Who am I? Why start a website? How did I get to be sitting here typing this for you to read, maybe today, tomorrow or in years to come? Will I even be the same person, or think the same when you read this? Probably not.
First and foremost I am an advocate for those who have yet to find their voices, I want to share my journey in the hope of empowering others to heal and share theirs.
I absolutely believe in peer to peer mentoring/counselling/group work. How often as survivors have we ever heard these simple, yet ground breaking words…‘Me too’. Wow, those words could have saved me years of searching.
I also value one to one counselling and its place in our healing. However, I also feel this doesn’t go far enough by itself in helping us to explore and unravel the all encompassing effects living life as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse has on our thought processes, personal boundaries, relationships, parenting, physical and mental health.
I am in the fortunate position of looking at the services offered from both a client and professional perspective. In doing so I have gained many insights into what works, what sets us back (often by years), what could be improved and how by offering trauma based centres, we could improve the life chances of victims and help to break the cycle of abuse.
So who am I?
I am a victim, a survivor, on a healing journey, broken at times, and immensely strong at others. I have crumpled and fought, screamed, cried, laughed, learnt and most of all grown through all these experiences.
I’ve also more often than not, felt alone.
We do don’t we? No matter how many children, family, friends, work mates, drinking buddies, colleagues we have, we still feel alone. Like we are the only ones to have gone through this, and no one else really ‘gets’ us.
I do, i get you.
Every journey may be different, every story very personal and unique.
But we do share common feelings, emotions, worries, thoughts of how to continue surviving, how we can break the cycle, and how at times, how to simply survive and get through another day!
So here i am, sharing my incredibly personal journey with you, so that you know you’re never alone.
My personal history –
Being born to one parent who had mental health issues and another who was in and out of prison, my early years ensured I was vulnerable and an easy target for abusers both in and outside the family home.
My earliest memory is of abandonment when my mother left myself (at approx. 2yrs old) and a younger sibling in a flat on our own, whilst she went out and got drunk. Neighbours heard our cries, the police were called and we were taken into care. Not long after being returned to her, she did it again.
Our Mothers chosen coping mechanism for her own difficult upbringing was drink, and searching for love in all the wrong places, namely sex. So when she and my father had a very messy break up, this meant she was out often and once again we were very easy vulnerable targets for the new lodger! Even when I chased her down the road screaming and begging her not to leave me with this man. A man It turns out, that was also well known to the police with (…removed whilst current police investigation and possible court cases ensues). He went on to abuse me freely, every time I was in his care.
I had already been abused by a family member at this time, but would not understand this until much later in life.
I would often miss school or run away from it, not wanting to be apart from my Mother, I was seen as a naughty child. This continued throughout my education, to the point I had to be home schooled.
I became an angry rebellious teenager and was pregnant at 14 resulting in an ectopic pregnancy, admittance to hospital and an operation (not as a direct result of abuse, but as a symptom of it) no questions were raised. Not by hospital staff, school or social services. At least they never asked me. Even though my Mother had to get a court injunction out to stop this man from coming near me due to his violent and abusive behaviour, again no authorities asked questions or gave me any support. A 14yr old in a domestic violent relationship, and pregnant and no one thinks to question what the hell is going on here?
At 15 i went on to report another of my abusers, my step father to social services and found myself being questioned as to whether I had mistaken his intentions. Wow, I had been here enough times in my 15 short years to completely understand where this was leading. I’d finally found the courage to speak up, if they actually listened this time I would feel supported enough to let it all out. No…he was believed, I was offered family counselling.
So at 15, and pregnant again, I found myself homeless, vulnerable and being offered a place to stay by the family member who had been my first ever abuser! See how these vultures swoop.
There have been many more instances of sexual assault and abuse in my life, some I have given statements to the police about. Their take is, that because it was a one off and it would be my word against theirs, there’s not enough ‘evidence’ to take it any further. What does this say to me and society at large? if there’s any crime you can commit and get away with it’s rape, sexual assault, child sexual abuse, child sexual exploitation and domestic violence. Well they have my evidence on file and should these offenders have any other victims come forward in the future, I hope that my statements will support them.
Of course once I had left home my story didn’t turn into a fairy tale, there was no Prince Charming. Life isn’t like that for victims and survivors.
I’ve continued to experienced domestic violence, bulimia, bouts of depression which I now recognise as complex ptsd, issues with drugs and alcohol (thankfully I never became an addict, though I fully appreciate how easily this could happen), dissociation, dissociative amnesia, blackouts, body memories, periods of intense rage for no apparent reason and a very serious suicide attempt that landed me in hospital. So many issues, that I had never realised were directly related to my early and longterm childhood experiences of sexual, emotional, psychological and physical abuse.
