It is a commonly expressed concern that survivors are too vulnerable to do this work and might be retraumatised in the process. I have never felt this, on the contrary I feel empowered when I speak and it is fulfilling to be left with the sense of having made a tangible difference to the way professionals might perceive, interact with and respond to child and adult survivors of child sexual abuse.
Lived experience in training is essential because it breaks down barriers in quite a unique way. Lived experience of any societal issue dispels misconceptions and challenges stereotypes as well as helping professionals understand how theory can fit into practice. It is powerful and memorable making it more likely participants will remember key messages.
Your training had the most impact on our staff that I have ever seen after a safeguarding session. Lots of discussion, thought, learning. If you have worked in a school for a number of years you will have experienced the standard whistle stop tour of safeguarding which definitely has it’s place. But your training really delved into the details of what would you actually do and say. The way you talked about your own experiences of CSA were invaluable and it was interesting to see you respond to our thoughts about disclosure and how you would have responded as children. Thank you for being so open with us.Teacher
It might feel like these concerns come from a place of care and compassion but it illustrates either a conscious or unconscious attempt to avoid the difficult subject of child sexual abuse in preference of maintaining the comforting equilibrium of denial. I work alongside academics in research projects and these ‘concerns’ come up in academia too. It starts to feel undermining and frustrating to be on the receiving end of patronising, paternalistic attitudes that threaten our autonomy as well as being a significant barrier to making meaningful societal change.
Those of us who do this day to day have fought to survive – both the initial abuse and the consequences of trauma, and we have fought to get where we are today. We have set up our own companies or charities, networked, developed our own websites and resources, often running our own social media. Many start up groups for survivors, advocate and campaign. Some of us write, create art or perform. We are strong and capable, skilled and we are trauma survivors. Emotion and passion are par for the course and must be recognised as normal and not reflective of retraumatisation.
Activists are change-makers and truth tellers and the truth hurts all of us. Shutting us down does nothing at all to protect us because we are not in need of it. It silences our voices, thereby hurting those we are advocating for. Most importantly of all, silencing the most vocal does not make the issue disappear; CSA exists – it persists – in silence.