at all. With what seemed like supernatural strength, I moved my fingertips, then my hands. I practiced until I could crawl my fingers to the edge of the bed. Moving legs, arms, I sat on all fours then fell to the floor, dizzy. Again I moved my fingertips, hands, lifted up, crawled, out of the room, swaying. I crawled through the hallway to my parents’ bedroom. I heard vague noises, felt sick. One hand was on the ledge. I lifted myself up to my knees, to my feet. The door stile was dancing. Hands on the door handle, I pushed it down with all my weight and the door opened. There they were, doing it, she naked, he dressed. He stopped moving. My mother called out to me in triumph:
“You thought you could have them all, didn’t you?”
His betrayal started the most abusive downward spiral that ended in what should have been my death by torture about four months later. A last-minute change of heart had him negotiate for my release. He finally brought me back to my mother’s house to give me the instructions that were to keep me alive.
I never saw my mother as triumphant and elated as in this moment, penetrated by the man to whom she had pimped me out, so she could steal him back from me.
I’m not sure if my grandfather’s experiences at the concentration camp led him to copy sexual abuse on my mother, who was five years old when he returned home, or if incest was already in the family before his incarceration. My mother was constantly acting from the place of a sexually abused girl whose spirit was deadened by trauma, who found life through the attention she received in abuse. She constantly relived that trauma story, trying to get the same kind of attention from men constantly, while her daughter served alternately as a split-off extension of her hated young self, and as the manifested dark side of her own mother, the secret rival.
The ultimate goal for this little girl would have been to be loved properly by both parents, and restore their unity.
Instead her mother died one month before her sixth birthday. Whatever feelings she harbored towards her mother, who clearly did not love her very much, there would have been no way for that little girl to ever get past the shame and guilt of the abuse.
My mother chose at one point never to feel shame again, and she became shameless.
In the weeks after my rescue, I was kept home from school, covered with wounds from the torture I had experienced. My mother managed to never acknowledge the injuries. Even as she made me wear tights, long sleeves and a turtleneck shirt on a warm day to send me back to school; even as the crusts were ripped open after the tights got stuck in the wounds, she ignored it all.
When I angrily mentioned the truth, my mother went on a streak of revenge that ended in her molestation of me. This was the final straw: I became her slave again, pleasing her however I could, entering back into her mindset in which nothing bad had ever happened to me, and in which she was a great, modern, open-minded and attractive young mother.
I followed these instructions and left my parental home as soon as possible, moving in with a man in his thirties in my mid-teens with my parents’ full consent. My stepfather told me he wanted me to marry this man. I left the country to go live in the cities mentioned by the gangster, but continued also to protect my mother, pretending that everything was fine.
My mother continued to display the same patterns as she had in my childhood. The only difference was that in my adulthood I was not associated with any murderous gangsters. She was extremely charming to my friends, insisting I invite them to her place and spoiling them with hors-d’oeuvres and bubbly wine.
I once briefly dated an actor who was well-known in Belgium and he met my mother. She was closer to his age than I was and connected with him on his vibrational level, pleasing him in a more subtle, sophisticated way than she usually did, just as she had with the gangster before. This was the pleasurable state at the beginning of a cycle which, had the opportunity arisen, would have ended with her stealing him from me.
Every time I met him afterwards, he asked how my mother was doing. With men who were with me, she was at her most charming, her most intelligent, her most attractive.
I lost friends who knew my mother. Having spent time with her, having been at the receiving end of her pleasantries and nurtured by her appetizers and desserts, they could not believe that she would have done what she did.
It is always difficult to have known someone who turns out to be a psychopath and you had no idea. Psychopaths function. Psychopaths can be very intelligent and charming. Once they have you in their grip, it is hard to come to terms with their dark side unless you’ve felt the effects of their dark actions through and through, like I have.
Trauma deadens. It is where we look for life that determines if happiness is going to be a short-lived high or an increasing joy. Everything is within. Our patterns are repetitions of past trauma stories that, once revealed and grieved, are forever changed. Joy comes from the boundless well of life that is our essence, which is increasingly revealed from peeling off layer after layer of trauma-induced ignorance.