Royal Commission understands that making contact with us can be very challenging for survivors.
Speaking out can be an important personal step, but it can also bring up mixed feelings such as relief, elation, disappointment and grief. Sometimes it can bring up strong emotions about the abuse you suffered, like anger, distress and fear.
It may be the first time you have told anyone about the abuse, or it may bring back memories which are very hard to deal with. If someone has supported you in the past you may find you may want to connect with them again for help.
Alternatively, if you need help to share your story or to cope with the feelings you are experiencing, a list of support services who can assist you is provided in this booklet.
BLUE KNOT FOUNDATION FACT SHEET FOR PEOPLE WHO HAVE EXPERIENCED CHILDHOOD TRAUMA (INCLUDING ABUSE)
1 Childhood trauma stems from overwhelming negative experiences in early life. It can take many forms (eg. sexual,emotional,physicalabuseandneglect).Itcanalso occur without abuse if early caregivers were unable to meet your emotional needs (e.g. because they had unresolved trauma histories themselves).
2 Unresolved childhood trauma negatively impacts 8 health and well-being in adulthood. It affects both emotional and physical health (the whole person’) and the full impacts may not become apparent until years later.
3 It is possible to heal from childhood trauma. Research shows that with the right support, even severe early life trauma can be resolved. It also shows that when an adult has resolved their childhood trauma, it benefits their children or the children they may later have. Children develop coping mechanisms to deal with the effects of childhood trauma. It is normal to want to feel better, and if you were traumatised as a child the need to escape’ feelings can be intense.
4 Effects of childhood trauma include anxiety, depression, health problems (emotional and physical), disconnection, isolation, confusion, being ‘spaced out’, and fear of intimacy and new experiences. There 10 is no one size fits all’, but reduced quality of life is a constant.
5 Survivors are often on ‘high alert’. Even minor stress can trigger ‘out of proportion’ responses. Your body continues to react as if you are still in danger, and this can be explained in terms of unresolved prior experience.
6 Survivors often struggle with shame and self-blame. But childhood trauma and its established effects are NOT your fault, even though you may feel otherwise (often because this is what you were encouraged to believe as a child when you were vulnerable and still developing).
7 Self-blame can be especially strong if you experienced any positive physical sensations (which is not an uncommon body response) in relation to abuse you have undergone. Physical reaction to sexual abuse does NOT mean desire for, or agreement to, it. Children cannot consent to, much less ‘cause’, sexual or other forms of abuse.
8 Children develop coping mechanisms to deal with the effects of childhood trauma. It is normal to want to feel better, and if you were traumatised as a child the need to `escape’ feelings can be intense.
9 Coping mechanisms develop for a reason, serve a purpose, and can be highly effective in the short term. But some methods of coping (e.g. excessive alcohol use) can be risky in themselves. Addictions (to food, sex, drugs), avoidance of contact with others (which reinforces isolation) and compulsive behaviours of various kinds (in attempts to run from the underlying problem which, because it is unaddressed, doesn’t go away) are all ways people try to cope.
10 Coping mechanisms develop for a reason, serve a purpose, and can be highly effective in the short term. But some methods of coping (e.g. excessive alcohol use) can be risky in themselves. Addictions (to food, sex, drugs), avoidance of contact with others (which reinforces isolation) and compulsive behaviours of various kinds (in attempts to run from the underlying problem which, because it is unaddressed, doesn’t go away) are all ways people try to cope.
11 Coping mechanisms develop for a reason, serve a purpose, and can be highly effective in the short term. But some methods of coping (e.g. excessive alcohol use) can be risky in themselves. Addictions (to food, sex, drugs), avoidance of contact with others (which reinforces isolation) and compulsive behaviours of various kinds (in attempts to run from the underlying problem which, because it is unaddressed, doesn’t go away) are all ways people try to cope.
If you believe a child is in immediate danger or in a life-threatening situation call 000. If you wish to report a child protection matter, contact the department responsible for child protection in your state or territory.
Child abuse is any behaviour that harms or could harm a child or young person, either physically or emotionally. It does not matter whether the behaviour is intentional or unintentional.
There are different types of child abuse, and many children experience more than one type:
Physical abuse: using physical force to deliberately hurt a child.
Emotional abuse: using inappropriate words or symbolic acts to hurt a child over time.
Neglect: failing to provide the child with conditions needed for their physical and emotional development and wellbeing.
Sexual abuse: using a child for sexual gratification.
