“If you had been physically disabled by a past trauma and chose to run a marathon—people would call you brave. But we don’t do that with emotional wounds. They are invisible and the parents who rise to the occasion—and parent with love and purpose—who give what they never got—they are unsung heroes.”
This is so true. Navigating parenthood as a survivor of Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) can be an isolating experience and this starts at the very beginning. Nobody speaks about it. There is limited or no opportunity to bring conversations into antenatal appointments. There is no mention of trauma in parenting groups. We deal with the often highly triggering process of pregnancy and birth on our own, we might struggle with breastfeeding, to bond, or even have fears around gender – but we crack on because we have to.
The Last Taboo: Produced by Redzi Bernard and Phoebe McIndoe. A Falling Tree production for BBC Radio 4
Hurt People Hurt People goes round in our heads and we can’t risk our struggles being misunderstood as poor parenting. We want to be good parents. To break patterns, not be accused of causing further hurt. So we stay silent.
Here’s to all the CSA survivors doing their best to parent without the support they deserve. The ones doing their best to work it all out… to heal, to stop trauma passing to the next generation.
This is me; this is my story. But of course, it’s not just mine. This story has happened to and continues to happen to many people. The details may differ but the impact is devastating.
At best, we might experience feelings of shame, confusion or lack of self-worth. At worst, we might feel our lives are blighted by unbearable emotional distress or physical illness. A lack of support for Child Sexual Abuse survivors might lead some to develop coping mechanisms such as the ones described in this blog.
If you relate to anything here, I hope you are reassured to know that you’re certainly not alone. Navigating your way through life as a CSA survivor can feel overwhelming. At times, it might feel insurmountable, but it’s not. There is always hope. There is always a waythrough.
One of the biggest issues we face as survivors is the public attitude towards the subject of CSA and, by consequence, ourselves. The negative responses we receive are extremely silencing but perhaps that is the point. There is great comfort to be found in denial of a crime that affects an estimated 11 million adult survivors in the U.K.
When I started on this activism journey, I shared the manuscript of my book (the fairy-tale part) with many people, and the responses from a few were so shocking and unexpected, such a punch to the stomach, that I nearly gave up.
This tweet followed an interaction that left me feeling a bit tired. Despite the extraordinary estimated statistics of adult survivors in the U.K., CSA survivors are an isolated community. It is hard to come together as a group because people don’t want us. I remember years ago, trying to find a free venue for a local charity peer support group, so it could keep going despite funding cuts. I knocked on many doors: Churches, cafes, pubs, community centres and the message was loud and clear.
Our insurance won’t cover you (a church that hosted various community groups)
The elders have said it’s inappropriate (we were a small group of women, drinking tea and chatting, in private).
We don’t think it’s a suitable group for our church (a huge red flag in my opinion)
I have always had a thing about groups. I don’t like them, I don’t trust them. I have been wary of groups, ever since the time an eight year old girl with stocky legs and suspicious eyes accused me of laying eggs during a playground game of 4040. This was the worst crime imaginable in Year Four in 1985. Hand on hip, she stood back to watch as thirty indignant little girls and boys formed a menacing circle and she stared unblinkingly at me as I stood in the middle wondering how the world had suddenly turned so dark. Thirty shrill voices began their chant:
Lay-ing EGGS!, lay-ing EGGS!
It was untrue and unjust but I did nothing; I didn’t defend myself, didn’t shout, didn’t cry or tell a teacher, I just braced myself and waited for it to end.