A SURVIVOR of historic childhood sexual abuse has spoken out in the hope that it will encourage others to seek support and highlight the importance of volunteers to Rape Crisis Midwest.
Bill (not his real name) and his sister were abused by a stepbrother. The abuse began when Bill was just six and lasted until he was 12. “It was pretty horrific. It had a really big impact on my life,” he said.
His story has been released by Rape Crisis Midwest, ahead of a volunteer information evening on Wednesday, March 15 at 6pm in its Limerick centre. Volunteers are vital to the work of Rape Crisis Midwest, providing support to people like Bill and many others in the region.
Bill remembers that his violent abuser was thrown out of the home when the abuse of his sister came to light, though Bill himself did not disclose what was happening to him at the time. Though his abuser was gone, the effect of what happened never left Bill.
“I didn`t want to talk to anyone. I kind of locked myself away. I was in a very dark place. I struggled to cope and I got into a relationship, a few relationships actually, but I did get into one particular one that lasted for 13 years. It turned out to be very abusive, she was very abusive to me. One night I actually finished up in hospital, pretty bad. I thought I didn`t deserve any better.”
However, his life turned around when he made the decision to call Rape Crisis Midwest, after getting the number from a friend. “ I haven`t looked back since. Within two weeks, I had an appointment in Ennis to see Anne and she`s been very supportive and very helpful over the last few years.”
Just a few short months later, he reported the abuse to the gardaí. “Without the support of the centre and Anne, I wouldn`t have been able to do that. It felt like a big weight was lifted off my shoulders, just to tell someone else. I feel like I`ve taken back my power.“
Although Bill made the personal choice to report his abuse to authorities, this is not something all survivors choose to do, nor is it a requirement.
Bill is just one of many who have been supported by the volunteers working with Rape Crisis Midwest. Those interested in becoming a volunteer are being urged to go along to the volunteer information evening, which will be held at Phoenix House, Punches Close, Rosbrien Road, Limerick City.
“This is a great opportunity to visit our centre and learn more about the work we do. We would encourage anyone interested to come along and learn more about various volunteering opportunities available. There will also be information available on our Sexual Assault Treatment Unit (SATU) support worker training, commencing in April, 2017,” explained a spokesperson for Rape Crisis Midwest.
“For anyone who would like to learn more about what this challenging but deeply rewarding role requires, the information evening provides an opportunity to voice any questions you may have concerning this particular volunteer role.”
She explained that the reason for releasing Bill’s story, and another due in the coming weeks, was to highlight that support is out there for those affected by sexual violence.
“Unfortunately, there is still much stigma and shame surrounding the issue of sexual violence. It is not often we hear the personal stories of those who avail of Rape Crisis services in the Limerick, Clare and North Tipperary areas. Recently, two survivors of historic childhood sexual abuse, Bill and Una (names have been changed), made a decision to relay their experiences to the public. Rape Crisis Midwest would encourage all in the region to take some time to hear their stories – how their lives were impacted by sexual violence and, ultimately, how support received from Rape Crisis Centres can act as a lifeline during times of personal crisis.”
You can hear Bill`s story on Rape Crisis Midwest’s website, www.rapecrisis.ie/survivor-story–bill.html. Una`s story will be available on the website in the coming weeks.
“Rape Crisis Midwest would like to acknowledge that without the continuing support of a group of dedicated volunteers, it would not be possible to maintain our core services – services vital to survivors like Bill and Una. We would like to sincerely thank all who volunteer, for their time and dedication to assist survivors of rape and sexual assault in the wider community. Volunteering can be an incredibly fulfilling experience and also presents opportunities to meet kind and compassionate people, along with learning and growing new skills.”
Anyone who would like to attend the volunteering event should email firstname.lastname@example.org. Anyone who has been affected by sexual violence and wants to talk, can contact Freephone 1800 311511 or call Rape Crisis Midwest at 061 311511. Information is also available online at www.rapecrisis.ie.
By Jesssica Quinn