To start can you give me an overview of your book, The journey of I & I
The Journey of I & I is primarily the story of Liz, growing up with, and surviving the horrendous circumstances of having been sexually abused as a very young child until the age of 14. It also details the horrific affects and after-effects of enduring and witnessing extensive domestic violence within the family home and takes the readers through her life journey of having to cope with this chaos and all that it entails. Despite its initial subject matter, it is also a tale interspersed with humour and laugh out loud moments. It cleverly illustrates the dynamics of her relationships throughout key stages of her turbulent life. It encompasses Liz’s determination to revisit those dark and nauseous years of her life that ultimately shapes her mental, physical, emotional and spiritual being as she strives to validate her worth and her right to have a voice that has been silenced by fear and intimidation.
This is your first published book why did you decide to write about your experiences growing up?
Yes, this is my first published book even though I have been writing for many years. Initially, my writing was just for me by means of writing a personal journal. It was never meant to be for publication, and for several years, this mode of coping seemed to work a little for a while. My silent suffering did not cease by any means but I learned to convince myself that I was doing OK. In fact, I was sinking further into a bottomless pit of depression whilst still trying to deal with this simmering rage that was constantly building up inside of me without a means of being released. Then, about ten years ago, I finally decided to set peace of mind as my goal and work towards achieving that whilst simultaneously standing in my own truth of who I was and could be.
Another vital reason for writing my book was to give myself a voice that had been silenced through fear and misguided shame. In giving myself permission to believe that I was indeed worthy of being validated I then realised that in speaking out I just may encourage others in similar situations to find their own voices and to grasp their courage to move forward in trying to heal their hurt and silent sufferings.
Were there any experiences that you decided not to write about, and if so why?
No, the first book, The Journey of I & I is the first in a trilogy of books. It contains everything that was relevant to write about from the time I was born to the age of fifteen. Originally, it was my intention to write just one book about my life, but during the process of writing it became quite clear that to include my whole life in one book would mean that I would have to either leave some parts of my life out completely or condense it too much. Whenever I am writing, the one thought uppermost in my mind at all times is to remain authentic and to write with integrity and honesty.
As a victim of abuse do you find that sharing your experiences helped you cope with the reality of what happened to you?
Writing about my experiences did help me to some extent. Sharing my experiences with others, although one of the most difficult things I have done to date, helped me even more. Being told by readers that my written words and story has helped them in tremendously positive ways has helped me the most to both acknowledge and to cope better with confronting, acknowledging and accepting the realities of what had happened to me. What I learned about myself also was that even whilst I was a victim I was a survivor.
Do you consider yourself to be an advocate for victims of abuse?
If you mean by ‘advocate’ a supporter for victims of abuse, then yes, definitely. Even during those years when I was a silent sufferer of childhood abuse and then an adult victim of the after affects of that abuse, I was always quite vocal about the need for victims to speak out, to seek help, to name their abusers and bring them to justice. I have counselled and mentored both male and female victims and survivors of mental, emotional, physical and sexual abuse. In fact, since my book was published, I have had numerous sufferers referred to me or who have personally approached me to counsel them.
How do you think your book can help others?
By letting them know that they were not alone. It has always been my wish that readers would receive the messages of hope contained in my book. A gentleman wrote to tell me how after reading my book he recognised himself in the book in the sense that he could have been a significantly better father to his own three children. He told me that my book had affected him to the point whereby he had felt compelled to contact all of his children to beg their forgiveness and to apologise to each of them for his negligence as a father and role model. His next step was to call his ex-wife to apologise to her for not being there for her or their children.
Another lady who lives in Canada said she had been contemplating suicide after living with the memories of being sexually abused as a young child. Reading my book had given her the courage to revisit her own dark places to acknowledge how she had been affected and that my words had given her the courage to face her enforced demons and how she now felt unburdened, free and motivated to move forward in life with courage and optimism and genuine hope for living her life to her full potential.
Yet another lady wrote me a lovely letter, detailing how she had read my book and how even whilst she was reading the very last page, she found herself putting on her shoes and coat with the intention of going straight to the police to report her former abuser. She said my words and story gave her such courage and validated her worthiness in knowing she had that inner strength to do what she had always lacked the courage to do. So, yes: my book is helping so many and for this I will be forever grateful.
I would love for schools and clinics to read my books with a view to doing some inspirational speaking and/or workshops within those institutions with a view to inspiring young people especially, to know that they are not alone and that they have the right to speak up and to speak out: to let their silent voices be heard and to reassure them that it was never their fault.
