Voicing CSA held their most recent conference in Wrexham on Saturday, 27th May 2017.
Foreward by Marise Thomas, Voicing CSA Director.
It was another successful and emotional day. Some were speaking for the first time about their childhood abuse and standing in front of an audience for the first time, you cannot help feeling humbled by their bravery.
Sharing any personal details is difficult; sharing details about child abuse is even more traumatic. The guilt and shame is difficult to shake off. Believing it was your fault and you ‘asked for it’ is something all abused victims and survivors experience. Those who spoke about their experiences sent us poignant messages. Their message I hope will empower others who may feel it is their time to come forward and speak about their own abuse and engage with the IICSA. This is one of the main reasons those speaking will lay bare their journey, to support others and show them the way. If we don’t speak about it, we continue to keep it covered-up, giving it the power it no longer deserves. Shame and guilt are not ours, but those of the perpetrators and the system that let us down.
For me, two messages clearly came out of Saturday’s event was a comment from Chris Harper, our Patron. Chris mentioned he had a lucky escape when he was a boy. “He was one of the lucky ones”. It is sad our society believes the lucky ones are those who have not been sexually abused and he is not the first person who I have heard to say this. The truth is, he is right. He was lucky. When we start to understand the vastness of this issue in our society, we know that those who have not been abused are indeed the fortunate ones.
The second message was from Donna Peach, our ambassador, who spoke about isolation in our communities. It was a powerful talk, coming from the heart. No-one needs to feel alone. We are here to give a voice, and those want us to come to their towns and villages, please let us know and we will arrange it.
Many thanks to David Lean, Augusto Gomes, Donna Peach, Chris Harper, Kaz Gray, Daniel Wolstencroft, IICSA speaking about the Research Project, and finally but not least the brave contributors who told their story, Holly Archer, Lita Glover and Tanya Duncan and Dawn Morgan, who spoke for the first time about her journey.
Our next meeting is in Bristol on Saturday, 1st July. Venue to be confirmed.
Chair Phillip Lafferty opened the meeting and offered support to the future VSCP for Wales which was followed by a live link with Chris Harper one of the Patrons of Voicing CSA and known for his portrayal as serial groomer Nathan Curtis in Coronation Street. The connection was lost though a reconnection was made later in the day though it is shown here immediately after after.
Kaz Gray is a survivor of abuse within the care system, namely North Wales and here Kaz discusses tragic events surrounding one of the homes, Bryn Alyn, the owner who was charged and sentenced for child sexual abuse along with others. It was described by one survivor as ‘a paedophile playground’.
Voicing CSA was delighted to welcome Dawn Morgan to our Wrexham meeting and for her to discuss the courageous journey she has made since our Chair Phil Lafferty first became involved two years ago in his hometown of Loughborough. Dawn is from Telford and had spoken privately about her abuse as a child and the devastating effects it had on her life and relationships. Dawn turned to food and alcohol and was agoraphobic. The transformation in Dawn has been amazing with weight loss, being open about the abuse she suffered and not fearing being out in the open.
Dawn is a shining light to survivors and an inspiring woman who has been on a journey that has been remarkable and whilst she pays tribute to Nigel Thompson and Phil the journey from stepping out of the door of her home to attend our first meeting to where she is now has been down to her, the support of her husband and also the friends she has made around her who came today to show support for this remarkable lady.
Donna Peach travelled from Salford to be with us today and was a welcome sight to survivors and victims. Donna has supported Voicing CSA since the beginning and understands the work we do and why. Donna has been busy this year working on her Doctorate and Voicing CSA cannot wait until we can call her Doctor Peach. It will be so well deserved. Donna discussed ‘Isolation within communities in relation to CSA and CSE survivors’ after our Chair in response to the question of what he wanted Donna to talk about gave his one word remit of ‘Isolation’. It was a powerful and moving speech that really hit home for many survivors and many were moved by her words. It was as though Donna vocalized the heart of survivors and victims in the room.
It was certainly an emotional day of sharing at Wrexham and Tanya Duncan and Lita Glover were no exception as they discussed their abuse as children and the lifelong consequences which made them survivors and not the victims they believed they were. Tanya and Lita spent years battling against their abuser and the abuse they suffered which finally resulted in a conviction and broke a cycle of abuse that had gone on for four generations.
Tanya and Lita have rebuilt their lives from what could have destroyed them both and are another inspiration of hope over adversity. The love, respect and understanding they have of each other is visible and touching as they take turns in their history and Tanya shares with some inspiring words that she has written at the end of their talk.
Daniel Wolstencroft is a supporter and Ambassador of Voicing CSA and sits on the VSCP as well as being the Founder of Shatterboys UK Recovery. He is also the father of Jaxon who can be heard on most of today’s recordings and is fast becoming a favourite of regular speakers at VCSA meetings, we are thinking he should become the VCSA mascot for his chirpy and outgoing nature, much like his dad who has a serious side too. How Danny fits his life together with so much going on in his life amazes Voicing CSA and is much respected. Danny is preparing the launch of Shatterboys in Lancaster on the 24th June and he talks about that today and also shares some thoughts on aspects of support and helplines.
David Lean is a survivor of abuse at the hands of Barry Bennell and came forward in 2013. Bennell was found guilty and sentenced. David recently completed a Marathon and was due the next day (28th May 2017) to run in the Liverpool half marathon to raise funds for Voicing CSA and most especially to raise awareness of Child sexual abuse and exploitation.
Lucy Gameson lives in Wrexham and was in the Waterhouse Inquiry. Lucy was referred to in the Inquiry as child ‘P’. Lucy pointed out that she was not a letter of the alphabet but a survivor called Lucy. Lucy shared a short video extract which was an address to her mother as is often the case that parents do not find out about their child’s abuse at the time and it can take many years. Lucy made the recording as a way of telling her mum ‘it was not her mothers fault’ the fault lay with the abuser. It was courageous of Lucy to speak out at the meeting as she had not planned to but was invited to do so after approaching Phil. We look forward to Lucy being inclusive in future meetings in Wales as she has already indicated that she would give her support to the work of Voicing CSA.
The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) was in attendance at the Voicing CSA meeting in Wrexham specifically to speak about the Research Project being carried out by the Inquiry. Employees of the Inquiry are not allowed to be filmed without going through a lot of red tape and so adhering to that policy you will only hear the voice of Cate Fisher. Cate Fisher from the regional office in Cardiff gave a broad overview of what the research aspect is and there will be an update at the meeting in Bristol on the 1st of July. Some of the attendees had a great deal of questions to ask the representatives of the Inquiry present and an extended break was taken after the discussion so that those questions could be asked and answered. Voicing CSA would like to thank the Inquiry team who attended and being so supportive to everyone present.
After the unscheduled break we had one more speaker and that was Holly Archer who like so many others today was speaking for the first time in public about her abuse and sexual exploitation. Holly quite rightly asked that she speak and retain her anonymity for reasons that cannot be shared here and as always Voicing CSA respects survivors and victims wishes if they want to remain anonymous. It was harrowing to hear the path that Holly was taken and was all too familiar now in the storyline on Coronation Street.
Voicing CSA would like to reiterate the thanks given by Marise in the foreword and as a result of today a task force of four women are going to begin a group for survivors of abuse and exploitation in Telford and Voicing CSA welcomes Dawn, Tanya, Lita and Holly into the growing number of survivors that is Voicing CSA. Voicing CSA is also working with survivors of children’s homes in North Wales and further afield.
We look forward to the next Voicing CSA meeting which will be held in Bristol on 1st July 2017. We are hoping that we can have the Wall of Silence from the Southmead Project on display.