“I’ve has sex with over 100 people”… I don’t want pity. I want people to stop slut shaming.

I lost my virginity at 16 in a tent. “Classy burd” has forever been the joke about it. Wanna know why I really did it? Because all the girls in my school were. Because I wanted to feel popular. Because I thought it might make me feel accepted. Because I thought that would get me a boyfriend. Because then I might be cool.
Really it was horrid. I cried in the shower afterwards.
The boy told all his pals, who then told their pals and soon everybody knew. Turns out it just made me seem like a joke.

I’ve had sex with over 100 people. 

That is probably one of the hardest things I have ever told anyone about myself. The look of shock on peoples faces.
“But you just don’t seem like the type? Your not a slut are you?”
The disgust some people have come out with is also so humiliating.
“Why would you disrespect yourself like that?”
One ex boyfriend informed me that I was absolutely revolting and if he had known I was a slag he would never have gone out with me. How absolutely awful is that?
When I was a teenager I would joke about being a slut on social media, I would make myself seem like a joke by throwing mad parties, and not caring about my possessions or family. Really all I wanted was a best friend.

Being a slut is cool right?

I don’t know how I managed to get to over 100 people, so many boys act interested and then once you’ve slept with them they disappear. I know this sounds so cliche but that happened to me so many times I felt worthless and of course had no respect for myself.

Maybe I am just this bike that everybody treats me as?

One day I came home to my first flat I lived in by myself when I was 18. Somebody had let themselves into my house and wrecked it. Pictures were torn and my TV was on the floor. My clothes had been chucked everywhere and my couch had been ripped. I don’t think I’ve ever wept so much in my life. I cant believe anybody would treat somebody like that. I know that somebody did it because I was the joke of the town, had a good laugh about it over a pint that night.

I must deserve this because I  am such a slut.

I started seeing a boy from a different town and we went on a night out. A girl from my school who I had never spoke to before approached him and told him not to be involved with me. A few years later a similar event happened again, when I brought home a boy from somewhere else and a guy in the nightclub toilet asked him why he was there. He said my name and the boy also told him that was a big mistake.

I better not get a boyfriend because they will not want to be with used goods.

What is wrong with a girl casually having sex?
How dare you slut shame somebody and make them feel bad for being sexually active? How do you know why they are having sex with lots of people?
To warn people off somebody, you don’t even know!?
Still to this day I have people being shocked about how many people I have slept with. I hear people making comments about chlamydia being awful and only a certain type of girl would have that. I have had chlamydia twice, am I that type of girl?

If anyone finds out I have the clap that will ruin me.

Chlamydia is so common. It also is not such a big deal so can we stop with the shaming.
I realise I have slept with above average amount of people. There is no need to make me feel bad about it though. Woman these days should be allowed to do what they want with their bodies without being judged or shamed.

I just want to feel free in my own body.

I still struggle to talk about it, but now it’s out in the open. I would love it if people would have more of an open mind. Why is somebody sleeping with loads of people bad?
I’ve definitely had moments in my life where I have been sleeping with people because I enjoy sex and haven’t wanted a relationship. I see no problem in this, if it is in a safe environment.
I have also had moments in my life where I just wanted to feel loved. I just didn’t want to feel so lonely anymore. It still hurts to think of my 18/19/20 year old self crying herself to sleep every night because she didn’t know why everybody hated her so much. This has got me in to some really horrible situations.
I am incredibly lucky to have had my amazing family and friends at that time.
I still struggle with relationships now, how am I supposed to trust men, who have fucked me over so many times?
(I just want to put in here that my last boyfriend was an absolute gem and helped me through a lot of these problems.)

18 year old me, in my first flat.

I don’t want pity I want people to stop slut shaming. You have no idea what you might be doing to that girl. I just can’t believe how unkind so many people were to me when I was growing up, just because I had sex with a certain amount of people. I still struggle to walk around the town I went to High School in because of anxiety that somebody might shout something at me.

It could be a cry for help.
It could be somebody having fun.

