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#Metoo

There has been a viral campaign sweeping the internet using the hashtag #metoo it’s a campaign to raise awareness of the number of women and men who have been victims of some form of sexual harassment or assault.

The hope is that  “If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘Me too’ as a status, we might give people a sense of magnitude of the problem.”

I am normally one of the first to join in with campaigns like this but I struggled with this  one. It took me a while to realise why I couldn’t join in and that reason was shame. 

I was ashamed that I was a victim.

I was ashamed it happened to me.

Sitting here writing this I cannot express how angry this has made me feel and how it is ,that it’s this shame and the fear of not being believed or supported that leads to so many not reporting their assault orharassment.

I was about eight years old when I first faced harassment. I was out playing on my bike when a local lad a few years older than me stopped me and held on to my bike. He then informed me and my friend in graphic detail what he was going to do to me. It was a horrific and violent account which left me frozen and in shock and thankfully as he was only holding my bike my friend rode off on hers to her parents and the police were later involved. I can remember the feeling of fear as if was yesterday, the violation of his words and I also remember wondering why me and what had I done wrong? I came across him later in life and  found myself physically shaking in the aisle of a supermarket still frozen from the memories.

The second time I faced harassment and assault was very different. A man I thought I loved and who loved me betrayed me in a way that I never could of imagined. A quiet unassuming man turned into my worst nightmare. Broken fingers and too many bruises later I finally escaped the situation. Again ashamed and embarrassed at what I perceived as my weakness I didn’t press charges or seek support. Somehow I felt I should have known better. Or in his words “shouldn’t have pushed him to this”.

I look back at these times in my life and i’m so frustrated at the woman I was, but the truth is only 24 hours ago I didn’t wish to join a campaign that challenged this, so have I really come any further in my development?

As a mom I hate the concept of any one hurting my children and I know very well I would launch straight into mama bear mode, so why didn’t, why don’t I give myself the same consideration?

Here is some harrowing statistics….

Rape Crisis England & Wales headline statistics 2016-17:

•Rape Crisis Centres across our network responded to their highest ever number of helpline calls during the year – 202,666 in total, or nearly 4,000 a week.

•Rape Crisis specialist services were accessed by 67,059 individuals, an increase of 16% from 2015-16.

•Rape Crisis Centres provided in excess of 450,000 sessions of specialist support, including advocacy, emotional support and counselling, an increase of 29% since 2015-16.

•Three-quarters of all adult service users contacted Rape Crisis Centres about sexual violence that took place at least 12 months earlier; 42% were adult survivors of child sexual abuse.

•The largest group that contact Rape Crisis Centres, now over half of service users (51%), is those who prefer to self-refer. This pattern has remained consistent over the past six years and continues to demonstrate the necessity for funded independent services.

•93 per cent of service users were female.

•Where age is known, 2,651 were aged 15 or under, an increase of 55% on last year; those aged under 25 represented 36% of service users. Over 30 times more children reported multiple assaults than last year – 904 compared with 29 in 2015-16.

•Where ethnicity is known, 20% of service users identified as Black or Minority Ethnic.

•25% of all service users identified as Disabled.

•The Rape Crisis England & Wales website received nearly 9 million hits during the year and an average of 32,765 unique visitors per month.

Here are some other key statistics about sexual violence:

•Approximately 85,000 women and 12,000 men are raped in England and Wales alone every year; that’s roughly 11 rapes (of adults alone) every hour. These figures include assaults by penetration and attempts.

•Nearly half a million adults are sexually assaulted in England and Wales each year

•1 in 5 women aged 16 – 59 has experienced some form of sexual violence since the age of 16

•Only around 15% of those who experience sexual violence choose to report to the police

•Approximately 90% of those who are raped know the perpetrator prior to the offence

These figures come from An Overview of Sexual Offending in England and Wales, the first ever joint official statistics bulletin on sexual violence released by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), Office for National Statistics (ONS) and Home Office in January 2013.

 

Only around 15% of those who experience sexual violence choose to report it to the police. This statistic makes me want to cry. Yet I know I am one of the 85% who didn’t report it and who in all honesty just wished it away.

Whilst the internet is now blowing up with articles on this new campaign, some supporting it, others saying its reducing the impact of the crime, I personally want to say thank you.

Thank you to women who have  gotten involved, seeing the #Metoo statuses on the social media of woman I class as strong, incredible, independent people has hit home that it can happen to anyone and that its not about weakness or that I some how caused it and also that I am not alone.

