The Flying Child Project

One Year On…

One year ago today I took a deep breath and presented The Flying Child Project to approximately 100 teaching and support staff in a local school. It was the result of two years of planning, the idea sparked by a conversation with a headteacher, and whilst I was convinced there was a need for lived experience in educational settings, I had no idea of how it would be received. I have previously blogged about the bad reactions I’ve experienced personally since speaking out about CSA, and because of personal connections to the school I knew I would recognise some faces in the room and feared the worst. I added these words at the end:

For those of you who know me, I hope you will be able to look me in the eye when we cross paths because I am the same person I was before you knew my story. If you can’t, I recognise that the shame lies at the feet of the man who abused me, not at mine.

As it turned out, I didn’t need to worry. The feedback was positive and constructive and September 1st 2021 was to be the start of a pretty remarkable year.

We have reached around 1000 professionals since the pilot and have worked with social workers, students and NHS staff as well as continuing to work in schools. We have affiliated with AC education, and are taking bookings for 2023.

This year my work as a survivor activist, has also gone from strength to strength and I have loved every moment of it.

I can’t go back to yesterday. I was a different person then.

Lewis Caroll Alice in Wonderland

At this time in my life I feel this quote is particularly poignant. For many years I was unable to see life beyond my own pain. I stumbled through, often from one crisis to another, not coping, or coping in the only way I knew how to, by pushing away the pain. Shutting it down. Overdoses, self harming, chaotic and self-destructive ‘living’ of a life I didn’t want. I didn’t think I would survive to see my children reach adulthood and I am grateful to be here today and to witness my first child moving into her first flat and my second preparing for university. So many survivors of CSA have shortened lives, as the result of poor physical, mental and spiritual health, or addiction. The project is dedicated to a survivor who once crossed my path, who was unable to continue. Trauma is a cruel thief. It takes everything. Our childhood, our innocence, our trust. It steals hope, joy and the lives we feel we might have had. Trauma is insidious. It infects those closest to us, the ones we love the most and it begins to rob them as well.

This has been the year of tipping the balance. Of fighting back. With hindsight, I am the same person I was before you heard my story wasn’t strictly true. There is no going back to ‘yesterday’ because I am different as a direct result of speaking out about CSA. I am a different woman entirely, one who is learning to listen to instincts, believe in her own abilities and accept her own limitations. I am a different mother, a more regulated and present one, doing my best to break the intergenerational cycle of trauma.

Life still challenges me at times but these challenges are hills or mountains to climb, not hopeless, unfathomless voids in which to drown.

I’ve appreciated slowing down over the last six weeks but we start again tomorrow, working in a small infant school in the morning and on to a larger school in the afternoon. I look forward to seeing what the next twelve months bring, and to more ‘tomorrows’.

Why didn’t you say anything before?

Why didn’t you say anything before? Were the words said when I disclosed. I didn’t know how to respond to that. The things I wanted to say spun inside my head and stuck in my throat but I couldn’t say them. I swallowed my words and looked at the floor instead.

Why didn’t you…?… you could have… you should have…

The events of that disclosure day unfolded violently, like a bomb exploding and glass embedding itself in our hearts. It was one of the hardest and worst things I’ve ever had to do. I tried to say why I hadn’t, I really did but I was mute with shame, regret and fear.

My fault was how I interpreted these responses. It’s my fault.

I was probably in shock too. Disclosure might be shocking for the recipient but it’s far worse for the one saying the terrible words we hoped we might never have to actually say – no more hoping that someone would just notice, ‘get it’ instead. It felt like peeling the skin from my bones, exposing the essence of me to the world. It hurt. I wanted to run away and hide. I wished I’d never said anything at all.

It was impossible to explain why I hadn’t because where would I begin? How could I describe my inability to retrieve the correct words and to speak them aloud? I didn’t say much after I disclosed. I couldn’t answer their questions and some of them made me feel so unsafe I wanted to die. I stayed silent and scrutinised their faces and body language. I was looking for any nuance of behaviour for a sign they didn’t believe me.

I waited to be cast out of the family and shunned for saying these terrible words.

Why didn’t you say anything before?

Now I have my words and if I could go back in time and do it all over again I would say,

I did.

I had been non-verbally disclosing since childhood but nobody was listening. They didn’t understand what I was trying to say.

The Power of Speaking Out

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?

Continue reading “The Power of Speaking Out”
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