Freedom News

Take me down but I’m back up again

MADALDN writes on surviving gang violence in London, how she got out, and her later turn to music and activism.

CW: This personal account includes descriptions of serious violence, including rape.

When I was 13, a boy approached me as I went into my mum’s house. I was new to London, fresh from the countryside. I was very much still a child. He asked me if I wanted to hang out and be friends and asked for my phone number. Wanting to be polite and a little unsure, I said, “sure.” The next day, he knocked on my mum’s door and asked if he could come in to see me. My mum asked if I knew him, and I said yes, a bit hesitant. My mum, a mother of five girls at the time, of which I was the oldest, and who was getting over Hodgkinson’s cancer, let him in. And this was when my life was turned upside down.

I’m MADALDN, an artist, producer, rapper, editor, mother, cleaner; you name it. I’ve recently dropped my new single called Fallen Star, which tells my story; someone who survived violence from gangs at a very young age. This is my backlash against those who fucked me up. This is my story. This is my protest. And profits made from this will go towards Positive Youth Education, a project working with young people who are predominantly victims of violence and knife crime in London.

We went upstairs, and he got on the phone to his friends quite quickly; it’s all a bit of a haze now, but he told his friend to come. Before I knew it, there were about four boys in my box room of our council home in Plumstead, SE London.

They put on their music and made themselves comfortable. At first, as a child, I was flattered and felt popular. I was never that sure of myself and was quite insecure. But things became clear very quickly that these boys, who were a number of years older than me, did not want to be my friend.

I was told I belonged to them now. They pulled my hair and pushed my head down onto the bed. They told me if I ever told my mum, they would burn my mum’s house down and kill my family. They wanted me to sit on their lap and dance for them. They put their hands all over me. I was too young. I was not ready. And I was scared.

Needless to say, I was raped a number of times by a number of teenage men. That is to say, when I was 13, coming on 14, they were around 17 to early twenties. They would wait for me outside of school; they would be in my home when I arrived back from school. It got worse when conflicting gangs got involved and tried to “take me.” I was hit over a car bonnet at age 14 and had my nose and front tooth broken just because I was affiliated with the gang. I was told I had to leave my mum and come to where they were because, if I didn’t, the punishment would be worse. I felt like I was taking myself to the grave. I was spat at, slapped, kicked, threatened with a baseball bat, shot at, and knives poked into my side as I was robbed.

Life in London wasn’t going so well. There was nothing it seemed like anyone could do. The school failed to see, as did any family. It finally came to a head. I said, “Mum, I’m being raped.” Soon afterwards, my mum was attacked by a gang, and I had to leave my family home and my school. My life continued to go quite downhill for a number of years after that. I was homeless at 15 with no qualifications, hanging outside police stations all night as I thought they wouldn’t bother me there. I shared accommodation with sex workers who took me back to a house, where blood had been squirted up the walls from a man who had been axed in the head, to be raped. I recall hiding in a bush as men pulled up in cars looking for me.

Luckily, after a lot of effort and persistence with Greenwich Council, I was housed on my 16th birthday in temporary accommodation. I escaped these gangs only with the help of a bigger gang guy, who also was abusive to me. However, the abuse now was only coming from one direction. I don’t want to talk much about him because, despite the abuse, I feel like he saved me. Some years later, I was diagnosed with a type of PTSD called dissociative seizures, a disorder which affects mostly those with a history of trauma and which I still suffer from nearly two decades on.

I’m telling this story because it still affects me, but more profoundly, it is still affecting, dare I say, millions of young people, to various degrees or another, today. I’m not sure of the numbers of gang rape, but Rape Crises reports the highest number of rapes within a 12-month period was recorded by police in the year ending September 2022 – which was 70,633. The jails must be full of rapists. Not quite. Only 1% of rapes recorded in the year prior resulted in a charge, let alone a conviction, which is among the lowest since records began. Even if you are taken seriously by the police, persuading the judge to put that fucker in jail is another thing entirely. The demographic of those who have been raped or sexually assaulted shows this is something that affects women more, where one in four are women, one in six are children, and one in 18 are men.

