There’s been a lot of talk about historic abuse and victims coming forward after decades of silence. It’s made worldwide media since Hollywood got involved, but I’ve been hearing comments since the notorious Jimmy Saville.
Taxi drivers have ranted in my ear about women just wanting compensation and making up stories and now a leader of a large country has also felt the need to dismiss women who ‘suddenly remember’ their abuse.
It’s not that women wake up one morning and after 30 years thought, oh, I just remembered!
They remember every sodding day. It’s not that they’ve never told anyone either, it’s just that we haven’t told the right person.
We tell counsellors who ask us how we feel, we’ve told friends who have hugged us and said nothing, we’ve told people as kids but not by using words, and we’ve told other survivors who’ve then decided to tell us their story. But suddenly after years of telling others we decide to tell the police.
For me, it happened this Summer.
I was on holiday, thankfully the last day of my holiday because it ruined any chance of enjoyment.
I was chatting to a fellow church member who happened to attend a church I went to when I was a teenager. You know how it goes, you meet someone who has a place in common and you begin the ritual of listing names of people to see who you have in common.
“Do you know … ?”
“Yes, they’re really funny”
“Do you know … ?”
“Yes, her dads a perv isn’t he?”
And that’s how it happened, a conversation of how a man has been grabbing women and getting away with it for 30 plus years. Most recently, a woman in his church who publicly shamed him.
We chatted about how many women there could be, why the church wouldn’t just kick him out (apparently because he’d just go do it at another church). Whether finally meeting a woman who shouted at him publicly would stop him and how in truth, we doubted it.
We went our separate ways, but the conversation for me didn’t end. I was 14 when it happened to me, a mouthy teenager, but that was no excuse. I was furious that it was still happening that in all these years the church hadn’t stopped him.
I spoke to a church leader who advised me to speak to someone (they meant someone else, anyone else, just not them!) so I did.
The Manchester police website has a chat room, so I started there. Within minutes I was chatting to a woman online when she said someone was going to phone. A few minutes later I was on the phone with an officer who wanted an official statement.
Leeds police took the statement a few weeks ago. Coming out of that interview was perhaps one of the most freeing feelings I’ve experienced.
I wasn’t asked endlessly about my feelings like in counselling. There was no telling me that I’m just trying to cause trouble like when I tried reporting a similar situation to a minister, or the time a youth worker asked for the incident to be put in writing then filed the accusation in a drawer.
For the first time it was like handing it over to someone who was going to take the responsibility from me.
Of course, the man denied it, he can return to his church and try to get back to normal, and to some it’ll feel like he got clean away with it. But he knows that he’s been caught. His church knows he’s been caught and the police will continue to seek others he assaulted. The police didn’t arrest him because he’s innocent, but because at the moment, there is just my word.
The problem is, he isn’t alone, I grew up in an environment surrounded by men and abuse was rife. You know, my years of fear about speaking out has been broken.
It seems like that was just a rehearsal for tomorrow.
I’ve not been able to go to church for quite a while because it’s too close to home sitting in church feeling that the church let me down as a child. I live alone and I’m self employed, so I work alone, I’ve gone whole weeks without seeing another human and at times it’s brought me so close to the edge that I’ve had to use every bit of energy to keep going.
I’m usually the kind of person who doesn’t ask for help, doesn’t tell people when I’m struggling, and yet here I am telling the world, but I’ve learnt that if I’m going to get through this, I need to change how I am and I must start telling people and asking for help.
It was while searching online for possible help in case I needed it that I came across a government inquiry into abuse in institutions. In for a penny in for a pound I felt and since I’ve started telling the right people, why stop?
So tomorrow I head off for two days to give my statement which will eventually go towards advising the government on abuse. The statement also goes to the police who will decide whether to take matters further, but since the most prolific abuser from my childhood committed suicide after I eventually told him I’d tell someone, I doubt it’ll go far.
I’m sure some will question why now or wonder whether it’s worth it with the stress this is causing me, but years of not coming forwards haven’t done much for me, perhaps finally doing so will.
Sorry it’s not a post about knitting or dolls. Here’s a picture of my cat to make up for it.