'I no longer feel alone' - Childhood sexual abuse survivors share their stories
- Credit: ETT Photography / @maryettphotography
"I no longer feel alone in a world of silence."
These are the words of a childhood sexual abuse survivor, who has fought hard to speak out and be heard.
Charlie Hodson is among the survivors recounting their experiences in the 'No More' exhibition at The Forum in Norwich to highlight the importance of others taking the first steps in seeking help.
The powerful exhibition, which launched on Tuesday, shows the portraits and words of survivors to illustrate the different ways people have coped with their abuse, and to debunk the 'stigma surrounding the subject'.
And for Jean Rochford, who came up with the idea with others, the exhibition has already provided a vital space for people to get support and to know their voices matter.
More than 50 people visited on the day of the launch to show their support including the High Sheriff of Norfolk Michael Gurney, Marilyn Hawes of Freedom From Abuse and West Norfolk borough councillor Alan Holmes.
Mrs Rochford, who is also sharing her story, said: "There were many people who stopped to look and we had conversations with those who wanted to talk.
"Some of the visitors did disclose they were survivors of childhood sex abuse."
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She is encouraging people to visit The Forum to 'say hello' and is welcoming survivors and those who may be able to help their peer support group No More.
Charlie Hodson's story:
"In our darkest times our safe havens are very personal to each and every one of us.
"In the past two years I’m able to talk of those things I never thought possible.
"I’ve learnt to share and more importantly that I’m not alone, with each of us having a different story.
"As an adult my safe havens are now very different places.
"They are where I take myself off to, to think.
"Sometimes in peace and quiet but mostly with laughter.
"Simply because laughter makes me feel safe.
"It’s my safety blanket and part of my saving grace."
He added: “Being silenced is a part of a survivors' life and keeps our voices from being heard.
"For me it was a journey that has lasted all through my life until the day I walked through the doors of the police station.
"The secrets that had consumed my life for over 34 and half years of my abuser and me.
"Over this lifetime the abuse I’d suffered had taken me to seeking to end my own life on numerous occasions.
"This box that I had carried around that I felt so scared to open.
"After all, who would believe this could have ever happened to me.
"My childhood had been taken from me through no fault of my own all the way through to my adult life.
"But 'No More' can give each and every one of us a voice to simply say enough is enough and we all have a story to tell.
"But our voices need to be heard.
"I feel so very proud and humbled to be a part of No More and more importantly I no longer feel alone in a world of silence."
Alan Arber's story:
"As a survivor of abuse as a child, I actually thought my life had no meaning moving forward.
"Losing my wife, house and job due to excessive drinking, I did not know where to turn.
"My friend Barry saw the Victoria Derbyshire show and the forming of the Offside Trust after the show and he urged me to contact them.
"I did with much trepidation but am glad I did as without them I would have left this world.
"I am now an ambassador for the Offside Trust and run awareness days and workshops to help people access help and just have a person to speak to if they have suffered any form of abuse.
"In East Anglia this has resulted in us helping over 50 people to be access the correct service to assist them."
These stories and that of other survivors are being highlighted in the exhibition, which is open until Friday, April 15 from 10am to 4.30pm.
Where to go for support
The following is some of the services that could help if you have been affected by the subject in this article.
Peer support group No More can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more about the Offside Trust visit offsidetrust.com.
- Freedom From Abuse on 0333 7721 920 or email@example.com. For advice visit www.freedom-abuse.org.
- Fresh Start - New Beginnings, a dedicated charity in Norfolk and Suffolk which provides a therapeutic service for children and young people up to 18 years, can be contacted on 01473 353355 or fsnb.org.uk.
- The National Association of People Abused in Childhood (NAPAC) on 0808 801 0331 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) on its Childline 0800 1111 or if you are an adult concerned about a child call 0808 800 5000.
- Lifecentre - 0808 802 0808.
- The Survivors Trust - 0808 8010 818 / email@example.com.
- Sue Lambert Trust - 01603 622406 / firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.suelamberttrust.org. Anyone over the age of 11 can self-refer to the Sue Lambert Trust for therapy and counselling if seeking support.