After witnessing domestic abuse throughout her childhood, Córa-Laine is dedicated to helping other young people cope with and recover from the effects of emotional, physical, and sexual abuse. As a peer mentor, ambassador and fundraiser for the charity Safeline, Córa-Laine is helping to change attitudes, beliefs and behaviours towards abuse.
Warning: References to and discussion of abuse throughout.
I spent my childhood living in a constant state of anxiety and fear; watching my family suffer abuse and watching my mother doing everything she could to keep my siblings and I safe – even if that meant putting herself in harm’s way. I remember many occasions where I witnessed violence, either towards my family, or myself as a result of bullying.
When I was just 12 years old, I experienced sexual harassment from boys at my school. I dreaded Spanish lessons because I would be sat between boys who attempted (and sometimes succeed) in groping me. For months I felt too ashamed and scared to approach my teacher about it. I thought it was something I would have to stop and deal with on my own.
Eventually I decided to speak out to my teacher; it was the most uncomfortable I have ever been, and I could tell that he felt the same. He moved me to another seat for the following lesson, but the lesson after that I was put back between the boys and the harassment continued.
In my experience, the subject of abuse is often brushed over. It is something that many find uncomfortable to discuss and is often considered taboo to talk about. Perhaps it’s because people don’t always recognise abuse or realise it’s being inflicted on someone. But abuse comes in many forms and has a lasting impact on its victims. Keeping abuse as an unmentionable subject enables the silencing of victims and holds the world back from being a safe place for all.
I was a quiet and reserved girl; I didn’t like speaking to others. After years of domestic abuse and being told my issues weren’t worth addressing, I believed my voice was worthless. Then, at the age of 14, I received art therapy at Safeline, a specialised charity supporting survivors of abuse and young people suffering from poor mental health. The art therapy was the first step in rebuilding my confidence. Each week I would go to Safeline, create some artwork and talk about my personal problems. Eventually, I joined the young people’s projects, where I did everything from drama, to music, and even sport. I emerged from the shell I had been hiding in.
Today is International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women which aims to create awareness of the fact that violence against women is one of the most widespread, persistent and devastating human rights violations in our world today. It remains largely unreported due to the silence, stigma and shame surrounding it.
Since the outbreak of COVID-19, emerging data and reports have shown that all types of violence against women and girls, particularly domestic violence, has intensified. As COVID-19 cases continue to strain health services, essential services, such as domestic violence shelters and helplines, have reached capacity. More needs to be done to prioritise addressing violence against women during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.
This is what you can do. Like me, you can donate, educate, and speak up.
By allowing the subject of violence against women to be spoken about in our schools, workplaces, and homes we can create a safe place for survivors to share their experience and report their abuse.
For six years now, I have fundraised for support services; supported educational projects teaching children about abuse and other dangers; and I have encouraged conversations about sex education.
If you are or someone you know is experiencing abuse, here are some of the places you can find support:
Through supporting survivors and encouraging them to seek support, we can help them on their long journey of healing.
The Diana Award Crisis Messenger also provides free, 24/7 crisis support across the UK. If you are a young person in crisis, you can text DA to 85258.
Trained volunteers will listen to how you’re feeling and help you think the next step towards feeling better.