Exposure to family violence: when a child hears or sees a parent or sibling being subjected to any type of abuse, or can see the damage caused to a person or property by a family member’s violent behaviour.
Children are most often abused or neglected by their parents or carers of either sex. Sexual abuse is usually by a man known to the child — a family member, a friend or a member of the school or church community.
Child abuse can affect a child’s physical, psychological, emotional, behavioural and social development through to adulthood.
Recognising the signs of child abuse is important. There may be physical, emotional or behavioural signs such as:
broken bones or unexplained bruising, burns or welts
not wanting to go home
creating stories, poems or artwork about abuse
being hungry and begging, stealing or hoarding food
Child protection systems vary depending on which state and territory you live in. This includes definitions of when a child requires protection and when authorities will intervene.
Some occupations are legally required to report suspected cases of child abuse to government authorities. The laws are different between states and territories but the most common occupations are teachers, doctors, nurses and police.
If you have hurt your child, or feel like you might hurt them, call Lifeline on 131 114.
If you are a child, teen or young adult who needs help and support, call the Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800.
Although the MeetUp Group ‘Brisbane Abuse Survivours Network’, now seems to have closed – we’re experiencing larger + wider impacts with this RCbbc Blog. The growth, interaction + time required by these RCbbc Blog pages continue to outweigh any more time + costs taken by running a MeetUp Group as well.
We’ve now achieved at least 1,124 Subscribers, the ongoing impact + support is filling in a much-needed gap. Particularly direct families continue to be a cause of many surviving-victims not coming forth, I’m now in a position that I’ve recently had a 3rd body start guiding one of my parents through my CSA mess. It’s not a solution, yet it does feel relieving to have an unresolved misunderstanding taken off my shoulders. Please seek help, through a Counsellor!
Secrecy has-does-will have a power over our lives. It always will, yet we each have that same control over it. This is where Predators/Abusers/Facilitators have taken advantage of their assumed targets, typically manipulating their unawareness of their own rights (maturity, trust + secrecy). ‘The Power of Secrets’ in PsychologyToday begins by stating that Secrets can divide people. “They deter relationships. And they freeze development on individuals.”
Power of Secrets contains titles of: HOW SECRETS SABOTAGE, SHATTERING THE TRIANGLE, ‘DON’T TELL ANYONE OUR BUSINESS’, BREAKING FAMILY RULES, ROOM FOR REHEARSAL, FROZEN FAMILIES + RESPECTING TRANSITION TIMES. So enthralling are these, I’ll try to repost the entire page ASAP.
From the book The Secret Life of Families by Evan IrabetBlack, Ph.D. Copyright 1998 by Evan Imber-Black. Reprinted by permission of Bantam Books, New York, New York. All rights reserved. AmazonSpringerkobo
PHOTO (COLOR): Secrets are kept or opened for many reasons, from self-serving abuses of power to the protection of others. (Unavailable, yet text provided)
PHOTOS (COLOR): Family secrets are destructive and all families have some secrets from the outside world. Resist the temptation to handle them at transition times such as weddings, graduations, and new beginnings. (Unavailable, yet text provided)
If you are at greater risk, such as you are over 65 or have pre-existing conditions like heart disease, it’s reasonable to take extra precautions.
For most of us, our emotional response will largely come down to how risk-averse we are, explains David Savage, associate professor of behavioural economics at the University of Newcastle.
“On one end you have the people who are absolutely risk-averse; will go out of their way to avoid risk. These people will always have insurance even for the most bizarre things,” he says.
“They are the people panic-buying.
“At the other end you have what I would classify as risk-seeking people, otherwise known as teenage boys.”
What Dr Savage suggests we should all be aiming for is to be risk-neutral. Good at weighing up odds and responding accordingly.
But he acknowledges that can be difficult given how hard-wired risk aversion is for many of us.
“This aversion is not something we switch on and off, it’s part of our innate nature.”
He says telling people to be less risk-averse is like telling someone to stop being anxious.
Avoidance versus chaos
Your personality type will dictate what level of response you have to something like the spread of coronavirus, explains Dr Annie Cantwell-Bart, a psychologist specialising in grief and trauma.
“If, for example, you come from a family where avoidance style is what you’ve been taught, that’s what you will repeat,” she says.
“Or if you come from a fairly chaotic background where your dad has been in jail and mum is an alcoholic, you will hold a high level of anxiety in living anyway.”
She gives the example of her local barista, who is casually employed.
“When I asked how he was feeling, he said he doesn’t think about it, he just gets on with life.”
