As a little girl, I had big dreams. I had a mighty future ahead of me. My family was fractured, and I hoped that if I was responsible enough, loving, kind and silent enough, we would get through the darkness, together. It was not to be. I could never have envisioned what was to come. The drug and alcohol abuse, domestic violence, sexual and physical abuse. The threat to send me away for finding my voice and relaying what was happening. The day they actually went through with their threat… This book wrote itself throughout those years. Scribbled on pieces of paper were each wound, with dates and times. Stuffed under my mattress. If I lived, I would tell. For the sake of condensing my story, I couldn’t relay all that went on, and there was a lot! What was more pressing was to relay that a young girl was hurt, desperately. At thirteen, she tried to take her life for the first time, such was her despair. She was treated as rubbish, and ignored by those who could have helped her. Rubbing two cold stones together, she produced a spark. From that spark, grew a flame. She wouldn’t listen to these people, abusing her, stripping the marrow from her bones. What the hell did they know about faith, about love, about her? Nothing. They knew nothing of themselves either. She decided to create a rich internal world, where the good guys win, and girls like her actually get to grow up. The past two decades have been a tumultuous ride toward healing. Nightmares and scores of operations. Pain and hope. The one thing that she never did was listen to the echoes of her abusers, the stinging words, which rattled about in her mind. What the hell did they ever know about her? That frightened girl, who used to lock herself in the linen cupboard whilst waiting for the police to arrive, who dreamed of leaving and being adopted into a stable family. That girl is me. I got to grow up! I have a wonderful husband, who has been through the inferno with me, often charging in ahead to take the brunt of the blows. I have a miracle daughter. I am blessed. I pray that this is never allowed to happen to another kid. Last year, I discovered that two other girls, one nineteen, and one sixteen, were abused in this clinic. One suicided. This is why I am speaking out. I got to grow up, and so many that I shared this story with, didn’t. I speak for them. Thankyou from the depths of my soul, Jo and Barry. I sent a proposal off, moved house and a year or so passed. One night, I was awoken with a deep need to check the spam box in my email. I was scrolling down, when I saw an email from JoJo Publishers. They wanted to talk with me! If I hadn’t checked my spam, I would never have known… Thankyou to Anne Van Alkemade, an amazing editor and now dear friend. Thankyou to beautiful Meldi and Ariel bookshop for all of your work and incredible kindness. Thankyou to Don Smith from the White Ribbon Foundation for speaking tonight, and Brian Bell for your wondrous poem. Thankyou to Suzanne Grae for supporting the White Ribbon Foundation, and dressing me for the launch. Thankyou to all my beautiful family here tonight. I love you all deeply. Thankyou to Tommy and Lizzie, for always believing in me. I am a blessed woman. I got to grow up.