It wasn't me
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Most of you will have seen the news of new sexual abuse revelations lately. It seems that there are very few celebrities left from the Seventies and Eighties whose reputations as wholesome family entertainers remain intact.
Add to this the allegations that politicians either knew or were involved in a paedophile ring during the same time period and we can see that secrets have been kept and details swept under the carpet.
It’s not just powerful politicians and celebrities who abuse though. As a child victim of sexual abuse – ironically at the same time when I was dreaming of Jim fixing it for me – I can say from first hand experience that it can, and does, happen to anyone.
I was sexually, physically and emotionally abused over a six year period and can honestly say that I never once thought of going to the police or telling a teacher – I didn’t even know what social services were. I felt totally alone and my abuser did a fantastic job of convincing me that it was normal, whilst being clever enough to scare me into not telling anyone ‘our little secret’.
It was something that was never talked about - I was never asked by a teacher if ‘everything was ok at home’ – nobody noticed what I was going through. Either that or they chose to ignore what was happening and by the time ChildLine was introduced in 1986 my ordeal was over and I decided to try and move on without seeking help from anywhere.
As a young adult I really struggled at times – he’d convinced me that I was to blame and for a long time I was a little messed up to say the least. I did consider going to the police but could never pluck up the courage so I can completely understand those who were abused and taken advantage of who didn’t come forward.
It’s a strange feeling being scared of someone who is no longer in your life. The power that he had over me as a child somehow stayed with me for the next 15 years. It wasn’t until I reached my thirties that I finally saw the light; it wasn’t me – it was him.
It’s nearly 30 years since the abuse ended but I can still remember his piercing eyes, nicotine stained fingers and beer breath. It doesn’t bother me anymore and I talk openly about my experiences in the hope that by doing so I can give others the strength to realise (sooner than I did) that it is the abuser at fault – not the abused.
I never sought help, I’m not saying that I didn’t need it – I just didn’t know it was there.
It’s taken me a very long time to be happy with who I am but things could have been so different. If the signs had been noticed (or acted upon) by just one person; if there had been systems in place to help me; if I had been able to approach an adult with the confidence that they would actually believe me I may have been able to escape my ordeal sooner. I would still have been scarred by the abuse, but maybe not as much – six years is a pretty long time, especially in a child’s life.
Things are very different today – although abuse still exists people are more aware of the signs and how to help those too vulnerable to help themselves. Organisations like the NSPCC do a fantastic job of raising awareness and the Survivors Trust offer help and support to victims of rape or sexual abuse but there is still more to be done. It’s all well and good being more aware of the signs of abuse – but it’s what you do about it that matters.
We’ve all got a role to play in keeping children safe – please make sure that you play your part.
I’ve written more about the abuse that I suffered as a child on my personal blog – to read this (potentially upsetting) piece please click here. (Note- Steve's account is very personal and very intimate, and as such, you may find his blog upsetting).