Hello everyone, Tonia here
I wanted to write something that was personal but spoke of learning, understanding, tolerance and acceptance. I could speak loudly about the amazing work of our teams. Our wonderful partnerships with other agencies and the stunning people we work with. Which is all very real and helps us to work really well with people currently experiencing sexual abuse.
But, I also wanted to speak to those people who may not realise what they are experiencing is abuse. That they are not alone. That it can be a very scary place, especially when you are a child. I also wanted to speak to those who are helpers. You may get frustrated at times with the limits of what we can do as humans. We all want to do so much more.
The lived experience
Many of my colleagues have lived experience of violence and abuse. They use those life experiences to help others, passionately advocate and understand. I came to this field of work many years ago, with my own lived experience. It was after many years of coming to terms and understanding my life. I knew something was wrong, but did not know what. I felt angry, sad, ashamed and fearful, but life still carried on.
There were good times as well. Family outings, holidays and so on. No-one else seemed to be affected so I thought it must just be me. I thought everyone could see what was happening and would ask me. But they never did. So again, I thought it must just be me.
The voice of victims is very small. It’s not heard well, especially when words are not used. Mannerisms, gestures, the way we dress and present ourselves, is not noticed. Our behaviours may be taken out of context, our lack of care for ourselves and engaging in risky behaviours. This is all shouting out for help, but is not heard.
My breakthrough moment was when a brave family member shared her own story of abuse, and just asked, is this happening to you? She had noticed, but was scared to say anything in case it made things worse. That day she decided enough was enough and asked me. I said nothing but nodded. She heard me loudly. That was the end and the start for me. Many years ago now, but that moment will stay with me for the rest of my life.
Please notice, please ask and, if asked, please have the courage to nod.
You really are not alone.
If you or someone you know needs help, contact us