It has been an interesting time, to say the least. Two weeks have gone by since two newspapers (The Sunday Mirror and The Sun online) published my story of how I was abused as a child, how it could have destroyed my life but most definitely didn’t, and how I while I was having a mini breakdown I felt compelled to start writing a novel inspired by what happened to me, to be published next week, nearly 20 years later.
In the past two weeks I’ve mostly felt that talking about my own experience was the right thing to do, perhaps even the last step in the long journey of getting over what happened to me. It’s been quite an emotional two weeks. At first, I admit, I felt rather overwhelmed by all the publicity and wondered what the hell I’d let myself in for!
The Sunday the articles came out, I was worried about leaving the house in case anyone recognised me. (No-one looked at me any differently from usual, thankfully, when I went out for a walk.) A friend reminded me that a large proportional of writers have also had traumatic childhoods – probably most of the ones we know, in fact! – and a fair proportion of those have probably suffered abuse of some kind from a parent. So I’m in good company.
I was told that the article in The Sunday Mirror generated a ‘huge response’ online and an editor at the newspaper sent me an emotional message from a reader, saying how moved she was reading the article and thanking them for printing it. This one thing made me glad I’d taken the decision to share my own story.
I was less than pleased by a couple of things, though. Tabloids being what they are, accuracy is not their holy grail. My age somehow got increased by two years, which I was incensed by. I know, it’s a trivial thing, but still! (They corrected the online version after I complained.) A few other things weren’t quite right, and there was some overegging of what I actually said. One thing really irked me: the phrase ‘ruined my life’, though to be fair they did include what I said on how I’d got my life back together. Even 20 years ago, when I hit rock bottom and lay in bed for a few weeks wondering what there was to live for, I never believed my life had been ‘ruined’. I have never thought of myself as victim, and have tried hard to make the most of my life. Overall though the piece was very sensitively written, and I’m pleased it had such a strong response.
I was also pleased, of course, that the second article in The Sun mentioned my new book up front and used photos of me at the launch of BLIND SIDE, my debut novel. (Thanks, Rebecca Flood.)
Since the media coverage I’ve been touched by the support offered by many people on social media and in person, some whom have said they’ve felt inspired or moved by what I’ve done. This may spur me on to talk more widely in the media etc about the abuse in my childhood, and how its psychological impact became the driving force behind THE GIRL IN HIS EYES. I’ve also started the process of sharing my childhood experience with The Truth Project part of the inquiry into child sexual abuse. This week I had a long conversation with my support worker. (It’s all very thorough.) I recommend anyone who was sexually abused as a child to check out their website and consider contacting them. Hundreds of people have participated so far. (The police are informed if there’s any ongoing risk to children.)
Quite a few people have told me recently that they too were sexually abused as children. Sexual abuse within families is, unfortunately, much more widespread than people think, and it’s often from fathers, stepfathers, older brothers, uncles and grandfathers… (Women too, let’s not forget.) We can only guess at the real figures given so many people don’t officially report past abuse because they’re ashamed, or believe they were partly to blame, or the abuser is still alive and everyone in the family would be affected. I do hope that talking publicly will help anyone who’s suffered sexual abuse and stayed silent to find the courage speak to someone, and encourage other survivors to talk more openly. Sharing what one went through and its impact is important for recovery, I believe, and can be the first step to getting one’s life back. No one should feel any guilt or shame for any kind of abuse they suffered as a child, or feel they should keep quiet about something just because some people might be shocked or uncomfortable.
I shall stop going on about all this now as I’ve got a heap of things still to do. Planning the launch party, counting serviettes and plastic wine glasses, contacting bookshops, designing bookmarks, writing guest posts… This is an exciting, exhausting, ever so slightly stressful time and I don’t think I can take much more of it!! Thankfully there’s only three more days to go until THE GIRL IN HIS EYES is published 🙂