To this day I continue to have chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis, fibromyalgia and all the wonderful symptoms that complex ptsd entails such as insomnia, body memories, flash backs, rage etc, etc.
This does not in any way mean I have given up on life, far from it, I have tried, tried and tried again. I want to succeed, i just couldn’t understand how one minute i could see a very bright future ahead, I was on my way to gaining a degree, a career, I owned my own house, I had a wonderful family….then crash! This was a cycle that happened over and over and I never understood, why?
Now I completely get it, some call it ‘hitting the self destruct button’. I don’t feel that is a fair comment. It smacks of victim blaming. What happens for me is either another traumatic life event occurs and my outwardly perfect constructed life crumbles under the quick sand it was built on. Or I finally feel supported and stable enough to open up the box of horrors i’ve evaded and my ‘then’ partner will either run, try and shut me down or use my history to emotionally batter me with. Que the cycle of loss, rejection, worthlessness, isolation, fear, re-traumatisation, feelings of I am broken and i’ll never have or deserve a decent/normal life. This for me is the hardest cycle to break!
My story is in no way unique, I hear other survivor’s telling the same story with different characters. How they clearly showed signs, how they ‘told’ and no one listened, how they were and continue to be let down.
I was well known to social services, health professionals and the education system, all of whom could clearly have spotted signs of abuse, non did.
It could be said that’s just the way things were back then…no, i’m not having that for a second! Regardless of the current buzzword ‘safeguarding’, children today are still being let down by the very social systems that are meant to protect them.
It is not good enough to simply train professionals in signs of abuse and hope that this will wipe out abuse of any kind. We must have a system of mandatory reporting, we must teach our children from an early age (both at home and in schools) about body safety and introduce them to a number of safe adults they can talk to, we must first and foremost listen and believe when a child is disclosing, we must have a nationwide police force trained in how to deal with victims of abuse and we must have a judicial system that recognises the impact that the court process has on victims. Finally, we need sentencing fit for the crime! To this day it is shocking just how many paedophiles and repeat sex offenders, walk way with suspended sentences, free to ruin more lives. Victims and survivors really do carry a life sentence, why shouldn’t their abusers!
We hear daily of yet another inquiry, more lessons learnt and the general public believe that this is being sufficiently dealt with. This could not be further from the truth. We each and EVERY one of us, have a duty to inform and educate the public that child safety is ‘Everyones‘ responsibility!
Paying lip service has not and will never bring about any real and effective change. Implementing more bureaucracy simply takes people away from the task at hand, means they are fearful for their own jobs, more concerned with meeting targets and getting the paperwork right, to protect themselves and their workplaces, leaving them with little time to do their jobs of protecting the next generation of children.
Victims and survivors must be heard, we must be part of the solution, we have lived this, we know the signs, the mistakes made and how the systems can be improved.
Due to my own personal history i have a very keen interest in psychology, the individuals own personal journey and how nature/nurture/social systems/families/peers/experiences have shaped them, leading people to reach crucial points in their lives.
Learning to understand myself has helped me understand others and vice versa. A life shared holds a wealth of knowledge.
I understand how my freeze mode (most people have heard of fight/flight, freeze is not often discussed) has held me prisoner and I want to understand it and change my default. I’ve always been a ‘rescuer’ which has had serious implications for my own personal boundaries, so I actively seek to retrain my thought process. This is very common for survivors and it is often via working with others that we are forced to confront our own skeletons.
So you will see my own history, career, study and training paths have very much gotten me to where I am today, sat here starting up this website for you to find.
I very much believe in peer to peer counselling/mentoring, we have so much to share and learn from each other, anyone who says they know it all are only deluding themselves.
My professional background :-
Volunteered and trained as a counselling support worker with a local charity for people who have experienced rape and sexual abuse.
Worked and trained as a mentor with offenders on their release from prison, to re-integrate them back into their communities and work.
Trained as an independent visitor with Barnardos.
Customer services with a large electrical wholesaler, taking internal calls from any one of the 250 branches nationwide. You wouldn’t believe how much of this time was spent counselling colleagues.
Things I’ve studied :-
Psychology, sociology, politics and health and social policy – University of Warwick
Understanding drugs and addiction – King’s College London
Caring for vulnerable children – University of Strathclyde
Improving the health of women – London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
Mindfulness for wellbeing and peak performance – Monash University
Childhood in the Digital Age – The Open University
SEND – Special Educational Needs and Disability – The Centre of Excellence
Mentoring in Schools – NCFE
Mentoring Offenders – OCN
Award in Working with Youth Offenders – Sova