She says that avoidance style has its advantages and disadvantages.
“They risk not being prepared or cautious enough. He might feel some trauma if the boss of the cafe says we’re closing down for a fortnight, because he hasn’t prepared.”
On the other end of the scale, people might respond chaotically.
“Like the punch-up in the supermarket. Some people will … get agitated and it’s probably a fear the world will somehow not support them in any way,” Dr Cantwell-Bart says.
We should be more sensitive towards people with this level of anxiety, she says.
“It’s really important not to judge people … they are in a highly aroused anxious state.”
What we’ve been through shapes our response
Upbringing, cultural background and previous experiences all shape how we respond to difficult situations.
But it doesn’t always play out in ways you’d expect. For example, someone who has survived a similar incident previously may feel a false sense of security, rather than the need to be cautious or prepared.
Your beliefs may also cause you to underprepare.
“If you believe that everything is pre-ordained, and a higher power is directing your life, you may not bother with certain precautions,” Dr Savage says.
Having compassion and understanding
Dr Savage says Australians are living in a society that is becoming more individualist than collectivist.
“Half of us are going ‘that is very anti-social’, while the other half is saying ‘good on you’,” he says in regards to people stocking up on supplies.
Dr Cantwell-Bart says in a time of crisis, it’s important to be respectful and tolerant.
“It’s about being more compassionate. Understanding that people who might be behaving in ways we might not, are doing it for good reason.”
Dr Savage recommends taking a step back to remember we’re all different, and there isn’t always right and wrong.
“Take a little bit more time to say ‘I don’t understand what that person is doing, but is that a problem?'”
Sometimes people come to our website because they are looking for personal help.
If someone asked you right now if you are having thoughts of suicide, what would your honest answer be?
If your answer is ‘yes’, this is undoubtedly a very difficult time for you. You don’t need to go through this alone. Help is available.
It is not uncommon for men who have experienced child sexual abuse or sexual assault to have to deal with suicidal thoughts. An experience of child sexual abuse or sexual assault can have men feeling distressed and overwhelmed both at the time and at stressful times in the future. If suicidal thoughts are unchallenged they can convince a man that because he is doing it tough now it will always be like this. If there is time to talk about suicidal thoughts they can provide a clue to what a man holds dear, about certain connections he values and the dreams and aspirations he has for life. In order for such conversation to occur it is first important to make sure you are safe now.
If you think you might harm yourself call for help immediately
Reach out to someone you trust and ask for help. Tell them honestly how you feel, including your thoughts of suicide.
Call 000 (police, ambulance, fire) or
Call Lifeline 13 11 14 or
Go, or have someone take you to your local hospital emergency department.
It is important to understand suicidal thoughts
I felt like shit, like there was no way out. It wasn’t like my first thought but it was there in the background.
Remember that thoughts about suicide are just that – thoughts. You don’t need to act on them. They won’t last for ever, and often they pass very quickly. Many people who have had serious thoughts of suicide have said that they felt completely different only hours later. It is common to feel overwhelmed and distressed during difficult times or when it seems that things will never improve.
Things you can do to keep yourself safe
Seek help early. Talk to a family member or friend, see your local doctor, or ring a telephone counselling service.
Postpone any decision to end your life. Many people find that if they postpone big decisions for just 24 hours, things improve, they feel better able to cope and they find the support they need.
Talk to someone. Find someone you can trust to talk to: family, friends, a colleague, teacher or minister. 24-hour telephone counselling lines allow you to talk anonymously to a trained counsellor any time of the day or night.
Avoid being alone (especially at night). Stay with a family member or friend or have someone stay with you until your thoughts of suicide decrease.
Develop a safety plan. Come up with a plan that you can put into action at any time, for example have a friend or family member agree that you will call them when you are feeling overwhelmed or upset.
Avoid drugs and alcohol when you are feeling down. Many drugs are depressants and can make you feel worse, they don’t help to solve problems and can make you do things you wouldn’t normally do.
Set yourself small goals to help you move forward and feel in control. Set goals even on an hour-by-hour or day-by-day basis – write them down and cross them off as you achieve them.
Write down your feelings. You might keep a journal, write poetry or simply jot down your feelings. This can help you to understand yourself better and help you to think about alternative solutions to problems.
Stay healthy. try to get enough exercise and eat well – Exercising can help you to feel better by releasing hormones (endorphins) into your brain. Eating well will help you to feel energetic and better able to manage difficult life events.
