I was seven when I went to visit a friend of my parents. He sexually abused me before offering me some of his wife’s jewellery.

He then frightened me by saying I would be in real trouble if anyone found out I had been in the bedroom trying on jewellery. He offered to help look after me and I was sent to his home after school where he abused me daily.  He bought me gifts my parents could not afford.  I was instructed to be grateful for his kindness. If I protested about going to his house, I was told that I was being rude. I felt ashamed and believed I was bad and naughty.

I was eleven years old when he was arrested. I remember coming home from school to a living room “full of yellow jackets”. Instead of relief that someone had reported him, I blamed myself for causing problems. I developed Anorexia and Bulimia. At 15 my parents told me I wasn’t welcome at home. I began to self-harm and overdoses were frequent. These extreme behaviours were my way of coping emotionally and my attempt to remove myself from life as I knew it.

When I got married, I accepted physical, emotional and financial abuse because my husband also showed me love and attention. I started to drink heavily and despite doing well at work, I was on a downward spiral. After my divorce I was full of self-loathing and shame. I drank more and eventually lost my job and my child.

After a stint in rehab and six months sober, I started counselling for my sake and my 7-year-old son. I was scared at first. I worked with my therapist and together we found ways for me to open up and allow myself to attach emotions to the things that had happened to me. It was the continual and persistent small steps that started making a difference.

My therapy at Survive evoked extreme emotions, but I was taught techniques to care for the little girl I had once been. I learned to understand that my over-reaction to things that others would consider trivial was a result of my childhood experiences and that I could exert some control over them.

Survive enabled me to love and care for myself. I can see the damaging patterns that had emerged in my life and I have made many changes. Knowing my childhood experiences and understanding my limited life experience and resources to cope with them, has enabled me to forgive myself as opposed to feeling blame and shame.  I am starting to feel whole.

THE SURVIVOR - PENNY

I was a well-respected and hard-working professional yet I found it difficult to like myself.

When I arrived at Survive, I was reluctant to reflect on my past.

THE SURVIVOR - AMY

The first time you are called stupid you laugh it off. By the hundredth time, you start to believe it may be true and by the thousand time, you are convinced, it is true.

This is all the softening up so that you become vulnerable.

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