It needs to stop, and it needs to change. So what did I do about it?

When I was 19, I managed to get back into school. I enrolled at the University of Greenwich, where I met a very intelligent, eccentric guy called Tom Palmer whilst doing a philosophy degree. The coalition government had been elected, and tuition fees were set to triple. I already thought how lucky I was, coming from the background I did, to even get to that university, and I thought about all those who were like me, who would now struggle threefold.

Tom took me to my first-ever protest – those ones that you see on the TV that you think, “how the fuck does everyone know about that” – and we shut down London. The police then started bringing in new tactics called “kettling”, and new oppressive measures were seen, police infiltrating the protest as undercovers and a diagnosis of paranoia and madness to anyone who suspected such a thing. Some years of protesting went by: I got up the duff; we were on top of Admiralty Arch shouting ACAB slogans at the chief of police, and Tom Palmer died under suspicious circumstances a year later.

A few others in the group ended up in mental hospital, wracked with anxiety from police brutality and battling bailiffs. I had a one-year-old and withdrew from the protest movement as a gang that was even bigger than the gangs I had known from my days on the estate were using psychological and physiological coercion. That gang was the Met police, in conjunction with MI5 and those puppets in Parliament.

Tom Palmer taught me music; he taught me guitar. And so I strummed that fucking thing all through my grief and my sadness until I had about 100 songs to play with. What was great about music is that you could say fuck the police and the State, and you seem to be able to get away with it due to artistic licence. However, the same is not true for street gangs, where people are personally called out and threatened and sometimes those threats in music are realised, and blood is spilt.

Yet some more years later, I taught myself to record and produce music to a basic level and edit music videos. Relative poverty will do that to you; when you can’t afford to pay, and you won’t suck someone’s dick for a beat. I could never shake off what had happened to me, and after someone exploited me, I wrote this song. Women are often parodied for their way of thinking, where when one thing goes wrong, it spirals into everything that ever went wrong in our life. So I wrote Fallen Star, and not long after, I started volunteering with PYE. It all now seems to be just slowly going in this direction.

Where I am telling the world what happened and what is still happening. I am one person behind those graphic statistics out of tens of thousands last year, hundreds of thousands the last decade, and millions in the last however long, and that is just in Britain. And likewise, a man reading this is one of the millions of rapists walking free out there because of our failed police and judicial system and a political system that leaves young people open to abuse.

I gave a talk on this to a group of women doing tremendous work in Brixton to support survivors of domestic violence, and the question I commonly get asked arose yet again – where was your mum? But then someone quickly redacted, where was your dad? We are quick in our society to blame the parents, but many parents are exhausted and undersupported by a society that capitalises off many living hand to mouth in communities that have long been torn apart by the history of land grabbing and monopolisation of business.

So here I am, in brief, telling my story and creeping out of the shadows, where even before this anti-protest Bill happened, protest was being curtailed by the biggest gangs in the country; through kettling, spying, rape and violence. Protest is pretty shambolic as it is already in this country, but because of this gang mentality, it’s about to get a whole lot more pathetic. I want to make it clear here that a gang is an organised group that commits crime, and as the latest reports show, the police are not an exception, rather they are the archetype, and the same goes for those in Parliament, and leaders worldwide, who commit atrocities en masse against whole peoples. This is why in the music video for Fallen Star, you see clips of protesters battling police. If you think of a gang as the black boys shotting weed on the street corner, you’d better understand that that is racist, and you need to perhaps consider these arguments.

This was my story; this is my protest. I hope we can all continue to stand together against violence, whether that be street or state! Speak up, Stand up and unite, forming communities that stand up to gangs.


This article first appeared in the Summer 2023 issue of Freedom anarchist journal.

Pic: The author with Bangbangbunny, by Guy Smallman

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