WARNING: This book contains child abuse, sexual abuse, rape, suicide, drugs, alcohol and self harm.
SYNOPSIS BY HARPER NON-FICTION
Abused and ostracized by her mother, humiliated by her father’s sexual innuendos, physically assaulted and bullied by her eldest brother, when Zoe Patterson was taken into care at the age of 13, she thought she was finally going to escape her suffering.
Then social services placed her in a residential unit known to be ‘a target for prostitution’, and suddenly Zoe’s life was worse than it had ever been before.
Zoe had been at Denver House for just three weeks when an older girl asked if she’d like to go to a party, then took her to a house where there were just three men. Zoe was a virgin until that night, when two of the men raped her. When she told her social worker what had happened to her, she made a joke about it, then took her to get the morning-after pill.
For Zoe, the indifference of the staff at the residential unit seemed like further confirmation of what her mother had always told her – she was worthless. Before long, she realised that the only way to survive in the unit was to go to the ‘parties’ the older girls were paid to take her to, drink the drinks, smoke the cannabis and try to blank out what was done to her when she was abused, controlled and trafficked around the country.
But in her heart Zoe was always a fighter.
There are times you just know that a book needs to be read, and Trafficked Girl by Zoe Patterson was just one of those books. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a easy read at all, I had to make sure to take breaks so I didn’t get too emotionally drained. However, Zoe never had a break, the abuse just kept coming. So after years of being silenced and overlooked, the least I could do is read her story.
Zoe’s story starts at a very young age. Whilst still living at her parent’s house, she recounts the abuse she suffered at her mother’s hands. She was treated worse than her brothers, constantly being humiliated and beaten up by her mother. The one person who should love her unconditionally and keep her safe made her home-life a living hell.
By the time she was 13 years old, Zoe’s self-esteem was so bad that she started to believe she didn’t deserve anything good in life. Feelings that only got worse when she finally was taken from home and put into care.
Thinking that she would finally be free from her mother’s abuse, she showed her bruises to her teacher and with that she was taken into Denver House. However, the abuse just got worse, when she naively went to a ‘party’ with the 15 year old girl in her care house. Little did she know, that the girl had just sold her to two men, and that’s when 13 year old virgin Zoe was first raped by two men. After that night, afraid of what could happen to her if she didn’t obey the girl’s demands, she kept being sold to have sex with men all over town and further afield.
When we think of girls being trafficked for sex, we usually assume they have been kidnapped in a foreign country and trafficked around the world in the worst possible conditions. In Zoe’s case she was trafficked in her own English town. While she should be taken care of by Child Protection Services, instead she was being sold off for years on end and her pleas for help weren’t taken seriously.
That just intensified in her head what her mother has always told her, that she was worth nothing and that no one cared.
Zoe doesn’t shy away from telling us exactly how she suffered at the hands of her mum and later of all the men that abused her. She doesn’t shy away from how she was feeling physically and emotionally during all of the abuse. She doesn’t shy away from how all of this has led her to numb her pain with alcohol and self harm.
While reading the book, I found it hard to understand how could people in the care house do nothing for this girl. How could they know what was going on and let it keep happening? She begged for help and instead of understanding, she was laughed at and humiliated further.
My heart broke for Zoe, and her story. This isn’t the kind of story you read expecting a magical happy ending. This is the kind of story you read to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
One thing that I would like Zoe to know is that I see you, I hear you, and none of what has happened is your fault. You did all you could to save yourself, adults just failed you.
Trafficked Girl by Zoe Patterson will be available in paperback on the 22nd of March and you can pre-order now on Amazon (affiliated link).
Thanks Harper Collins and Rosie Margesson for sending me a paperback copy of Trafficked Girl in exchange for my honest review.