I do hope this campaign encourages people to speak out. I want it to educate others like myself that it was not our fault,.  I also want to see changes in the way sexual assault and harassment is dealt with. No woman, no one asks for it and no ones job, livelihood or reputation should ever be at risk from reporting a crime that was committed against them.

The criminal is not the victim it is the perpetrator and this is the one who should pay the price.

 

I want to hug you in real life.

Do you know one of the main things that frustrates me about the internet and social media in general? That some of the people I really would love to do life with often live miles away. People who I have connected with strongly are so far out of reach. How I wish I could turn my virtual hugs into real ones.

I have met some really incredible people via the internet. I get to follow some really inspiration women who have truly blessed my life. Some without knowing have got me through some extremely dark times.

I have had conversations with people that may not have happened in real life. Some finding vulnerability safer on line than in real life. Sharing their hearts filling mine with strength and courage.

I have been challenged by perceptions I would not have seen without the internet. Opinions and reasoning set out allowing me to educate myself without prejudice. Knowledge being as always the greatest power.

I have been inspired by those doing life in the only way they know how. Sharing the good, the bad and the ugly giving me freedom to admit to the reality of my life. The pain, the struggle.  Whilst not always easy  but celebrating the joy and the magic of the moments.

Yes the internet does have a dingy side, a side where bullying and trolling has its slimy place but these cowards can stay hiding behind their keyboards because they don’t scare me. Validation isn’t found in their mean nasty words.

Validation is found in your army, your keyboard warriors who stand beside you each day. Who reach out across the fibre optics across the broadband and reminds you that you have got this.

We have this.

But I do get frustrated at times, how I wish I could arrange one mighty dinner party and invite you all. Get to hear the laughter rather that read the ha ha’s or the lols. To give the hugs instead of virtually receiving them. To just be surrounded by all you weird and wonderful people.

But until then I’m celebrating the gift of the virtual world, the expanse of the internet and all you incredible people that I get to call friends.

My friends.

Babies #blogtober17

Twenty one years ago I became a mother, my daughter was placed in my arms and I finally knew why I was here. Holding this sweet child in my arms my heart, could have exploded, I never thought I could experience love like this but it only multiplied with each child.

My babies will always be my babies their ages are irrelevant in this, 21 or 3 they are my heart.

Motherhood came so natural, not saying that I didn’t and don’t feel like I mess it up at times. I honestly didn’t believe I would survive the teenage years. But I am so proud of each and everyone of them.

It is rather strange having a 21 year old and a 3 year old but I’m loving being back in the midst of toddlerhood.

My babies bring me so much joy but they have also challenged and taught me more than I could have ever imagined.

My work is testimony to all that they have taught me. I know get now to love on those children who need it. My babies being extended through fostering and now adoption.

How amazing is this!

My favourite photo

This was taken in May this year and it was the first photograph of Daniel without his NG tube. It isn’t my favourite because it’s the first without his NG but because of my relief of seeing that smile after surgery.

 

There is nothing worse that handing your child over to surgeons and theatre staff, you have to trust them with your heart. This gastrostomy surgery was the first we had faced with Daniel and nothing could have prepared me for the fear I felt as I left the theatre, my legs literally felt like lead. I could barely breathe for the hours he was in down.

So this photo is my moment, the moment I could breathe again. 

My son

I looked around the courtroom convinced everyone could hear my heart beating in my chest.

I could barely breathe, could barely trust in the moment.

“Congratulations to you both on your new son.”

It was official

It was complete

This precious gift was now ours to call our own.

Yes i cried, to be honest with the amount of adrenaline pumping through my body i was surprised i didn’t burst into dance.

My heart exploded, the love i had held on too wrapped in chains of fear was now free to fly.

My son

My beautiful precious boy.

Adoption is a journey of pregnant moments.

Full of expectation,and excitement but also full of pain and fear.

A free-fall into the unknown.

A parachute silk woven in faith.

I cannot say its been easy,

A labyrinth of broken promises and painful expectation.

Yet whilst the scars will take time to heal.

Whilst the emotional burden will take time to lift it is with no doubt in my heart that i can say

He is worth it all and so much more.

My son

My precious boy xxx

 

Sixth form style 

So my daughter has just finished her GCSE’s and i was expecting her to relax and have a few weeks not thinking about school, tests etc etc. Erm no she is now driving me mad talking about her style for sixth form. You see she finally gets to escape the uniform she has hated for the last five years. The lovely burgundy blazer that can never be removed even in the hotest weather and the white blouses that never ever fit right.
Yet whilst she hated the uniform it was a comforting place to hide within. Everyone having to wear the same does stop the judgement, well a certain amount of it as anyone who has a child in senior will concur that teenagers will find any reason to argue and tease.