See your local doctor or a specialist to discuss support or treatment. Discuss your suicidal thoughts and feelings with your doctor, talk about ways to keep yourself safe, and make sure you receive the best treatment and care.
See a mental health professional. Psychologists, psychiatrists, counsellors and other health professionals are trained to deal with issues relating to suicide, mental illness and well being. You can find them in the Yellow Pages or visit your GP or contact a crisis line for information.
Thoughts of suicide occur to many people and for a range of reasons. The most important thing to remember is that help is available. Talking to someone is a good place to start, even though it may seem difficult. Tell someone today!
Find help in your local area
If you’re feeling suicidal, getting help early can help you cope with the situation and avoid things getting worse. After you get over a crisis, you need to do all you can to make sure it doesn’t happen again. There are a number of sources of support in your local area. If the first place or person you contact can’t help, or doesn’t meet your needs, try another.
Where to get help
Lifeline has centres all around Australia. Check their website for the centre closest to you, and for resources and information related to suicide prevention: www.lifeline.org.au or www.justlook.org.au.
General practitioner A GP can refer you for a Mental Health Care Plan. Look for one in the Yellow Pages, or contact your local community health centre.
Community Health CentresThese are listed in the White Pages.
PsychiatristLook in the Yellow Pages, or ask a referring organisation such as Lifeline’s Just Ask. To claim the Medicare rebate, you need a letter of referral from a GP.
PsychologistYou can find these through your GP, community health centre, the Yellow Pages or the Australian Psychological Society (APS). The APS provides a referral service on 1800 333 497 or visit their website at www.psychology.org.au.
Counsellors and psychotherapistsYou can find these through your GP, community health centre, or the Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia Inc (PACFA). PACFA have a national register of individual counsellors and psychotherapists available to the public at www.pacfa.org.au.
Gay and Lesbian Counselling and Community Services of Australia provides information and links to counselling services for gay and lesbian people. Telephone: 1800 18 45 27 or see the website for numbers in your state/territory, www.glccs.org.au
Who to call
For immediate support, when your life may be in danger, ring 000 or go to your local hospital emergency department.
National 24 Hour crisis telephone counselling services
Note: Many of these services also offer interpreter services for those people who speak English as a second language (ESL).
Acknowledgement: This page was created with reference to the “Living is for everyone” publication Promoting good practice in suicide prevention: Activities targeting men produced by the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing: 2008.
For many, the December/January holiday season may be a positive time of celebration with loved ones.
However, it can also be an intense and challenging time when feelings of isolation and loss can surface, and stress, anxiety and depression are heightened.
Support is available to help you if you need it.
The National Redress Scheme phone line will remain open over the holiday season (Monday to Friday 8am – 5pm local time) with the exception of 25 – 27 December 2019 and 1 January 2020.
Redress Support Services are available to provide free, confidential emotional and practical support before, during and after applying to the Scheme. The following Redress Support Services will remain open over the holiday season:
The remaining Redress Support Services will operate with revised opening hours over the holiday season. Alternative contact details will be provided on their answering machines, websites and/or social media pages.
As of 29 November 2019, the National Redress Scheme:
had received over 5,510 applications
made 1,096 decisions, including 792 payments totalling over $64.1 million, and 155 offers of redress awaiting an applicant’s decision
had an average payment amount of $81,000
was processing over 3,610 applications
had 591 applications on hold because one or more institution named had not yet joined, and 218 applications required additional information from the applicant.
Since 1 July 2019, more people have received redress than in the entire first year of the Scheme. From 1 July 2019 to 29 November 2019, 563 applications were finalised, resulting in 553 payments.
Find out more
To find out more about the National Redress Scheme, go to the website or call 1800 737 377from Australia or +61 3 6222 3455 from overseas (Monday to Friday 8am – 5pm local time with the exception of the December/January dates listed above).
Straight talk about body parts and a no-secrets policy can protect young kids without scaring them
We can arm kids with knowledge that might save them from being victimized.
1. Talk about body parts early.
Name body parts and talk about them very early. Use proper names for body parts, or at least teach your child what the actual words are for their body parts. I can’t tell you how many young children I have worked with who have called their vagina their “bottom.” Feeling comfortable using these words and knowing what they mean can help a child talk clearly if something inappropriate has happened.
2. Teach them that some body parts are private.
Tell your child that their private parts are called private because they are not for everyone to see. Explain that mommy and daddy can see them naked, but people outside of the home should only see them with their clothes on. Explain how their doctor can see them without their clothes because mommy and daddy are there with them and the doctor is checking their body.
