This was written by Shahanaz who runs our First Tuesdays group, exclusively for young women. We hope to continue First Tuesdays or a similar group later in the year.
“Working with young women survivors in East London is both a valuable and challenging experience.
Our meetings are called First Tuesdays because they are held on the first Tuesday of each month. My Survivors group is for women aged 16-25 which makes their experience of child sexual abuse still very recent. This can make them a little more vulnerable and sensitive to engage with. They are going through a very complex phase of life and their pattern of thinking can be difficult to understand.
For example, some women from the Asian community are keen to come to one-to-one meetings and are very engaging but, when it comes to group meetings, they don’t want to come at all. Their reasons include cultural shame. Some have worries that somehow the government will be involved and their parents will find out and disown them for joining such a group or sharing their experiences. Others are worried they’ll be looked down upon and be an embarrassment to their family and society. Somehow they still blame themselves whilst knowing they are not the ones who are wrong. This is one of many internal conflicts they share in our one to one meetings. Whilst taking care of their societal expectations they are failing to serve their emotional needs. The married ladies are afraid to tell their husbands as they feel their husbands may judge them negatively. Another reason the younger survivors don’t come to the group, even if they really want to, is that they would need permission to be out beyond college time.
Survivors from other cultures have struggles too which make them reluctant to come forward to the group. One has mentioned that her childhood experience was so very traumatising she doesn’t want to be in an environment which reminds her of it. Teen years are stressful enough so I understand why they might want to deny or disassociate themselves from the rather harsh reality of acknowledging their child sexual abuse. However, acknowledging it is part of the healing journey.
Our group is a gentle way to help move forwards. It’s not counselling or the place to discuss what has happened. It’s a social group (for young women aged 16-25) that focuses on trying new activities and learning new skills with other women who understand.
I’d like to help more young women help each other but they have to join in.”