As part of #CSASurvivors twitterstorm I offered to blog survivors stories. This is the fourth #CSASurvivorsStory, #CSASurvivorsStory4. This is #CSASurvivor Shirley Cooper’s story, a moving an inspiring story. Shirley from St Kitts is now in Birmingham.
Birds and Bees by Shirley
In school today
the teacher say
bout the birds and bees
in fact she say
they make love and baby
a wife bird
does it wid a husband bird
and a wife bee
does it wid a husband bee
but dat can’t be right
because I see
Daddy do it wid Mummy
and Daddy do it wid me
from Books On Child Abuse 1  Ssh Ssh Baby – Shirley Cooper  A Survivor Myself. Experiences of Child Abuse. Edited by Pauline Kirk. 1994
This was sent to me from Shirley’s facebook  where she published it but I have not been able to connect with her yet.
A Survivor Myself – Shirley Cooper
I am a survivor of child abuse. It took years before I spoke out but eventually I did. It started with my uncles in St Kitts. I wrote about my experiences as a child in St Kitts “Memories from Home” 2004 Shirley Cooper Memories from Home 
When I wrote and self published the book all references to abuse were self-censored. I did not want everybody to think that my childhood was full of abuse. I realised afterwards that I couldn’t write my memories without included the abuse I suffered so I ‘sneaked’ some experiences in and clouded my story with other peoples.
Years later after regular ‘itises’ I decided to peel the onion. Why was I always sick, always getting bronchitis, cystitis, etc. I didn’t like what I was remembering. This couldn’t have happened to me. So in my book I wrote about my uncle being beating up by the police for ‘interfering with somebody’s daughter’.
I was in the 30s before a counselling asked me if I was somebody’s daughter. what a stupid question. Of course I was somebody’s daughter. He’d been looking through my book for something to work on.
By this time I’d covered up my experiences of abuse with a house, a car, a career, a salary and denial. Memories were of everybody’s abuse except mine. By this time I had started working with child sex abuse survivors and going to support groups but in my mind was abuse that happened after I came to England and spent 9 years being abused by a foster father.
I had no recollections of anyone abusing me before the age of ten. But hang on. Why did i steer clear of certain male relatives? Why did I have nightmares? Why did I almost breakdown when my 15 year old daughter was going away with her father to Nevis? I wrote a letter to my ex partner, my daughters’ father. Under no circumstances was he supposed to leave my daughter with my uncle in St Kitts.
I phoned my sister and told her about the letter. It distinctly said after what he’d done to my sister I didn’t want him near my daughter. My sister said, ‘no Shirley, it was you’. I insisted it couldn’t be as I’d been in England since I was 9. My sister then reminded me of incidents. Yes, they were in my book but referred to other children.
Well what a year 1995 turned out to be. I got the photos out, sat at the computer and started writing as I looked at the photos. Incidents, conversations etc came flooding through. By this time I was going through domestic violence as well.
So I remembered my visits to the Caribbean in 1973 and 1978. Why had I thrown a brick at my uncle on the street? Why had I kicked him down the stairs. I then remembered the conversation before I did these things.
Some years later I had a nightmare. I woke up the morning and a friend came round and offered me a lift to anywhere on his route home. I grabbed my book ‘A Survivor Myself’ in which ten of us had written about childhood abuse, and set off to see my uncle. Talk about triggers.
During conversation I asked him how old I was when he came to England. I asked him where he lived? He verified what I knew deep down. He too was an abuser. I could only have been about 6. I rushed out of his house and caught the first bus. I went to a shop, bought a full change of clothing and shoes and changed on the bus and at a local park.
I bought £££s of sweets and pop. I was crying for ages. I then stopped off at McDonalds and scrubbed myself raw. No wonder I never took my child to his house. So I carried on with campaigns. organisations, editing newsletters, reading everything, getting counselled, going to support groups.
During this time I was teaching. I came across child abuse quite often. There was a group of teachers in my first school, Holte Comprehensive, who boasted about having sex with pupils. I found children in my classes who were abused in their homes, by other relatives and friends of the family. I reported my concerns to a head teacher who told me ‘mind my own business’ I was frustrated.
Whilst I was at in Worcester College of Education [now Worcester University] I wrote my thesis on how a childs’ basic needs were met in care. I knew my childhood wasn’t ideal and wanted to know how it should have been. I worked in Oakhill House Assessment Centre. I wrote a chapter on sex. It included references to staff abusing children. My senior lecturer told me to remove or rewrite chapter or not get a Certificate in Education.
The College did not want to be named by Mr Liddiard at Birmingham Social Services for allowing me to accuse any of their staff of abuse and the lecturer was concerned about this. I refused and gave it to my sister to type. She removed it.
Years later Oakhill House Assessment Centre, Birmingham was investigated and staff taken to court. Last year, Mr Cranston was jailed.
After I left Holte school, a child got pregnant by a teacher. She came to see me with her report. Another teacher had told her not to hand it to police as the child and teacher were both ‘coloured’. The police phoned me, ‘I know it’s 19 years ago but you may remember something.’
The child was now 19 and spitting image of his rapist father who’d been allowed to carry on teaching and promoted quite often. The main person who seemed to be part of a paedophile ring was promoted a few times before he left. The police didn’t pursue the matter.
