From the Chair
The injustice of childhood sexual abuse is confronting enough, however when you know adult women on a personal level who have undergone this trauma without support, I can tell you from personal experience it hits you on an entirely different level. When I was approached to be on the board of Stepping Out, my first board position, and the difference I could make, I was all in.
I joined Stepping Out in 2016, and became Treasurer of the small board. Before joining I was successful in my personal and professional life, having built two businesses from the ground up. I had the resources, skills and will to take on a new challenge that would have a positive impact on others. The stars were aligned. I can now proudly say I am Chair of a much larger board with a diverse range of skills. Being involved has given me a great sense of pride and has fulfilled my desire to give back.
As a small not-for-profit organisation 30 years young, Stepping Out has had the big ideal of helping adult female survivors of childhood sexual abuse (CSA) to live the full lives they were meant to. I am continually amazed at the work our staff do, and the difference they make every day through their dedication and passion for the cause. Sometimes their work is as simple as a phone call to check-in, and at other times, hands-on support in times of crisis. They are truly special people.
To put in context the importance of Stepping Out’s work: 1 in 6 adult women have had this unimaginable experience of CSA. Think of that next time you are in a crowded room or amongst a group of girlfriends. Evidence shows that it takes these women 20 years for them to open-up and talk. They carry the trauma with them long after the event, which can have knock on impact in all areas of their lives.
Our aim is really to help women of CSA to literally step out, talk it through and live full lives as engaged members of their communities – an avenue they may not be able to take themselves. We do this through case management, finding housing, connecting them with other support agencies and professionals, workshops and providing safe places to engage in social activities. Our wonderfully dedicated staff, led by our powerhouse CEO Pam Brown, work tirelessly, but more needs to be done to reach more women and more supporters so that we can give them the opportunity to be a part of this important cause.
Unfortunately, many have not heard of us, or the work that we do or the issues around CSA. Limited funding available from government makes it challenging to attract the attention of survivors, the media and donors. To say we run on a shoestring budget is an understatement. Awareness is essential in driving funds so that we can help more women in more communities.
Despite our challenges, I’m happy to say that we continue to grow and evolve. Covid limitations have spurred an exciting new set of online workshop formats, a significant achievement and one I am personally very proud of. Developed by our staff; Melissa, Paula and Pam, the workshops offer greater reach to remote survivors of CSA. We hope to expand these workshops to include support for family members, employers and friends. Workshops are an extremely effective way to encourage engagement, increase understanding and promote healing for our clients and their communities. This, new social inclusion strategies, broader networks and our increased board are all geared to creating best-in-class services to our community.
My message to everyone is find a way to give back that has meaningful to you. This could be through your time, skills or through funds. Being part of Stepping Out and using my skills and passion, has been one of my most rewarding experiences. For me it is not over yet as I want to encourage more – more from the organisation to grow, more from the community to support, more from the staff to continue & particularly more from government, individuals & organisation to give.
Please look out for ‘CSA Awareness Week’ which will marked its second year in October 2021. The event recognises the federal governments National Apology to Survivors. This Stepping Out event gives all of us an opportunity to share our story so that more women who have survived CSA can live the full lives they were meant to.