Thirty Years And Counting Of Working With Survivors

In 1993 when Whitney Houston was topping the charts with “I Will Always Love You”

I co-started a project for Survivors of sexual abuse. That was 30 years ago and I am still heavily involved and wearing heavier make up! The project is now called Into The Light Counselling and Support For Survivors CIC – a service for Survivors of sexual abuse of all genders and those that support them. Back then it was just a random idea that started because of a remarkable woman called Ruth. 

Turning Round A Dreadful Past

Ruth and I met at an exciting multi-cultural church in London. One of the main beliefs of the church was that whatever your past, with God’s help, your life could be significant and impactful. Ruth and I discovered that we had both experienced sexual abuse at the hands of family members. In 1993 there was very little resources for Survivors, and so we decided that we wanted to do something to reach out to others.

The Café Vision

Ruth was talented and fearless.  In January 1993 we sat in a café dreaming of starting this project.   Writing furiously on a napkin, within 45 minutes Ruth had come up with a mission statement, strapline  and direction that we still use today:

For Survivors change and healing come from:

  • Giving Information
  • Breaking Isolation
  • Sharing Experience

Research today bears this all out to be true.

First Fledgling Steps

Our first course started in May 1993 and 6 women attended. Talk about rough round the edges! However, somehow, through the grace of the women attending and the determination of Ruth it really worked.  The women were really pleased to be in a space where their experiences could be validated, they loved the handouts and were relieved to connect with other Survivors. Shame and isolation began to melt straightaway they told us.

The Journey Continued

We ran course after course after this, adapting and refining the material as we went along and lengthening the course to ten weeks.   The service today now offers a variety of services to Survivors including one to one counselling, individual psycho-educational courses, training to counselling services as well as workshops for Survivors and supporters  and the Women Survivors Group Psycho-Educational Courses we started with.

The Pressure And The Paybacks

I love working with the clients; but the challenges of running a small often underfunded project is difficult to describe in terms of personal stress.    The feedback we get gives me and the team the energy to keep going.   For example: “This group has been life changing for me. I can’t express how much relief it has given me being able to open up about a part of myself I have wanted to destroy for so long”. 

Looking back on 30 years we are so small compared to the need and the statistics of sexual abuse yet somehow hope is found  in knowing“ All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle” (Source: Francis of Assisi)