The Toraja Village in Indonesia has a ritual called Ma’nene. Ma’nene roughly translates into “go the grandparents.” Every few years the extant dig up their dead. The vestigial family members drag their dead back to their nascent village, their starting place. Once there, the dead are washed up, groomed and dressed in fresh attire, and so it is with the following pages…I too will dig up my dead, bathe them in truth, comb their musty hair, and dress them in forgiveness. I will walk them around their place of origin, at least in relation to my life. Dancing with the dead allows me to question my own death. Not death such as corporal morality, but spiritual and emotional annihilation. You see, the birth of Simona was hinged on the emotional suicide of Allison. The assassination of Simona in turn was the catalyst that allowed the recreation of Allison. Like the phoenix that burns itself on the burial fire, only to rise majestically from its own ashes, Allison was also recreated form the ashes and tears of immense fear and sorrow. I was once told that Allison means the truth. This is a brief glimpse at the birth of Allison and Simona and the relationship between the assassination of Simona and the rebirth of Allison-The Truth. And so the ritual of the Ma’nene begins…”To go the grandparents”. Let us explore why I had the strength to hate rather than focus on the hatred itself.
I was born Allison Kay Franklin on a late afternoon in the beginning of September of 1975. I was three weeks late, yet only weighed a little over five pounds. My grandmother use to tell me that I did not want to come out of my mother’s tummy because I knew what journey I had ahead of me. My father was a hardcore heroin addict, among many things. He also was an armed robber. Of the three years we shared on this rock we call Earth, half of that time he spent in prison. The memories I have of my father I can count on one hand. I distinctly recall my mother and father fighting outside a hotel room my father apparently had himself holed up in. I uses to have nightmares about my father burning alive in his hotel room. This was just a dream. Yet this dream was so vivid that even today I can see the melting fruit curling in the white bowl on the counter and feel the heat washing my face from the flames. The next recollection I have of my father, I re-visit frequently. I often wonder how different my life would be today if only this incident had ended differently.
I clearly recall rolling around on my Fisher Price horse. I can still feel the tug of the carpet against my wheels and the bumpy transition to the linoleum in the kitchen. Family members were crowded in my great-grandparents’ den, fanning around the TV set. I remember loud guttural, primal screams escaping their mouths, flowed by wailing, and desperate gasping of my father’s name, “Keith…Keith”, as they shielded their eyes from the TV set. Apparently my father’s death made the news that night, though I had no comprehension of what was transpiring at that time. Different family members shared many lies about what happened to my father and it was not until eight years later that I was told the truth about that day. Apparently, my mother deemed the beginning of junior high the mark of maturity and proceeded to tell me that my father was shot and killed by a police officer that day. That explained why I had memories of my Aunt Karen taking me in my great-grandparents’ Ford LTD and parking in front of a house for what seemed like eternity. I know we made this trip on several occasions. I remember her sitting in the driver’s seat and me on the other end of the long bench and the gun lying between us. There was my aunt, the gun, then me and the heavy silence that seemed to draw the air out of the car. I remember the light bouncing off the gun, pouring through the open window and her weathered purse pushing the gun up against the back of the seat. I only can piece together fragments of the one-sided conversation she would have with me. Apparently, we were parked in front of the officer’s house that executed my father. Luckily, she never had the opportunity to obtain the revenge she sought. The last of my father was a disjointed piece meal reminiscence of his funeral…The pastor holding me, random people talking to me, my uncle having a heart attack on the step of the funeral home, paramedics, mass commotion.
The death of my father marked the beginning of a series of experiences that would forever stamp my past, present, and future. Shortly after my father’s funeral my grandfather began raping me and would continue to do so for the next eight years. The abuse that I endured over the next eight years completely disfigured me emotionally and spiritually. At age 4 I consciously committed “emotional suicide.” In order to survive… emotionally I had to die. From that moment on I was in full flight from reality. I markedly remember that day. I had built a fort out of blankets that draped over my grandparents’ dining room table. I was sitting underneath and hitting myself and trying to pull out my own hair. I still get chills when recalling the psychic shift. This is where Allison faded into the depth and recess of my mind and Simona took hold. It was if I knew Simona was my only chance at continued existence. Allison was formed in the darkness of my mother’s womb; Simona was created in the darkness of my grandfather’s room.
I first acknowledged Simona’s existence placed far above my body. I hovered near the ceiling as I watched the repeated violations of my privacy, body, and dignity. It was there I first heard a noticeably different voice coming from within me. Simona made sure that any part of Allison was kept from experiencing life at any cost. My only sanctuary was delusion and I began mutilating myself to change the way I felt. The first half of my childhood was spent trying to convince myself that it had never happened and the rest of my life I’ve battled feeling it was my fault.
