In March, a wonderful thing happened. Amanda, a lovely lady who had attended a previous school training, got in touch to let me know she had decided to run the Surrey Half Marathon to raise money for The Flying Child.
I was blown away by this. We are a Community Interest Company which means we are nonprofit and do rely on funding, and so for someone to choose us as their cause, meant such a lot to us.
Around this time we ordered some marketing materials for the organisation, and T-shirts for us as a team. We had recently publicly announced our new tagline…
“Society’s Shame Not Mine”
…and wanted to wear our T-shirts for our events but also to encourage much needed conversations about Child Sexual Abuse when out and about in everyday life.
We had a few comments on social media and private messages, asking if we would sell the T-shirts, and so when I met with Amanda to say thank you for the incredible £367.23 raised, we decided buying T-shirts would be a great way to spend the money.
We had given a lot of thought to the original design. My dilemma was the words. One of the biggest problems we have in society is that people shy away from using the actual words. The acronym ‘CSA’ feels ‘safer’ but this can exacerbate stigma. Despite this, we decided the acronym ‘CSA’ is as valid as the words: ‘Child Sexual Abuse’ – for three reasons.
Firstly, as a survivor I remember how painful I found it – how impossible to say the words. I would have preferred to wear a T-shirt, or a badge that ‘said it’ without ‘saying it’. That would have felt far more comfortable for me.
Secondly, I want people to feel comfortable wearing the T-shirts around young children. I do believe children should be aware of the term, mine are – but I choose not to subject them to the words every moment I’m with them. I would also not want to walk into a school playground with the full words on show, and expose them to other children, without context.
The third reason is because I’ve noticed a curious thing happens when wearing something that ‘says it’ without ‘saying it’. People start to ask what it’s saying.
What does CSA stand for? people ask me. And I tell them, and the conversation, the one that never really happens, begins: What is it for? Where do you work? What does The Flying Child do… how did you get into that work… oh, you’re a survivor… I didn’t know… oh the statistics are that bad…? and so on.
Before they know it, people have had a whistle-stop tour of the societal issue that they might otherwise have remained blissfully unaware of: They engaged in a conversation that might never have happened. Had they seen ‘Child Sexual Abuse’ on my T-shirt, would they have spoken to me about the T-shirt? Possibly some might, but I know many would not. They would have avoided me, avoided my eye, and the opportunity to talk would have been lost.
So… there is absolute merit in using both. We need the real words out there because when we are used to seeing it it lowers the taboo and takes away some of the fear that makes many turn away … but we also need to gently coerce people into conversations that otherwise might not happen.
We will therefore be offering T-shirts that both ‘say it’ and don’t ‘say it’. They will be FREE (we ask you pay for postage and packing), and available on a first-come, first-served basis and we hope you wear them, as we do, with pride – and spread the message that Child Sexual Abuse is “Society’s Shame, Not Mine”
(Please check our social media @TheFlyingChild for T-shirt announcments!)