My world was full of secrets and lies protecting those who perpetrated against me. In the hidden world of childhood sexual abuse I lost sight of my own potential and took on instead the shadows and pains of my abuses. Yet something deep inside me wanted more. I wanted truth and light and I wanted hope and opportunity. Yet try as I may it seemed the world around me refused to conceded that I might have these. Childhood sexual abuse is a socially unpalatable subject and when I spoke out about my experiences I was punished accordingly; I lost all of my family and most of my friends because I chose to speak the truth. I was made to feel like I had no right to ask people to believe me because it made them uncomfortable. I was questioned, doubted and challenged by family, the police and the court … but never by the Children of Phoenix. In my world I was implicitly told I could only stay a part of the family and friend network if I stopped speaking out about the allegations. They tried to make me believe that I could only be a part of society if I said I was not a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. The Children of Phoenix told me I should be a part of society because I was a survivor. For the first time in over 30 years someone said I mattered. I was told by the Children of Phoenix Founder that I had potential and I should explore it, and more than that, she said, “we will help you”. I was not shamed or threatened. I did not have to pretend these things didn’t happen to me. I was supported. I was encouraged. I was accepted, and in large part because of that I have thrived. The Children of Phoenix sought but one thing from me, that I had a plan to explore my potential. It did not matter so much what area I studied only that I demonstrated I had support networks and a hope to break free and rise up from the ashes that had been my life. At times I still smell the ash over me but because of the unparalleled support I have received from this unique and innovative organisation I arise each day with the potential to fly. My thanks feels inadequate for the depth of gratitude I feel for Children of Phoenix. The Children of Phoenix came into my world and believed in me at the very point when everyone else walked out, and that has made all the difference to who I am today.Tonia Keating
September 2013 TESTIMONIAL FOR PROFESSOR CAROLINE TAYLOR AM
I recently attended a ‘Working with Survivors of Sexual Abuse’ workshop by Professor Caroline Taylor AM. It was based on her book ‘Surviving the Legal System’, and focused on vital aspects of disclosure and non-disclosure by victims. Above all, emphasising how important support for victims is. I have attended many workshops over the years, but this was by far the best I have attended. I was astounded at how authoritative and credible Professor Caroline’s presentations were. She lectures to Police Forces and Judiciaries around the world and is highly acclaimed as an author and advocate in the field by her peers. This is clearly because she is painstaking in her research and gives added credibility as a survivor herself. I think she is a hero to survivors of sexual abuse for such outstanding education and advocacy.
Reverend Bill Sutcliffe
Chaplain Ballarat Specialist School & survivor of sexual abuse.
Dear Professor Taylor,
Without your foresight I would never have had the opportunity to go to school and learn all the wonderful things that doing my Certificate 3 in Business Administration included.
I would like to thank you, your Board and Scholarship Committee and especially the Sponsors who without their backing these scholarships wouldn’t be possible.
I have to admit that without Children of Phoenix encouraging me to take this huge step, I would have never have done it. For I didn’t think that I was worthy, nor did I think that I had the brains to do it, and I certainly didn’t have the funds available.
I have always worked hard at my jobs and I often dreamed of having my own business one day, but as I never even got to finish secondary school, these dreams were just that, Dreams. So for me to go back to school at the ripe old age of 50 and to get the chance to learn skills that will help me start up my own business from home means so much to me.
Not only did I learn a lot of skills for my job, but I also got a whole lot more. I got so much support from this foundation, as you allocated me a mentor which definitely helped me. The self-worth that comes with learning, is unimaginable. The doors of opportunity are endless and my confidence in myself has made me think of a whole lot of other avenues that 12 months ago I would never have even thought about.
The teachers at Brace were fantastic, they not only taught the classes but they also helped in any way they could to make sure that we got what we needed to get the subject done, they even helped some of the class members write up their CV’s, and told them of jobs that were coming up in the system that they knew of, the class members have remained good friends even after finishing school. These may only seem small items but believe me when I say that they made a huge impact on me.
