Talking to people about my experiences of being sexually abused as a child have been some of the most difficult, and also some of the most rewarding, situations in my recovery.
Finding my voice has been a struggle. When I was a child, it was drilled into me that I did not speak out, that I did not tell. Very bad things would happen if I did tell. My dad would go to prison, my mum would hate me, I would be taken away to a children’s home, my dog would be killed, I would be hurt or killed. In any case, no-one would believe me. It took a lot of courage for me to go against all that conditioning and to begin to speak out and tell my story.
Safeline is a charity who had provided me with several years of counselling and also Independent Sexual Violence Advisors, or ISVAs when I reported to the police. In 2017, Safeline asked me if I would consider giving a talk about some of my experiences to an invited audience, to raise both awareness of sexual abuse and to raise much-needed funds. I readily agreed, as I saw it as an opportunity to give something back to Safeline. I sat down and wrote a script, which is basically the, “My Story” section on this site.
There were about fifty people at the meeting who were current and/or potential donors and local people of influence. I read my story from my script. As well as being more confident that I would neither forget what I wanted to say, nor just burble on, reading helped to distance myself from the words and made it possible for me to communicate.
The room was completely silent, except for gasps and sighs. I could feel a surge of emotion as I finished. There was a standing ovation and I could see that many people were in tears. I was surprised by the strength of feeling. I guess that I had always seen what had happened to me as, “normal”. I hadn’t realised how wrong that perception was.
Most of the people in the room came up to speak to me afterwards. Some told that that they were members of organisations that had been donating to Safeline and that they now knew why their work was so important. Everyone congratulated me on my strength and were grateful that I had had the courage to speak.
I did another talk the following year, for 500 people, at the Safeline Summer Ball. The reactions were similar, as were the comments from people who spoke to me afterwards.
I spoke at a local WI meeting in 2018 too. One of the women who came up at the end was clearly a survivor herself. She said she had been in a great dilemma as to whether to attend or not. Although it was very tough, she said she was glad she’d decided to go along, as she felt less alone.
I guess that is one of the main reasons that I have put this website together. Sexual abuse, particularly as a child, is very isolating. If I can help someone feel less alone, it will have been worth it.