The Pink Journal: one woman’s tale of sexual abuse
After her parents split up, Rickie Williams’s life quickly unravelled.
For years, starting at the age of 8, she was sexually abused by a caregiver. Eventually, the trauma became too much for her to cope with. She overdosed twice and ended up in a coma.
On hearing her story a friend suggested she write a book. The Pink Journal, the first in a three-part series entitled The Journey to Forgiveness, published last month.
“I start it off with the relationship between me and my father and basically getting kicked out of our house which started off this spiral of my mom having to outsource, with other people having to watch me. Then this man is introduced into my life. He is supposed to be, I guess, a step-in father figure but instead of doing that he’s touching me and stuff like that. So that’s how the book starts,” said Ms Williams, who filed her story under the genre of “realistic fiction” and presented it through the voice of its protagonist, Jamie Moore. Names, dates and places have been altered but otherwise, the experience is hers.
“Typically, people who are going through that show it in their academics or their activities but instead I was thriving. So you see Jamie in one scene thriving academically, getting all these awards but then in another scene doing stuff with this man.”
Ms Williams, 21, is now studying accounting at Acadia University in Canada. She hopes to graduate in December and return to Bermuda to complete her certified public accounting exams.
Last September, having gathered her thoughts in journals since the age of 14, she took her friend’s advice and signed up with an online writing programme offered by Brooklyn Knight, 16 Weeks to Published: The Ultimate Writers’ Workshop.
Ms Williams had never shared her story on such a “big platform” before but decided it was important to show that every child who is abused does not respond in the same way. Her hope is that it might also inspire anyone who is going through something similar.
“I felt like the stories that are being told about sexual abuse and everything that comes along with that are mostly on the same story scheme: how people felt about it, how scared they were and stuff like that. I wanted to give a different angle because I feel like it doesn’t just happen one way.
“In one of the scenes Jamie starts to enjoy it – and that’s where the shame comes from. In the stories I’ve listened to on Oprah, in books that I’ve read, people are always scared of it. I wanted to give a different angle and I also wanted to show it doesn’t just happen through penetration. He would dry hump me, he would suck my breasts, he would grope me. Stuff like that.”
She quickly learnt how to compartmentalise the trauma.
“I separated myself from it. I just didn’t speak about it. I had one instance where I went home and said ‘X, Y and Z has happened’ to my mother and my sister. I guess because I was young they didn’t really understand what I was saying to them. So after that point I just gave up basically.
“When I was in school I was like, ‘This is my place.’ I caught on to the material quickly; I could be the top of my game in school. And then when I was outside of school it was just something I had to deal with.”
By the time she was 12 she had “finally had enough” of the abuse and told her mother, who reported the man to the relevant authorities.
At 13, Ms Williams began a sexual relationship with a 20-year-old.
“From there, because I got close with a teacher at school [and told them], everything just blew up in my face. Everybody was gossiping.
“I had two court trials pending and that’s when I overdosed and I went into a coma and then I went into a mental hospital.”
Severely depressed, she was able to turn her life around with the help of a nurse at Child and Adolescent Services.
“I made a choice, after being in the hospital, after I overdosed for the second time, that my life had meaning. That’s the choice that I made.
“I had decided I wasn’t going to talk any more or do anything and I just sat in a chair. She really pleaded with me to get up from the chair – that’s all I had to do and she would help me with the rest. And she did for a time, until I got released.
“[But] I had to keep on choosing that choice. Even when I was depressed I had to keep on getting up from the chair per se. It wasn’t just a one-time thing it was that moment – and moments – of me having to pick myself back up.”
In 2020, she started jotting down aspects of her life that she did not understand. A friend recommended 21 Weeks to Published as a course that might help turn her notes into a novel.
“That’s when I started to actually write. I did write pieces and sections of the book when I was 14 [about] being in school, everybody knowing my business, this whole situation with the 20-year-old man. But as far as a book, that was with Brooklyn.
“It was very hard actually because in order to write a scene I had to be in that scene. I had a lot of moments where I was just in my dorm room crying to myself. Sometimes I’d be in my room all day just [because it brought out] the same emotions that I felt back then – of being trapped, how this is all pointless. I had to coach myself out of it: this is not happening right now; this is something in the past and [I’ve] moved beyond it.”
Her family is “very supportive” of the book and prepared to take any criticism that might come.
“I changed everybody’s name in the book but obviously with us three, everybody’s going to know who my mama and my sister is. I told them it doesn’t mean anything for us. We’re a strong family and we’ve been through a lot and we should just be proud that we made it this far.
“Some people get hooked on the fact that it actually happened and they’re like, ‘I would never let that happen to my child.’ I had to remind them that my mama is not the abuser in the book; that the abuser is the abuser,” Ms Williams said.
The Pink Journal will be on sale at Brown & Co by the end of the month. At the moment it is available on Amazon as a paperback and e-book