I taught in another school where the biology teacher told me about a child who was being abused by her father who’d already abused an older sister and was abusing a younger one. The teacher was distressed because she’d remembered her own father being taken away for abuse.
I went to see the Headteacher who wasn’t keen to do anything. I resigned with a mortgage to pay and child to feed and no job to go to. It was Easter. Time for new beginnings.
I left Birmingham and in London heard stories about the previous headteacher I’d just left. He had a reputation for ‘affairs’ with pupils. So when I came back to Birmingham I worked with Child Sex Abuse Survivors Forum. We held marches and rallies in Birmingham and London.
As publicity person I liaised with police and told a specific officer of any names ‘alleged’ abusers. One year there was only one name. I told the officer. He had heard of him. I went home on the bus and by the time I got there child protection had already been.
There was a 3″ thick file on him. He left the country some years later. Being abused as a child has affected my whole life. At ten I was tranquillised when my 5th caregiver died. I was then ‘boarded out’ to the family in which I was abused for 9 years.
I left at 18 and got into a few scrapes. Raped whilst staying with friends and family, guys who took advantage of my homelessness and vulnerability. When I told the friends and family they called me a liar, they asked their partner who said it wasn’t true, said I encouraged the men, thought I could have any man I wanted including theirs.
I was introduced to ‘proper bastards’, groomed for prostitution which I managed to avoid, given phone number of a friends’ pimp to help me through college. I mistook abuse for love. But deep inside was the knowledge that I did not want to take revenge on all men for what had happened in my childhood. I didn’t succumb to easy money to get through college or a roof over my head.
Sitting on a goldmine was an expression that I heard often. Prostitution by any other name is still prostitution. Someone told me that whereas I had sex for love, she did it for money knowing she could buy a pair of shoes or food and clothes for her children. I wasn’t interested in having my body used and abused.
I used for my skills at needlework, arts and crafts. My physical health was and still it affected by the abuse I suffered. My inability to have babies was also a result of years of abuse. I was not protected as a child.
When my godmother witnessed my uncle abusing me, my grandfather, his father, called her a crazy old woman and insisted that I was taken on walks with the same uncle and he had visiting rights too. He encouraged me with icecream. I refused.
I protected my child as best I could and though I took her to visit friends and family I never let her have sleepovers, days away or anything and encouraged her to tell me if anyone said or did anything to her. I taught her about good and bad secrets and appropriate touch.
It didn’t always work because have a terrible temper and not afraid to fight anyone, my daughter was afraid I’d get hurt if anyone did anything to her and I retaliated. I went to the police when someone kissed her on the lips but the police only said, he hated me for some reason.
The man lived next door and wrote ‘kill the bitch’ on my back door. Below the writing he left a lump of faeces. The police said they couldn’t read what was scratched on the door. Abusers are cunning. They threaten their victims. They tell lies about their victims.
They sweet talk everyone around them and encourage everyone to hate the ‘bad’ child. They talk about forgiveness, find excuses for their behaviour. Unfortunately their friends and family, spouse take their side against us the abused.
We cannot sit around and ‘lose’ another generation. We need to speak out so others can speak out.
I know I saved one child yesterday. Between us we can save many more. Now that we have inquiries in England and Scotland perhaps more people will speak out and be listened to.
We’re not holding our breath. Can we be compensated for the abuse we suffered as children and later consequences? Would a cash sum make up for our stolen childhoods?
I could buy a lot of icecream. Perhaps a nice house to leave to my grandchildren. A world cruise.
Or maybe being believed and seeing all my abusers in prison would suffice.
April 2017, Shirley Cooper
Please note that victims of abuse may be triggered by reading this information. These links are generally UK based.
- The Sanctuary for the Abused [A] has advice on how to prevent triggers.
- National Association for People Abused in Childhood [B] has a freephone helpline and has links to local support groups.
- One in Four [C]
- Havoca [D].
- Useful post on Triggers [E] from SurvivorsJustice [F] blog.
- Jim Hoppers pages on Mindfulness [G] and Meditation [H] may be useful.
- Hwaairfan blog An Indigenous Australian Approach to Healing Trauma [J]
- Survivors UK for victims and survivors of male rape or the sexual abuse of men [K]
- Voicing CSA group [L] helps arrange survivors meetings in your area
- A Prescription for me blog Various emotional support links [M]
- ShatterBoys -“Male Survivors Of Childhood Sexual Abuse Inspiring change, Through Shared Experience Whilst Building Connections…Together We Can Heal” [N]
 2004 Shirley Cooper Memories from Home https://www.amazon.co.uk/Memories-Home-Shirley-Cooper/dp/B001P9OZ74/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1500633789&sr=8-1&keywords=memories+from+home+shirley+cooper – currently unavailable
 2016 Jun 22 cathy fox blog Child Sexual Abuse In Jamaica https://cathyfox.wordpress.com/2016/06/22/child-sexual-abuse-in-jamaica/
 2014 Feb 16 Cathy Fox Blog Books On Child Abuse 1 Ssh Ssh Baby – Shirley Cooper  A Survivor Myself. Experiences of Child Abuse. Edited by Pauline Kirk. 1994 Yorkshire Art Circus ISBN 1-898311-02-1
[A] Sanctuary for the Abused http://abusesanctuary.blogspot.co.uk/2006/07/for-survivors-coping-with-triggers-if.html