3. Teach your child body boundaries.
Tell your child matter-of-factly that no one should touch their private parts and that no one should ask them to touch somebody else’s private parts. Parents will often forget the second part of this sentence. Sexual abuse often begins with the perpetrator asking the child to touch them or someone else.
4. Tell your child that body secrets are not okay.
Most perpetrators will tell the child to keep the abuse a secret. This can be done in a friendly way, such as, “I love playing with you, but if you tell anyone else what we played they won’t let me come over again.” Or it can be a threat: “This is our secret. If you tell anyone I will tell them it was your idea and you will get in big trouble!” Tell your kids that no matter what anyone tells them, body secrets are not okay and they should always tell you if someone tries to make them keep a body secret.
5. Tell your child that no one should take pictures of their private parts.
This one is often missed by parents. There is a whole sick world out there of pedophiles who love to take and trade pictures of naked children online. This is an epidemic and it puts your child at risk. Tell your kids thatno one should ever take pictures of their private parts.
6. Teach your child how to get out of scary or uncomfortable situations.
Some children are uncomfortable with telling people “no”— especially older peers or adults. Tell them thatit’s okay to tell an adult they have to leave, if something that feels wrong is happening, and help give them words to get out of uncomfortable situations. Tell your child that if someone wants to see or touch private parts they can tell them that they need to leave to go potty.
7. Have a code word your children can use when they feel unsafe or want to be picked up.
As children get a little bit older, you can give them a code word that they can use when they are feeling unsafe. This can be used at home, when there are guests in the house or when they are on a play date or a sleepover.
8. Tell your children they will never be in trouble if they tell you a body secret.
Children often tell me that they didn’t say anything because they thought they would get in trouble, too. This fear is often used by the perpetrator. Tell your child that no matter what happens, when they tell you anything about body safety or body secrets they will NEVER get in trouble.
9. Tell your child that a body touch might tickle or feel good.
Many parents and books talk about “good touch and bad touch,” but this can be confusing because often these touches do not hurt or feel bad. I prefer the term “secret touch,” as it is a more accurate depiction of what might happen.
10. Tell your child that these rules apply even with people they know and even with another child.
This is an important point to discuss with your child. When you ask a young child what a “bad guy” looks like they will most likely describe a cartoonish villain. You can say something like, “Mommy and daddy might touch your private parts when we are cleaning you or if you need cream — but no one else should touch you there. Not friends, not aunts or uncles, not teachers or coaches. Even if you like them or think they are in charge, they should still not touch your private parts.”
I am not naïve enough to believe that these discussions will absolutely preventsexual abuse, but knowledge is a powerful deterrent, especially with young children who are targeted due to their innocence and ignorance in this area.
And one discussion is not enough. Find natural times to reiterate these messages, such as bath time or when they are running around naked. And please share this article with those you love and care about and help me spread the message of body safety!
How many people are in the group?A large gathering means you get to hear from more people. A small one can give you more time to work through your own feelings. Apsychologistor another therapist can help you decide which size suits your needs.
Do all the members have anxiety?There are lots of different kinds of support groups. They often work best when most of the members have similar issues.
What are the rules for sharing in this group?A therapist won’t share anything you say to her. Group members aren’t supposed to, either. Ground rules about keeping what’s shared during therapy confidential can help the members build trust with each other.
What to Consider
One of the biggest advantages is that you’ll get support from other people who feel like you do. That can improve your mood and make you feel less alone.
Other people who have started to treat their anxiety may inspire you. You might pick up tips or techniques that help you deal with your own situation.
Helping problem-solve for your fellow group members can also remind you that you know a lot about managing anxiety. That can prompt you to use those skills in your own life. And group therapy is often less expensive than individualcounseling.
There can be drawbacks, though. If one person doesn’t want to open up to the group, others may hesitate to share their thoughts. That can make sessions less effective.
While you may get helpful ideas from other members, don’t take their opinions and comments more seriously than the therapist who is leading the group.
If you have concerns about how your group is going, you may want to privately talk to the therapist who leads it to see if they can change how things are done. Or you may want to try another group or one-on-one therapy.
This video started with a conversation. In fact, it started with many private and professional conversations with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men who have been sexually abused about how difficult it was to speak about what happened to them as a child, about how their lives and relationships had been negatively impacted and about how isolated and alone they felt. The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has highlighted this over representation and sexual abuse of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children within government, community and church run institutions and the difficulties they face in being heard and accessing support.