When my mother and family realized something was terribly wrong with me, they did everything they could to help. An overwhelming amount of love, time, and money were exhausted on attempting to save me from myself. At age ten I found myself in in therapy, in a suffocating prison of silence. I refused to open up. The insurmountable shame and humiliation; the oppressive guilt had made me afraid of my own voice. More damaging for me than the sexual trauma of eight years of incest was the oppressive shame and silence. You see, it was through shame that I was conditioned to believe that I existed without a voice or a choice. The sexual trauma, the sense of betrayal, powerlessness, and stigma that I endured over the next eight years didn’t end with his death. The years of secrecy, fear, denial, repression and suppression launched me on a journey of self-destruction that would span over thirty-four years. For the long stretch of time, Simona was the governing body of my soul. The long lasting effects of this abuse have manifested in a wide range of issues for me. Flashbacks, PTSD, anxiety, bipolar disorder with psychotic features and self-mutilation, have landed me in three mental institutions, beginning at age thirteen. My lack of self-worth, accompanied by my self-destructive tendencies, two attempts at suicide, drug addiction, and five trips to prison and over ten years collectively spent behind bars. Not to mention the re-victimization: domestic violence, prostitution and human trafficking … just to name a few.
I began at a very young age searching for anything that would aid in me in the process of suppression and repression. Dissociation, denial, self-mutilation and drugs were paramount for my continued existence. When I was introduced to drugs I was able to transform my fear into hate. It was easier to hate than to be loved; it was safer that way. That child I once was became consumed by darkness. I was alone in a world without god and without my fellow man. I relied solely upon myself. Drugs seemed to minimize my flashbacks, and when I used my mutilation would come to a grinding halt. Yet, my addiction became a driving force that allowed me to place myself repeatedly in dangerous situations…A continuous reenactment of the abuse I believed I deserved. Not only was I addicted to drugs, I also had an insatiable appetite for trauma.
I was a functioning addict for a long time, but somewhere I crossed the line. I went from partying with my friends, to using to exist, and when I was introduced to heroin I began to exist just to use. Heroin is a drug that absolutely will steal your soul, it will push you to do things that you said you would never do. I began using heroin on the weekends, a different drug to break the monotony of our regular partying. Within a few weeks of being a weekend warrior, I was getting dope sick. It gets to the point where the amount you were using to get high just isn’t enough anymore. So you use more to get high again. The more you use the worse the withdrawals are. The withdrawals are so powerful that you feel like you are going to die. You can’t get out of bed to go to the bathroom, much less go to work. I can vividly remember the diarrhea, vomiting, dehydration, shaking, aching, painful muscle spasms, hot and cold flashes…and the unbelievable relief when I got my fix. All of this created an animalist craving: Anything, I would do anything not to feel that way, anything. There wasn’t anything I wouldn’t do for my next high, including jumping in and out of cars, not knowing if I was going to get raped, robbed, killed, beaten or taken to jail, all for the sake of just one more.
That’s the thing that people don’t tell you about drugs and addiction…All the yets…
I haven’t lost my job or my house yet.
I haven’t stolen yet.
I haven’t been to prison yet.
I haven’t prostituted yet.
I used all those “yets” as an excuse to fall deeper into the darkness of addiction.
Then at some point the consequences are so high you have no choice but to take a long look at yourself. All those “yets” are now a reality. You are a prostitute. You are a convict. You are a junky.
I entered into prostitution very early on, as a runaway at age twelve. With my boyfriends, I was trading my body for food, drugs, and a place to sleep. When my addiction spiraled out of control, years later…needless to say, prostitution was once again, was any easy transition for to me. It would be over a decade before I was trafficked. My abuse was fuel for my addiction. My addiction took me places I never thought I would go. My addiction chained me to the underworld of violence, crime, gangs, prison, and human trafficking. So how does one get from having dreams and aspirations to basing their self-worth on how much money they earned their pimp that night? I can only share my journey in and out of human trafficking. And many might find my story daunting, but I want individuals to know my place on this spectrum of human trafficking is just that. MINE!!! Not all sex trafficking circumstances are the same. Regardless, any story with this subject is nothing less than tragic and devastating. Long before I was ever an addict…
I was helpless and hopeless
Long before I was ever pimped out…
I was a victim and a sex slave
I was already deep in the game and my addiction when I fell prey to my trafficker. I was what is called a “renegade” in the streets and could pull several grand a night working alone. Apparently, the Crips wanted more than a cut of the action. Certain gang members would be ordered to kidnap, beat, rape, and rob me, and try to force me to prostitute. While my real trafficker pretended to save me from them, in reality they worked together to enslave women. I was so low and vulnerable I became trapped in their web of deceit. My trafficker used the same shame that paralyzed me to manipulate and control me. He was an expert in recognizing my deficiencies and inadequacies, and he used those to bait and entrap me. Through brutality, violence, gifts, and affection, I became attached to him and dependent upon him for my every need.
