Swim Against the Tide

One reason I love doing this work is the variety of people we come into contact with. Since piloting The Flying Child Project in September last year we have delivered training to approximately 400 people including teachers, school staff, admin staff, Masters students, practice educators, consultants, nurses, doctors, matrons and Psychology students. Today we presented to Social Work undergraduates.

The information we give to Social Work students is quite different to the information we deliver to medical staff or teachers simply because they could work in a multitude of different locations and situations, supporting a diverse range of individuals including those in prisons, schools, hospitals, care homes and family settings; they will work with the homeless, and with people struggling with mental health or addiction. As we know, many survivors of sexual violence may need support later in life. Some will end up in crisis and they risk their trauma responses being misunderstood, as ours were. We took the students on a journey and allowed them to step into our shoes as we shared our own experiences, including the impact of trauma on motherhood, postnatal depression, mental health, relationships and discussed intergenerational trauma. We had a lot to say, as did the survivors who had shared their experiences with us on social media.

With their permission, we were able to bring in many quotes from survivors of CSA- the aim being to reduce the chance of ‘othering’ the public speakers and of our stories evoking sympathy but being disregarded as unusual, or a one-off.

As well as encouraging the students to always consider trauma in the work they do, we helped them to understand why it’s not always easy for the survivor to speak out, and pointed out that people display signs of trauma in different ways. We said they mustn’t be afraid of asking the question, “what happened to you”, and discussed the power and importance of human connection and relationship.

There was an interesting question and answer session and we were able to touch upon social justice and the problems survivors face when reporting. Our focus was intrafamilial abuse, as research suggests that over 90 percent of sexually abused children are abused by someone they know (Radford 2011), but we included quotes from male and female survivors who were abused by non-family members.

My biggest wish is for people to leave our talks with an insight that they may not have had before, and for our stories and the survivor quotes to give them food for thought as they move forward and start their professional journey. Above all, I hope they feel inspired to do their bit to swim against the tide and break the culture of silence surrounding CSA.

2 thoughts on “Swim Against the Tide”

  1. This is the first time I have read that my pregnancy and parenting experiences are not unusual for CSA survivors.
    I really wish I could have spoken up about my fears .
    My trauma has damaged my children who I was scared to love .
    I’m still waiting for a happy childhood to inform my psyche and make me a normal parent . I’m 66 now so that’s never going to happen and both my kids are paying the price . I love them so much but have royally fucked up throughout their lives . Bought them every toy but couldn’t spend time with them for fear of hurting them .
    Helicoptering so they weren’t left alone with relatives and fearing outside play – my poor kids paid for my abuse .

    1. Thank you for sharing. We are hoping to reach midwives to help them gain a deeper insight into the impact of trauma on pregnancy and motherhood. If you are able to listen to The Last Taboo (available on BBC Sounds) you will hear me discuss the particular triggers of pregnancy and gender. You are most definitely not alone as these experiences are not unusual for survivors of CSA.

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