Suffolk: I live with the repercussions every day – survivor of abuse at the hands of Haley Dossor tells of his torment
09:45 18 December 2012
NO child should have to endure experiences similar to mine from anyone, let alone from someone who chooses to label their spiritual and ethical beliefs as Christian.
I live with the repercussions of what happened to me every day and the fact that the benefits and mental health services have on many occasions totally failed to provide me with the help that I am entitled to.
I am open to the Bishop and the wider church making good on the Bishop’s ‘apology’ and if they wish to do that they know where I am and how I can be contacted.
In the meantime I would like people to know that Nigel’s words are for the moment just that, words with no apparent compassionate actions behind them to give them any meaning.
What advice can I give other people who have had, or are having, similar experiences to me?
The first thing to stress is that you’re not alone.
The rest of what needs to be said must be addressed not to those going through it, but to the media, the government and wider society.
Everybody says to tell somebody, not to suffer in silence, but not everybody is safe to tell. Not everybody knows how to handle a disclosure of this nature.
If somebody tells you that they’ve been raped or abused, the best thing you can do is actively listen. The worst thing you can do is to apply pressure on the survivor to tell others who they are not yet ready to tell.
When people tell you they’re a war veteran with post traumatic stress disorder, there’s a certain amount of respect given to them.
When I tell people I’m a survivor of childhood abuse, most of what I get is pity.
The support services and counselling services for survivors of abuse, especially for male survivors, are woefully underfunded and difficult to access.
Organisations who work with vulnerable groups, like children and young people, need to realise that often the best people to spot potentially abusive situations are themselves survivors of abuse.
Getting more survivors involved with the process of preventing abuse is possibly the most empowering strategy that the government and other organisations can take.
I’d also like to tell a little bit of my own story, the story of coming to terms with my own vulnerability and placing the shame of what happened to me where it belongs – with Dossor and the adults who failed to protect me at the time.
Once I realised what happened to me was not my fault and was in fact abuse and that it was OK to tell people, I began to tell people.
I swung wildly between wanting everyone to know everything in one moment to wanting nobody to know anything in the next.
I would sometimes tell complete strangers just to see how it felt. Sometimes I would tell people I knew, too.
I think the thing I would most like to share are some of the responses I got. Some of the questions and comments that portray very black and white thinking on the part of the listener.
I have heard first hand all of the following statements from people I have disclosed to:
n Why didn’t you just fight him off?
n Why didn’t you tell someone?
n The same thing happened to me and you just need to deal with it.
n The same thing happened to me and I can tell you what you need to do.
n The same thing happened to me and it never affected me.
n The same thing happened to a friend of mine and she was never affected.
I have no idea where people learn these responses or what part of them makes them feel a response like this is appropriate. Female survivors often get the response “are you sure you didn’t do anything to lead him on?”
I think most people reading this would be horrified by these responses but they are alarmingly common. When a lot of people are told about rape or abuse, they feel an overwhelming need to fill the space following that disclosure, or they try to understand by questioning.
The truth is nobody will ever understand. I can relate to other survivors on a level that many therapists cannot but I will never understand what someone else’s experience felt like.
We are often brought up with the idea that if we can understand how someone feels, understand their situation we can better help them. While this is quite a noble sentiment “trying to understand” does not help.
If anyone reading this who is not a survivor takes one thing from this let it be simply this: If you don’t know what to say, say nothing, keep listening and just acknowledge what has been said.