Updated: Aug 2
Children ought to be protected and nurtured, not abused.
Me at 4, having fallen over the day before school pictures being taken
What I would like to achieve through my article is a means to show women, and men, (there are women who treat men with misandry, which is the female version of misogyny), is that through the right support and community they can stand up to both misogynists and misandry.
What this is doing for me, is enabling me to open up and be honest about the abuse that I have received over the years, and to finally start to work through that pain and suffering and to start to trust men and NOT tar them all with the same brush. It has taken a lot of soul searching for me to finally be in a place where I can now stand up and use my voice to help others to find and use theirs. My intention is not to make this all about an attack on men, this is to share my experiences of abuse prior to my mentorship and confirm that I have never experienced anything like this during my time at Lighthouse.
What writing this article means to me and how this is an opportunity for me to share my experience.
Reaching into my soul to uncover and open up doors that have been shut for so long has not been easy, but the reason behind why I am writing this is because it has been and will be a way for me to heal and in the process, help so many others. For those that have suffered from abuse, you will know and appreciate the courage that it takes to actually allow yourself to revisit those times and relive them. To share my experiences and also to shed light and address the claims of misogyny from those who have been trolling Lighthouse. It has not been easy to write this, and it has taken a lot for me to sit down and face those demons. It has helped me to realise where so many of my insecurities come from and is allowing me to address them and seek more loving security and has helped me to build my relationship with Jesus Christ.
My experience of misogyny and sexual abuse from an early age
From a very early age, I experienced some very misogynistic men, from those in my own family, friends of the family and those who I have worked with. There have been those who have made me feel less-than and made me feel dirty just because of how I looked. When I was 7, I was sexually abused by a man who used to take the children on the estate I lived on to the cinema. He used his authority to take advantage of me, saying things like, “your mum has told you that you have to listen to everything that I say” and “Don’t tell anyone, this is our little secret, no one else will understand”. He preyed on me because he could sense that I was searching for love, because I wasn’t getting it at home.
His abuse went on for quite a while, till one night, when staying at his niece’s house to keep her son company, he made a point of saying that when his nephew went to bed we would be alone. I knew what he wanted to do, I got scared, started to cry and insisted on going home. I could see the look of anger on his face, but as his nephew was in the room, he couldn’t do anything but take me home. After that, I never went anywhere near him. I never told anyone what he used to do to me because I didn’t feel that anyone would believe a child over a grown-up. I kept that a secret for over 40 years. I learned 2 years ago, that he had been arrested years later for child sex abuse and that he eventually died in prison. Statistics show that one in four girls and one in six boys will experience childhood sexual abuse.
At the age of 14, my mum's boyfriend at the time, who was living with us, exposed himself to me. I was scared and left the room, but when I told my mum, all she said was not to worry about it, he was only drunk. I didn’t really appreciate just how the two incidents had affected me deep down; that mistrust in men, that feeling less-than just because I was a girl and not really having any confidence in myself. There were many incidents in high school of boys calling me names, making me feel like I was insignificant and not worthy to be called a girl. I became very shy and secluded, and because of that, I was called boring. I would hide in corners at parties, because I was shy and too scared to speak to people and I was not invited to parties after that.
I never felt that I had anyone to talk to, my mum often said that I needed to fight my own battles and my brothers were too caught up with their own lives and had their own friends and girlfriends, they were not interested in me. Although child sexual abuse is a vast area of concern, child neglect is also abuse and has significant effects on children later in life. Due to lockdown, in 2020/21, there were over 24.8 thousand child abuse offences recorded by the police in England and Wales, an increase of 2.9 thousand offences when compared with the previous reporting year and a peak for this type of offence. Many abused children end up taking their own lives.
The cause and effect of wanting to become invisible
From the age of 18, to enable me to earn a little more money, I started working in pubs. In some ways, it helped me to come out of my shell because I had to speak to people, for if I didn’t, they wouldn’t get a drink. I have had to deal with those who would sexually harass me, make rude and highly sadistic comments, and making up songs about me as I walked past them. When I became uncomfortable, I told my manager and he spoke to them, asking them to tone it down. However, they went a different route, because I reported them, I was then called ‘grass’ (A derogatory term used for people who report friends or associates for immoral or criminal activity) and eventually I had to leave. I got jobs in other pubs, and some were a little better, but still having men come up to me and make suggestive remarks when they were drunk, made me feel like an object and it affected my self-esteem. I started to dress down, stopped taking care of myself and even gained weight so that I could feel invisible. I wanted to stop men from looking at me and stop them from making remarks that hurt and caused me pain. I turned to food and drink as a way to ease my pain and to make myself look disgusting so that men would ignore me. Those remarks have followed me through my life, and I have now realised why I have always struggled to lose weight, that fear of losing the weight and the abuse to start over again.
Susan Forward, PhD and author of ‘Toxic Parents’, shares how victims of incest and abuse, especially women, allow themselves to become overweight as adults,
“A disproportionate number of incest victims, particularly women, allow themselves to become overweight as adults. The weight serves two important purposes for the victim, (1) she imagines it will keep men away from her, and (2) the body mass creates a false illusion of strength and power. Many victims become terrified when they first begin to lose weight because it makes them feel helpless and vulnerable once more.”