SLUT IS A DISGUSTING WORD.

I wish I could go back and tell this girl that she is beautiful, she doesn’t need a man to feel complete, and she can do whatever she wants with her body.
Its amazing what is going on under the surface.

BE MORE KIND.

Abi @ TEWP x

There’s this guy…

There’s this guy I met back in two thousand and eleven and I can’t believe I’ve known him so long.

The years have flown by but my feelings never left. The communication went dry, our contact bereft.

It’s been eight years of to-ing and fro-ing and of knowing that we’d be perfect… 

But maybe our version of perfection can be found in the pockets of time we’ve been lucky enough to spend together.

Maybe we were never meant to experience forever.

Maybe our version of perfect is moments in time and our forever is memories captured. Those perfect little fragments piece together a picture, a picture which would look imperfect to anyone else.

But you and I know why our story is broken and we know it can’t be fixed but the solace lies in knowing that it needn’t actually ever be fixed.

Our perfect little moments in our imperfect little story live neatly in our hearts in their pockets of perfection.

Mandy @ TEWP x

For the woman who…

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For the woman whose husband makes an “extra stop” after work every evening.

For the woman who is mourning the loss of a pregnancy that nobody else knew about.

For the woman who still leads from the front even although she’s lost inside.

For the woman who was fired for her fourth late because she has been awake for a straight week with a sick child.

For the single mom who doesn’t know how the utilities are going to stay on this month.

For the woman who has gone through 2 IVF’s and has tried for five years without success but still shows up to every baby shower for her friends.

For the woman who still hasn’t forgiven herself for the abortion that she had 20 years ago.

For the woman who has a line of judging eyes at her and her children as she counts out coins or has to put something back at the supermarket.

For the woman that opens the door to the news of her husband being killed overseas three weeks before he was to return home.

For the woman that lives with a quiet anxiety because nobody understands what you could possibly be stressed about.

For the woman that gives to her family all day- everyday and just needs a break.

For the woman that smiles at strangers all day in public- but weeps silently every night.

For the woman who has wanted to end it all but found strength to carry on.

For the woman that heard the rumour about herself at church today.

For the woman sleeping next to a stranger every night.

For the woman whose genetics will never allow her to look like the ones in the magazines.

For the woman that endures one broken relationship after another because there was no father around to teach her what love looks like.

For the woman raising a fatherless daughter and praying that history doesn’t repeat itself.

For the woman who loves with all her heart who’s desperate to be loved.

For every single woman that cries in the shower so that nobody else can see. Because if you aren’t strong-nobody is.

Just because the water washes your tears doesn’t mean that you don’t cry. Just because you cry doesn’t mean that you’re not strong enough to handle it.

I am you. I see you. I am with you, I cry with you. I love you.

Author: Brittany Latham
Credit to Yehuda Devir for the Art

Mandy @ TEWP x

14 days. 336 hours. 20,160 minutes.

2 weeks.

2 weeks is all it took for me to fall for another human.

You may think I’m crazy and if it was someone else telling this story, I’d probably agree with you! But it’s true. Because him and I, well, we crammed what some couples do in three months into just 14 short days.

We laughed together, we drank together, we stole each other’s yawns, we fell asleep together, we saw shooting stars together, we went for dinner together, we worked out together, we spent time in 2 cities together, we have a song or two which remind me of him and we talked and talked and talked. And we talked some more.

About all sorts of things. Our shared interests in crime and conspiracies right through to loss of life and hope for life.

The moment I realised how quickly I’d fallen (and I like that we say “fall” because it insinuates we don’t have much control over it) was when he articulated his feelings to me.

You see, at the start he was all “I’ll make you feel things you haven’t felt in a long time” and “you’re a powerful woman”… which are things I’ve never had said to me. They gave me butterflies. But this dialogue quickly turned into “We are just friends… no attachments” and that hurt. It felt like a kick to the stomach.

But the thing is, I didn’t CHOOSE to feel attached… emotions aren’t something we select like a track on a record. It’s random. It’s pot luck. Our emotions are on shuffle and all we can do is work with what we’ve got.

