Please be aware that the following post is on the subject of childhood sexual abuse
Only yesterday I posted of a personal childhood experience of sexual abuse. The response has been incredible, overwhelming almost. I personally felt the need to communicate my experience, it had been gnawing at me since the public allegations in the press in recent months. My abuse took place in the early 80s. And it’s still happening to others. Every day. Tragically to so many more vulnerable children, adolescents and young adults.
I found the following on the NSPCC site;
- Nearly a quarter of young adults (24.1%) experienced sexual abuse (including contact and non-contact) by an adult or by a peer during childhood.
- One in six children aged 11-17 (16.5%) have experienced sexual abuse.
- Almost one in 10 children aged 11-17 (9.4%) have experienced sexual abuse in the past year. Teenage girls aged between 15 and 17 years reported the highest past year rates of sexual abuse.
I don’t know why I’m shocked, given what I know, but I am, the numbers still jump out and punch me in the face. The first stat means that if you were to take a class full of kids from the year 1995 cSeven of those children will have experienced sexual abuse. Seven. I know when I’ve spoken with close friends in the past about my experiences that 2 of the 3 I spoke to had encountered some form of sexual abuse during their adolescence, these numbers are born out. The numbers from the NSPCC are based on registered accounts of abuse, they do not count the unreported abuses such as mine.
The stigma of abuse continues, the questions as to the provocation by the child, unbelievably and sickeningly prevails, the concept of the little Lolita rears its head and so often these are the cases that make the headlines.
So again, I wish to assert the following, the child, the victim, is NEVER accountable, is NEVER to blame, as in rape, as in other forms of abuse, neglect, emotional and physical, the perpetrator is the one who is making these experiences reality. This is not to say that some of these abusers aren’t extremely damaged and in need of help and support themselves. But the fact remains, in these exchanges the abusers are those who bear the burden of guilt and responsibility, those being mistreated must ALWAYS be believed and must ALWAYS be supported in their attempts to heal themselves and escape their demons-in whichever way they feel able to.
I was unbelievably fortunate to have a supportive, loving and tolerant family, one who did not judge me and one who helped me in my ability to heal. It took me until my mid-twenties to seek counselling for my experiences, it took me that long to recognise the negative impacts that the memory was having both on my behaviours towards myself and my ability to interact with others, particularly partners. But I know only too well that not many are this fortunate. Financial Independence plays a huge role in being able to seek support post-trauma. When I’d attempted to seek counselling via the NHS the waiting list was months long and when I finally made it to the top of the list, I had 6 sessions available to me. In the meantime I had looked elsewhere and found a women’s centre, based at a church in Brighton, where there were voluntary counsellors who offered low cost sessions. It was still £20 a session, but I was working and I was also acutely aware of how badly I needed the support. I ended up seeing my counsellor for 2 years. It helped me immeasurably and without it I feel sure I would have struggled to overcome the pain on my own. But it is very important to note that it took me years to be emotionally ready to lift the lid and deal with what had happened. It cannot be forced and it must not be rushed, talking it through, even thinking about it can be exceptionally tough, draining and hard. Recognising this is key to seeking help-at least that was the case for me.
I also want to stress that talking through an experience is not for everyone and there are so many different ways to rehabilitate oneself, but it worked for me. What also worked for me was the acceptance that I could not change the past, that the only way to move forward was to accept what had happened, to abdicate the responsibility for it and to own my recovery.
I feel truly blessed to have received such positive support since placing my history in the public domain. It isn’t a way to fix oneself, but I hope that by sharing what I have gone through and how I’ve picked my path through a recovery it can at the very least let those in the early stages of recall, or who have not addressed their feelings, memories and experiences until now, know that there are support networks out there. They aren’t alone, however sad that may seem, there are others who know and feel their pain and there IS a road to recovery to be found. We don’t need to be defined by our abuse, it isn’t who we are, it’s what we’ve been through, we’re still us, we’re here despite our pasts and for some our presents, and I believe that’s a thing to be celebrated.