“If I’m honest I must confess that I never find inset days to be the most interesting, yes of course they are necessary, it gives us the chance to say hello to our colleagues, to remind ourselves where we are, and to see what the goals are as we prepare for the next term, with a little more time and space and even a little less noise than normal! Checking my timetable, I noticed that for the first time ever since I had been at the school, we had a guest speaker on inset day, a lady by the name of Emma-Jane Taylor was going to lead a workshop about sexual violence and sexual harassment training. Emma- Jane stood up, introduced herself, and within seconds held the whole hall in the palm of her hand when she told us, without emotion, self-pity or embarrassment that she had been groomed and sexually abused as a child. I count myself lucky, I was sat at the back of the hall, when the words came out of her mouth, I have no idea how those at the front reacted when she looked into their eyes and said the words. I was taken aback, how should I feel? Anger? Pity? Embarrassed? It seemed a contradiction, here was a very attractive, well dressed, articulate, confident lady who none of us had ever met before, telling us about the horrible intimate experiences she had endured as a child. Experiences that most people would want to forget, to hope and pray that those they met throughout their lifetime would never hear of, of their shame and embarrassment at what had happened to them. I think that this is why I found Emma-Jane to be one of the most inspiring people I have ever had the pleasure to listen to in my life. She knows that she has nothing to be ashamed or guilty about, she was the victim of people who were happy to put their own sexual gratification before the needs of a child, they and they alone should own the shame and guilt.
Just three months before this I had been a juror on a sexual abuse case. I had sat in a court room and listened to the filmed police interview with the 11 year old victim, and because of the delays due to Covid, her subsequent filmed cross examination with the defence counsel now at the age of 14. Sat in my Covid secure seat with screens around me, I struggled to hear her quiet replies to the questions asked of her as she barely looked up from her feet.
Despite the age difference between them, many of the words they both used were the same, the abuse was much the same, in both cases they could have been spared many of the horrors they were forced to endure if someone had listened, if someone had believed them. If someone had noticed their pain and changes in mood, and had told them that their body belonged to them – and them alone. We will never end abuse, there will always be someone who will take advantage of a child, the best we can do is to be vigilant, and to notice changes, and not to be afraid to ask questions, and to let children know that they do have a voice and do have a choice. I feel honoured that I have heard Emma-Jane’s story, I hope that many people will have that privilege too.
I feel honoured that I have heard Emma-Jane’s story, I hope that many people will have that privilege too.”