When he essentially friend zoned me, I found it very difficult to handle.

Yes, it has been 2 short weeks… but surely I couldn’t have been the only one feeling the feels? I mean, “it takes two to tango” and all that and being with someone else intimately is an experience and so if both of you are there in the moment then the energy doesn’t lie, does it?

The reason I’m writing about it is because it’s too crazy to say aloud. I feel like I’m not valid in how I feel because of the time frame. I feel like people might judge. But the truth is, time frames and age just don’t matter.

Energy matters. Experiences matter.

I’m happy now to put the amazing couple of weeks into a box which I’ll hopefully feel comfortable to reopen at some point but for now, they’re amazing memories and he did make me feel things I hadn’t felt in a long time, so for that, I’d like to say thank you, T.

“I moved into Refuge 5 months ago and although I have had my down days I have definitely had more highs.”

It was August 2013 when I met my perpetrator. He was charming, funny, all the girls fancied him and I was so flattered out of everyone he could of picked, he picked me. In hindsight, the controlling and bullying behaviour started straight away. He said he didn’t want to use condoms so I asked him when he last had a STI check. He was furious. How dare I ask him such a thing. I felt embarrassed and guilty that I had upset him but the reality is – it’s a perfectly good question.

I first tried to leave him in August 2017 but he convinced me I was “insane” and if I left him I would lose custody of our daughter. I even went to the doctors for help over my mental health but I was perfectly fine – I was just a victim of pure manipulation. The doctor didn’t realise this and prescribed me anti-depressants which made me extremely tired all the time and ill.

In December 2018, it had finally hit home I was struggling to handle the controlling abuse. I decided to ring the National Domestic Abuse helpline and spoke to an incredibly kind lady who asked if I had ever thought about going into refuge. I was shocked as I had always associated refuge was for those fleeing physical violence. I said I would think about it. Christmas and New Year had passed and his behaviour escalated to a whole new level and I knew I had to get out. He forced me to perform a sex act on him on Christmas Eve. Having to wake up on Christmas Day and play happy family was a new form of torture that I will never forget. I wasn’t able to keep it together the whole day and when I did cry I had to pretend it was because I was so happy.

I rang the National Domestic Abuse helpline again and asked if they could do a refuge search for me. They gave me four numbers in total, the first number I rang didn’t answer. The second answered and through the tears I asked if they had any spaces for myself and my daughter. Luckily they did and asked about my situation. It was the first time I had told someone everything my perpetrator had put me through, and I mean everything. He was flushing away my contraceptive pill (I forgave him for this because my daughter is incredible and I get to keep the prize now!), he had ruined many friendships, ruined my career, had taken £4,500 off me, he take my mind. The kindness I received back was overwhelming. I arranged to stay at a friends house that night and fled to Refuge the next day.

I remember feeling sick and terrified but three smiling reassuring faces were there to greet my daughter and I. They helped with our luggage and in our room was a hamper filled with beauty products – it looked like Boots had be raided! It was all kind donations from the public so if you’re reading this and have ever donated anything, even if you think it’s really small, thank you. My daughter had a toy box filled with brand new toys and she settled in instantly. I can honestly say I have never experienced kindness like I have received since being in refuge. The other ladies living here were also really welcoming asking if I had a meal I could make from my food parcel and someone made me a cup of tea. My daughter played with the other children while I just processed the strength I found to leave him.

I moved into Refuge 5 months ago and although I have had my down days I have definitely had more highs. I have laughed, danced and found my personality since I’ve been in refuge. My daughter has blossomed and her bad behaviours have stopped. She had found a real love for music and her favourite band is Madness which is brilliant until someone moves in the refuge with House of Fun on full blast!

We still live a relatively normal life. My daughter is in nursery and loves it. I’ve always worked so initially struggled with the mentality of not working but I have completed courses in Cooking and Gardening. I have also participated in Freedom and Power to Change courses which I have found extremely helpful. It’s emotional and eye opening but will help you come to terms with the abuse you’ve suffered and will improve your confidence dramatically.

