4 days to go…
I don’t know what to say about that…but I’ll try, ye know me…
My sister May got married a few weeks ago. It was the most I’ve ever enjoyed being at a wedding. (Sorry if I was at yours…but it’s true…) I have a huge family, I’m the youngest of seven and we’re very close. Even though half of us live in different countries. With our partners and kids there’s twenty-four of us now, so its very rare and precious to me when we’re all in the same room.
We’d all made our way up in the Highlands to see Wee May getting married, while the drinks were flowing and the laughter was sailing about the hall, I found my nephew, Caleb, on his own in the corner, in tears. Caleb is five and he’s a hysterical wee fella. Always cheery and cheeky and apparently very like me at that age, as well as looking a lot like me. He plays the younger me in the movie we shot last summer. I picked him up and we went outside so he could tell me what had happened. Apparently, all ten grand kids had been given bottles of ‘bubble juice’ and were out on the grass blowing hundreds of big wobbly bubbles that were lifting up over the hills of Glenuig. Caleb’s bubble juice had ran out. He couldn’t play anymore. Bless.
The wee hall had a kitchen, so I took him in and found some Fairy Liquid to make some more ‘bubble juice’. In seconds he was back out with his cousins blowing gigantic bubbles and laughing as if nothing had upset him so deeply only moments before. I watched as they all eventually ran out of bubble juice too but this time as they all ran out at the same time, so Caleb wasn’t bothered. Kids…
I thought about this later, why he was so upset over such a wee thing. It was his own excitement over making as many bubbles as fast as possible that had lead to the abrupt end in his fun, while the rest still had loads more fun left in their bottles, but in his wee mind the idea that this was UNFAIR had devastated him.
Injustice. Children understand an feel injustice, and it cuts deeper than any other wrong we encounter in life. Perhaps kids are just better are letting the tears out…
The reason I recall this moment was that I was recently seeing a counsellor. I started last year, when I got back from performing ‘To Kill a Kelpie’, in San Diego. My play had been invited from it’s production in New York for two special performances at the IVAT (Institute of Violence, Abuse and Trauma), a biannual conference with 2000 of the worlds leading practitioners in the field of maltreatment prevention. Playing a character based on me, in a play based on the mental struggles I’ve been left with since my uncle sexually abused me throughout my childhood, always leaves me feeling perfectly burnt out. Still, I’ve never needed medication or therapy but I have always been an advocate for counselling. Thankfully, the pathetic stigma surrounding anyone in need of someone to talk to is gradually dissolving. Men can have feelings now…Oprah says its ok…I seek help anytime I find myself thinking too fast and I don’t think it’s anything more than going to A&E if I’d fallen and broken my leg. In one of my last sessions before I stopped for the walk this week, I was talking about my brothers. I love them, of course. They’re my best friends. They encourage and support me as much a I encourage and support them, I think…They are all very different men but they have the same kindness and warmth towards people that our parents have, simply good people, and anyone whose ever met them would agree.
As I talked about them with my counsellor, I realised my face was feeling warm and then suddenly the tears began to mist up my sight. I didn’t expect to be crying by the end of my sentence when I began it. All I was saying was that they make me feel I can do anything, because they’re always there for me. Janette, my counsellor, didn’t react to my sudden display of authentic emotion. She just asked what I thought this emotion was. I considered it, what had just literally brought me to tears so unexpectedly, and after a moment I said: ‘It’s the understanding of how unfair it is that these good people have suffered so much’.
Injustice. It’s agony, when you stop and look at it. (Probably why most of us don’t stop and look…) The injustice of an adult molesting a child is obvious to most. The injustice of having to spend the rest of your life recovering from that molestation is little understood and the injustice of having lived your life carrying the weight of what happened only to finally speak out and then still have no one held accountable is the ultimate failing of our ‘civilised’ society today. Our system fails people. Good people.
I’ve met so many inspiring people since I began working with Stop the Silence but this week I met someone who I almost felt star-stuck in the presence of, even though before we met I hadn’t heard of him. John McCabe came into the Garage Sale this weekend, standing holding his wee Grandson, he handed me an envelope with £150 from his daughters Salon, The Beauty lounge, in support of the Road to Change and his wife Loraine came back the next day with a cheque for £500 from Logos Christian Fellowship. He said he’d heard about the walk in the EK News and he’d been busy speaking to all of his contacts to get us support. Another good soul, his eyes told me before he said it, a survivor.
John’s a remarkable guy. From the passion in his voice as he explained the battle for accountability that he is still fighting, I knew instantly that he is one of the strongest men I’ve ever met, but from the honestly in his eyes when told me he was a survivor I could almost see the fine wee fella that John used to be is still very much a part of him. I recognised it, from my brothers. That’s the thing, despite what the media would have us believe, there is no such thing as a typical survivor, just as there is no typical offender. Every incident of abuse and how that event proliferates throughout the rest of the victims life is unique to each case. Having said that, they’re are commonalities. There are things that two strangers, who are survivors, can meet and within seconds have a deep mutual understanding of, things we both just know, injustice.
I can’t thank him and his family and friends enough for the overwhelming generosity already ,and John is adamant he will continue to support the Road to Change till I return home safe to Edinburgh in 2015. Again, another good soul.
See I think, sometimes, the media portrays survivors as trouble makers. Hellbent on ‘revenge’ or ‘compensation’. That’s rediculous. The idea that cash could in ever recompense the unquantifiable impact being abused has on the rest of the survivors life is ludicrous. Furthermore, the notion that all we want is to get back at the person who was bad to us is equally insulting. I may not speak for all victims but for many I know, they seek closure, in whatever form that may be attained. A recognition by our authorities that what happened should never have happened can sometimes bring that so coveted peace to some. The arrest and removal of their offender from possible contact with other kids can bring it to others, and for many many more the admission of accountability from those who were there, that knew well what was happening and still said nothing, (or worse, prevented any action being taken to address it) will be the key in the locked door to their peace.
