Dhara Suryakumar, Volunteer Community Connector shares her motivation to join Quetzal Breaking the Silence Initiative and what she learnt when raising awareness about the trauma of Childhood Sexual Abuse in the South Asian Community in Leicester

The article is part of Quetzal Breaking the Silence Initiative where we invite citizen in Leicester and beyond to share their insights and work in supporting women victims of abuse in South Asian Communities. You can contribute to by sending us your article here.

At Quetzal, we have Volunteer Community Connectors who strive to enhance their communities so that more women victims of abuse can access support. Their training allows them to understand and communicate what are the impacts of childhood sexual abuse, what is the value of counselling and what are the other available services for support in the city.

At Quetzal, we offer free counselling sessions to women recovering from the trauma of childhood sexual abuse. If you need our service, please reach out now so that we can support you.

For other services related to domestic and sexual violence, check out our Useful Numbers

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Dhara Shares

I joined Quetzal as a volunteer community connector in the summer of 2020. I am a postgraduate student and I found out about Quetzal and what they do through my university’s website. While I was researching about Quetzal, the #metoo movement that started on Twitter sprung to mind. I remember reading about the heart-breaking stories women were sharing on social media about their experiences of sexual violence, and the pervasive nature of such crimes.

My interest in volunteering with Quetzal stems from my identity as a South Asian woman living in Leicester, as I am aware of the stigma that a topic like childhood sexual abuse can be for the South Asian community, and the burden of upholding family honour that is unjustly placed upon South Asian women, preventing them from speaking out and seeking help. Because of this, Quetzal’s mission to ‘break the silence’ surrounding childhood sexual abuse is important and inspirational to me.

During my training to become a volunteer, I discovered the devastating effect childhood sexual abuse can have on women in later life in the form of post-traumatic stress disorder and other unhealthy coping mechanisms.  Having heard stories from survivors of childhood sexual abuse I know it is a trauma that cannot be forgotten but is possible to heal from. For this reason, Quetzal’s service of providing long-term counselling is another reason why I am proud to volunteer with them.

As a volunteer connector, one of the objectives I had set for myself was to raise community awareness about childhood sexual abuse. First, I sought to discuss the topic with my direct network of friends and family, and the work Quetzal does. I decided to do this through in-depth conversations, I spoke to 6 women between the ages of 22-56. What I have learnt from these conversations is that younger women were more willing to speak about childhood sexual abuse. I believe this is because younger educated women tend to be more socially progressive and less likely to stigmatize childhood sexual abuse, they also are less inclined to put the onus on victims of sexual abuse. I have learnt how difficult is it to talk about this subject for many, especially within the older South Asian community and sensed some reluctance to engage with it. I personally felt uneasy to push forward with the topic with older female members of my family because I could see they were uncomfortable in discussing such a difficult and taboo subject, and I believed it would do more harm than good to force women to open up about childhood sexual abuse when they were not ready, causing them distress.

On my part, I need to develop more confidence to speak about this topic on a wider platform by speaking at events and reaching out to various organizations in Leicester. In order to achieve this, my next goal is to give virtual presentations to local organizations and groups so that I can build on my verbal communication skills. And, also support the community of Leicester with better knowledge and understanding of what the trauma of childhood sexual abuse is and the support offered by Quetzal to those who need it.

All communities need to do more to prevent childhood sexual abuse by recognizing the signs so that no woman or man has to experience the devastating impact of the abuse throughout their adult lives. Across the world women and girls have to live with the pain and suffering caused by childhood sexual abuse, and often in silence, out of fear or shame. I hope as a volunteer I can encourage more women to seek out counselling to confront their trauma, and start on their journey to recovery.

-Dhara Suryakumar

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