It took several phone calls to the Truth Project before I went through with saying I wanted to do it. I wasn’t sure if my own experience fitted what they were looking for and I hadn’t really come to terms with being able to call it child sexual abuse (CSA) at that point.
They sent me information initially and I ignored it to begin with, until finally deciding I would at least read it since I had called several times considering it. I honestly can’t remember exactly how I learned of them but I had contacted a helpline in an emotional crisis previously and it’s quite possible they were who mentioned it. I was also contacted prior to this crisis by a detective with a case sort of linked in a roundabout way to my experience; possibly he had mentioned it amongst me refusing to be very helpful and telling him I trusted his force as much as a chocolate teapot and was incredibly angry with them and had zero faith after they betrayed many including me a long time ago. Somehow I had learned of its existence though.
I felt a lot of protectiveness towards people involved in my experience and I was frightened that it would trigger a police investigation I wasn’t ready to deal with and possibly neither were other individuals ready to cope with. I still care about people I would be sharing about and I feel a sense of sympathy that perhaps can only be understood from growing up in a cult that taught forgiveness, sometimes to the point of insanity.
I didn’t want to destroy anyone’s life and still believe somebody involved has a chance at being a different person to events that took place years ago. I personally believe they won’t repeat and have confronted and taken some responsibility privately to me. My story is complicated that I’m not willing to share the details of and involves multiple people. I can’t really explain without sharing more than I’m comfortable with but I have peace in my decision. It’s always left me in an awkward place though as something directed at victims/survivors a lot is why wouldn’t you go to the police and protect others in the future? In my heart I can defend why, but I feel I’ve still done something now I felt a responsibility to do. Since doing the Truth Project- I’ve spoken up for other children in the future.
I personally decided to do some counselling whilst I was making my decision and organised that myself.
When I did finally decide to go ahead, I was worried about how I would share anything without triggering a police investigation. There was already an investigation involving the place I would be sharing about (not the Jesus Army) but not to my knowledge directed at who I might implicate, and I was worried that I simply didn’t remember all the correct names anymore and scared of falsely implicating wrong people as many adults and children had been involved so they agreed with me that I could use pseudonyms for everyone I mentioned (and obviously as they knew of the place – if anybody else had/has come forward from it they’d have a picture of things from my pseudonyms anyway).
In truth the police had a picture decades before even my own experience but that’s another story. I was very angry at certain organisations who repeatedly chose to fail victims for decades and finally took note in one huge case that made the news and resulted in individuals from my past contacting me. This triggered something I’d had to bury and try to forget about. It also bought up a lot of guilt and realisations that nothing had ever changed, it had only got worse. Could I have done anything more than I did?
As much as I know I was a child and failed by adults, I cried a lot of times confronting the news and the stories of others I didn’t know personally but had very uncomfortable similarities with, eventually realising I did actually blame other victims and had to realise that they – like me years previously, were actually not in control.
I was given a support worker via the Truth Project who phoned me several times, at times we agreed, to check if I had questions or fears, if I was mentally coping and what they could do to support those. They organised for me to stay away from my child for the night in a hotel which they funded on the night I went as I was frightened about not being able to keep it together as a parent afterwards and thought I would probably need to clear my head before returning to regular life. This was all very easy and I didn’t have to, it was just what I chose and relayed to my support worker who told me who to contact about it.
I had no trust in anyone claiming to help CSA victims prior to beginning with the Truth Project and I probably repeated endlessly to them how anxious I was of yet another organisation betraying me or losing my records when I said something nobody wanted to hear. It was really important to me to be in control if I dared speak. They were incredibly sympathetic to my endless questions before I would really share anything much at all. I did want to talk but I needed to build up trust and I felt like my support worker “got it”.
In the end I decided I wanted my support worker in the room with me specifically to help me make sure I used pseudonyms and so I could have someone to ask afterwards, who was present, if I had questions. On the day I went to a place which is a secret location; you sign something to agree you will not share with anybody. It’s not intimidating and doesn’t have a great big sign (or even any sign) telling people what it is or why you are there. You can take someone of your choice with you for support but I chose not to.
I arrived as a lady was walking out and she looked like she was popping to the shops. There was nothing about her that gave away to anyone who she was or who I was and why we were there. I had mentioned to her the colour of my coat I’d be wearing on that day so she had an inkling when she quietly asked “you’re not X are you?” If she had asked the wrong person she’d have given nothing away, As I say it’s a secret unassuming location and I felt comfortable enough to pop out the front for several cigarettes during my time there as nobody would have had a clue who I was or why I was there or what it was. The lady was my support worker. You can choose male or female or no preference.