The saddest day was the last day of school when standing in the car park for the last time, I must admit that I cried. I cried like a baby, as this was in fact the first time in my life I actually got to finish school. I was going to receive a certificate to say that I passed and that to me was huge. I know that in this day and age where most children get to finish school and even go to University this probably sounds trite, but for someone who never got that opportunity this was a huge day for me and here I am a 50 year old crying like a baby all because I was actually getting the chance to finish school. As the old saying goes, “things come to those who wait.”
To all the Sponsors, a very grateful heartfelt Thank-you, because without your funding, these ideas are just that ideas. I am so proud to be able to say that I’ve done it, I have graduated with a certificate to prove it. Don’t ever under estimate the difference that a dollar or two will do for someone’s future. It makes huge difference. To have the course fees paid, to be able to get books without wondering how are you going to afford it, to be able to receive stationary or petrol to help you get there, these are just some of the things that your money has done for me and others like me. It should do your hearts good to know that you are making someone’s future a much bigger and brighter place.
So from a very proud Children of Phoenix Scholarship scholarship recipient, I say thank you and wish you all well into the future.
May your dreams become reality, and may life be kind to you all.
This letter was sent to Professor Taylor and the foundation from a survivor in July 2011. The letter has been edited to protect the identity of the writer.
Your story was such an inspiration to me and finally gave me the motivation to say to myself ‘if she can do it so can I’. I got kicked out of home at 14 because of sexual abuse and basically became homeless and lived where I could find a bed – I had no home!!!! Most of the time no- one cared about me, or knew where I was. I had lived in 106 places from the time I was 14 until I was 22 (and still didn’t have a HOME. I had a rough life but did find a partner and settled down somewhat to have children who are lovely, balanced people.The motto (hope) that got me through all the bad times was basically the same as yours – you cannot choose the family you are born to, you can however make YOUR LIFE great and make a difference in the lives of others – and that was the thread of hope that got me through my teenage years.
NOW – I have just turned 40 and off to university I go for a chance to offer hope and help to those trying to deal with the multitude of problems associated with CSA and make a difference in peoples lives as YOU have done.
THANK YOU !!!!
|Dear Caroline,I have been wanting to write to you as soon as the trial finished but was procrastinating thinking that this was going to be a difficult email to write. Difficult because I just haven’t been able to imagine how I could possibly find the words to thank you sufficiently for ‘Surviving the Legal System’. I know that that even with the experience of the first trial behind me, my second trial would probably have been just as humiliating and traumatic had I entered that courtroom without the detailed knowledge I obtained from your book.Thanks to your book I was able to have a completely different experience of going to trial. I did everything differently (to the first trial)and made damn sure that my voice was heard in that courtroom. I did not allow the defense to bully me and left with my dignity in tact. The outcome matters less to me now because nothing can take away my experience of that trial. I felt empowered (at one point I was startled to find that I was actually enjoying myself for a moment or two!).Basically, I was a 15yr old victim without a clue in the 1st trial and a 43yr old Survivor with a copy of the ‘script’ from surviving the legal system in the 2nd. My court support person even commented with amazement that she had never seen a ‘Victim’ get so much of their story heard in court before.The offender was finally convicted. I spoke to court support volunteers at Parliament House last Friday and extolled the virtues of ‘Surviving the Legal System’. I asked them to ensure that they introduce Witnesses/ victims going through trials of this kind to your book. I think it is essential reading for anyone going to court in a sexual assault/abuse case and their supporters.So, I could rave on for hours but instead (I know you’re a busy woman), I will finish by saying once again, from the bottom of my heart, thank you. Thank you for all the time, effort and heart you put in to writing ‘Surviving the Legal System’.Very best wishes,
Craig**Please note this letter has been edited to protect further the identity of the writer who asked only that his first name be used.