I’ve moved into my own house and although I am excited to move on – I am also extremely sad to be leaving such a wonderful group of people. The women I live with and the staff have helped me become myself again. Sure it does drive you mad when someone leaves their dirty dishes for a day, but it’s when you realise you all love UB40 and weren’t allowed to listen to them because your ex thought they were shit and you put ‘Baby Come Back’ and dance around like lunatics. It’s when you’re struggling and someone puts the kettle on, its when Love Island comes on and you’re laughing at your new found friend shouting at the TV to go on the Freedom programme, it’s when you explain that although Australia is in Eurovision it’s not in Europe, it’s all the children running around the house playing Hide and Seek that makes the Women’s Refuge. I will forever be thankful the first number I rang didn’t answer.

I have had an abortion.

‘Opinions are like arseholes. Everyone’s got one.’

In the world we find ourselves living in today, this is truer than ever. We are a seething, tumultuous, broiling, churning mass of opinions. We have opinions about everything. We feel free to pontificate loudly on every single topic and subject under the sun. And it doesn’t matter a fuck whether we’re correct or not. So it’s important to let your rational voice ring out in the face of so much ignorance. If you are silent, you condone. I do not condone. I will speak out. We may be shouting into the void, but if we all shout together our voices might be heard.

An issue which I have personal experience with and which attracts so much opinions is abortion. Abortion is still very much a taboo subject for women.

I have had an abortion.

Abortion. Even the word makes us tremble. Abortion. Abortion. Abortion. By naming something, do you lessen its power? I believe so, and therefore I will say the word out loud. Almost (but not quite) proud. I will shout it again and again. Abortion. Abortion. ABORTION. It just sounds horrible doesn’t it? It sounds like something to be dreaded, something to fear, something to be avoided at all costs. Since my abortionI’ve realised the real problem with abortion. The problem is not with abortion itself. No, the problem with abortion is that everyone seems to have an opinion on abortion. They freely talk about what they think of abortion and of women who have abortions. Even men have an opinion on abortion. But not many women will come out and say I had an abortion. Why is that?

Did you know that in the UK 1 in 5 pregnancies are terminated? Think about that wee statistic next time you’re sitting with a group of women. Would you have had any inklings? Who do you think would be the one?You look at the obvious candidates. Is it the career lady who is shattering the glass ceiling? Or maybe the stay-at-home mum who has two young children already? What about the party girl? Or it is the woman whose boyfriend doesn’t want to be a dad. It is the woman who doesn’t want to be a mother. It is the woman who suffers mental health problems. It is the woman who can’t afford a child with her boyfriend. It is the woman whose foetus has an incurable condition. Finally, the woman who is most forgotten about, the woman who does not want to be a mother. Abortion survivors are all of those women. The paths that led to our decisions do not matter. Our reasons do not matter. The only thing that matters, and which is common for all women who have abortions, is,for whatever reason, we cannot become mothers. We shouldn’t need to enumerate the many reasons why we need an abortion. Please, just understand that we need one. And please bear in mind that reaching the decision, and going through with the decision, is categorically not an easy process.

So why, when abortion is such an intensely personal decision, does everyone have such strong opinions about it?

It’s such an emotive issue that it’s taken me three years to write the words. I had an abortion. Mine was one of the more common situations. I was 35, I was messed up, I had been dating a messed up dude, we dated for three months, I fell pregnant. It was entirely unwanted and unplanned. I took a pregnancy test on the Saturday and I spoke intensively with the foetus father during the course of the weekend. He was a troubled soul himself and I can’t imagine the process was easy for him either. I wish I had been kinder to him in the aftermath.

So as I dragged myself into work on Monday, I knew that if I was going to have this child I would be having it on my own. I sat at my desk in a haze, readingabout the maternity rights on offer from my employers, researching childcare costs, benefits, working out every possible financial and practical permutation on a scrap of paper.