I have previously read books about abuse and they have left me quite depressed and drained, although you speak of such a horrible experience you still managed to bring balance by adding humour and giving your main character Liz hope. How did you accomplish this?
Thank you. That is a very high compliment indeed. Numerous readers have said very similar sentiments to me along those lines of not feeling depressed, drained, bogged down or inundated with just one type of emotion after reading my book. It sounds odd to say this, but it was not until I was implementing my final reading of my book before submitting for publishing that I realised just how humorous I was with my writing. I even found myself laughing out loud at times, and I wrote the book. As I have mentioned before, the only way that I could write this book was to be totally authentic and honest, and I have always used humour to survive those darkest times in my life I believe. Even when there seemed to be no hope, I have always had that inner sense of optimism. I have always somehow ‘known’ that I survived for a reason, a purpose.
Many victims of abuse are brainwashed into believing they played some part in their suffering, did you ever feel this way and if so how did you overcome it?
Many victims become brainwashed due to the fear, guilt and shame they are forced to feel after being abused. I never felt brainwashed. With me, it was more a case of being brainwashed into believing that I was being abused because I was unworthy or not good enough to not be abused. I felt more brainwashed into believing that if I spoke out and told anybody that my loved ones would suffer for my telling.
I didn’t recognise the mental or emotional process at the time but I think I overcame this by the anger that built up inside of me on a daily basis for many years. My inner rage gradually switched from being angry at having suffered the abuse, to anger at how the abuser dared to think that he or they had the right to abuse me in the first place. Ironically enough, it was whilst counselling other abuse victims to acknowledge and accept and believe that they were not at fault that I began to apply that truth to my own experiences and sufferings.
What made you become a writer?
I truly believe that I was born to write. Writing was always my way of escaping into my own little private world of make belief when I was an abused child growing up. Writing was my sanctity: my haven of security and peace. Writing is what transports me into that calm and peaceful zone of time standing still as I intentionally sit for an hour to write a few chapters but in reality I have written several chapters in several hours without realising the passing of time.
Your name is Maureen Worrell but you also go by Jah siSTAR, where does that name come from and what is its significance?
I write using the pseudonym or pen-name of Jah siSTAR. I actually rather love the name because it means something profound to me, personally. The term ‘Jah’ is the way I always refer to a Higher Power – others may use ‘God’ . I am not a religious person but I have always felt and known that I am a spiritual person. The term Jah, is a personal spiritual term for me. The term siSTAR derives from my love for my own sisters and ladies I view as my sisters be they friends, colleagues or acquaintances. It is a term of endearment and respect that I made up years ago and loved the sound of it immediately. I write and spell it this way because ‘sis’ means sister and ‘STAR’ means just that – my sisters are all STARS in my eyes who inspire me in their own individual ways. My siSTARs are of all ages, colours, cultures and from all walks of life.
I understand you had your official book launch on March 22nd, how did it go?
Yes, my first book signing and launch was held on the 22nd March of this year  at the Victoria Library, Buckingham Palace Road, Central London. It was an event arranged and organised by a very inspiring and supportive lady named Angela Rahman, who owns Nubia Ltd Magazine. It turned out to be a very emotional, uplifting and inspiring event. The Event Programme also included a lyrical recital from a very talented young man, named Michael O’Mara, who had kindly agreed to come along to recite a few verses he had especially composed after reading my book. My sister Rosita Worrell spoke about my book and how reading it had affected her in such positive ways. Another special moment for me was when I had the opportunity to thank and introduce my talented niece, Rebecca Worrell the very skilled Artist who took my imaginative design and depicted it brilliantly on the cover of my book. Knowing that my children and parents were all there supporting me with such love and pride was priceless also.
What is the next step for you?
The immediate next step for me is to promote the upcoming second book signing, which is taking place on Friday 9th May 2014 at The Woolwich Library. My plans for the year to come are to finish writing my second book The Definition of I & I. Alongside this hopefully become more involved in attending more Inspirational Speaking events, to continue supporting the various charities at fund-raising events that I support and to continue to work towards becoming more involved with schools and clinics. I will continue to promote and speak about overcoming abuse and domestic violence and I have a few radio and TV interviews booked for the next couple of months to talk about my book. I will continue to counsel.
If you could say just one thing to abuse victims what would it be?
Never give up hope and in remembering that being abused is not your fault, please find somebody you trust to confide in and to seek help and support. Be courageous in knowing that using your voice you will be heard!
You can purchase The Journey of I and I via Amazon