Small Town Inertia

Documentary & Portraits by J A Mortram

Market Town : Amy : Escaping shadows & the family ties that bind

Amy (17) is B’s girlfriend. After a dispute with her Mother 5 months ago over a desire to visit her Father (serving 12 years for rape) in prison to attempt to make sense of his crimes. Since running away from home both she and B have been sleeping rough on the floors of friends.

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“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 that’s in there. 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 5 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 and it took 6 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, was cheating on Mum for 2 years. Then Mum ran away for 7 months so I had to live with my Dad. I didn’t know where she was for the first 6 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 3 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 2 years. Then I went out with another boy and he treated me like shit, I stayed with him for 2 years. I was well scared of him. Then I met B.”

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Early morning after another night crashed out on the floor.

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Fixing make up whilst B is on Play Station.

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I keep my make up all over really, not having any real place to put it whilst we stay here.

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Talking with B.

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Calling round trying to discover why B was arrested.

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Reading a letter confirming the court date for possession. B was arrested and taken for questioning regarding the theft of a bicycle. Whilst there was insufficient evidence for the theft he was found to be in possession of 0.2 grams of Cannabis. 

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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 Mums 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 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 ladies 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 4 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 and since that 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, 2 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.”

7 Comments

  • Jorge Ledesma

    March 31, 2012 at 6:50 pm → Reply

    I must say once again I was completely drawn into the narrative and the accompanying images. Indeed, small town inertia with a twist. You got a great eye and sense of telling the story. Congrats.

  • John MacPherson

    April 1, 2012 at 10:11 pm → Reply

    As Larkin said, in:This Be The VerseThey fuck you up, your mum and dad. They may not mean to, but they do.They fill you with the faults they had And add some extra, just for you.But they were fucked up in their turn By fools in old-style hats and coats,Who half the time were soppy-stern And half at one another’s throats.Man hands on misery to man. It deepens like a coastal shelf.Get out as early as you can, And don’t have any kids yourself.I agree with most of his sentiment, I just disagree with the last bit. We all have the choice to effect change in, and by, the way we act towards others, but especially towards children and young people.Very thought provoking work Jim. Thank you to Amy for the insight into her life. And good luck with it too.

  • bill

    May 5, 2012 at 4:03 pm → Reply

    great photos and great interview.Her strength really shows though. this is hard to do and for me the sign of great photojournalism.

  • Hans Hedström (Hedstrom - Sweden)

    June 25, 2013 at 11:28 pm → Reply

    As I might have said before – It takes something extra to bring a story like this out in such a good and humanistic way!

    Hasse

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Market Town : Amy : Escaping shadows & the family ties that bind