Not only did he force me to prostitute, I lived in a perpetual state of psychological and emotional fear. Often I considered myself lucky if he just beat me beyond recognition, sometimes daily, and always if I came home empty handed. Each time I managed to escape the more inhuman he became, like pouring boiling water on me , hitting me with a truck, chaining me to a stove…just to name a few. Eventually after nearly a decade of continuous brutality, being sold and re-sold again and again, in 2011 he stabbed me. Many have asked me if this was my “aha” moment, and unfortunately it was not. Two weeks later he beat me down in the same corner he had stabbed me in and I knew I couldn’t continue living like that anymore. I honestly believed at that point my only options were to kill him, be killed by him, or take my own life. I went with the last. I ran out onto to the freeway 290 at Hollister into the fast lane and lay down. A night clerk that worked at the hotel where we sold dope shortly followed behind me. He pulled me off the freeway, kicking and screaming. The fact that he had risked his own life to save me somehow assigned some value to me. That one act of compassion planted a seed in me…hmm… maybe I do deserve more than this. A few days later I took a dope case for my trafficker, and shortly after that by the grace of God, I received Star Drug Court… This is where my path to healing began.
That is but one face of addiction and human trafficking. There is another…that is the face of hope. People can and do recover from addiction and human trafficking, but they cannot do it alone. Too often our perceptions are obscured by our own ideals, labels or stereotypes and even collective shame. This allows many of us to ignore the urgency of this issue. However, the call for action is immediate. Human trafficking is in own backyard. Words like prostitute, drug addict, criminal, convict, crazy inhibit many victims of human trafficking from being identified (including myself). There is more to the “silence” surrounding human trafficking than just, victims not speaking out. Habitually victims are criminalized and/or re-victimized by the very institutions that are supposedly in place to help and protect them.
There is far more to recovery than just getting out of the game, or just quitting dope. It wasn’t until I began to heal myself that I realized there are so many different aspects to recovery. Each journey to recovery is personal and organic. For the first time in my life I did something positive. I surrendered. For me true surrender was an active acceptance of reality. My reality was jails, institutions, and death. I had already visited all three. My reality was that God had spared my life on countless occasions by so many different hands, not to mention the multiple drug overdoses and my two attempts at suicide. My reality– I was committed to my first institution at age thirteen and was committed twice again in my adult life. My reality-I was a hardheaded convict who cared less about society and even less about myself. My reality– I SACRIFICED MY LIFE FOR THE SAKE OF MAKING THE MOMENT LIVABLE and nothing swayed me from the habit. I had to overcome this identity I had created around being a victim and the assassination of Simona was crucial in the re-birth of Allison. The biggest battle in my life was between myself and Simona. I had to learn how to take ownership for the parts I played in all this. Accountability and responsibility were key in recreating myself. I began to use art as a way to process the 30 yrs. of continuous abuse, including the abuse I had subjected myself to. Words couldn’t express the magnitude of my pain. Art has given me a voice that I felt I never had. Discovering my own voice gave me the courage to peel back the layers of lies Simona had used to hold me in bondage. I had to challenge my distorted ideas of self, sexuality, relationships and spirituality.
I had not worked in over twenty years, so I had to gain jobs skills and find a job. Working at first was quite a challenge with PTSD. The constant reliving of experiences and maintaining a work ethic is not easy. Not to mention how easily a flashback could be triggered even on the job. There is a running joke at my office about how much I love summer, because I can hear the flip-flops everyone wears, coming down the hall. My hypersensitivity to sound, needing to know who was coming to get me, is just one of the many things my employer and I had to adjust to with me being on the job. . Jesus commanded Lazarus to come out of the tomb. He said “TAKE OFF THE GRAVE CLOTHES. LET HIM GO”. As a “child of GOD” my past no longer has authority over me and I am free to be the woman GOD intended me to be. Today I can create when I wake up every day; whether I create art or hope in other peoples’ lives-or even my own destiny. For the last few decades Simona had convinced Allison that she only deserved abuse and degradation. With the assassination of Simona I can now see the truth; that I am not alone, that I am valuable, worthy of respect, deserving of support and God’s love…And today no one has the power to take that from me, especially Simona.
I value myself enough today to no longer allow my past, my addiction, or other people to define me. I currently work for one of the leading alcohol and drug program developers in the criminal justice system and was recently invited to tell my story in a video format. Last year I had an opportunity to go on a mission trip to Kenya, Africa to help provide an impoverished community with glasses, with plans to go again next year. Simona no longer manipulates my reality. Allison is now a speaker, anti-sex trafficking and mental health advocate, artist, and student. I enjoy sharing insights and solutions to overcoming seemingly overwhelming challenges of life. I’ve chosen to speak out against child sexual abuse, domestic violence, and human trafficking. I address women in human trafficking accompanied with the co-morbidity of drug abuse and mental health. I have spoken at churches, Lone Star Community College, STAR Court, the UT undergraduate nursing classes, 2015 annual Drug Conference, and other events. When I am not doting on my grandmother and my dog, I am staying up late at night earning an undergraduate degree. My life and my story breathe hope for others that are trying to overcome their experiences. I share my story and my art to raise awareness about these realities and to inspire others, that they too are worthy of change.
The writer was a recipient of the Spring 2016 Jeffrey Stayton Awards for Writing in the memoir category at Lone Star College, North Harris.