Trigger Warning – Rape, Self Harm, Child Abuse, Alcholism, Scuicide, Over Dose
About a month ago – I was sitting in a cafe in my home town. It’s not one I like, in fact I actively dislike it. It is far to expensive and doesn’t serve drinks I like. But I went there to work, it has a good quiet and calm atmosphere. After procrastinating I open a document I am working on. ‘Principles of supporting young people in relation to sexual health and the risk of pregnancy’. It’s actually really interesting. But I had hit a wall, something I couldn’t answer. I hoped going to this new environment would help. I opened up the NSPCC website and found the information I needed.
And then I started crying.
It wouldn’t stop.
I was crying as I left the cafe. I got on a bus a spent the evening at my ex’s house, as she was the only one who understood why.
I work with young people, which means I need to have a knowledge of safeguarding. Safegaurding is when you think a young person is at risk, being abused, or a danger to themselves or others you must report this. To whom you report it to depends on your work and where you are in your organisation. The concern will be escalated to the right people, such as social services, a safeguarding lead (person in charge) of your organisation. Safegaurding happens EVERYWHERE, and applies to those 18 years and younger.
I have been working with young people for some time but it was not until recently that my understanding of laws and procedures improved. It was also around this time that I started to recognise and deal with my own abuse.
You probably didn’t know about this. Until now only my therapist and my ex girlfriend did. And that’s not because I wanted to keep it a secret, it was because I didn’t recognise it for the abuse it was.
A few weeks earlier – I am at a work, for a study day. I have the same document open. I ask my manager for help with a question. He says the words ‘sexual abuse’, and I start crying. Why do you have to cry Alex? Why can’t you stop?
I am at my parents house, and I find a diary from when I was 16 years old. I read it hesitantly, knowing I had mental health problems. But it’s all fine. Then I find something, and it’s not fine, somthing I apparently made myself forget. It’s not the biggest deal. But to me, to have a missing memory, to realise how much I re-wrote my past. It’s really scary.
Here is a short time line of how safeguarding failed me –
About 14 years old – I tell a teacher I am self harming. I end up seeing the school doctor, who says ‘I am like a smoker who wants to quit but isn’t quite there yet’. Soon later my parents find out. I assumed the school told them. I found out about a month ago it was my best friend. I continue to self harm on and off until I am 23.
About 15 years old – I start doing musical theatre with a company full of adults and only a few people my age. We are supposed to have chaperones but don’t. Even though many of us have family in the cast, we are still supposed to have them. I thought this was great, I didn’t want to be followed around and patronised.
About 16 years old – I am touched and communicated with inappropriately by an older man in a show I am in. There are no chaperones. He has known me since I was 15, and clearly waited until I was 16. My diary tells me details about this time I had forgotten.
About 20 years old – I am at my first university and very mentally ill. For some reason I am called into a meeting with three of my tutors. One of them says that they ‘bet I blame my therapist for my problems’. They do not refer me to anyone else or any other support within the university.
OK break from the timeline.
13 Reasons Why SPOILERS
I was watching 13 reasons why, which I very much enjoyed. Well, enjoyed is an odd word. But I got a lot out of it. I watch the extra segment at the end, and one of the creators says something that hits home. He say’s
‘The challenge for Hannah is that she would have had to have the strength to describe what happened to her and the courage and determination to label it as rape, to get [the councillors] attention. And she was not able to do that. And that is not her fault. Sexual assault comes with so much shame, on top of the pain, on top of the violation, that for victims to talk about it is incredibly hard …’
And something that had been going around in my head cam to the surface. And I decided I needed to have the courage and the determination. So I called someone and told them, before I became to scared to say it.
Back to the timeline.
About 23 years old – I am raped. I thought it was just sex I wasn’t that into, but looking back it is not. I drank a lot to get through the sex. I drank a lot after as well. I take two over doses that year. The hospital refers me to no one.
Even though in some of these later incidents I am over 18, it was still the institutions responsiblity to look out for me. And they didn’t.
I have been reading and watching a bit about child abuse cases, and it made me realise, it’s ok that we were failed. Obviously I don’t mean it’s ‘ok’, like it was fine it happened. Stay with me. There are hundreds of us that were and continue to be failed. And we did nothing to deserve that. Either our service wasn’t working well, or we weren’t noticed. But it’s not because we aren’t worthy, it’s not because we don’t matter and it’s not because our problems are too small. I don’t know why it is, but it was nothing to do with us.
Now when the organisations I work with take safeguarding so seriously, sometimes, oddly it makes me feel sad. Because I wonder what could have happened if I had that support.
With out it I have been left with a career in jeopardy because I become upset when sexual abuse is mentioned. I have a history of problems, that may have been a little shorter if I had been safeguarded. But now, again I need the courage and the determination to keep talking about these things and be part of these conversations, so that I can do my job effectively.
A couple of weeks ago – I have to leave the room while grooming is discussed. I cry so much. Please. Stop. Crying.
I shared this I think so that people understand their rights. So they see there are people out there who care and are effected deeply by safegaurding. And to get it out there. The more I talk the less scary it it. The less I’ll cry. Hopefully.
Go forward with courage and determination.
Thank you so much for reading.