Below are a selection of poems and short stories we have been asked to share.
When I was young, and you were old,
your child abuse was brave and bold.
Bereft of warmth, harsh and cold.
Now I’m grown, please be told.
You took every day I had.
You took my infancy.
You took my childhood.
You took my youth.
You took my adolescence.
You took my education.
You took my life chances.
You took my mental health.
You took my physical health.
You took my social health.
You took my self-awareness.
You took my self-esteem.
You took my sense of self.
You took my pride.
You took my honour.
You took my body.
You took my soul.
You took all that I had.
You took all that I was.
And yet, in the final analysis, you have nothing, and I have it all. It is better to give, than to receive. So, accept my forgiveness and please just leave.
Hey Miss, will you ever notice what’s going on, because you come to our house, you’re here five minutes then you’re gone. You never ask us about our rooms, about our beds or that big bruise. It’s all well and good giving smiles; admiring our ‘new’ toy. But you never asked us any questions before you were straight back out the door. You never asked me if I’m happy or what was my favourite thing or what made me scared of the night time…you never asked none of them things.
Hey Miss, will you tell me what’s on them papers you carry, because I think they’re about us…but you’re always in and out in a hurry, so I can’t ask you, what they was. I need you to say what you mean and mean what you say; if you don’t then I get thoughts in my head; I can’t make them go away. If I did ask you a question would you answer… because I can tell when people really don’t wanna say stuff?
How am I ever supposed to trust ya to tell you my stuff, if you won’t even stay long enough; for me to properly know your name?
Hey Miss, will you tell me what’s going on? I’m scared of all the big people and it feels like I’ve done something wrong. I need you to let me know things, even if it won’t be ok. I need you to explain the meetings and lots of the things that you say.
I need you to hear my side. Don’t try and shut me up. I have lots of things to tell you and usually start with the safe silly stuff. So will you give me the time to get around to opening up?
Hey Miss, will you not talk about me like I’m not there. If you bring me into the conversation then it’s more likely that I’ll share. I might tell you about the things that are bothering me, my thoughts about my future and where I’d like to be. I might tell you about the things that have played on my mind, made me grumpy and angry; feel awful inside. My thoughts and feelings are precious. I don’t want them to be dismissed. And if I feel that they are, then I might just call it quits and not try to tell you anything ever again; and would you even remember them anyway.
Hey Miss, will you remember that I really hate peas, that my best friend is my dog Bandit; that my sister is Emma-Louise. Will you remember that I dropped some clues while we were chatting, that I left you some bread crumbs to follow because I couldn’t speak about ‘it’; will you remember that tomorrow? Will you remember the things that are special to me, the things that make me scream? Will you remember the things that make me cross so you can help me blow off steam; in a safe way? Will you remember all of those things because it shows me that you care, and maybe I can start to trust you a little bit to maybe start to share? I might tell you my hopes, goals and dreams because I do have all of those things. If only you will be there, be present and try to tune in. Will you ask, notice, listen and remember the little bits, because it’s all of them things that will help me put back together the blocks to make positive relationships.
Hey Miss, will you show me that you kind of understand? Will you appreciate my emotions? Will you try to comprehend where it is that I’M coming from, because I need to know that despite all of this stuff that I’m worth a chance, I’m worth a go!!
What I found as a child growing up in a chaotic and abusive environment and as a young person growing up in care, is that with most people my words were not valued, that what I had to say did not matter as I thought it should; so I stopped saying it. I stopped asking questions, I stopped sharing my thoughts and feelings and I stopped caring about what people around me were trying to do because I thought that they were all going to be the same anyway; they didn’t have time for me so therefore they did not care about me.
I have written this verse from a child’s perspective as what I’d like you to remember is that these are the words not of the adult you see here today, but of the child that I was; the child that I still carry inside. This verse was written with my social workers in mind but also reflecting upon the wider network of professionals that were involved within my life teachers, carers, key workers, support workers, counsellors, police officers, health professionals…even other everyday adults that were in my orbit.
What I’ve realised as an adult is that we are all worth it, our story, our truth no matter how difficult and painful that might be it is ours; we should not let it define us but reflect upon it so that it can inform us going forward to greater things. Along my journey there have been things that I have held on to that have gotten me through, people who have stood out because they gave me something that they could never get back; their time. This showed me that they cared. They listened to what I had to say, they were bothered about my feelings, they gave me the answers I asked for even if they were difficult and they helped me to understand even when that answer was that they did not know or could not do what I wanted, they celebrated my achievements with me and tried their best to support me to pick myself back up when I was down. It is those people and their warmth, the kind, curious people who were genuine, authentic and non-judgemental that got me through and made me believe even if it was only for a moment that I could be anything I wanted to be; which fuelled my passions and is the reason I am here today.
“OMG… I’ve finally tracked you down”
Your timely words seemed meant to be
But you could not have known
How much they’d mean to me.
It’s 40 years since we last met
In that awful place
Where cruelty went unpunished
And justice was disgraced.
There were fireworks in the attic
With confiscated toys
Colouring books were all you had
Designed to mute your noise.
A cold bath if you wet the bed
Stood barefoot in the snow
Food packed to go.
When visitors came the scene was set
To create illusion
Bay windowed lounge unlocked
Just for the occasion.
Well-practiced children on parade
Reciting party pieces
With tea and cake to celebrate
This perilous delusion.
Years Later it came as no surprise
The child crime crier
Was striped and beaten by police
Moved and branded liar.
For I am left in no doubt
Abuse will be denied
As long as truth is worthless
And vested interest amplified.