community champion Chris Marks. 21 March 2016. Photo: Trevor Veale / The Coffs Coast Advocate
community champion Chris Marks. 21 March 2016. Photo: Trevor Veale / The Coffs Coast Advocate Trevor Veale

Voice Up, break silence of abuse

HELPING and offering support for survivors of child abuse makes Chris Marks this week's Coffs Coast Advocate community champion.

What do you do?

I AM a voluntary member of VoiceUp Australia, based in Coffs Harbour.

The project was my idea in 2013 when I became concerned about the impact of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Assault on lots of people who are now adults surviving the impact of their own abuse, not only within institutions but within immediate families, extended families, neighbourhoods and communities.

I am an adult surviving the impact of extensive abuse in my childhood and I wanted a safe place to be able to share my story, alongside others and to develop skills to voice up, speak out and break the silence.

We now have 150 people on our mailing list - we have regular monthly support meetings - we also hold public meetings to educate ourselves and the community about issues arising from childhood neglect and abuse and its impact on our society. We also organise training for survivors and agencies working with adults surviving child abuse.

What's your favourite part about your job at Voice Up?

Working with other people who are surviving impact of child abuse. We have organised the Royal Commission to come to Coffs Harbour twice as well as hold private sessions here. We held meetings in Child Protection Week to help people understand how notifying about abuse is responded to by police, health department, Family and Community Services. We have spoken at National Mental Health Conference as consumers.

Our work is unfunded and voluntary, Coffs Harbour Neighbourhood Centre through the Coordinator Gai Newman supports our activities and you can ring them to find out more on 6648 3694.

How to you hope Voice Up will grow in the coming years?

I hope there will be many VoiceUp groups all around Australia dedicated to resourcing, educating, empowering, advocating and representing adult survivors of child abuse.

Our job is to break the silence, heal the shame, shift the blame from us to our perpetrators and communities that silence the abused and protect abusers. We want harsher penalties for perpetrators, safer more informed families, communities and organisations committed to protecting the children of the past, the present and the future.



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