This post deals with child sexual abuse and suicide and might be triggering for some readers.
René Michele's earliest memories are pretty sketchy until the age of 10, when she can zero in on a particular event with such clear focus she can replay her inner monologue verbatim.
"If I just pretend I am asleep, surely he will leave me alone. It's an adult thing he's trying to do... he will realise I am not an adult if I am asleep. This isn't something you do until you're fully grown. He will realise..."
The now 44-year-old can remember everything about the strange man in her room, her Tweety Bird pyjamas, the sensation of pain, and being frozen with fear.
Watch: René talks about how the abuse began.
He wouldn't be the last man to molest a young René in her bedroom either - she'd go on to be sexually abused and raped by six different men between the ages of 10 and 13 alone and it would continue until she was 16.
All of the men were invited into the family home by the person she trusted the most.
When she was 10, René's parents broke up and her mother - who was completely unable to cope - started bringing strange men she'd met at the pub back to the house.
It was a revolving door of men who preyed on René's vulnerability. While her mother was drunk or out of the house, the men would abuse her.
"She would bring men home and go to work the next day, but they would still be in the house. So they would then come into my bedroom," René tells Mamamia.
Sometimes they'd sneak into her bedroom to molest her during the night, pass out drunk, before waking and sneaking out again.
"I would disassociate... I would go to my happy place and just shut down. We know about the fight or flight reaction.... I always froze."
The first time Rene tried to take her own life she was 10. At 17, she tried again.
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Smiles are often a mask worn to hide unbearable pain...💔 This is 13 year old me... smiling through the misery of being abandoned, neglected, beaten for three years, and only weeks prior to this photo, raped in my own bed, twice... by a man 2.5 times my age.💔 All I craved for was someone to say... ➡️ "Hey, how are you?" or ➡️ "René you've become so withdrawn and quiet, are you ok?" or ➡️ "I hear you crying in the school toilets, what's wrong?" or ➡️ "I love you and I'm here for you"... Never did anyone ask, or reach out...💔 I guess the smiles fooled them, despite the constant tears, erratic behavior, social isolation, sudden drop in grades, cuts on my arms, and increasing absences.😥 Smiles can be easily forced, so may I suggest that we ALL take 2 mins and check in with everyone we care about with any of these simple phrases.👇 Then LISTEN, don't speak, LISTEN!👂 💛 "Hey, how are you doing?" 💛 "I love you, and I'll always be here for you." 💛 "You are amazing, and very special to me." Human connection takes mere seconds, don't trust a smile or a nod of the head, pay real attention and go the extra mile to ask the real questions.💬 Life is too short to miss the signals, care enough to be THAT person, that person that TRULY cares.💯 #childabuserecovery #childsexabuse #trauma #traumarecovery #survivors #childabuse #mystory #herstory #mylife #rapevictim #rapesurvivor #abuserecovery #coach #traumacoach #traumainformed #NAASCA #battlescarsarebeautiful #fromvictimtovictory #refusetoquit #refusetobeavictim #unstoppable #itaintweaktospeak #survivor