The recent Jimmy Savile stories have disturbed my long-buried memories of being abused as a child. I am now wondering, should I do anything about this? Partly with regards to reporting my own abuse, in case he is a risk to others, and partly to get my own head straight. I still don’t like sex to this day, and I feel ashamed of my naked body. I find it hard to trust people in authority because deep down I expect them to misuse their position of power.
The whole nation talking about child sex abuse has empowered the many people out there who have never spoken about their own abuse to come forward and seek the help they need and deserve. It has raised people’s confidence that they will be responded to with belief and compassion. NSPCC 2012 statistics found that nearly a quarter of young adults (24.1%) experienced sexual abuse (including contact and non-contact) by an adult or by a peer during childhood, and almost one in ten children aged 11 to 17 (9.4%) have experienced sexual abuse in the past year.
In the first month of the Jimmy Savile stories coming to light, Lifecentre (the specialist service I am involved with for survivors of rape and sexual abuse) saw a 70% increase in people contacting us for help through face-to-face counselling. We had a 64% increase in hits on our website (lifecentre.uk.com). This is the silver lining to an otherwise horrifically dark cloud.
I would encourage you to start speaking to someone who can help you unravel the negative effects that have lived with you as a result of your childhood sexual abuse, in order that you can unlock past damage and reclaim your future as God intended it to be. It is never too late.
You are not alone in holding back – shame is an unfair silencer. According to the NSPCC, more than one in three children aged 11 to 17 (34%) who experienced contact sexual abuse by an adult did not tell anyone else about it. Four out of five children aged 11 to 17 (82.7%) who experienced contact sexual abuse from a peer did not tell anyone else about it. However, there is a new surge of survivors finding their voice at last. As you speak, the shame will gradually find its rightful place: at the feet of your abuser. This is not your shame or your fault; it was and is your abuser’s. Tell your story until you can see and feel this truth.
If you can talk with a counsellor, they can help you separate out reactions to your abuser from unfounded reactions to innocent and genuine people. When we bury dark experiences, they affect our responses to everything, becoming a dark lens through which we see the world. But as you acknowledge what you have suffered, you can ringfence these experiences to make them distinct and separate from the rest of you. You may also find that healthy development has been arrested. Catch up in developing healthy trust for good people. Catch up in developing a wonder and celebration of your physical body and your pure sexuality. Practice the wisdom of Philippians 4:8: ‘…whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.’
A major part of the horror of the Jimmy Savile story has not only been the prolifigacy and societal manipulation of his crimes, but also that we all let him get away with it. We cannot excuse ourselves by saying ‘that was a bygone era’, because the collusion in the cover-up continued right through to his death at the end of 2011. Clearly people everywhere knew to various levels of depth that his behaviour was inappropriate, yet nobody managed to do anything decisive.
It is important that you do everything within your power to check that your abuser is no longer a risk to children. The most direct way to achieve this is to put it in the hands of the police. Even if there is not enough evidence now to prosecute your case, at least as a result of the investigation it will be on file that he has been reported for the crime of child sex abuse. To find out more about reporting to the police, see the ‘police info’ section on the Lifecentre website.
I am excited for you as you dig into your healing journey now. You will find a sense of freedom and being clean that you probably can’t yet imagine.