PHOTO ESSAY: This is Amy – she is 17 years’ old – after a dispute with her mother five months ago over a desire to visit her father (serving 12 years for rape) in prison to attempt to make sense of his crimes – writes JA Mortram.
- You can read JA Mortram’s photo-essays at Small Town Inertia blog.
- James is part of the Aletheia Photo Collective. His full bio is at the end.
- This essay (Market Town: Amy : Escaping shadows & the family ties that bind) first appeared on Small Time Inertia.
AMY: ‘I went to see Dad in prison. I had not seen him for the longest time. When I got there I was angry with him, I didn’t want to talk to him. Then my Auntie gave us some time to like be together while she went to talk with one of the prison wardens. I just sat there talking to him about why he’s in there and what he’d done and asking him for the truth.
He’s been in prison for five years. He went out one night and got in trouble, was talking to some girl and got the wrong end of the stick, followed her home and raped her. I still think about it now when I’m by myself or I can’t sleep. At the end of the day he’s my Dad and I can’t change that. If he came out today I wouldn’t want to be with him because I don’t trust him. Not at all. Even though I’m his daughter and I wouldn’t say that he’d ever do anything like that to me I just can’t look at him the same.
It’s changed the way I feel about men.
When it happened I found out straight away and Mum tried to explain it to me. I was 12 and I didn’t really understand. Then I got a bit older and my brother and I were talking one day and he explained again and that’s when I really understood how bad it was. At first when he was inside I used to go see him every Sunday and then as soon as me and my brother had that conversation and we got a bit older I just didn’t want to see him.
At my 13th birthday party, I had all my friends there and Dad came and just smashed everything up as he and Mum had an argument. There was a really long table and glasses on it and I was at the end of the table and he swiped them off. I was covered in blood, all the glass smashed around me, on me. I was in a little flowery 13 year old’s dress stood there just covered in blood. Glass stuck in my face, arms, everywhere. I just looked like a blood pool. Mum and me ran out of this room and ran over to the pub from this function room and hid in the toilet. Dad came barging in to try and get to us and he was like ‘Come with me, we’ll be fine we’ll start all over again’. He grabbed one of my arms to take me away and Mum my other. It took six coppers to get him down on the floor. Next day I had to go to school.
My Dad actually went with my Mum’s best friend. He was cheating on Mum for two years. Then Mum ran away for seven months so I had to live with my Dad. I didn’t know where she was for the first six months.
Eventually I got back in contact with my Mum. Dad started threatening her and the man she’d run away with. Dad knew I was going home to the house where I used to live and so he emptied all that house of everything. All the beds, the oil for the heating, food… so we had to sleep on the floor.
Mum had to go to court to keep the house. Mum’s new boyfriend used to beat her up as well as bullying me and my brother so it was a shit life within that house as well. I was 14, 15 at this point.
Shit life, till he moved out.
So then it was just me and my Mum for a while as my brother did a disappearing act as well. We couldn’t contact him as he’d no phone and so weeks would pass before we heard from him. We lost the house again because Mum was so upside down she couldn’t focus or get a job or anything, this was after Dad had been put in prison this third time. So we went to live with my Nan for a while and my brother managed to find us, he was then 16. He’d kept going to the old house looking for us. He’d gone over the edge, drugs and got put in prison himself for fighting and knife crime. He went completely downhill after Dad got put away.
We actually got the old house back again and everything was going well till I had an argument with Mum about visiting Dad and that’s when I moved out. She did not want me to visit him. I said to her at the end of the day he’s my Dad and all I want to do is ask him some questions but she was not having any of it. She didn’t want me to have anything to do with him. In the end I thought maybe my Mum’s right but whenever I wanted to talk to her about it she just did not want anything to do with it.
If I walk past men, not all men but some men and they look at me in the wrong way it just comes to my mind. I just can’t trust many men if that makes sense.
One boy I was with – I was 14 and he was almost three years older than me – I was having fun at the time but because I wouldn’t have sex with him he beat me up. Because he beat me up I didn’t have a boyfriend for about two years. Then I went out with another boy and he treated me like shit, I stayed with him for two years. I was well scared of him. Then I met Bruce.’
‘What Dad did changed everything for everyone really.
Dad was in prison twice before. For rape. He was in when my brother was born and when he came out my Mum got pregnant with me and he was arrested the very day Mum gave birth to me.
Mum had to bring me and my brother up in a one-bedroom flat and for a little while we lived on a Gypsy site because of Mum’s family. I kind of got brought up in Liverpool pretty much. The first time he’d done it was in Scotland where he was working away then the second it was in Liverpool to my Mum’s sister. Mum took him back again after that so she lost her family as a result of sticking with him and the third time was in Norwich. I’d hate to know how she feels about it. I’ve tried to talk with her about it, how she feels but she never wants to speak about it. Dad’s childhood was not brilliant. His own dad had done it to him. Which is no excuse.
I had counseling once when it first happened but a fake counselor came round. Someone was advertising in the Yellow pages for it and we rang them up as the ad said they came out 24 hours, I was going crazy, crying, smashing the whole house up. I couldn’t control myself. I was so angry and so my old step Dad rang this woman up and she came round there and then. Some of the things she was asking me were like too personal, I mean she asked for every single detail about everything and she invited me around her house, so we went round, she made us lunch and next day the police came around to our house saying we had been reported going into this lady’s house and did we realize who she was. It turned out she was actually a prison warden at my Dad’s prison and everything I’d been telling her she was then going back to the prison and telling my Dad. She’s done it with about four other prisoners too. I’ve not been able to trust anyone really since.
I had one other counselor but all he wanted to do was take me out to football matches and have me write everything done, fill out forms and all I wanted to do was have someone to talk to and for them to listen. The doctors had suggested him as I was on depression pills as I’d tried to slit my wrists but in the end I just felt nothing and no one was helping. Since then I’ve not really had the courage to get another counselor because I just can’t trust anyone after what that first woman did to me. I did go to the Doctors about a year ago but there was such a long waiting list, two years.
At the end of the day, Dad’s inside, he hasn’t got to see anyone, to face anyone but we had to go out the day after it had all been over the TV and newspapers. He’d been arrested on the Saturday and it was all over the news on Sunday and Monday I had school and I made myself go. I figured if I don’t, I’ll never go.
The last woman Dad raped is in prison now, for dealing drugs, cannabis, everything. She actually ended up dealing my brother drugs. She asked us to go to her trial and Mum was angry with her but also felt that maybe she was taking and selling drugs because of what had happened with Dad so we went to her trial and she ended up getting sent down for longer than my Dad did. She got 15 years.’
Bio: J. A. Mortram has been exhibited, awarded and published for his work documenting marginalized people in East Anglia, United Kingdom within the documentary series Small Town Inertia. Working in his family home as a carer, his documentary work is self-funded.
Jon is editor of the Justice Gap. He is a freelance journalist. Jon's books include The First Miscarriage of Justice (Waterside Press, 2014), The Justice Gap (LAG, 2009) and People Power (Daily Telegraph/LawPack, 2008). Jon is a journalism lecturer at Winchester University and a visiting senior fellow in access to justice at the University of Lincoln. He is twice winner of the Bar Council's journalism award (2015 and 2005) and is shortlisted for this year's Criminal Justice Alliance's journalism award