One of my reasons for returning to study is that I would like to set up an organisation whose sole purpose is peer support for adults (both women and men) who experienced abuse as a child.
After making the decision to take action instead of remaining silent, I sought answers to all the questions I had about going through the legal process, as well as general questions relating to whether I was ‘normal’. I wanted to know, for instance, what happened during the legal process, how I could help ensure the safety of my step-mother, how I could help ensure the safety of others at risk from my father, how do you write a victim impact statement, how do I keep functioning when all I want to do is fall into oblivion…
First I approached one of the most prominent organisations in Queensland for victims of child sexual abuse. Their reply was, “I’m so sorry to hear about what you have been through, and particularly what has happened for you and your family recently. Breaking the silence about child sexual assault is very difficult for victims and dealing with the impacts of this takes a lot of courage…” which sounded promising, but they then went on to advise they were unable to assist me, and had I heard of this other organisation that was based interstate.
On contacting the said interstate organisation, I was again advised, “sorry, we can’t help you.”
I was blessed to have one of the most amazing human beings, in the form of a detective, looking after my case, and following his suggestion, I contacted an organisation that supports victims of crime. I received a number of fact sheets in the mail that contained all the information I was already aware of, and no specific information that could help me find the answers I was looking for.
I felt totally alone.
Yet again it seemed as though I was going to have to fight hard to get through the living hell I was experiencing, and to do it under my own steam and initiative. I was so tired of fighting.
I was extremely lucky to have a circle of family and friends that supported me, but there was only so much they could do. Unfortunately, they were as much in the dark about what was happening and what was coming my way as I was. I knew no-one who had already ‘been there’ to help guide me and keep me in touch with my sanity.
At my lowest point, my partner quite strongly advised I should call Lifeline. Very reluctantly, I did.
For an hour there was a person, a total stranger, at the other end of the phone, trying to help me hang on to the small thread of strength inside me that wanted to live.
The degree of difficulty in telling my story, yet again, to a total stranger, can not be described in words – it is something you have to experience to really understand. However, I am so glad that I managed it, and I am ever so grateful to that person who did not judge me, who did not tell me I was stupid for wanting to die, and who helped me onto the path of understanding just how much I really wanted to live.
Within hours of that conversation, I received a call from a family member who was having severe difficulties of their own. My immediate reaction was to go to their aid. My partner was concerned about me doing so, given that only hours before he had taken me to the hospital in a suicidal state.
What I came to understand, however, was that helping other people also helped me. Listening to their perspective helped me see my problems from a different point of view. Understanding how they were impacted by the environment I grew up in allowed me to start putting the pieces of me back together.
From this small beginning, I became determined that one day I would create an organisation that would not turn people away if they needed someone to talk to. A safe place in which people could share their stories and help each other help themselves. Somewhere people could contact others who had similar experiences that could shed some light on how you get through it – can you really get out of the darkness?
This organisation is still my dream. Every day I am working towards it.
What I am finding, however, is that there is already an amazing peer support circle in existence – it can be found through blogging!
There are some incredibly courageous souls out there who are breaking the silence and sharing their experiences in online blogs. Some are just starting the healing journey, some are in the deepest depths of darkness, and others are emerging on the other side of ‘hell’ and finding there really is light in the world after all.
The stories that I read, the people I converse with, and the information I am gathering has been amazing. Strong, brave, men and women, are already out there, selflessly and unconsciously providing peer support for others.
You are all my unsung heroes, and I salute you! Please keep writing, no matter how alone you feel, because I assure you, you are not alone, and the things that you write about are, and have been, experienced by others. Your blogs not only help break the silence, they provide hope for others along the way.