After doing all of this the thought that I wasn’t having this child began to crystallise. In another life I would have been happy to be pregnant. If it had been 5 years prior, when I was with my long term boyfriend my life could have carried along its expected, clichéd route. But I wasn’t living in that world. I had split up with my long term boyfriend and I had been single ever since, with no‘relationship’ making it over the three month line. I realised that I couldn’t have this child on my own. And to my mind, I would be doing it entirely on my own. This realisation led me to confront an issue that went to the core of what it means to be a woman. I didn’t want to have this child and raise it on my own: I knew that if I really wanted this child, I would bloody well have the child. It wasn’t insurmountable; lots of other women (younger, less financially secure) have done it. There are so many fantastic single mothers out there but I didn’t think I would be one of them. I didn’t want a child thatmuch. If I was honest, having a child had never been my raison d’etre. I knew that by having this child my life would change drastically and it would be so fucking hard. I didn’t feel that it was fair to the child. The world is such a fucked up place that didn‘t need another unwanted child. Yes, I knew that if I’d had the child Iwould more than likely have loved it more than life itself, and in time I may consider having the child as being the best thing I had ever done. But that wasn’t a guarantee. I loved my life the way it was, I loved my job, I wasn’t made to be a stay-at-home mum, struggling and trying to balance life and everything in it. I was so worried that I would grow to resent the child.

So, after having looked at the issue from every angle for perhaps another two days, I decided that I didn’t want to do it. I was going to have an abortion. From that point on, there was no looking back. I had set my course and I was not going to deviate from it.

I was perhaps unusual that I was vocal about my abortion in the immediate aftermath. I didn’t shy away from telling people that I’d had one. At that point I wasn’t ashamed about my decision. I was almost proud of myself for making the choice that I did. I knew that I hadmade the right decision for the right reasons. Everyone I told about my abortion was (to my face anyway), understanding and compassionate. I was vocally pro-choice about the issue on social media and wouldn’t shy away from getting involved in debates on Facebook. I never actually came out and said the words until recently.

I have now come to believe that abortion is the last taboo for women. I didn’t know who to turn to for help or to vent to when I was trying to make a decision. I was too frightened to tell people I was pregnant and was considering an abortion. I needed advice. I needed help. I needed to talk. But I came to the decision on my own. I’m sure you can imagine my surprise that on telling my closest friends about my abortion a few months after the event, I was gobsmacked to find out that I knew women who had experiences like I had. But because I’d kept my mouth zipped shut I didn’t know they were there.

And this is why we need to talk about abortion. For an issue which is going to personally affect one in five women in the UK, we are remarkably silent when it comes to talking about abortion. We are too afraid to speak out. We are too ashamed to admit that we had an abortion. We don’t know how people will react. Will they understand us? Or will they attack us? We cannot face getting embroiled in upsetting, traumatic discussions in which we desperately try to justify our reasons for aborting. Because our reasons, they are legion and they do not need to be justified.

So we just don’t talk about abortion.

We don’t own our abortions.

We don’t admit that we have had an abortion.

We take the days off work, we have the procedure, we go back to work. We don’t talk about it. We try and forget about it. We find that we can’t.

So, why are we so ashamed of abortion? Is it because in a patriarchal society women, essentially, are viewed solely as baby makers? Women are distilled down to our bare essential purpose of being put on this earth purely to prolong human existence. Is it because in such a patriarchal society it is anathema for a woman to say I can’t have this baby. I don’t want to be a mother. And admitting that you do not want to be a mother is the worst thing a woman can say. It utterly negates what it means to be a woman. You are decrying and denigrating your femininity, your own fucking raison d’etre.

I was reminded of the episode of Sex and the City, when Miranda decided to have an abortion. Well, colour me shocked to learn that Carrie terminated a pregnancy when she was 22, and that she never told the ‘foetus father’ about the pregnancy. For the record, this is not something I agree with. In the majority of more typical, normal, situations (where there is no abuse or anything equally horrendous), I would always advocate telling the father. Aye he might decide he wants nowt to do with it, as my foetus father did. But please do give him the knowledge. It’s up to him what he does with it. And it will let you come to a firm, independent decision for yourself and your foetus.

