Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Speaking out

I recently saw a thought provoking question on Twitter and felt the urge to answer. It said: “If you are a survivor of abuse, what might have helped you to tell someone sooner?” It is certainly a difficult question to answer because I can’t imagine how things might have been different for me. I was a very open, talkative child but still I stayed silent. Survivors of abuse carry a lot of shame and will therefore keep the secret to themselves for a long time, usually for as long as about 20 years. However, as a society it is within our power to change this pattern and ensure that children are protected and able to speak openly.

Firstly, I believe it is the responsibility of adults, such as parents, teachers and doctors, to be aware of behaviour in children and how it differs in those who are being abused. The next step would be to arrange a therapeutic intervention with a child that might enable disclosure; this could be made easier for children if they are educated on the topic of abuse and made to realise that it is wrong. Survivors of abuse will have a blurred understanding of abuse because they will probably have been lead to believe that it is normal. In my experience it was normalised so in my childhood I didn’t actually know that what was happening to me was wrong. 

I say this a lot, but education is key. We can’t expect children to speak out if they haven’t been educated about abuse. And even if they are aware of it, they still may not wish to disclose if they have feelings of guilt and shame. At the same time, professional adults who work with children also need to have a better understanding of the effects of abuse; it might only take one conversation with a child to discover what is happening behind closed doors. It is then equally important that the child is listened to, believed and that action is taken to stop any further harm to the child. 

In my experience, it has helped to speak with other abuse survivors because we tend to understand and relate to each other. As a result of comments I have had on this blog, I know that my writing has also helped others to know they are not alone and to feel inspired to heal. Therefore, I know that I must keep writing about the topic. However, this has all happened in my adult life when it has certainly not been too late but I can see that my life has been affected as a result of the abuse. Therefore, it is essential that we help children from a young age so that they may lead better lives than a lot of us who had to suffer in silence for years. The silence needs to be filled with education, support and understanding.