I had a request that they didn’t match me with anybody at any time who had ever worked in the county in my childhood within certain organisations. This was checked and facilitated. These things came up with the help of the support worker asking what would make me comfortable. I also was asked if any colours or smells, or anything I could think of, would be triggering and painful for me which I would not have thought about myself but I hugely appreciated being able to say could they please remove anything that was X. I’ve avoided something all my life since and I simply wouldn’t have thought to mention it without being asked but it made a huge difference to know I wouldn’t encounter it. It would have sounded daft without being offered that opportunity to say actually “yes, X”.
There are several locations and obviously I only went to one but I would imagine the others are similar – since they are kept secret until you decide to go. I have no idea what the others are like, it’s my assumption that they’d be similar and a support worker would answer your questions about it.
My support worker was very reassuring and immediately put me at ease. I stepped out for a cigarette to steady my nerves while she got the people ready.
I then went into what was a calm room with comfortable seats – much like a small living room with a desk of snacks and drinks and was able to help myself throughout had I wanted to. I didn’t particularly, other than water, but it felt kind and considerate. I felt really cared for by this point which was healing in itself. I was offered tissues which I definitely needed.
My support worker was in the room with me when two ladies came in. They introduced who they were and reassured me of their background to confirm they had not worked in organisations at any point I did not want to speak to anyone with any connection from. I can’t really remember how they looked but they weren’t intimidating. One led the session, one occasionally interjected and I think made notes possibly, and my support worker was there to do what I had asked her to do for me.
I was made aware that it would be recorded (taped) and gave my consent prior to them pressing record and after we had briefly gone over the fact I would be using pseudonyms throughout and why this was important that I did for me, and also for them as professionals who would have a duty to report things based on things I could possibly share.
I was able to take breaks and did. I was supported to keep to the way I felt safe disclosing my experience. It was very very far from what you might imagine reporting your experience in a police station to be like. I actually felt fairly relaxed (as far as anyone can be talking about traumatic things anyway) after a point in my time there.
I was asked about how it had affected me since, not only what happened but the way it was handled at the time. I hadn’t actually expected to be asked this and there were a few questions asked to help me answer the impact it had left on my life.
At the end of the session (possibly an hour or two, I lost track) I was asked what I felt should be done differently in the future which for me was a very important question and a big factor in me wanting to do the Truth Project. For me I wanted to be able to say – “to keep children safe in future I think X should have happened”. My support worker had prepared me that this would be asked and suggested I make notes, not only of what I wanted to say but what I thought needed to change in the future. I wasn’t limited to the current laws in what I could suggest would improve things. I did suggest certain powers were changed.
I did know that my experience was very likely to be reported on to the police and we had discussed this before anything was recorded, and with my support worker before I had ever got inside the building, but I had done it in a way that meant unless there was something that needed to be acted on in the present day it was unlikely they’d actually contact me to take it any further. At the end of the session we went over what that meant – that yes my experience would be passed on but was all under pseudonyms and it was unlikely that I would ever hear anything more,unless at some point the police decide that enough of us have spoken the same story and ask any of us if we want to go any further. I probably personally wouldn’t but it gives me peace of mind to feel that I haven’t ignored things, I don’t want to go to the police but if enough ever comes to light and someone else involved does it’s there that I said something and I can make that choice in the future.
I then left and spent the night in a nearby hotel which they’d paid for and covered food and travel expenses. I was contacted as I’d requested by my support worker during the evening to see how I was and to my shock, though drained, I felt overwhelming peace at being able to do something in a way I felt safe. For me personally this was the closure I had needed for years. I’d made a pact with myself that this was me shutting the door on things and I could move on.
I had several more conversations with my support worker over the next few weeks which pretty much went with me telling her how much of a relief it was and how much I was surprised at feeling so reassured I had done enough and I could finally move forward.
To date (almost a year on) I have not been contacted by the police.
I do believe you can be heard in a safe way that you are in control of and would highly recommend contacting the Truth Project to other survivors.
I can’t guarantee you would experience what I did but I had many opportunities to stop the process that I actually felt safe by the time I reached actually disclosing anything that it was worth doing so and right for me. It was the only way I would ever have spoken as an adult so I’m very grateful they exist and gave me that opportunity to finally do so and be heard. I’m currently hopeful that things will change and are changing because of them.