I was questioned recently as to the point in my activism work and why I had chosen to tell people what happened to me. It was a good question and one I fully expect to be asked again. It made me think. What is the point of all this; the blog, The Flying Child Project, the activism? How is this work perceived by others? Does it even work? Does speaking out achieve anything other than raising pity?
The point is, nothing changes as long as the majority are comfortable in their lack of awareness. Comic Relief is a good example here. We are all conscious that famine and disease in African nations is a problem, but we rarely do anything to stop it unless prompted by pictures and videos of dying children and crying celebrities. Raising awareness and levels of discomfort about a reality, helps dispel more congenial myths.
Perhaps more topically in 2021, black lives have always mattered but, until events prompt a deeper look at the history of a situation and the reality of others all around us, we remain comfortable that it doesn’t really affect us; that we disagree with it in principle is enough.
‘I’m not racist’ is all well and good. Equally, ‘nobody in my circle is racist’, allows us to feel that the problem is less or minimised in some way as the distance from ourselves to the problem is lengthened. We are not a part of the distasteful issue so it doesn’t impact us. However, if we change the narrative and highlight that black people are impacted negatively by the very fabric of the society we are all a part of, (i.e. white people are all part of the problem by default, whether racist or not), then it is much less comfortable and so harder to ignore.
Statistics are a tricky thing to accept. 1 in 4 adults have experienced child abuse in some form, with 3.1 million in the uk having been sexually abused before the age of 16 (NAPAC). This feels enormous and, because it isn’t a subject a survivor will shout from the rooftops, it feels unlikely too. If we don’t know someone has experienced abuse then it feels less likely that abuse happens, at least in our social sphere. Perhaps the 1 in 4 is inaccurate, who can really say? After all, there are so many social factors at play that could lead to a skewing of the numbers. The Six Degrees of Separation game has taught us that it doesn’t take much networking before we find ourselves connected to someone else. The probability is you will know someone who has been abused, regardless of the statistics, and the silence will be deafening to them. You will most likely know an abuser too, and that is a deeply uncomfortable fact to accept.
Six degrees of separation is the idea that all people on average are six, or fewer, social connections away from each other. As a result, a chain of “a friend of a friend” statements can be made to connect any two people in a maximum of six steps.Wikipedia
Talking about a problem and showing that it is endemic in a society, whether we like it or not, allows us to feel the impact it has on others even if we are removed from it. In feeling the effects, we are more likely to look at the causes and want to change them. Equity comes from a desire for change from one party and an understanding that change is required from the other. The survivor is a victim in many senses, but that inequity with non-survivors, perpetuated by silence and stigma is so destructive. They are stuck in a cycle of shame brought about by stigma, leading to silence which, in-turn, compounds the shame. Round and round it goes, often for decades in the case of CSA. It has the added negative of allowing abuse to continue or be hidden whilst society, comfortable in its ignorance, looks at louder issues. Like any cycle, it takes some impetus to break it. Just as a rocket in orbit around the Earth needs a burst of energy to free itself of its constraints and travel further, so too does the survivor. In their case it is a need to speak out to enable them to rise above the stigma. Only then can the silence be challenged in their lives and in society as a whole. A trajectory change.
This is why it is important to tell our stories; to raise awareness; to fight for change and to smash open these destructive cycles that stay hidden in the shadows of every aspect of our society.
Read Fall Forward (my journey in a nutshell) to understand more about my reasons for speaking out.