Josh Brightmore - 23rd February 2023
Firstly, I am not K-L.
She is not quite ready to tell her own story, it still has the power to destroy with each retelling. What I share with you now, I do so with her blessing but it is unlikely she will cast an eye on it. Yet.
Sometimes as a foster carer you consider how different the lives of children could be if we lived in a more equal, fairer society. If families weren’t living in poverty, had equal educational opportunities and access to better support services. At other times it’s all too clear that there are families who actively harm their own children and this is an even more bitter pill to swallow. K-L is one such child. One child among many.
There are parents who fail to keep their children safe, from their lifestyles or from an abusive partner. K-L’s parents not only failed to keep her safe, they subjected her to years of physical, mental and sexual abuse.
It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that K-L’s parents cast her as a victim in their cruel games. And not just her parents, her grandparents were also complicit. Generations of abuse piled onto the tiny shoulders of a child. K-L was voiceless and stranded with no relief, no escape from the life she found herself in.
Her abuse was captured on film and in photos, distributed to dark corners of the internet. Her family home, a place which should have been safe, creaked with the prowlings of dangerous, violent men. As she grew older, K-L became aware that other children didn’t live like she did. Her normal just couldn’t be normal. Could it? She started to ask tentative questions of her friends, questions they found shocking. Questions that rang alarm bells for the parents of those children and cast a chill over their cosy supper tables. Phone calls were made. Visits followed. Nothing changed for K-L. But jumpy abusers do not tend to change their spots, their markings merely become more pronounced, claws and teeth sharper and hackles raised in fear of discovery.
Yet K-L is exceptionally brave. She took a risk and gave a trusted teacher a fractured glimpse into her life. This had two effects. It brought the teacher to convulsing sobs in the silence of her own room later that night, and it set into motion a chain of events that would lead to the prosecution of several people including K-L’s family members. K-L came into foster care, to live with me.
As you might expect K-L was profoundly affected by the experiences she had had. She experienced periods of dissociation. She would just disappear before your eyes, there in body but absent behind the eyes. During these periods of dissociation, K-L would do things that she had no real control over, to which she was reduced to a mere spectator. Difficult, shameful things.
She would also have nightmares and periods of sleepwalking. And her mood would change like the wind so that she became unpredictable, untetherable. She needed us to be solid. At those times when her earth was shifting, she needed us to be firmly rooted so that she could cling on.
She went through some excellent therapy and learned a good number of healthier coping strategies than the ones she’d had to devise for herself as a young child. She still has a long road to walk but as she often tells me, she is a survivor, not a victim. One footstep at a time, she’ll make it.
If you feel you could offer a nurturing and therapeutic home to a child like K-L, please get in touch with us at email@example.com or enquire via our website. You can also contact us on Facebook or call us on 01206 299775.