Anthony Newcastle, Gordon Glenbar and I were discussing how to reach out and offer further support and encouragement to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men who have been sexually abused in childhood. Many of these men have said they will never speak publicly about what was done to them, they have said how difficult it is to access support, how they do not know who to trust and how they are unsure if healing is even possible. These men have also said how important the connection to community and country is for them and how the encouragement and support of fellow community members is particularly meaningful and important for them. —Gary Foster, Living Well.
A starting conversation with Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander men
by Anthony Newcastle, Natjul.com. In late 2015, I met with Gordon Glenbar, an Aboriginal man working as a special projects officer for Link Up, supporting community members to engage with the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, and Gary Foster from Anglicare: Living Well Service who works with men who had been sexually abused in childhood. Gordon and I have known each other a long time. We’ve always talked about our community, about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and about the ongoing challenges our communities face confronting the negative impacts of colonisation and resulting inter-generational traumas.
Gordon, Gary and I spoke together of how to raise awareness and offer support to Aboriginal and Torres Strait men who have been sexually abused in childhood. We spoke of how individuals, families and communities are so often struggling to cope and live life in the present that the subject of helping men sexually abused as children is not talked about. We discussed how difficult it was to raise this subject, how the men themselves struggled to talk about it. We acknowledged the importance of qualified and connected individuals and organisations to lead discussions and negotiate community workshops and the extensive work done by many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in addressing sexual violence. We also discussed how important it was for local Aboriginal men to take responsibility to start supportive conversations with Aboriginal men and their communities about this issue.
The didgeridoo group
Every second Sunday I run ‘Didgeri’ at an inner city park in Brisbane. Didgeri is an Aboriginal men’s didgeridoo group. Didgeri has between 9 and 15 men. Didgeri is a place or gathering where we as Aboriginal men can come along and learn the didgeridoo as a way to connect or re-connect with culture and heritage. It is also a place where we talk about community, identity, culture, about raising kids, dealing with anger, about family and about being a good dad or husband.
All the men who come along know they are welcome to bring a son or nephew, grand-son or friend. Didgeri is a place where Aboriginal men can build and enrich connection. No alcohol or drugs, no carry on or yukai. The boys and young men are encouraged to show respect to older men, to each other and to the purpose of the gathering. At times wives, mothers or grand-mothers do come along. They generally come to drop off family and say hello, but they don’t stay as part of Didgeri.
It was at Didgeri that I raised the idea of the men putting their voices to supporting men who had been sexually abused as children and now living with the consequences. We discussed the idea of us, as every day community members acting to help raise awareness and offer support.
The discussions at Didgeri
On a couple of occasions I found myself standing with three or four other men, all leaning on our didgeridoos talking about what to do about this, and how to support the men and families who suffer as a result of this issue. We talked about community and organisational responses to women who have been sexually abused, and of the advocacy groups, which so rightly wrap around these. None of us could think of a group or advocacy organisation established for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men who were sexually abused as boys.
We talked about taboos and silences within the community. The idea of creating a video that makes a public statement addressing this issue started to sound important. It would be an expression of solidarity and support, by community members, for community members. It would be a way to start a conversation.
There was some talk about approaching well known footballers to see if they would like to participate. I’m happy now that talk lasted about 10 minutes before we moved on. Real happy. We had some quiet respectful discussion about who would be involved, we did not want the message being misunderstood, or not responded to, because we included men facing domestic violence charges or public nuisance charges. What was significant here was that ‘we as men’ from the community were talking about supporting men who had suffered sexual abuse as boys and young men – something we had not discussed before.
We talked about how men struggled, how many had attempted suicide, some dying. We talked about the guilt and pain many men carry about not being able to protect their friends, brothers and sisters from the abuser when they were children.
What became part of our discussions, is that by putting our voices and our images to this, we are giving voice to something that is almost silent, something almost invisible. We are saying silence is no longer OK. We want to lend our voices to acknowledge this as a challenge in the lives of men in our community. We very much wanted to offer support to families that are falling apart, where wives and children are seeing their husband and fathers become changed men because the demons from the past visit them late at night and torment them during their day.
We talked about how men found it difficult to talk with their families about why they are coming apart at the seams. Even though these men love their families dearly and would die without them, the taboo around this issue means it is difficult to speak about. Men do what men too often do. Push it down, ignore it, drink your way through it, yell at it, yell at others, feel ashamed, feel responsible, feel judged, feel alone, blame yourself, but don’t talk about it. As one man said:
“How the bloody hell do you talk about it anyway, and to whom?”
