Survivor of sexual abuse as a girl makes impassioned plea in open letter to Theresa May
By Becky | 13 January 2015
“The only thing worse than living a life without hope is to be given that hope only for it to be excised”
Dear Theresa May,
You may have heard a small part of my story. I appeared in a report on Channel 4 News recently. I am one of the 70 survivors who, at a “listening meeting”, met the panel for the overarching inquiry into child sex abuse.
I could not speak at the meeting. I felt threatened by the power plays of a small faction, and taken aback by some of the verbal attacks by these people on some of the panel members.
Sexual abuse was my normality from the age of three or four. I was not aware that it was abuse until much later. When I was aware of it, I still did not believe that I had the right or the opportunity to escape it. There have been many times when I wished I was dead. It took two years of professional involvement to begin to challenge these beliefs enough for me to escape. Last year, I did.
It was my counsellor who suggested that I engage in the inquiry. It was to be an exercise in empowerment.
I fear the police because they featured in some of my earlier abuse, laughed at me as a teenager and put me in danger in my later years.
Authority has always turned me away or removed my control.
So when two of the panel members approached me after the meeting, I was unsure.
Their honesty about their own experiences, work and passion in this area impressed me during the meeting. In talking to them afterwards, I felt a reassurance of their commitment to the survivors, and a beginning of trust. That in itself was a huge step forward for me.
I began to engage via e-mail shortly afterwards. I received very encouraging and supportive replies.
For the first time, I was able to tell the truth of what happened to me as a child and a teenager, and not be attacked or shut down. While I was aware that there was a small section of survivors that had concerns about the panel, the general feeling by the end of the meeting was of support for it, even from some of those who were originally opposed.
Media reports appeared about a letter with 60-plus signatures from campaigners and a small number of survivors who opposed the panel. But I immediately realised that these were not signatures of those who had attended the meetings and met the panel.
I am sure that there are a great many more than 60 survivors who support the panel.
In the Press coverage, one man said that he had not met any survivor who had any confidence in the process and panel. But he did not ask me or the others like me who had engaged with it.
The voices that grew noisier in the media claim to represent survivors. They do not. If anything, they are becoming like the people who have silenced me all my life.
They speak with an authority that has been stolen from us. It is this group that is full of confidence in themselves that is being listened to, but what about the opinions of the rest of us? Where are the vocal women?
For all abuse survivors, there will never be a panel with which we all agree.
It is extremely hard for abuse sufferers to trust, but panel members have shown their commitment and are what we need: people who will fight for us, even if it makes them unpopular.
The news before Christmas that the Home Office was likely to disband the panel has deeply affected me.
I have learnt that the only thing worse than living a life without hope is to be given that hope, only for it to be excised.
So where do I go from here, home secretary, when you announce that the panel is to be disbanded?
Without hope, what is left? If this panel ends, I will not be engaging with another one.
How could I trust again when even this promise can be broken so easily? The first voice of the inquiry would have been silenced. How many will follow?
Becky (not her real name) is a survivor of child sex abuse.
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