OPINION - Tracey Emin: I was raped many times as a child

Tracey Emin (Tracey Emin)
Tracey Emin (Tracey Emin)

I received a message. It read,

You lied on your last column.


You said you don’t like to be touched or kissed.

By strangers I don’t.

Last week I didn’t have time to finish my column.

I love every word you put on paper or canvas very much.

Thank you.

I loved being kissed by you, and touched by you, loved it so much. So sad it’s all gone, I can cry right now. I cried yesterday when you wrote that you loved me.

I have never been good with love. Love, yes, but not loving. I never lied, even when it’s good it will hurt.

I remember when I was about six, running and screaming through the hotel being chased. Hiding in cupboards and behind doors.

I have never been good with love. Love, yes, but not loving

He grabbed me by the arm and pulled me along the corridor. I began to cry and cry but he knew no one could hear. As he tried to twist my face, I sunk my teeth on to his elbow. I bit as hard as I could, I drew blood.

I have no memory of being a virgin, even after I was raped when I was 13 on my way home from Top Spot. I said to Mum, “I’m not a virgin anymore.”

Tracey Emin (Tracey Emin)
Tracey Emin (Tracey Emin)

But technically that wasn’t true. I really have no true recollection of when my hymen was broken.

The Top Spot Rape at the time was just considered an incident, something that happened.

Tracey Emin (Tracey Emin)
Tracey Emin (Tracey Emin)

It was New Year’s Eve, I’d left the teenage disco just before 12 because I wanted to be home before midnight to be with my mum.

As I left, an older boy followed me, he said he’d walk me home. He pulled me down Burton’s Alley and started snogging me.

The rape wasn’t violent, but it didn’t matter how many times I told him to stop he wouldn’t.

He wouldn’t stop until he penetrated me. I felt nothing, just depression and isolation. My new coat was dirty, my tights were torn.

Tracey Emin (Tracey Emin)
Tracey Emin (Tracey Emin)

The next time it was early summer. Behind our house the hotel stood derelict with its back yards, garages and sheds. My mum wasn’t around, so every weekend my friends would all stay over and hang out in one of the sheds.

Mostly it was my friend and her older boyfriend. They used the shed for having sex.

My friend was always boasting about how good it was. Her boyfriend had a car. She was in love.

One night, totally against my will, they held me down while one of his friends f***ed me.

I sat in the bath for two days after trying to feel clean in the cold grey water.

Tracey Emin (Tracey Emin)
Tracey Emin (Tracey Emin)

My mum not being around caused a host of problems, from cat fleas to not going to school, to having tons of sex. It was like some kind of revenge on my part, taking control of my own sex. Wielding it about like a sword.

The problem was most of the men were so much older than me, 20-25. They weren’t boys, they were men. No matter how precocious I was, how knowing, how forward I was, I should never have been having sex with those men. I remember the term Jailbait being used and asking them what it meant.

I was 14 when I was put on the pill to make sure I didn’t get pregnant. Something I will always be grateful to Mum for.

When I was 15 I left home, I left Margate. I remember packing a holdall with some clothes and two David Bowie albums, (Pin Ups and Hunky Dory).

Margate was a small place. One way or another, I had outgrown it.

By the time I was 16 I’d had enough of sex, I wanted love but I didn’t know what love was.

Everything hurts.

PS, I didn’t lie.

Tracey Emin is an artist