Of course Miranda bottled it and eventually gave birth to her bouncing baby.

Even SATC’s Samantha was not much of a role model to hang your hat on. Of course the sexually liberated, feminist, outspoken, older character is going to agree with abortion. Remember her wittily singing out the infamous words:

It’s less than a desirable situation, but it happens. We’ve all been there. I’ve had two!”

While this is an admirable point of view and goes some way to demystifying abortion, it also somewhatoversimplifies the issue.

And that’s the problem with abortion. It is an issue that is multi-faceted, like a corrupt diamond or a flawed emerald.

Women need to open a dialogue on abortion. We need to be able to say the word abortion without cringing into our skins. We need to be able to reclaim it and strip it off its potency. We need to shine a light on it and illuminate it. We need to demystify the subject. We need to have open discussions around it. Until we do, women will constantly struggle with making possibly the hardest decision they will ever have to make. And women will continue to needlessly suffer after having had an abortion.

Women are vilified for having abortions, both by other women and by men. This is just wrong. This must stop. Abortion survivors should not be treated the way society treats them.

I recently found out exactly how other women reacted to the mention of abortion. I was a member of a beauty group on Facebook. Now we all know the internet can contain the absolute dregs of society (refer back to ‘comments’ sections I mentioned earlier) but this group wasn’t like that (although the Admin and Owner are.. well, that’s for another essay). There were over 10,000 members, largely female and members often posted about their personal issues for others to support them and share kind, supportive words with them. So I decided to test the waters. I posted a very succinct statement to the effect that I had had an abortion and briefly discussing the impact it had had on my mental health. So, with expectations of empathy and understanding what I did not expect was for Admin to have to pull my post within two hours. It was deleted sofast that I didn’t even have a chance to read the comments. From what I did read, a lot of commentswere disgusting and aimed at me personally. One comment I did see was from a lady who accused me of being proud of killing my baby. Others were more supportive and I was proud of the ladies who came out and owned their own abortions.

So if you learn something from my words, let it be this. If a woman tells you that she has had an abortion, DO NOT PITCH IN WITH YOUR OPINION. If you haven’t had an abortion, you are simply not entitled to have an opinion.  And Men with Opinions on Abortion? Jog on motherfuckers. Men can have opinions on abortion, but as with the ladies, ONLY if they have personal experience of abortion. So when a woman says she is an abortion survivor, listen to her. Try and understand her. Put yourself in her shoes and walk a few yards. Ask her questions by all means because she may want to talk it through and, in doing so, remind herself that she made the right decision. Do not make cruel comments. You wouldn’t dream of telling a woman who had miscarried that she had murdered her baby, would you? Or what about those 1,000 women a year who abort because of extreme morning sickness? Are they babykillers? People seem to think that just because a woman has had an abortion, she is an unfeeling, uncaring, cold hearted cunt. You can therefore say anything to her, call her the most hurtful names, decry her feminity and it won’t hurt her. She is a monster, after all. Because only a monster would kill her own child.

I call bullshit.

I have grieved so hard for my lost child. I will always grieve for my lost child. Take it from me, you can guarantee that if a woman has had an abortion, she is hurting. She might hurt for a short while or a long time, but she will most definitely experience one of the worst hurts a woman can experience. One comment I hear again and again from abortion survivors is “It haunts me”. And it does. I will remember every estimated birthday. I will always think my baby would be how many years old today. I will look at my niece as she grows and a tiny voice in the back of my mind will always wonder would my baby have been like this? Just because a woman decides to have an abortion does not mean that she is not wrecking herself for making the decision. People don’t even think about that before they open their mouths and let their opinions fly free.

I do not and will not regret having my abortion. I doregret taking so long to get help to deal with my mental health and the aftershocks, and I also regret not having spoken out before undergoing the procedure. I regret not haven taken a bit more time to let the dust settle before having a practical conversation with my parents about it. I wish I had asked for help from people with experience with abortion before I finalised my decision. I wish I’d spoken to more women who had walked where I was walking, who felt how I felt, who know what was going on in my fucking head. I really wanted to talk about the consequences of the decision with other survivors.

