I attended a conference on Breaking the Cycle: Love and Laughter after Abuse, called together by the National Association for People Abused in Childhood (NAPAC) in London on September 13th.
There were about 35 present, mainly survivors of abuse. It was a good conference.
Peter Saunders, founder of NAPAC, kicked off. He is a survivor. Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) is a ubiquitous problem, and we cannot arrest our way out of it. Speaking out as survivors of CSA are now doing does help to protect children.
He had a meeting with Jeremy Hunt, who assured him that he is going to guarantee that survivors received adequate help.
Peter set up NAPAC in 1995, soon after he spoke out. He recounted an anti therapeutic reaction from his then therapist, who jabbed her finger at him, asking if he enjoyed it, and why he did not speak out at the time.
NAPAC needs volunteers and funds. He mourned the fact that we give large amounts of charity to an animal sanctuaries and less to help children, even though the same kind of people abuse both children and animals.
Chris Tuck spoke next. She is a survivor of abuse and neglect, who chose to be a successful accountant, and now a life and fitness coach, helping survivors with mindset, nutrition and fitness. She is author of a book, "Through the eyes of a child". She talked about the fight/flight/freeze reaction to threat, and detailed the impacts of CSA on the child's subsequent life.
what do we all need to do about CSA?
Survivors need to be taught parenting skills, since they do not have a good model to build on.
Survivors need to accept themselves, look after themselves, and get help.
Society needs to be vigilant, listen to children.
Government needs to set up a single reporting, education and aftercare of survivors agency.
Abusers need therapy (RL: especially young adults so that they can get help as soon as they become aware of their inclination).
Ann Stewart serves on a Metropolitan Police Child Protection Team. She recalled one case where she worked for months on a case, only to hear a judge throw it out because "it was all too long ago". This was before the days when DNA evidence, which works years after the crime, was commonplace.
She described the Code of Practice for Victims http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20130128103514/http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/documents/victims-code-of-practice2835.pdf?view=Binary which is a useful resource for anyone giving evidence.
Vulnerable, intimidated or persistently targeted victims can give evidence in Special Measures.
Dino Nocivelli is a solicitor specialising in CSA.
"Historic" abuse is a misnomer. It is just abuse.
Survivors can sue the person who did the abuse, or the organisation the person was working for, or the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority.
98% of abusers settle out of court.
The action must be brought before the victims is 21 years old.
Wendy Capewell is a counsellor specialising in CSA. She stressed the message "It Is Not Your Fault", and "You Are Not The Only One".
She mentioned that sometimes there is physiologically-based pleasure during the abuse which compounds the distress of the victim.
Jenni Steele is an ambassador for Domestic Violence UK. There was a bit of discussion of whether domestic violence should be renamed unhealthy relationship. She described how she was sucked into such a relationship, and how she escaped and created a life for herself as a radio show host.
Te judgment of others tends to drive an unhealthy relationship further and further into itself.
I commented on an impression I formed over one extreme case of DV which suggested to me that the dominant partner seems almost to control the will of the abused partner, making it very difficult for the abusee to decide finally to escape.
Ian Royce (Roycey) gave a vivid account of his life, being brought almost to suicide by low self esteem until he decided to change with determination and help. He changed many of his life habits, even down to which sock to put on first.
Stephan Pierre Mitchell was the big rocket to round off the pyrotechnic show. He is a young actor/director/writer, and his career is one to watch.
His mother gave birth to him in Romania and promptly abandoned him, so he was raised in a Romanian orphanage along with children suffering from disabilities and terminal cancer. He began each day by being grateful that his only disability was having a brown skin. Eventually UNICEF discovered him, fortuitously knew where his mother lived in France, and took him there. His mother had moved to Nigeria. He went to live with her. She did not meet him at the airport, which was a bit of a disappointment for the kid. He was taken across country to his mother's house which she shared with a brutal controlling husband who beat her and Stephan with great assiduity. He ran away, crossed Nigeria in a bus which broke down in the jungle, reached Lagos, and had to live in the slum. Each day he woke in a state of gratitude that he had his life. He persuaded the French Embassy to give him a passport, went back to France, then to find his father in London (not welcome), sent to Barbados to be with his gran (happy times) then came to Newcastle, to study first Law, then switching to the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama.
Stephan Pierre Mitchell is an amazing example of what we can do if we do not allow ourselves to get attached to the negative aspects of things that happen to us. He lets the past go because we cannot change our past. But we can only change our future, by making choices in the present.
Stephan has a special superpower that allows him to let go of negativity. We ordinary mortals need to use Phyllis Krystal's Cutting the Ties that Bind technique http://www.krystal.cnchost.com/ to bring about this happy condition. I hope that this tool will will become widely used among the survivor community.
Carl Jung said "I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become".
In conclusion this was an inspiring conference. The take home messages were clear:
Survivors need to cast aside the guilt and shame which belong to the abusers, not survivors.
Nearly all victims need to realise that they are not alone, not he only one this has ever happened to.
Leave the past behind and look to the future. You cannot change the past, but you can change the future.
Finally,there is a definite social change happening, where survivors are opening up the locked away history that has been ruining their lives. They are finding power and a community of fellow survivors and helpers. Child abuse has thrived in the past on secrecy and denial. Now it is out in the open, the abusers power is diminished.