So sixth form is a big deal for my baby girl. Its a time for people to see her beyond the uniform. Its exciting and scary at the same time. She has to find her own style in the confines of the prescribed restrictions.

She is excited but nervous.

Last nights conversation was regarding her bag. For many years due to the number of sporting activities she has done she has always had to have a backpack of some sort, one large enough for sport’s gear, school books and drinks etc. So returning back to school with no sports obligations she can now  look at all styles. She is now wondering what would be best “Tote or Backpack for college?” 

Whatever she chooses Im just hoping 6th form will be the where my girl can find her place. The place where she realises how beautiful and amazing she is whatever she is wearing and she learns that her style is whatever she wants it to be.

 

Writing when it hurts

Sometimes I get scared to write, scared to allow the truth to flow through my fingers. I preach about transparency and owning my truth yet at times my reality frightens the crap out of me.

Right now I feel on the edge of cliff I can see the rocks bouncing down the sides disappearing under the waves and I wonder how long this ridge will hold me. I can feel the erosion burning up inside of me, my will, my strength slowly crashing towards the water.

To say there is a lot going on in my life right now would be a massive understatement, the stress of exams on my girls has been worrying. Watching them tie up their hopes and dreams in pieces of paper is heartbreaking. Their value should not be decided by a cluster of standardised tests.

But this is the truth of life isn’t it?

We search for our own value in others judgements, others tests, others expectations.

I don’t want to do this anymore, I don’t wish to turn myself inside and out by the expectations my anxiety has created or those that don’t matter.

I cannot be all things to all people and cannot or will ever be perfect, yet i live each day berating myself for just this.

See this is maybe why I should have stayed quiet, yet a wise woman told me that truth can heal and that truth can set you free and that I needed to continue to write.

So here is my truth, the strive for perfection is an never ending quest, yet it also the biggest load of bull I have ever been told.  Perfection is a farce, something that can never be achieved, never be obtained. You see perfection comes with chains where truth comes with freedom.

Its ok for me to admit I am overwhelmed right now, to admit that anxiety is eroding my soul. That I want to run away from the world for a while or to simply just find some peace to calm my mind. It’s ok to admit I’m human, I hurt, I cry and at times I will break.

This is my truth.

It’s not our choice

Having a disabled child wasn’t part of my life plan. I was shocked, confused and generally devastated at first. I had to slowly find my own peace with the life that I had and the disabilities of my child. But if I am honest there were times where I was frustrated and angry at the way her condition controlled my life.

I couldn’t holiday easily, we couldn’t get insurance to fly for a start and the fact  that there was always a high risk of cancelling, due to hospitalisation, illness etc.

I couldn’t work full time, there was no way I could meet all her needs, hospital appointments and therapies whilst being a productive employee.

I couldn’t have an evening out without proper planning in advance and hoping that I would get some respite that was few and far between.

At times I couldn’t even go to the toilet on my own without fear of her seizuring in my absence.

There were so many choices taken away from us all. 

But the reality is that my lost choices were nothing compared to what Livvy faced.

Right now my local council has decided that parents of children with special needs post 16 have to pay towards their transport to school. Their reasoning is that most parents have to pay when their child goes to college etc and that its only reasonable that we put towards this cost as transporting our children is expensive.

£600 a year, is this fair?

Lets look at this closely,

I didn’t choose my daughters school, I didn’t get to make a decision on league tables or the curriculum offered.

My daughter didn’t choose her school, she didn’t get to view different courses, or placements and come to a decision that was her’s. No the council and it’s professionals made the choice that this was the school suited to my child’s needs.

They didn’t consider the fact that every morning she would see her sister’s get up and dressed in a different school uniform and watch them leave with their friends.

They didn’t consider the fact that maybe she didn’t enjoy travelling 30 minutes each morning and afternoon to and from school.

They never considered that myself and many other parents like me struggle to be in two places at the same time often twisting ourselves up with guilt from missed performances, parents day and so much more.

No they made the decision on the best place to cater for her needs and I understand that. Yet why are we being asked to pay for something we had no choice in?

I am actually not saying that I have an issue with paying towards the service but I do think it should be in line with the costs I would have to pay for my other daughters. I don’t know many parents that have a spare £600 lying around and if someone mentions mobility to me again I may scream. Have you tried to fill the tank of a mobility vehicle on what our child receives each week? Do you drive to numerous medical appointments, pay for parking at so many hospitals for again reasons beyond our control, our choice.

