You see that subconsciously all of us, every day, live in hope. Hope for something or another. It may be fine weather; that the car will start, that we can pay the bills or our babies will be born healthy. Whatever it is any of us hope for, it is relevant and personal to us, in our lives at that moment and calls for respect.
Survivors of childhood sexual abuse or any form of abuse often rely on hope. Hope that tomorrow will be a better day. Tomorrow will be lighter. Tomorrow the sun will shine and the fog will lift. Tomorrow I will not need the substances. Tomorrow I will not self-harm. Tomorrow the abuse will stop. Tomorrow someone will listen, someone will hear, someone will protect me. Hope that the perpetrator will be stopped, someone will notice, someone will have courage to intervene. Hope that the justice system will act with integrity and upon the law. Hope that they have a future.
Survivors have to rely on the hope that one day we will break the silence and talk. They rely on the hope that very soon we will talk candidly, openly and honestly about childhood sexual abuse and child sexual exploitation. Hope that there will be no more judging and you will see and validate the person as a whole. Hope that you will believe and take time to help them unravel the trauma. Hope that the memories will fade and disappear; hope that the smell of their perpetrator will be no more and hope that they will one day not taste, feel or hear their perpetrator just for a day. Hope that the triggers and paranoia will stop. Hope for a safe and secure space to exist and rebuild. Hope to sleep all night with the windows open. You see the only way forward for a survivor is to hope.
We have to hope with confidence and strength. Hope with desire and anticipation. We have to hope with courage and rise up and beyond our fear. We have to use our voices to raise hope and when appropriate roar like a lion or whisper “we will try again tomorrow”. Let your faith and hope be bigger than your fear; take the first step even when you can’t see where the staircase leads. There has to be hope at the top of the staircase or there would be no point. We will take each step together with courage.
So Tuesday when I left the Southmead Project Conference in Bristol discussing The Cycle of Harm, I had hope, infinite hope. Hope that together, as survivors, we are stronger; stronger as an amazing group of people. Together our voices will be heard and we will continue to roar in high places. Hope that survivors are fighting back and the roar is beginning to be loud in the right dens. Hope that we have started down a road with no U-turn. Hope that people are now listening and we are being heard. Hope that we can’t and won’t be silenced. Hope for change for children. Hope that the silence has been broken and an inquiry will be heard with expert survivors advising.
You see, if as survivors we don’t have hope, we will continue to live with dejection, hopelessness and despair and that it not an option. Our only option is hope, our roar and strength together. Our voices will be heard and survivors will get justice; we have hope. So my dear friends and colleagues keeping shouting together with hope.