There is a lot of hurting in the world. Sometimes it seems that the older I get, the more I hear about people’s suffering from when they were children. Maybe people from my generation, my friends, have more of a forum to talk about it now, in ways they couldn’t before. Maybe professional organisations are asking questions about past experiences now, in ways they didn’t before.
I’ve certainly noticed an increased openness to talk about historical abuse over the last five to ten years. The various investigations into the Catholic Church in different countries, Australia’s Royal Commission into child sexual abuse- its findings and recommendations, the #MeToo movement… they’ve all been pivotal in creating the space and the language to talk about it more openly than ever before.
This is good except for one thing: the extent of the hurt which is being exposed, incorporating the extent of the dysfunction that many survivors continue to live with- and the negative effect it has had, and continues to have, on their lives.
A common saying about caregivers, usually in the context of forgiveness for their lack of (appropriate) action, is “They were doing the best they could, with the tools (skills and knowledge) they had at the time”. This is true to a large degree but it falls way short in two key areas: when the same caregivers who should have protected someone are also the perpetrators of violence against them; and in its failure to include the addendum: “And so were you”.
The most vulnerable have the smallest, weakest voices and it’s great to see that these people are at last getting the platforms to be heard. Inside every one of us is our Little Child and if that is still damaged, so will the Adult be.
So to my fellow survivors I say: acknowledge the enormity of what you have achieved just to be here today! Recognise your achievements in holding down a job, a relationship, bringing up children… all the things which may seem routine and expected, but nevertheless are not easy to achieve in the transition from victim to survivor.
I send out the challenge: let us- who know from the inside what it’s like to be shut down, to have no voice- let us be the ones to open our hearts, our ears and our minds to those who need it now. Let us be the ones to step up and say, I will stand beside you and I am here for you. Let us- who know from personal experience how vital it is to have an advocate in a time of trauma- let us be the ones to offer our hands of friendship to those still lost, and struggling, in the dark.
Let us stand up for good.
Check out this Reverse Poem: going downwards it reads in victim-mindset, going upwards it reads in survivor mindset. Very clever!