I pray John’s fight rewards him someday very soon with the peace he truly deserves to enjoy his life with his beautiful family, and I don’t doubt that until that day arrives he will never give up.
So…2 years of planning, 18 months of logistics, 6 months of training and 3 months of publicity and fundraising, and now only 4 wee days till I take my first step on the Road to Change.
I can and can’t believe it’s almost time. Lying in the bath in my flat in Wembley two years ago, when the idea first smiled at me from the back of my tired mind, I couldn’t have imagined the wealth of support I’d soon receive, from so many people literally across the world, who have come into my life to help make my dream a reality.
I have wee moments when I wonder ‘is this just a crazy idea?’ Then I figure, ‘yeah possibly’…At the rainy fundraising fete in Cumbernauld last weekend, a wee old lady looking at our stall asked what we were raising money for. When I said it was for a 10,000 mile walk to create awareness for the prevention and healing of child sexual abuse, she asked me if I was mental. She wasn’t being cruel or trying to be funny, she was genuinely enquiring if I was not right in the head. Her sincere tone stopped me. Am I? I thought. Hmmm…Is it insane to want to walk that far, for that long? It is crazy to stop in the middle of your career to chase one cause for two years? Is it ‘mental’ to expect 31 nations to even listen to me, just because I walked there? And I’m I mad for thinking this is actually going to change anything at all? Well…the recent evidence on the physiological damage in a child’s brain when they are sexually abused would support the suggestion that I could be…slightly…I think perhaps I must be, because from where I’m standing, the simplest, most peaceful and potentially effective way of generating discussion of an issue as sensitive as the sexual molestation of children is to get up and walk…like Forrest Gump…and just keep walking, until folk start to ask ‘Why are you doing this?’ and then, in that moment, the floor is mine, and I welcome you all up to the mike…but I realise now not everyone sees it as such an obvious thing to do, as I do…
Regardless, I have decided to start walking, for ever survivor who hasn’t found the strength to speak those words yet. I walk for every innocent wee boy and beautiful wee girl who are having their clothes taken off and their souls violated right now, this second somewhere as you’re reading this, and I walk for all the kids who will never be touched by anyone they shouldn’t be, because the adults around them were more aware of the dangers thanks to the tireless work of so many wonderful individuals and organisations who exists already to stop the silence and stop child sexual abuse. The Road to Change hopes that we’ll all get to know each other, join forces and bring about real change. I’ve made so many new friends in the few weeks of set up for the walk, I can’t wait to see how many I’ll make on the Road.
As I walk, I’ll blog. I’ll share what I’m finding and learning in each place as I go. I’ll take the time to go back and explain how I ended up here, on this unique road, and give credit to the champions who helped me get this far. I have so many folk to thank already, but as Henry Ford used to say, ‘You can’t build a reputation on what you are going to do’. The walk hasn’t even begun yet, but the Road to Change is well underway. The many conversations I’ve had with friends and family and many folk I didn’t know before, who now comfortably stand in a public place and talk calmly about their experience of or thoughts on child sexual abuse, when only a few years ago this would have been unimaginable, tells me that a wee snowball is in motion, rolling down a huge big hill and an avalanche of change on its way. The press swamping us with headlines of offenders isn’t it, but its a good sign I guess. It’s played it’s part is making the sexual abuse of children and acceptable topic of conversation in staff rooms at work, wither in a factory or prestigious University, people can open a newspaper and talk about it now and no one immediately changes the subject. That is progress, even if this is only one fractional aspect of the convoluted mess.
Many companies have been shy about being seen to support the Road to Change. I understand I guess and will not name and shame anyone, this will always be a peaceful campaign, but as I tweeted the other day, slow commercial support for any project aimed at encouraging awareness for prevention and healing across a continent is indicative of how ready we are as a society to truly deal with child sexual abuse. Having said that, one company who’s willingness to support the project has been an eye-opener in many ways are Scotland’s own, Fleet Alliance. Their Director, Martin Brown, gave me £1000 cash, 3 months free office space and £1500 worth of admin and tech support. It was like going to the library when you need to study for your exams verses sitting at home watching Home and Away telling yourself you’ll do it in a minute…his help made this all possible.
Talking to Martin the other day, he told me he and few of the staff when having lunch and saw my paperwork on a desk. They began talking about abuse and wondering how the world might eventually change the way things are. As he told me this, I could have cried (again, I know…it’s quite an emotional time…) with joy. I knew when I had the idea for the big walk that the exact reason why I was doing it was going to be hard to articulate but he’d just said it. Imagine if I hadn’t asked his company to give me an office. Would his staff be there on typical Tuesday lunch-break, eating M&S boxed salads and discussing how our society might eventually find a solution to child sexual abuse? I duno, but I doubt it.
I am the European Ambassador for ‘Stop the Silence: Stop Child Sexual Abuse, Inc.’ my mission is to create discussion (or anything but silence) of child sexual abuse across Europe. Maybe you believe we’ll never actually make it stop. There were those who believed man would never fly, but now we’ve put man on the moon. How’d we manage that? Well, for a start we began asking questions like ‘how can it be done?’ I don’t have all the answers, I never claimed that I did, but I know that our race has a problem, we abuse our young, and even though its something that’s always happened I believe it’s something we can change, if we all start asking ‘How?’
How can we all get on the Road to Change?
Well…I start on Friday, see yies there aye?
Thanks for reading,
Last day in the Office with Fleet Alliance Director Martin Brown :)