WE MUSTN’T JUST TICK THE BOX IN OUR RESPONSE TO ROTHERHAM

So, I am a victim and I’m a survivor – of childhood sexual abuse. The recent reports from Rotherham over the past three weeks fill me with absolute rage, heartfelt sadness and overwhelming desperation at the ‘wrongness’ of what happened there. I don’t yet have the courage to speak out openly about what happened to me, however I have been able to seek support and pay for therapy to help me process and live alongside the deeply traumatic experiences from my past.

Having worked at a national level in organisations representing the institutions that have played their part in failing the 1400 girls in Rotherham and countless other children and young people who are abused, I know that the life chances for young people in the “looked after” system are seriously diminished. I also know that the funding available to provide the kind of individual mental health care and support they need to reclaim even a small part of their lives is pitiful. Against this measure I consider myself ‘lucky’.

We organise society, public services and our lives at a macro level by relying on (often sophisticated) categorisation, based on research and statistics, and guided by policies and politicians. These can be important.  But there is such a danger in using only this approach to shape our response, practical, moral and emotional, to the victims and survivors. A tick list of symptoms, a set of diagnoses, a menu of responses – it just doesn’t cut it.

In confronting this and all the other instances of abuse recently reported as a “collective tragedy” we must not let it mask the fact that we are talking about tens of thousands of individual tragedies: lives severely curtailed by fear and terror, childhoods lost, and the prospect of a lifetime of mental and physical health problems. Even in the title of this blog I use the phrase “Rotherham” as a shorthand to refer to (at least) 1400 shattered lives. Of course it is a device. I am conflicted in using it; I know a little of what they suffered, yet I want to get the message out there.

Samantha Morton’s piece in the Guardian today is brave and stark. We need to hear more of these stories.  I do not want to see any of these girls’ experiences belittled by their very scale, nor do I want the scale of the response needed to mean that we are blunt and unsophisticated. In writing this I had the familiar feeling of ‘who am I to be saying all this?’. Suddenly I realise I have as much right as anyone to talk out on this – I have been abused.

I wrote this poem recently to express how it feels from my perspective.


TICK THE BOX 
Research shows
As a victim of abuse
I’m more likely to suffer
rheumatoid arthritis – artherosclerosis –
panic – anxiety – unexplained pain –
claustrophobia – agoraphobia – anyotherkindofphobia
Please delete or add as applicable


Statistics say
As a victim of abuse
I’m more likely to number amongst
the self harmers – drug misusers –
eating disordered – alcoholic –
mildly psychotic – child abusers –
Please tick all that apply

The media blares
As a victim of abuse
I’m very likely to have
asked for it – exaggerated –
got my facts wrong –
suffered at the hands of a ‘monster’
Please choose one category only

Society thinks that
As a victim of abuse
can only be
unknown to them – damaged by a celebrity –
part of a cult – raised in an institution –
used by a politician
Please rank in order of relevance

I know
As a victim of abuse
Every day I feel
exposed guilty afraid
dirty humiliated lonely
detached needy ashamed
Please use the free text box to tell me what you think

(August 2014)

13 thoughts on “WE MUSTN’T JUST TICK THE BOX IN OUR RESPONSE TO ROTHERHAM

  1. Thank you for writing this. It is so very important to remember that behind the headlines we see every day are individual victims, each of whom will have to navigate through life with a tear in their sail, because of what was done to them.

    Also, well done for starting your own blog. I am sure a great many people will find it helpful.

    xx

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  2. Hi – thank you so much for your comment (and your retweet!). The blog is an adventure – and at the moment it is thrilling to know that somebody has looked at it (let alone taken the time to comment), But as well as being an adventure I also needed a way to express more publicly what I am thinking.

    Look forward to your next post.

    xx

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  3. Wow! Wow! As a survivor/OVER-COMER of CSA & CRA my mind is flooded with words of praise for your blog. I’m not given to flattery, but I am struggling with writing a response; it would come out sounding like a silly school girl with a mad crush on rock star or something.
    What an extremely powerful piece. I feel like putting everything in caps, I am so ‘taken’ by your post!
    Standing ovation. Well done. Good job. Mad respect. I’m gobsmacked! One of the best posts I’ve ever read & I am a veracious reader on the subject.
    Thank you. God bless you! In Jesus name-Amen & amen.
    Nice to meet you, I’m thankful you are on our team. Not for the circumstances but thankful to have such a powerful voice on the side of CSA survivors & those children who are still under duress.
    I’m following you on Twitter & intend to re-tweet your link. I sincerely want people to read this blog post.

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    • Thank you so much for your response. I think sometimes when the circumstances are overwhelming then the need to express a reaction takes over. Although I’m blogging and speaking out anonymously it still feels empowering to be able to share thoughts and feelings – with those that understand through first hand experience and those that show great compassion. I plan to take a look at your blog,

      Thanks again for taking the time to comment.

      Like

  4. Thank you so much for having the courage to write this blog, and your powerful poem. It is so important that people understand the devastation this horrible crime causes to all aspects of the victims lives and how poorly supported they are by the authorities. I will continue campaigning to change this situation.

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  5. Pingback: SEQUELAE – ANOTHER WORD IN THE ABUSE SURVIVOR LEXICON | A NEW SELF WRITTEN

  6. Explains so well the debilitating and disenfranchising impact abused people experience and the bravery required in confrontong the fear, facing dismissal, denial and (sometimes) a lack of comprehension from others.
    Your poem details very clearly the worrying response many instances and stories of abuse have been met with and tragically compounded by the lack of action.
    People may try to understand but it isn’t very easy if no personal experience. They could consider this – the ‘distaste’ they feel about this subject magnified a million times or more as a permanent lifetime burden for those who suffer it – perhaps it would help them to realise it can never just be ignored in society and swept under the carpet. Sadly that is one of the reasons it has become such a scandalous, unethical, immoral and, in some cases, criminal failure on the part of those who govern and police our society.
    Whilst I believe people should have to face justice for these crimes I also think many people perhaps have little comprehension of the damage not only to individuals but wider society by the lack of awareness, education and responsibility out here – certainly historically and apparently carried through to presrnt day.
    There are many out here affected by abuse who will immediately identify with everything you have written and hopefully gain some confidence or peace in seeing their feelings expressed so succinctly.
    Thank you and best of luck x

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    • Thank you so much for your response.

      I take heart in sharing with others (whether directly or indirectly impacted by abuse) and by a sense that little by little awareness is growing. It’s not going fast or far enough.

      Social media is helping hugely.

      Thank you again. x

      Like

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