Surviving sexual abuse… and moving on

Young plant growing on an old brick wall

The last decade has been a time of transformation for me. Ten years ago I was in the darkest of places and even suicidal. But please don’t stop reading because today, life is wonderful!

Young plant growing on an old brick wallSo much has happened in those ten years and the future is looking great. All because I eventually had the courage to share a secret from my childhood. The awful truth that I was sexually abused from the age of four until I was seven by an ‘uncle’.

It was a secret I kept for over 40 years and secrets, like lies, compound as time goes by and the burden grows heavier. In my darkest moment I told my husband, who is a wonderfully supportive man and seemed to know instinctively what this had done to my life and what needed doing to put it right.

Beginning my journey

The healing process began. First I went to my GP, then a counsellor and finally to group therapy. It wasn’t easy to do any of this, particularly the group therapy, which I thought would be like an AA meeting where I would have to stand up and say “My name is…”!

During my life before this breakdown, I had functioned as a wife and mother and built a successful career as the owner and manager of a day nursery but inside, underneath my professional persona, I carried guilt from the abuse.

Rationally I now know that no one would think a child should feel guilty. It is the abuser’s fault only and his dirty little secret, not mine. Unfortunately, that’s not how victims perceive themselves and it takes a long time to grasp this.

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Only then can you put things into perspective. Obviously my past influenced my life choices and there are so many things which in retrospect I now understand. Being a slightly overprotective mother, a lack of self confidence and self esteem and an increasing desire to protect children and animals, to name a few.

Happily, in spite of this, my children have grown into wonderful adults of whom I am immensely proud and they and my husband have brought me through this experience, for which I will be eternally grateful.

Taking solace in writing

But what about the positives? Well, today I can proudly call myself an author with eight published books. I began writing at my lowest point, scribbling away when I couldn’t sleep or face people and the writing was cathartic.

When I had almost filled a book with my thoughts and feelings, I took great delight in shredding it, a symbolic act of turning my back on past terrors and determinedly looking towards the future.

It has not been an easy journey, the healing is a process and one which seemed to move at a snail’s pace at times, but I knew I would get there with the wonderful help and support I received.

After shredding my first ‘book’ I took up my pen and began to write again, this time a short, easy-to-read book which aims to help others recover from historic abuse. Yes, there are many excellent books on the subject but I found them too complex at that time. I don’t think I even had the energy to lift such weighty volumes when at my lowest, nor plough through psychological theories I’d previously never heard of. I’ve read some of these amazing books since, but they were just not appropriate for me at that moment.

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Having been empowered by the counselling, I developed an interest in psychology and therapeutic counselling and returned to college to study, becoming the ‘granny’ in a wonderful class of students.

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Gillian’s first book about her experiences

I had never achieved much at school and certainly never enjoyed it but suddenly I possessed such enthusiasm for studying, even the homework and assignments were a joy!

After completing the course I began to work voluntarily for Victim Support, undergoing more training with them before going into the community to support victims of crimes ranging from burglary to homicide.

Having worked in this role for six years it was inevitable that I would gain a degree of insight into the justice system and police procedures, which was for me, although not realising it at the time, a good grounding for writing fiction.

If I had to describe my journey and the transformation it has brought I would liken it to having previously been like a cardboard cutout of myself, and now at last I am developing into a rounded, filled-out person.

Channelling those negative feelings and experiences has brought about an amazing change in my life and at the age of 60, when most people are considering retirement, I have a new lease of life and a passion for writing.

I am no longer a victim but a survivor and past events no longer define who I am or how I shall live from now on…

Find out more…

About Gillian Jackson

I live in Darlington with my husband Derek. Between us we have four children and eight grandchildren. My cat Lucy likes to sit with me when I write, reminding me she was my original laptop! My first book Moving On From Victim to Survivor is my account of my experiences - not a misery memoir but a book to help others living with similar trauma and help them turn the negatives to positives. I also write fiction.