“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better” – Maya Angelou
This quote from Maya Angelou has meant so much to me over the years. It is the reminder I use to motivate myself when I often want to take the easy road, or in some cases when I simply want to give up. It’s the reminder I use when I am exhausted, when doing the work seems never-ending or when I expect something from others, only to be disappointed. It’s the reminder that was front of mind for me this week as I attended the International Childhood Trauma Conference held by the Australian Childhood Foundation (AFC).
I’ll admit, as I walked into the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre on Tuesday morning I was asking myself why I was even there. The venue itself is so familiar to me after spending years in the events industry, I knew exactly where to park my car and which stairs to take that would lead me directly to the space where the conference was being held. But this feeling of familiarity was overcome by a feeling of apprehension.
As I entered, I was somewhat surprised to see hundreds of people who were attending. Therapists, researchers, clinicians, general practitioners, youth workers and academics were all attending for their personal and professional development. Hundreds of individuals all with a common purpose to reduce the trauma that children experience and to support both children and adults who have experienced trauma. This fact alone took my breath away.
Throughout the past few years as I’ve chosen to disclose the childhood sexual abuse I have experienced and as I’ve claimed the title of survivor I have expressed the comfort I find in knowing that there are other survivors out there, some just like me. The comfort of knowing I am not alone. But at this moment I saw firsthand that there are hundreds and thousands of individuals out there in the world that choose to support us. They want to create a safer world and they are actively working with purpose every single day.
Over the two days I spent at the conference I met many incredible individuals. I want to thank Billy Black and Bobby Hendry who have helped me understand how I can contribute to the work of these changemakers. I now am proud to call myself an Expert by Experience. With this new title, I am excited to be seeking out opportunities to collaborate with changemakers and to continue to use my lived experience to support survivors as well as reduce childhood sexual abuse from occurring in the first place.
One of the ways I’m choosing to use my expertise is by supporting Emma’s Project. I had the pleasure of meeting Emma at the conference when she spoke about her work with the AFC to create a survivor-informed education program. Emma’s Project aims to collect responses from child sexual abuse survivors. They plan to hear directly from survivors regarding what more could have been done to prevent the abuse from occurring and how adults in their community could have ensured they were listened to, validated and effectively protected.
I have chosen to lend my story to Emma’s Project as I’m acutely aware that my lived experience is very different to Emma’s. As is likely the lived experience of many survivors of childhood sexual abuse. In lending our stories to the project we can support the AFC to partner our lived experience with programs to help children in specifically unique situations.
In addition to the last week of actively committing myself to share my story with changemakers, I’ve spent the past month speaking with some incredible humans and sharing my story on various publications and podcasts. I’m grateful to the team at Business Chicks for the recent feature in their Latte Magazine I am also grateful for Maddie from the Reclaim:Me podcast for my Part 1 & Part 2 episodes. There will be some other wonderful media features in the coming months so keep an eye on my social media to find out more.