We want to find ways to talk about sexual abuse of males that invite participation. We want to communicate this in a way that invites empathy, understanding and respect, and says no more. Over the weeks we discussed how, if people aren’t talking about it, then nothing is being done. Some of our discussions had long pauses, or some changing of subject, before resuming. Some men stood in silence. We concluded that if nothing is being done about it and our brothers and our sisters lives are falling apart because of it, let’s do something.
We wanted to address the isolation and silence. We wanted to say,
“We know this happened to you and we are sorry it did. We want you to know that you are still our brother.”
We want to help address the fear of being judged and the feelings of shame. The shame is not yours to carry.
We talked about the importance of speaking, not just to men who have been sexually victimised, but to men and women across our communities.
Over the following weeks I rang, met with, and talked to about 20 people. All of the Didgeri group wanted to participate in some way. There were men who said straight away, “Yes, I want to support that and I will say it to camera.” Some said that they really wanted to offer support in some way, but because of family, work or how their involvement might be seen, they couldn’t be part of the video at present. There were men who said that although they felt for the fellas, they didn’t know if they could do it, as any talk of sexual abuse of children was hard for them to be around. Those who did not appear on camera, shook our hands and said, “Good on you for doing this.”
Making the video
Eleven of us gathered in a studio at the 4BE Multi-cultural radio station at Kangaroo Point to record our bits. We decided that in the room we would have only the person speaking to camera, the camera operator and myself, in order to help people relax and feel comfortable. We wanted to remove any shame-job. But with eleven Aboriginal people together in the waiting room, among the chats and yarns, people talking about who their mob were, and where their people are from, as always, family reconnections were found. “Hey, your mob from Roma? Your uncle is George from that cattle station? That’s my uncle too, that’s my tribe, we cousins.”
As people felt more comfortable with each other, as personal connections were made and a feeling of being in this together came over the group, then people started pairing up, saying, “Do you mind if I do it with Wayne, because he my cousin and we never met before.”
Others would say things like, “Brother, I never done anything like this before, can you sit with me and do one together?”
Before we knew it everyone was in the room supporting each other with comments like, “Oh that sounded deadly (really good) what you said then sis.” Or, “You two fellas look and sound good there when you said that.”
Ownership had shifted. Now the participants were making suggestions and talking about how good a project this was to be involved with.
It was on this day in the studio that some of participants spoke of how personal this was for them, their families and community. This issue impacted on members of the Didgeri and had not been discussed before that day. The gathering became an opportunity to talk and make a difference. The mood in the room changed, embracing connection, listening, caring, sharing and laughing together, offering support and genuine regard.
Talk turned to, “When this being released, we going to get to see it before?” and, “Do you think we can do another one?”
Six weeks later
It is now NAIDOC week and this Sunday afternoon we will have a first public showing of the video on a big screen at the Musgrave Park Cultural Centre in South Brisbane, where the guests of honour are the eleven people who participated, their families and friends. Over the weeks I have been constantly asked by those involved about when everyone gets to see the video.
This Sunday many of our Didgeri group will bring their didgeridoos and we will have our didgeridoo lesson aside before the video showing. My wife is making sandwiches, a curry and rice and some finger food. Gordon has been a constant source of encouragement and Gary has had almost boundless energy to keep pace, to bring this project together.
Now only days from the launch of our video I think about our first meetings (Gary, Gordon and I). I think of how appreciative I am of those individuals and organisations who work to address sexual violence and its impacts on our communities. I am however, particularly pleased that this project and these discussions happened in and amongst a group many would call grass roots. I am pleased that Aboriginal men and women stepped forward and put their face and voice to raising awareness and generating discussion that offers support to men who have been sexually abused in childhood, as well as their families. Community taking action and responsibility for community.
I was reminded of a discussion about suicide prevention and response I had with a 72 year old Aboriginal man on a remote Cape York community some years ago. When I asked him, “What can we do about this lack of counsellors and social workers and psychologists who can support people in remote places like this?” The old man said:
“When someone is finding it hard to live, we all know they might be finding it hard to live because we are a small town. Sometimes the best thing you can do for somebody else is go and see them, and sit on their porch and sit down and have a cup of tea with them. Even if you don’t know what to say about that thing that is a problem for them, you can still have a cup of tea with them. And they will know.”
We wish to express our appreciation to the men and women who have supported the development of the No More Silence: It’s Never Too Late to Start Healing video. This video reflects the power of everyday community members to make a difference.
