If I wrote a book about my life, the title would be: ‘I Am My Message I Am Not My Mess’. The events of your life do not define you, or who you ultimately become. You are the creator of your life.

I was born on the island of Trinidad. Up until age eight, I had a very happy home life. My grandmother had a big plantation of fruit and vegetables which she sold from a corner shop. My dad, her son, came from a well-off family. I had a bike, typewriter and beautiful things.

I loved my dad very much; we were very close. He taught me to read and to ride my bike. He was the best dad I could have.

Despite all the lovely memories I shared with my dad, he had a drink problem. My dad was also having an affair. He used to come home drunk and argue with Mum. After they had their arguments, they would go to bed and I would get into their bed and sleep between them. I don’t know what I was doing; I don’t think I could have prevented anything, but I slept between them because I didn’t want them to argue.

One evening my dad came home drunk and an argument started. My dad said he was going to hurt my mum. He went into the bedroom where he kept a knife. The next thing I knew, my mum ran out of the house.

Nobody knew where she was. I remember taking care of my brothers and sisters.

The next day a man came to the house and told me that he was Mum’s cousin and he would take us to see her. He took us far into the countryside. When we saw Mum she told us she’d had enough of my dad and she was taking us and leaving him.

She went back to the house and packed a few things. Then she took us to Tobago where Mum’s aunt and her children lived. I felt quite sad, as I had left everything behind; my books, clothes, bike, my typewriter. I didn’t have time to tell friends I was leaving. We just left and that was the end of my old life.

We stayed with my aunt in Tobago and from then on life was completely different. We were dependent on my aunt. The house was crowded because my aunt had seven children.

I remember sleeping on the floor at night and could feel someone touching me. I was afraid to open my eyes. I remember thinking that it wasn’t right, but I didn’t know how to stop it. It was my cousins. They took turns at touching me, as if I was some sort of specimen. They touched me in places no one should touch a child. I didn’t tell anyone. My mum was busy trying to keep us afloat.

The abuse went on for years, all the time we were living at my aunt’s. I remember opening my eyes one morning and seeing my aunt in the kitchen, and one of the boys had his hands under the covers doing stuff to me and thinking, ‘Why isn’t she looking?’ I said nothing. I kept it a secret. I knew my mum had so much to do. Maybe, I thought, there was nothing she could have done anyway and would anyone believe me?

After a few years my grandmother bought some land and she gave my mum a plot. By then we had some money and we built a house. Then I could leave my cousins behind. It’s only then the abuse stopped. Even then, the cousin who was the worst abuser used to visit the house and ask where I was. When I heard his voice, even if I was asleep, I would jump up and disappear from the house to escape from him.

I’d only been living in my mum’s new house a few months when she sat me down and told me she was sending me to England with my brother. We were going to live with my grandmother. Mum said that I would have a better life in England.

It was shocking to hear that I would have to leave my mum and my younger brother and sister behind. I was only eleven years old. Even today when I think about it, I feel the pain of that separation. 

Maya Angelou and Oprah Winfrey are inspirations. There are a lot of people who have done positive things with their lives, despite the difficulties they faced. There’s a spirit inside me that won’t lie down and play dead. I’ll always rise up and fight for me. I will always have hope. I know I was created for greatness.