Any Girl by Mia Döring | Book Reviews | Memoir

By Mairéad Hearne (Swirl and Thread)

“It became untenable for me to remain silent about a part of my life I had long kept secret. I had to follow the persistent, uncomfortable pull of truth, wherever it would lead me.”

Any Girl by Mia Döring is published with Hachette Ireland. Described as ‘a ferociously honest, intensely tender and utterly unforgettable book that is as thought-provoking as it is timely’Any Girl is a book that will shock and horrify most readers.

*Please note that the book does depict scenes of sexual trauma and abuse that may trigger certain readers*

An extraordinary memoir, Any Girl, is a book that I kept putting to one side for one reason only – I was afraid. I knew from the outset that it was going to challenge me, anger me, upset me. I knew I would find it a very uncomfortable and distressing read. I also knew that it was a book I needed to read, one that spells it out in black and white what it is to be exploited in the sex trade, and in particular in the Irish sex trade.

‘A radically honest account of surviving sexual exploitation in the Irish sex trade. A psychotherapist’s literary debut of past trauma and the integration of lives past and present’

If I’m totally honest I feel very ill-equipped to review Any Girl. The words within these chapters are those of someone who has suffered terribly, who lived a life so far outside my norm, that I find it difficult to express my thoughts.

Mia Döring was raped at the age of sixteen by a young boy of the same age. This was the point where her life became very much split into the before and after. Following that night, she continued on living her life, covering up her now shattered self from her friends and family. At such a young age she was unable to process the enormity of what had happened and left herself open to a predator who she calls J. He groomed her from the age of sixteen and was a presence in Döring’s life for a number of years after. At the time she told herself that it was an exercise in empowerment. After all it was her body, her choice. When money was offered, the situation escalated but she still always thought it was a choice, her choice and a quick way to earn a few bob. As a student, €100 was a lot of cash and, for Mia Döring, it suddenly became a way of life, a way of surviving. She led a double life and thought she was managing her life, but she wasn’t. Self-harm and an attempted suicide did not prevent her from being sucked back into this dark and seedy world. She had come to need the validation. She needed to be wanted.

When Mia Döring finally took a step back and recognised the abuse for what it was, she began a journey that led her, today, to becoming a psychotherapist specialising in sexual trauma. She participated in a powerful TEDx talk in 2017 at Griffith College in Dublin, entitled Break the Silence and Build a New World, which you can view over on YouTube.

“Writing this book is the biggest act of trust I can make. My story is out of my hands now; how others respond to it is up to them”– Mia Döring

Any Girl provides a frightening insight into the sex trade, with Döring unafraid to express her own views or, as she refers to it, “being personal with my politics”. She provides graphic details of some of the deplorable acts that were inflicted upon her, giving the reader a very raw, honest and disturbing account of those early years of her young adulthood. The power of sitting with discomfort is a phrase Döring uses to describe self-reflection. We should all be more aware of our thoughts, our reactions, not to be so judgemental of others and to call out on actions we see as inherently wrong.

Any Girl is an extremely affecting read, a first-hand account of a very painful and abhorrent experience. It is a harrowing memoir, a reality-check for society as a whole and a timely reminder of how easy it is to ignore what we cannot see.

I will leave you with the words of Mia Döring –

“Men hurt me because they chose to hurt me.
It wasn’t about me.
There wasn’t something innate about me that made men abuse and hurt me.
It wasn’t what I was good at.
It wasn’t part of my identity.
I am allowed to be loved.
I am not ruined.”

– Mia Döring

(c) Mairéad Hearne (Swirl and Thread)

Order your copy online here.

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