We are only too aware of the profound impacts child sexual abuse can have on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander boys and men, girls and women and their communities:
Isolation, feeling alone and different.
Guilt, shame, self blame, distrust.
Feeling overwhelmed, hurt, angry, not good enough.
Disconnection from family, community and country.
Mental health problem, depression, anxiety.
Flashbacks, nightmares, sleep problems.
Suicide, self harm.
Relationship and sexual difficulties.
Drink and drug abuse.
Involvement with police and criminal justice system, prison.
Physical health problems.
Barriers to speaking
Men sexually abused in childhood report multiple barriers to speaking about what happened and accessing support:
Fear he won’t be believed or will be judged.
Sense of shame.
Concern his sexuality or manhood will be questioned.
Worry he will be seen as less of a man or people might think he will go on to abuse.
Distrust of authority, police, of anyone.
Fear of being blamed or that he will face payback for speaking up.
Worry that he will fall apart if he starts talking.
Being told to keep quiet that the community is not ready to talk about this.
Wanting to protect family members and others who were abused.
Having no-one to talk with.
Pressure from the abuser and others to keep the silence.
As well as hearing how difficult it is for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men to speak about childhood sexual abuse, we hear that the pressure not to talk increases the sense of isolation, and makes it difficult to get the help they deserve.
A conversation starter
The video is designed as a conversation starter. Sharing the video is one way for community members to raise awareness and offer support, encouragement and hope to those who have been sexually abused in childhood. It sends a message to all those who have been sexually abused or sexually assaulted across Queensland and throughout Australia to say:
You’re not responsible for what happened to you as a child. You are not alone. We care. The blame is not yours to carry. The shame is not yours to carry. Keep talking until you get the help you deserve. Take care of yourself, you’re worth it. It’s never too late to start healing.
1800 Respect Website: 1800respect.org.au 24/7 telephone and online crisis counselling, information and referral for anyone in Australia who has experienced or been impacted by sexual assault, domestic or family violence. Staffed by trauma specialist counsellors. Phone: 1800 737 732 Online Counselling: 1800respect.org.au/telephone-and-online-counselling
Lifeline Website: lifeline.org.au 24 hour crisis support and suicide prevention. Phone: 131 114
Link Up (QLD) Aboriginal Corporation Website: link-upqld.org.au Provides counselling, healing and culturally appropriate support for indigenous Australians. Phone: 1800 200 855
Healing Foundation Website: healingfoundation.org.au The Healing Foundation is a national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisation with a focus on building culturally strong, community led healing solutions. Phone: 02 6272 7500
Micah Projects Inc / Lotus Place (Find and Connect QLD) Website: lotusplace.org.au Support and resource service for Forgotten Australians and former child migrants. Phone: 1800 161 109 Email: email@example.com
Relationships Australia QLD Website: raq.org.au Family, children and relationship counselling. Relationship Australia are committed to offering the best possible counselling, mediation, education and support services in a professional, relaxed and confidential environment. Phone: 07 3423 6890 Phone: 1800 552 127 Government Funded
Bravehearts Website: bravehearts.org.au Specialist case management, counselling and telephone counselling for child and adult survivors, non-offending family members and friends. Services include counselling, support engaging with the Royal Commission, preparation of written statements, attending private sessions and public hearings. Phone: 1800 272 831 (8am – 8pm AEST/AEDT, weekdays) Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Blue Knot Foundation Website: blueknot.org.au (Formerly Adults Surviving Child Abuse – ASCA). National professional phone counselling, information and support for adult survivors of child abuse with referral database of experienced professionals and agencies. Provides workshops for survivors, family members, partners and friends. Professional development for health professionals is also available. Phone: 1300 657 380 (9am-5pm AEST/AEDT 7 days) Email: email@example.com
Murrigunyah Website: murrigunyah.org.au Murrigunyah Family & Cultural Healing Centre is a community based sexual assault support service run by Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander women of Logan City. Phone: (07) 3290 4254 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
BeyondBlue has programs for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and general information on mental health, including how to recognise depression and where to get help. Phone 1300 22 4636
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Health Service (ATSICHS) Call the ATSICHS Healing Centre on (07) 3240 8907 to access culturally appropriate counselling services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Brisbane affected by mental illness.
Townsville Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Services (TAIHS) The TAIHS Social and Mental Health Unit offers mental health counsellors and run regular men’s and women’s groups to help cope with:
Prison and court matters.
Phone TAIHS on (07) 4759 4022 to book a counselling session or join a group.