Recently I was pleased to have had the opportunity to take part in a survivor/journalist interaction. We had a behind-the-scenes conversation about child sexual abuse, discussed the way it’s currently covered in the media, suggestions for how this could be improved and how we personally are contributing towards solutions in our own work and activism.
As an ice-breaker exercise we were asked to share something meaningful and the item I shared made me reflect upon the connections survivors make with one another, how precious these connections are, how we just understand each other.
This piece was homework, set by the very lovely Saša in the weekly writing group I attend. It’s one of my favourite times of the week. Saša (you can find her here, and over on instagram @sasawrites) and I have known each other for a few years and it’s a very safe place for me to speak. I can speak freely and be myself in ways I can’t in real life. She posed the question: “what is your armour made from?” and it made me reflect. Do I wear any armour? Yes I do, but it’s a different suit of armour to the one I wore during the years I stayed silent. It began to change, as I found a way to speak and tell my story…
Statistics that tell us the prevalence of CSA, are vague – depending on which researching body or charity you refer to. One says 1 in 4. Another leading charity says 1 in 5. I’ve also read 1 in 6, 1 in 8 and 1 in 20. Nobody knows. It is a hidden crime. The 2019 Crime Survey for England and Wales estimated that 7.5% of adults aged 18 to 74 years experienced sexual abuse before the age of 16 years (3.1 million people).
According to NAPAC: cases of child abuse remain hidden; around one in seven adults who called the National Association for People Abused in Childhood’s (NAPAC’s) helpline had not told anyone about their abuse before.
It is estimated that only one in eight victims of sexual abuse come to the attention of statutory authorities (Children’s Commissioner 2015).
Sometimes I study these statistics as I want something tangible to bring into my presentations, and I tie my brain up in knots. There is no single definitive answer it seems. Nobody knows the true extent of how many children are sexually abused.
A singer called Brenda Rattray contacted me this week, asking if I could share the release of her new song ‘Nobody Knows’. She describes it as ‘a song for the voiceless.’ I think it will speak to many survivors: it is beautiful, raw and honest.