My experience with the men in Lighthouse and how I have learnt to trust men again
This picture was taken just before running the London 10,000 metre in May 2018 (Which my mentor Sukh ran the whole way with me), supporting me and each other. (Left to right as you look at the picture, Warren Vaughn, Tom Hasker, Diane Cubitt, Anthony Antoine, Sukh Singh)
This article is not about blaming and shaming men, and I am not saying that this is the way that all men behave, I know that there are plenty of men in the world that treat women with love and respect and want to care and protect them. Through the grace of God, I was fortunate to come across a community that had such men.
Why have I shared the above? Because I wanted to share why it was extremely hard for me to become an associate partner in Lighthouse, although I was the one that asked, and even working with my mentor Sukh was hard for me, it took me a long time to build even a small amount of trust with him. It was when I was having a mentoring session with Sukh that I finally opened up and shared with him what had happened to me at age 7, I hadn’t told anyone else in over 40 years. I hadn’t intended to share it with him, not yet anyway. He noticed that I was not quite myself and so he asked me what was wrong. I told him that something had come up during the day and that it had affected me emotionally. He asked me if I would like to share, but I said that I wasn’t ready. His concern was that I would sit with it and not talk about it, but I said that I had arranged to speak to someone and that they were coming over that evening, a female acquaintance I approached and because of the nature of the conversation, I would be more comfortable speaking with another female. However, within 10 minutes, something in the way that he spoke to me, the way that he looked at me, the love and pain I saw in his eyes knowing that I was hurting before I realised, telling him about my sexual abuse as a child. As I spoke so many doors I had shut tight opened up. It was extremely hard for me to open up to a man, for fear that he would use it against me, but what he showed me, was love and empathy, and I could see the pain in his eyes, knowing the pain that I had been sitting with for over 40 years. If there was no trust between us, I could never have shared that with him, and from that day onwards I was able to open up more and more to him. On many occasions, he has held me accountable and has been very candid with me, for he could also see that victim mentality in me coming out and seeking sympathy. It still does even now, but nowhere near to the extent that I used to.
My mentor, Sukh Singh and I, taken in December 2016, after coming off my first roller-coaster ride in over 40 years.
At no point in my time at Lighthouse International, have I ever been put down for being a woman. In fact, I have been complimented on how strong I am. I have never expected the men in the team to do certain jobs just because they are men, like lifting and moving things, in fact on more than one occasion, they have to stop me from lifting things that are too heavy, not being patronising, but because I have not been built to lift heavy things.
What it meant to be able to allow myself to trust men and seek their guidance and allow myself to be loved
Friday evenings were our regular time to get together for relationship-building nights and during this time we would play football. I had never played football in my life and at first, I felt unsure. The first time it was just the men and me, but they all helped me to fit in and helped me to understand the rules and were encouraging me to tackle them and go for the ball, yes they would treat me differently from the other guys on the field, this was not a slight on me, but because I was a woman and am built physically different to men, I never felt that I was less than just because I was female.
Paul Waugh has also helped me to understand what it actually means to be a woman, given that I have not had any real female role models growing up. The one woman in my life would dress and present herself in such a way just to attract a man, and I would see the way that men would treat her and thought that was how it should be. Paul Waugh has shown a side of himself that most men shy away from because they say it makes them feel weak, but Paul embraces it and it makes him stronger. I have always been inspired by his ability to be vulnerable and have often heard Paul cry on team calls when he has been sharing about a situation he has had with his children or that of children that he has read about have been hurt or committed suicide. People outside don’t see that side of Paul. Yes, he is passionate and very candid and forceful at times but he’s also incredibly gentle and the most sensitive man I know. In fact, there are many times I know that Paul has to put himself on mute while he weeps in agony because he does not want us to bear witness to all the pain he goes through as we address some of the most horrific, dark issues that exist in humanity today. We use our pain and suffering together, to become stronger in our compassion, to heal, regenerate and become strong enough to face these issues in ourselves and in others. Paul has shared on numerous occasions his appreciation and respect for women, and especially for his partner.
I can see the growth of many of the women here in Lighthouse due to their mentors, all of which are men. There is one woman I have great admiration for, Valarie Nash, she is the mother of senior mentor, Chris Nash. She chose to seek out the truth about herself and how she raised her son and the consequences that came from his upbringing. She chose to start this journey while in her 70’s, leaving her home on the Isle of Skye, to move to where her son lived so that she could start to work on and right her wrongs. The bond that is and has been forming between them and the relationship that they are building together, is so great to see. Chris shows great respect for his mother, but also has to hold her accountable, being her mentor as well as her son, which has not been easy for him.
Another woman, Olivia Humphries, has shown great courage and strength, with the help, support and love of her mentor Warren Vaughan. Together over the years, they have worked closely together to help her overcome her fears and to stand up to the demons within her. Olivia has written a few articles in which she opens up about her journey and what she has had to do to take control of her life and use the pain and suffering that she has been through to help serve others. This is her latest article in which she shares some deep and personal experiences of her life and how her sister saved her life.
So in closing, I can categorically say that I have never witnessed any of the men in Lighthouse being misogynistic and I stand by this testimony.
If there has been anything in this article that has hit you in any way, I would love to hear from you, please feel free to email me.