|Letter of appreciation from a survivor:I am writing to say a very big Thank You to the following people who are tirelessly working for the foundation called the “Children of Phoenix.”This foundation was established by Dr. Caroline Taylor with the vision to help both children and adults who are survivors of sexual abuse. Being a survivor herself of terrible childhood abuse, Caroline decided that a foundation was desperately needed to pass on the important and lifesaving educational skills that gave not just formal education but the ability to broaden horizons of life etc. Dr. Taylor wanted to see a foundation that would help others grow and reach their full potential and to ensure they did not travel alone, as she did. Her foundation is growing and I would also like to thank Rachel Kinscher who is the executive director, and Sharon Mudge, who is a board member of this wonderful foundation. The help and assistance and positive support that all these lovely ladies have shown me, has not only given myself but other survivors just like me a chance of a new start, with tools to help getting started along the way. I don’t know of any other foundation that willing gives you the opportunity to get back to school as an adult and take courses so that you can get an education to make a new start in life, complete with help and continuing support along the way, all with no strings attached. What a wonderful and generous idea.From reading Dr. Taylor’s work I understand her passion that this was the best way to help others to achieve and to heal. I hope that Ballarat businesses and the general public realise how fortunate they are to have this wonderful facility in their own backyard, and I hope that everyone will get behind this foundation and help it grow into something that all Victorians will be proud of. Lots of other volunteers help with this foundation and all I have met since the foundation began to assist me, have been nothing but kind, gentle and supporting. Well done to everybody who helps this foundation, either with time or donations. You are all doing a great job.
Many thanks, (Name and address withheld)
|Letter of appreciation from a funding recipient:On November 29th 2007, Young Women’s Secure Welfare opened its annual art exhibition as part of the International 16 Days Against Gender Violence. The exhibition is an annual art therapy event that raises awareness about sexual violence within Victoria and gives young women survivors of violence the opportunity to express their experiences in a safe and supportive environment. Each year the show aims to raise funds for new resources to ensure the ongoing operation of the art therapy program at Secure Welfare. The goal of the 2007 Inside Out exhibition was to raise funds to purchase a computerised baby to address the problem of adolescence pregnancy. The Children of Phoenix Foundation realised this goal for us by generously donating a computerised baby, in addition to providing training to the staff at Secure Welfare in the operation of the resource. The magnitude of the donation far exceeded our expectations and has provided many young women across Victoria with the opportunity to make an informed decision about pregnancy. Jane (14yrs), a client of Secure Welfare who attended the first session of using the computerised baby stated that ” The baby was so cute, but it freaked me out when it started crying and I couldn’t stop it…it better playing with my friend’s kid…after the group with the baby, I’ve decided that I don’t want a baby all the time…not yet”The art therapy program at Secure Welfare facilitates the creative process of making art that is healing and life-enhancing. The program focuses on increasing self-awareness in order to cope with traumatic experiences, and to enjoy the life-affirming pleasures of artistic creativity. The Children of Phoenix, by donating one thousand dollars to the Art Therapy Program, has assisted young Victorian women to access this service when held in Secure Welfare. The program relies heavily on community contributions for its ongoing operation and without the generous support of organisations such as the Children of Phoenix would find it difficult to continue its valuable work with such vulnerable young women. The foundation’s support was the largest donation for 2007 and has consequently funded art materials for four months. On behalf of the staff, the young women and the art therapy program I would like to express my ongoing gratitude to the Children of Phoenix Foundation for providing to our service such a wonderful educational resource as the computerised baby as well as essential art supplies. Their generiousity demonstrates an active and genuine approach to supporting individuals who are victims and survivors of gendered violence.
|A Testimonial Poem, for the Children of PhoenixConsequences of abuse are immense
Leaving the innocent affected, changed and tense
Confidence ripped, immeasurable pain
Self esteem destroyed
Seemingly endless darkness remains
With no way out, no one can hear or understand
We lose ourselves, forgetting our dreams and plans
Worthlessness is what we learn to know
To hate ourselves, no good to show
This happened to me, but I was so blessed
I recieved help and support from some of the best
Without me knowing how or why,
There really were others who could hear my cry
I was not worthless, I need not be ashamed
I was a child, I was not to blameChildren of Phoenix came to my aide
A University Graduate, I now proudly parade
It may have taken me twice as long
But my current Masters course is what makes my new song
Education and learning I now embrace
The keys to a future, with no disgrace.Thank you Phoenix, thank you so much
It was just what I needed, such a gentle touch
With my confidence back, I believe in myself
And strive to help others as you do, and pass on the wealth(Name and address withheld)