You are not walking through the storm alone, says Letchworth abuse survivor and poet
- Credit: Elizabeth Shane
A Letchworth woman has published a book of poems, sharing her experience of child sexual abuse, to reclaim her voice and help others dealing with similar trauma.
Elizabeth Shane started writing poetry about two and a half years ago as a way of trying to channel her anger and rage over what happened to her, following a suggestion by her drama teacher.
After a long process of using creative outlets as a way of coping with her trauma, she decided to publish her work, Silhouette of a Songbird.
She said: "I had never written or read a poem before in my life. I was really struggling with my mental health, and a counsellor I was seeing at the time suggested I try to find an outlet."
Elizabeth started off by joining a choir in Letchworth - and from there went on to try her hand at drama. She joined the Imajica Theatre's 'A Voice for Women - Empowering Women Project'. A second independent drama teacher assigned her the task of writing.
"One of my abusers had died, and it triggered a lot of emotions for me," she said.
"The teacher encouraged me to write. The more I wrote, the more I felt I needed to write. I never intended to write a book, I was writing for myself and to share with my drama teacher and counsellor.
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"The poems are really personal, and I felt too ashamed to show them to anybody else. They explore feeling around my shame and the abuse - not just about what happened to me.
"I had feelings for my abuser, and it was really conflicting. I had to try to process it through my writing, and that's what I did. The creative things have given me back my voice."
The 50-year-old explained that through her poetry, she explores the feelings of loneliness, isolation, abandonment and being silenced. All things that can come with abuse.
"Last year I had hit rock bottom again," she continued. "A lot of it was to do with the isolation that came with the pandemic.
"I gave up work to try to explore what I want to do with my life. I couldn't cope any more, like I was carrying this secret."
Although Elizabeth reported the historic abuse to the police back in 2015, she still felt the secret was weighing her down.
She decided to write a public Facebook post, addressing her experiences and feelings, and was met with an overwhelming outpouring of support.
Having lifted the lid on her past, Elizabeth went on a family holiday in October to the coast, and made the decision to share her work and use her experience to help others.
She continued: "It was a really stormy day, I was stood by the ocean and the waves were thrashing against the rocks. I felt my anger in the ocean, and I just gave everything to the ocean.
"It was a lightbulb moment. I thought 'I'm meant to survive this and share my story'. And that's why I started to think about sharing my poems.
"I don't want anybody else to feel alone. There's a way out of these feelings you have around it.
"What they are going through is very common. It's normal to feel like you're going crazy and to have all this rage. I don't want anyone to feel like that, I want them to have a voice.
"I wanted to share my experience to reach out to other survivors and let them know they are not walking through the storm on their own
"This is widespread. There's been the #MeToo movement and more awareness of it, but with the pandemic so much has been going on behind closed doors.
"This book, however it might reach someone, might help."
Elizabeth thanks her drama teacher Lucinda in the dedication page of the book, which is available on Amazon.
So far, she has received good feedback - and a number of abuse charities have purchased it. She said her dream would be to use the money towards opening a creative workshops centre for other abuse survivors.
Before the pandemic hit, she had planned volunteer with Herts police in administration and community support roles, and plans to start this when lockdown lifts.
Elizabeth added that her poems may be triggering to some, so you should only read them if you feel comfortable doing so.
For information and support around child abuse, visit the Herts police webpage, or call the Herts Rape Crisis & Sexual Abuse Centre Helpline on 01707 276512.