This month the Daughter Arise support group turned 4 years old. When I started this group back in October 2014 it was the first of its kind in South London specifically set up for survivors of sexual abuse. Back in 1994 when I came out of government care at 17 years old, there was no helplines that were openly advertised to help survivors, let alone support groups. I had the desire in my heart to do something about it but I was unsure where to start. It was only after I hosted the second Daughter Arise afternoon tea event in September 2014 that I decided to seize the moment. I was inspired by this event; to see so many people from around the country come together and be part of something so empowering it helped me to believe starting a support group would be a good thing.
Since setting up the group in Brixton four years ago, I have learned a lot about myself and other survivors, gaining a deeper insight into the challenges that continue to blight lives. Even though we have all have faced different but difficult circumstances, what is amazing about the group is the support and encouragement we receive from each other. Peer empowerment is a powerful tool in recovering from the trauma of sexual abuse. Whilst in the sessions we focus on activities and discussions that build self-esteem and confidence. We also talk about the issues surrounding our experiences but more from a viewpoint of finding solutions to help and encourage. The women that attend the group find hope for the future just by knowing they don’t have to face their challenges alone. They also know when they come to the group it is okay just ‘be’. It is often very hard for the survivor just to be themselves because in other areas of life they are indirectly or directly told by messages in society and people to “just get over” or “ move on” from their experience of sexual abuse. Little do people realise there is a process to this.
If you are a survivor part of the process is acknowledging where you are now; it forms part of the first steps of healing. The support group provides the environment to facilitate this; it is a place to be listened to and encouraged.
I have invested a lot in the building of the support group. Group attendance varies each month from 1 to 10 women at any one time and on a few occasions no one has turned up. Does that deter me from keeping on? No, because I understand how difficult it can be as someone who has been through sexual abuse. The most important thing is every month that Daughter Arise says we are open we are there. That is an important part of building relationships; it shows we can be trusted.
What encourages me to keep going is the privilege I have had of witnessing the transformation of some of the women that regularly attend. It is like the analogy of the caterpillar transforming into the butterfly. The woman that lost hope or felt discouraged by the battles within feels hope that life can be found again in the aftermath of abuse, starts to feel positive about the future. It is rewarding to witness that and further encourages me in the work of supporting survivors. As a visionary, I have achieved many firsts. Besides hosting 2 Afternoon tea awareness events and starting the support group in my area, both of which had never been done before. This year also marked 7 years since the launch of Daughter Arise the organisation and 8 years since my book Daughter Arise was first published. I give all glory to the living God. I could not do this in my own strength but in his strength, I can do all things.
My work has only just started and I have started to get the right people on board to work with me in building the vision. This group is only the start. I will be a pioneer in creating groups like this worldwide. My vision of providing peer empowerment communities for all survivors to find a place of acceptance and support is slowly becoming a realisation.