I was raised a Catholic, although my family were not particularly religious. I went to church throughout my childhood (inconsistently) and I attended a local Catholic school. I studied RE at GCSE and due to my love of debate and my curiosity of the unknown I went on to pursue Theology and Philosophy at ‘A’ Level.
I believe in a Higher Power and develop my spiritual connection daily through various practices but to me, religion is heavily based on man- made rules, whereas spirituality is about being intuitive, connecting to an innate and divine knowing that we are all born with. I don’t therefore necessarily define myself as Catholic today, but it is obvious to see why much of my thinking and creativity has been influenced by Catholicism.
Not My Cross to Bear is a comment on who really bears the burden of sexual abuse, assault and rape. Who really carries that cross? I certainly felt that I had inherited my perpetrators sin and therefore carried my own metaphorical cross throughout my life in the form of eating disorders and self-destructive behaviours. I thought for many years that I was to blame for what happened to me and that I deserved to be punished for the disgusting, dirty girl that I was.
The impact of suffering such trauma can become a lifelong battle and even now, at the age of 36, my default setting is to blame myself for anything and everything because I am worthless and un- deserving. I have to work terribly hard to find anything that resembles self-love.
In so many cases of childhood sexual abuse, people are willing to look away, staying silent, just as many people did as Jesus was persecuted. My immediate family were extremely supportive but certain members of our extended family were not and certainly turned a blind eye, the truth perhaps being too much of a cross for them to bear.
Throughout my journey of recovery I have found people willing to help me carry my cross, easing the weight of my struggle. Over time I came to realise that I didn’t need to crucify myself any longer for sins that were not mine. Staying nailed to that cross meant I was trapped by my past, stuck in a moment that I couldn’t move past. Perhaps a little ironically, in finding forgiveness and handing back my cross to the person to whom the blame truly belonged, I finally found a sense of new life, re-birthing myself out of my trauma and suffering.
There are many layers to this image which sum up various aspects of my journey. It is not meant to be offensive, but provocative, mirroring the discomfort of having to tackle the taboo of childhood sexual abuse.
If you’ve been a victim of childhood sexual abuse or know someone that has, you can find out more information at www.truthproject.org.uk