Today I’ve been walking with a very dear friend. It was her birthday, so we had a lovely Autumnal walk, kicking leaves, sliding about in the mud and dodging the advances of over zealous dogs. We were chatting as we walked, the conversation rarely pausing for breath as we talked our way along the banks of a Hampshire canal. It was only when I was driving home, that some of the ‘dots’ of the conversation began to join up, as I reflected on what we’d talked about. More people are coming forward revealing their own pain, their hurt because they were sexually abused as a child. This has been reported by some of the national charities, such as NSPCC, but anecdotally by my peers in the profession. People who have, until now, sealed the lid on the abuse they suffered in childhood, but are finding that they can no longer do this, because everywhere they turn, the sexual abuse of children is being talked about, written about and thought about. Rather like the autumn leaves we were kicking around, the complex layers of protection have fallen away, leaving them exposed and needing professional help. “Is this a good thing?” we asked each other. Yes, as a society it must be ‘a good thing’, because people are talking about it. It is no longer society’s dirty little secret, as I penned a couple of years ago in the foreword to Hurt. Perhaps it is the end of a social taboo? If this is true, then perhaps that will stop a child right now enduring abuse. This must make it a good thing. Is is good for a survivor, who can no longer call upon the armour that kept them safe. Initially perhaps not. Revelation is painful, traumatic, harrowing. But from this place of darkness comes healing, a chance to move on, to recover. This must make it a good thing.
In some ways I cannot believe that only two years after Hurt was published, the social taboo seems to be falling away. It is OK to talk about the sexual exploitation of children. The next thing that we can do is move to stop it from happening. And do you know, I really believe that this is possible. I shall be kicking metaphorical leaves well into next year. Just you watch.