Recovery is possible for adult survivors
The two-year extension of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, recently announced by the Abbott government, brings hope for real and sustained change for the estimated five million adult survivors of childhood trauma and abuse. Now the Royal Commission has the added time and resources to follow-up with the particular institutions at the centre of investigations of child sexual abuse, stop such instances from recurring and assess the mechanisms they have enacted to compensate their victims.
In our work, supporting adult survivors of childhood trauma and abuse, ASCA can only applaud the compassionate way the Royal Commission has borne witness to the thousands of survivors who have provided testimony and the forensic way in which the alleged institutions are being investigated.
The Royal Commission, which has now been extended to December 2017, provides survivors of child sexual abuse an opportunity to find the support they need to rebuild their lives. Also, victims and their families have the possibility to access just, equitable and appropriate redress schemes and the children of today have an opportunity for a safe and secure future.
While ASCA’s focus is supporting adult survivors of trauma and abuse, we stress the importance of a detailed response for survivors of all forms of abuse, neglect and trauma, whether it is in their past or present. Victims of institutional abuse as well as those abused within the home or neighbourhood, both young and old, must also be acknowledged and supported on path to recovery.
While we are at the beginning of a very long journey to address the stigma of child abuse in society, the Royal Commission has given victims a voice and an opportunity to be heard and validated. ASCA’s national awareness day, Blue Knot Day, on October 27, will help to further reduce the stigma. It is a day for all Australians to unite and spread the message of hope and optimism – that survivors can and do recover.
Singer and songwriter, ASCA Ambassador and survivor, Rose Parker, is one such person who strongly believes recovery is possible. Rose has aided her own recovery through music and writing – she has found putting her experiences into words and “sending them into the universe”, has been immensely therapeutic. However, she does not deny that much of her recovery has also been achieved through sheer determination and grit.
Rose said: “My life fragmented into pieces when I was three – my father was an alcoholic and my mother suffered from chronic mental illness so the state took me away and placed me in care.”
Rose lived in two children’s homes and in four foster families, including a weekend respite family where she attests that she and her sister were sexually abused over a period of four years. At the age of 15, she went to live with her half-sister Carol. “This was a place where I didn’t need to hide anymore, where I could disclose my abuse,” she said, remembering the enormous sense of relief at finally feeling safe.
“For a long time I had behaved like a ballerina in a jewellery box. I had to be good and look pretty and twirl when people wanted me to, just so I would receive their approval and their care. When I was in the thick of it I remember feeling angry about how much effort was needed to climb the mountain – I didn’t want it to take so long, I just wanted to get over it, to feel normal.”
Rose doesn’t sugar-coat the recovery process and is honest about the amount of work involved. After high school she enrolled at university to study occupational therapy, a discipline rooted in health sciences and psychology. These days, Rose says she has made it to the other side: “It feels good to be able to look back at where I have come from and know my hard mountain climbing days are over,” she said.
Many survivors, like Rose, show remarkable courage and resilience. However, many are still struggling day-to-day with the fundamental sense of who they are and where they fit in the world. People who have experienced childhood trauma fill our mental health appointment schedules, hospitals, detox units, homeless shelters, welfare queues and gaols. Others may seem to function well but feel empty inside, battle feelings of isolation, insecurity and shame, low self-esteem, and struggle to mediate their emotions and relationships.
Join with ASCA this Blue Knot Day to unite in support of the estimated five million Australian adult survivors of childhood trauma and abuse. Help us to help survivors recover and donate now to http://www.givenow.com.au/blueknotday.
An ecumenical prayer service will be held at the Pitt Street Uniting Church (264 Pitt St, City) on Saturday November 1, 10.30am. This is a public event for all who want to grieve with and for those who have been betrayed and wounded.
For support call ASCA’s Professional Support Line on 1300 657 380 Mon-Sun 9am-5pm or visit www.asca.org.au for more information. ASCA is the leading national organisation working to improve the lives of Australian adults who have experienced childhood trauma and abuse.
Dr Cathy Kezelman is President of Adults Surviving Child Abuse (ASCA).