This is both a good time and a bad time to be a woman. The world is definitely changing, and I hope for the better. I fervently hope that my niece will grow up in a better world. I feel hopeful that she will. Change is definitely afoot. Women are shattering the glass ceiling in every industry. We know how men are paid more than us for doing the same job as us. We will not tolerate harassment, hate speak, misogyny, bullying or anything that infringes our rights and equality which our predecessors sweated blood and tears to get for us. We are getting there.

But we do need to look at the issue of abortion. It is the Last Taboo. We need to think about how it can be positively represented in popular culture. We need to think about how to best help women who are struggling with abortion, either before an abortion or after an abortion. We need to think about how we can remove the stigma and the shame associated with abortion, as we have done with suicide.

Don’t push abortion survivors back into the shadows. Don’t leave us to lick our wounds in the dark. Let us talk. Let us work it out. Don’t abuse us for making a decision we hope you’ll never have to make. Stop hating on abortion survivors.

And for all those women like me, it’s time that you rose from the ashes like the mother fucking phoenix you are. Soar high my ladies, soar fucking high.

The beginning of June can only mean one thing: Love Island.

I have had various discussions during the build up with my friends. To watch or not to…
Last year, the answer was simple: Yes. But now, I’m not so sure. What changed my mind? After all it’s a great antidote to a dull day in the office. TV where you can escape reality and watch without a worry. Or so we thought.

There had been some anticipation of plus size models and a more ’diverse’ group of entering the villa this year, so when I saw ITV had released the line up, I excitedly went to investigate. Scrolling through bright candy coloured images, I saw 12 gorgeous human beings… from scientist to surfer. But not one person with a visible difference.

18% of people self-identify as having a visible difference such as a mark, scar or condition*(me being one of them- I have Klippel-Trenaunay Syndrome). Which means, that there should be at least one person on Love Island representing this demographic.

Why do people who look ‘different’ need to be represented? 

1 in 3 people feel depressed, sad or anxious as a result of having a visible difference*

I believe that a contributing factor to this is how people are portrayed in the media.

Adverts show a very narrow perspective of beauty and we are under constant pressure to look like what their idea of ‘perfect’ is. This in turn can influence our happiness: we experience low confidence and self esteem , as our bodies do not match what we see in the media; suggesting that we are simply not good enough.

People with visible differences are putting up barriers because they assume that they wouldn’t make the cut. I would never apply to go on Love Island purely because I don’t think they would want someone like me, who has a swollen foot and is a size 12/14. We aren’t putting ourselves in situations to gain opportunities because of our insecurities about looking different.

What can we do to change this?

I am very proud to be a Campaigner for the charity Changing Faces and we want more brands to sign our Pledge To Be Seen and commit to better representing people with a visible difference.

Love Island attracts millions of viewers, with the average amount being 3.6 million.

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My friend Heather and I bumped into Love Island winner Kem Catinay in Ibiza!

Over half a million people with a visible difference will be tuning in on Monday to watch a new group of singletons entering the villa. Amongst the viewers will be many teenagers.

For me, I was most self-conscious when I was in my teens. I never felt good enough and I was constantly comparing my body to what I saw in magazines, films and reality TV.

At times, I was very sad and wished I would wake up one day and for my KTS leg to have miraculously shrunk to the same size and colour of my left.

If only I had a public figure to look up to who had a visible difference! This person could be a Love Island contestant. I know I would’ve felt a bit more comfortable with my body, knowing there are other people with visible differences who are successful.

Instead, it’s taken me years of anti depressants, therapy and counselling to help me on my journey of accepting my visible difference.

On the plus side, I feel a lot better about my body and how it looks and I am comfortable enough to show my leg in public: I’m not hiding it anymore!

*Statistics are taken from the Changing Faces report: My Visible Difference.