Healing Our Past Experiences
Self-help and support services for adult survivors of childhood and or adult sexual abuse
Charity reg no1119389.
Society as a whole finds any type of sexual abuse an uncomfortable subject to deal with. We all see the headlines ‘man jailed for rape attack’, ‘internet pedophile ring uncovered’, ‘parents in child porno scandal’. We are all appalled at what the victims have gone through and rage at what these monsters did. But do we ever stop to think about the effect this has on the child as it grows up, or the impact the abuse has on the rest of an individual’s life after being raped or sexual abused? Do we wonder about the rape victim years down the line and the effect of the experience in every avenue of their lives? Do we know the impact these crimes have on society?
The men and women coming to HOPE are the forgotten victims of childhood sexual abuse and /or violence, adult sexual abuse and or violence and /or rape at any age. It has been proved that the abuse can lead to a wide range of serious emotional, family and social problems. There is also a strong correlation between sexual abuse of any kind and alcohol, drug and other addictions, as well as emotional and/or mental health and sexual problems. The cost of this personally and to society is enormous. These men and women often face disbelief when they try to tell what has happened to them. They have often been given inappropriate labels such as psychotic or personality disorder or simply been ignored. Many have been told by friend’s families and professionals” to get on with their lives” or “to just try to forget it “. This is very rarely possible.
Adults who were where sexually abused as children have usually been pressured into not talking about it and through a combination of fear, shame, guilt, embarrassment and the concern that no one will believe them they have kept the secret for many years. For many of the adults who have contacted us it is the first time they have disclosed their abuse, as many find it difficult to open up initially to someone who has not been abused.
Men often feel they may have the extra stigmas society puts on them e.g. loss of macho image. Men often feel that if they where abused by males that their sexuality is queried, if they where abused in childhood by females it is often thought they where ‘lucky’, so men often feel they can’t speak out.
Male survivors of childhood sexual abuse and male rape have until recently been the silent, unseen victims of sex crimes; often forgotten by the support services and legal system. Statistics are now showing about one in 5 adult rape victims are male. Male rape and sexual abuse does not only happen in prisons or to children, it also happens in people’s homes, parks, the army, children's homes; in fact male rape can happen almost anywhere. It also matters little how strong you are, it can happen to almost any male.
Many of the men and women who were sexually abused as children are now in their 30s 40s 50s and older, less was known then about the effects of sexual abuse in later life. Their experiences were often ignored or it was considered best not to talk about them and there were no confidential helplines like childline for them to turn to. So they have carried the guilt, shame and pain of what happened to them for many years which makes it all the more difficult to tackle.
Society as a whole finds child sexual abuse adult sexual abuse and rape an uncomfortable subject; this just reinforces the stigma and the feelings of guilt and shame which survivors experience.
Therefore these adults start the difficult healing process disadvantaged and needing encouragement and support especially from fellow survivors who have been through or are going through the disclosure, healing and recovery process.
In the short time since the HOPE groups have become known we have had many people, both male and female come forward asking for assistance with rape issues, many of these have been raped as adults, many as children. Some of those who have come forward have been confused as to what they were asking for help with, statements such as “I wasn’t sexually abused as a child, but I was raped when I was 12/14 “this is child abuse.
Many children where tricked into relationships as teenagers by adults. They thought they could trust and were loved by them. This causes even more confusion and guilt. Many didn’t know how to say no to adults and as a consequence ended up in situations they could not handle.
By raising awareness and reaching out to younger adults sixteen years and over we hope to avoid many of the long-term affects so that they can process their experiences earlier and head off future mental distress, and lessen its severity. Unfortunately, not facing up to abuse when it happens or shortly after, can make the symptoms more devastating and long term.
The majority of survivors do not get any regular support due to various factors - lack of therapy services, social ignorance and stigma. Survivors may not be able to access therapy /counselling when it is first recognised to be needed for them due to many factors e.g. underfunding of NHS therapy services, long waiting lists even in the voluntary and private sectors. HOPE aims to support these adults during this difficult time. We support individuals to access other professional services both statutory and voluntary if that is what they want. We continue that support throughout the healing process. The facilities within the centre offer survivors the chance to address many other problems which can be associated with sexual abuse, to learn new skills, discover their creativity, volunteer, and to feel an integral part of an innovative new project specifically designed for their particular needs.
It takes strength to be firm,
It takes courage to be gentle.
It takes strength to conquer,
It takes courage to surrender.
It takes strength to be certain,
It takes courage to have doubt.
It takes strength to fit in,
It takes courage to stand out.
It takes strength to feel a friend's pain,
It takes courage to feel your own pain.
It takes strength to endure abuse,
It takes courage to stop it.
It takes strength to stand alone,
It takes courage to lean on another.
It takes strength to love,
It takes courage to be loved.
It takes strength to survive,
It takes courage to live.
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