Star columnist Mary Wren: Abused need truth and love

UGC Columnist Dr Mary Wren
UGC Columnist Dr Mary Wren
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In the light of recent abuse being highlighted, I have been considering how we can support and help those affected not just survive but have quality of life.

I met a lady called Carolyn who was the victim of severe, sustained ritual abuse as a child. She had many years of surviving life after this…with severe depression, thoughts of suicide, anxiety and fear.

To enable her to cope with this abuse she created alternate personalities. These little people all had different roles. One would carry the fear, another would carry the disgust, another would hold the anger etc. These little ones would “Come out” at the appropriate time to carry a particular emotion or memory and then they would “go away” leaving Carolyn more able to survive and cope. This is called Dissociative identity disorder or DID.

Carolyn has shared her story in a book called “am I a good girl yet?” Her story is exceptional in that she is now whole, free and helping others who have suffered. She worked with counsellors, therapists and also with people at her Church. When I met her recently she told me that there were two things she felt were key in helping people recover.

Firstly that truth was vital. Not just truth about what happened and the wrong that was done, but also truth about who that person really is. So it is not the physical abuse that does the most damage it is lies that come along with the abuse-such as “I am dirty,” “It is my fault.” These lies eat away at a person and keep them as the victim. If we can help people know truth about themselves and their identity apart from being a victim, they can progress.

Secondly it is important for a person to feel loved. For Carolyn a key point came when she knew she was surrounded by friends who knew the truth and loved her whatever happened and whatever she was like. The love included being available to listen, doing normal fun things, helping Carolyn feel valued as well as being honest.

Most of the real help for Carolyn came from ordinary people in normal life being loving and truthful. I hope we can have communities where we are willing to do the same and see the women who have suffered abuse have hope and freedom.