Children & Young People Opinion

Feeling heard: A voice for survivors of child sexual abuse

Marcia Samuels, Facilitator, Truth Project

More than 5,000 victims and survivors of child sexual abuse have shared their experience with the Truth Project, part of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse. In this blog, facilitator Marcia Samuels talks about her role in helping survivors through the process of sharing their account and the vital contribution their voices make in helping to better protect children in future.

“This was the first time I have told my story in any depth. To be listened to and properly heard was an empowering experience.”

The above words are from a victim and survivor of child sexual abuse who shared their experience with the Truth Project. For anyone, feeling heard is important, but for someone who may have not been listened to, or was disbelieved in the past, knowing that someone is there to hear their experience may be the first vital step on the road to recovery.

Ensuring that those who come forward feel they’ve been heard is something I feel strongly about – and something that I strive to support in my own role at the Inquiry. I work as a facilitator for the Truth Project, which provides survivors with a supportive opportunity to share their experiences and, if they wish, put forward suggestions for change.  We are continually working to ensure that all participants who want to share are able to do so. For example, we can provide additional support options for those who identify as neurodiverse and we have a specific service for those who are Deaf or hard of hearing.

As facilitators, our hope is to create an environment where survivors feel they have the freedom to talk about what happened to them. Every experience is different and we value every one.

“I was listened to, believed and understood.  I was given a voice and that is so very valuable. For the first time I feel truly hopeful that things might change for the better and maybe suffering will stop.”

One in 10 victims and survivors who have come forward to the Truth Project are speaking about what happened to them for the first time. Some have told us they were intending to take it to their grave because they were so ashamed or felt responsible. Others have shared because, although they did tell someone at the time, they were not believed. What’s clear is that they come to us to be heard, to be listened to, and to help make a difference. Their words go a long way; everyone who shares their experience makes an important contribution to the Inquiry’s work, helping to inform our recommendations to better protect children in future.

“I finally had the opportunity to have my voice heard.  This has been the most important thing in my healing journey.”

One of the most important aspects of the Truth Project is that those who take part can share as much or as little as they wish, in a way that works best for them. As facilitators, we’re not here to interrogate or judge someone. We simply listen.

Whilst the Truth Project will close during 2021, for now we are still here. For those who would like to share an account with us, you can write in, take part in a telephone session or video call where you will speak to someone like me, or we can arrange a session in person. We’ve introduced new measures to protect the wellbeing of participants who wish to share their account in this way, and you can find out full information about the different ways to share on the Truth Project website.

 

 

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