An inspirational woman from North Wales has spoken movingly about how she put her shattered life back together after she was sexually abused by her older brother when she was eight years of age.
Megan, not her real name, was brought back from the brink of suicide by the Stepping Stones North Wales charity, which supports survivors of childhood sexual abuse, and she has now gone to university to study history.
The 58-year-old is convinced she would not be alive today without the help of the charity which is funded by North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones.
Her aim now is to qualify as a teacher and work with troubled children.
The charity, which was established in 1984, is available to people aged 18 or over, free of charge and has counsellors working right across North Wales.
In addition to the regular funding he provides to organisations who work with abused victims in North Wales, Mr Jones has accessed an extra £238,000 from the Ministry of Justice to help them cope with the extra challenges caused by the coronavirus crisis.
As a result Stepping Stones North Wales has received an extra £29,750 to support clients on their waiting list, which has enabled them to offer more slots for counselling and compensate for the lost fund-raising opportunities.
Among those who have benefited from the service is Megan whose emotional scars still run deep.
She recalled: “When I was eight my brother, who was then 15, interfered with me, He gave me money to keep quiet. It went on for years. I remember being eight and I remember being 10 but the two years in the middle I can remember very little. I’ve blanked it out.
“I remember being 10 when my sister told my mum and my brother, and we had a conversation in the front room. I can’t remember what was said exactly but I felt I was blamed. It was like he was only practising for when he got a girlfriend. I was even called a whore for taking money from him.
“I never spent the money I just put it away, I really didn’t want it and just wanted the abuse to stop. But after the talk with mum, my brother was never left alone with me again.
According to Megan, her life continued on a downward spiral as she made some very bad choices.
She said: “I was married at 20 and divorced at 22. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, I was running away and had no one to talk to and my husband never understood what happened.
“Being married at 20 was a mistake, I was quickly pregnant but my husband was pretty horrible and beat me black and blue. We had two children, a son and a daughter. After we split up we got back together again but it was never going to work out.
“My daughter who I get on really well with is now 30 and my son would have been 37 this year but four years ago he took his own life. He suffered depression. It was worse in that my son and I were estranged and I hadn’t seen him in a while.”
After refusing to take medication, she was referred to Stepping Stones North Wales, which has an office in Wrexham, by her gp / doctor.
She said: “I was going 50 shades of mental at the time and I didn’t care what happened to me. I’d drive at ludicrous speeds and took stupid risks. I just didn’t care. I was always anxious and had just let things build up. I was like a bottle of pop that had been shaken and was ready to blow.
“I worked with a Stepping Stones North Wales therapist for two years and I won’t pretend it was easy. It was even more difficult when my son died.
“Therapy isn’t easy. It’s like pulling a scab off your life and allowing all the badness to flow.
“Stepping Stones North Wales not only saved my life, it gave me my life. I joined their survivors’ group and started going to their maths and English education classes which enabled me to get my GCSEs.
“I then enrolled in college and did a two-year access course and applied to university. I’ve now completed the first year of a degree in history and can’t wait for the second year to start once the pandemic eases.
“My dream now is to finish my degree and then to teach. I’d like to work with difficult children, those that have had bad experiences too. I can understand them and will always listen to their story.”
Stepping Stones North Wales Events and Volunteer Manager Shirley McCann describes Megan as an inspiration.
She said: “I met Megan a couple of years ago after she had been through therapy with a Stepping Stones North Wales counsellor. Once she felt ready, she joined our Next Steps Group. She really enjoyed participating in the activities and went on to join our education classes. She excelled, came to life and blossomed.
“Initially she lacked confidence and had no self-esteem, but she has blossomed and has even won a student of the year award, I feel so proud of her.
“Without the financial backing from the North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner we really couldn’t do what we do.
“The phone rings everyday with victims seeking help and support. We are a small charity, just four members of staff and of course we have trained counsellors ready to help.
Commissioner Arfon Jones is delighted with the success of Stepping Stones North Wales and has vowed to continue supporting the charity.
He said: “Megan’s story is both heart-breaking and inspirational. Sexual abuse is a serious crime that has long-lasting consequences for victims.
“However, thanks to the work of Stepping Stones North Wales counsellors and the Next Step Group she is flourishing and making a new life for herself, one she richly deserves.
“I see Stepping Stones North Wales as a vital service. Sexual abuse is a hidden crime and something we, as a society, need to address. Victims have to come first, and I’m delighted to be able to support this amazing charity in carrying out the vital work they do.”