Olivia didn’t choose to have Rett Syndrome, she didn’t choose to fight each day. She didn’t choose to have uncontrollable epilepsy and she certainly didn’t choose to lose her battle for life so early. 

I am so tired of seeing disabled people persecuted for something that is out of their control. Our children didn’t choose not to go to the local school, they didn’t choose not to be able to walk the journey on their own, backpacks on their backs as they laugh and joke with their friends.

They didn’t choose this life and as their parents we didn’t either.

Yet right now our local council are making parents feel as their children’s education is a luxury, a luxury that they have been funding. I’m sorry Walsall Council I completely disagree. You have an obligation to support our children with an education, the fact that these education placements are far and few between well that with your current funding and cuts to school is only going to become more of an issue and isn’t our fault or our choice. Do you not think we would love to walk our children to school, to chat with other parents on the playground, to be able to feel less alone in our already isolated worlds?

But before you harp on at parents already struggling to survive with reduced respite, reduced support,cancelled play schemes etc please remember this, these children, these parents they don’t have a choice.

Our lives, our children lives are far from what we had planned. When we celebrated their conception and decorated their nurseries we never imagined the lives we had yet to live.

We are trying, trying each day to make the best of it all. To love on our children with all that we have. To fight for therapies and support that will enhance their quality of life, and most of all we fight for their happiness, their chance to do whatever they dream.

Because whilst you may see them as expensive, we see them our hearts.

An artists dream

One of my biggest disappointments is that I cannot draw, craft or design. I so wish I could create something imaginative and interesting. I have to live my artists dream through the life of my cousin who besides being incredibly talented, is also extremely brave.  Last year she left her corporate position in London and moved to Folkestone to focus on her art full time.  A decision that i admire her greatly for, living her dream.

I hope I am right in saying Rebecca’s main art form is neon she has created some incredible pieces that have challenged and intrigued. Check out her work here or follow her on Instagram here. 

Recently she also opened up a physical and online artist-run gallery and design boutique gallery in her hometown of Folkestone.

SENTIENT: THE HOME OF DARK, WITTY, THOUGHT PROVOKING ART & DESIGN showcases the work of around 40 artists and designers.

The curators at Sentient have worked hard to select the artists and makers who best represent the Sentient style, aesthetic, themes and mentality. In particular, this means a taste for the dark, questioning, eccentric, deep and edgy in art, design and living. At Sentient, we wouldn’t exhibit nor offer for sale anything we wouldn’t happily have in our own homes (and indeed, do own works by most of the artists and designers at home). Nothing makes it to the gallery unless we love it.

One new addition to the gallery is the recent collaboration between Rebecca and Esa Evans.

Esa and Rebecca have collaborated to create these fun, contemporary and affordable necklaces utilising playful phrases Rebecca uses in some of her popular neons and prints. The font was built out by Rebecca to look like her capitalised handwriting, The necklaces are available in stainless steel or 18 carat rose gold plated options and are now available to pre-order, with first deliveries expected late May. Each will come within an embossed Esa Evans x Rebecca Mason box.

 

Right now Rebecca is offering my readers 10% off any order over £20 across her site including these stunning necklaces.

Use my code SARA10.

 

Go visit Sentient and check out the artists featured there,  including more collaborations Rebecca has done with other artists as I may be a little (lot) proud of my super talented cousin.

We have an Adoption date, but I need help?

I have been a little quiet regarding the adoption of our little man recently. You see since I wrote this post here about voicing my dream it actually felt as if my dream had crashed and burned.  Thanks to some missing paperwork from social services it has been delayed and delayed.

But finally its completed and now we have a celebration date for next month. Yes next month. I cannot wait, this little man will be an official Meredith. He has been my son in my heart for a very long time its nice for the paperwork to finally catch up.

I am so excited and seriously my smile could not be bigger. But if I’m honest the whole adoption process has been an emotional journey. Its left me anxious and at times really low. I think its because of this that I am finding myself stressing over the details of the celebration day. Obsessing over what we are all going to wear. I know clothes are  trivial in the big scheme of things but right now I just want the day to be perfect.

So i’m on the quest for an outfit for little man and one for me and one for Brodie my sixteen year old.

So I’m throwing it out to you all, help this plus size mama find something thats smart, pretty and comfortable for the court.

Help me find a really smart, super cute outfit for my little man size 3-4.

And something pretty but fashionable for my 16 year old Brodie.

 

So my friends and awesome followers, help me out with some outfit advice before I completely lose my mind.