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Anthea McCarten, aged 45 years, is the founder and manager of Restore the Years, a qualified therapeutic counsellor and author; she is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse.

Restore the Years is a Non Profit, Registered Charity and gained Charitable Status in April 2016. Restore the Years supports adult survivors of sexual abuse.

The sexual abuse began in the late 70’s when Anthea was aged approximately 7 years old; the perpetrator was a close family member who continued abusing her periodically for another 4/5 years.

The abuse ended when Anthea was aged 11/12 years of age and sadly, as typical for many victims, Anthea was hushed, a powerless child, she had to continue seeing the perpetrator until she felt empowered to take control back and put a stop to the obligatory visits.

Anthea lived an empty existence but continued with life, aged 17 years she met Paul McCarten, got engaged aged 18 years and was married at 20.

Paul and Anthea went on to have two children who are now both adults. Anthea buried the inner wounds of her past traumas and carried on with being a wife and mum, running the family home and working part-time at her local church playgroup.

But at aged 30 years she could no longer hold the damaged, broken fragments together and had a mental breakdown. Hospitalised Anthea was finally able to begin her journey of healing from the deep scars caused by living in a silent world full of shame and blame.

Anthea’s constant self-sabotaging and self-hate had destroyed what was left of her.

One of the main impacts of sexual abuse is shame. Anthea has written her memoirs titled ‘Shh’, and on page 28 she writes
‘After the abuse was revealed, extended family members would ask why I didn’t tell and why I hadn’t said no. As far I knew they never asked CW why he had sexually assaulted me. Our culture is still focused on victim shaming. Rape victims are still being asked why they wore what they wore drank what they drank and why they walked alone in the dark. Why didn’t you NOT rape that person? That should always be the question.

The perpetrator would make statements such as ‘she came onto me, if she didn’t like it why didn’t she say no or she started it’.

Of course this wasn’t the case but that is not the point Anthea wants to make here. The important message Anthea would like to send out to fellow survivors of childhood sexual abuse is that you were the child and not responsible for the abusers actions and our bodies are designed to fight, flight or freeze when we are in danger. Anthea froze as do so many victims of abuse.

Last year, according to figures released by the Office for National Statistics one in 14 adults in England and Wales were sexually abused as children. These figures are staggering and reveals the need for support and it is vital we do not become complacent in our work to increase awareness of this topic. As staggering as these statistics are it is also important to remember that there are still many victims who are living with the impacts of abuse alone who have not yet come forward. This is just one of the many reasons why Restore the Years has been established to end isolation for those still living in silence.

Restore the Years is here to support fellow survivors on their road to recovery, restoring and reclaiming back years lost because of trauma triggered by sexual abuse.

As a Charity we focus on creating healthy boundaries, mental well-being, growing in confidence and being empowered to speak out, giving back the shame to perpetrators. Our message is we are not responsible for another person’s actions, especially when we are the children and w supposedly in the care of adults we should be able to trust and feel safe with.

We promote Survivors Supporting Survivors; one of our aims is to support others on their journey from victim to survivor to thriver. Restore the Years believes and shares the message of hope that you can heal from the traumas of abuse and become who you choose to be, no longer being shaped by past experiences but reaching your full potential.

Restore the Years first year as a charity has been a very busy one. We have focused on networking and collaborating with local like minded organisation’s and community projects.

I am a huge advocate in charities, organisations, authorities and community projects working together. When we do this it can create a positive, sustainable impact in clients’ lives and the services provided.

Restore the Years run therapeutic support groups. The format of each group is a 12 week closed program, creating a confidential, trusting, safe environment for clients to share their experiences and receive support. This is often the first opportunity many clients have had to speak out and break the world of silence they have been living in without fear of being judged or disbelieved.

Because Restore the Years understands the devastating long-term impacts of sexual abuse we provide long-term support for survivors. After our clients have completed the 12 week therapeutic program we refer them to a local community project called Joining Hands Joining Hearts and a private self help support group who meets on a regular basis, ‘Survivors Supporting Survivors’.

We have just hosted our second Empowered Talent Show, the purpose of these shows are twofold. Many talented individuals have the opportunity to share their talents with the community whilst playing a role in raising funds for Restore the Years.

The Empowered Talent Shows have been a great success and are worth all the hard work that goes on behind the scenes to see others empowered by participating and contributing, sending out the message of ‘you matter’ to survivors.

Keeley Nash, who runs Joining Hands Joining Hearts, was also a recipient of an award for the much needed and valued work she does for survivors of domestic and sexual abuse.

When Kathrin presented the awards to us both she shared ‘you do an amazing job, I am so proud of you and I talk about you all the time and am just flabbergasted by what you do’. Kathrin also shared she felt the love support and determination to survive within the groups on her first visit to us the previous year.

The Kent Community Foundation have also been a great support to Restore the Years, they met up with me two or three times before we gained our Charitable Status to answer the many questions I, as a new founder, had.

The Kent Community Foundation introduced us to other financial supporters who have been to visit, hear my story and observe what we do together to support survivors.

I’m sure many founders of new charities will be able to relate with some of the questions and fears I had when first thinking about setting up a charity. To say the setting up of a charity is an enormous commitment and hard work is indeed an understatement! But my love, passion and belief in what I do drove me to keep going on the days I felt exhausted, wondering if I could pull this off and had taken on more than what was realistically possible. But deep down I knew this was within my capabilities and self-doubt was not an option! Self-doubt was part of my ‘old script’ and now I’m rewriting my story, a message we share with other survivors: restore the years by taking back power and control that was taken from you. It is empowering becoming who we choose to be.

It was just over two years ago I knew founding a new specialist charity was the way forward and what became very clear from the outset was that it was paramount to have a clear vision and goal. What was the structure of Restore the Years to be? What was I going to name the Charity? What were my objectives? What were the aims for the charity’s first year and long-term future.

There were many hours of form filling, policies and procedures to put in place, emails, phone calls, meetings and networking. My first thought when I embarked on the Counselling Training Course 6 years ago was ‘I want to support other survivors but not yet sure how to go about this’? That was just the beginning.

Here are just a few of our long-term goals for the future of Restore the Years; to increase our team of volunteers of ‘Survivors Supporting Survivors’. Once survivors have completed our therapeutic programs they are encouraged to lead peer groups (self help support groups), our goal being that survivors are empowered in overcoming the effects of sexual abuse and then able to support others in doing the same.

We aim to grow and branch out to other parts of the UK running our therapeutic and self help support groups and to continue working in close partnerships with other like-minded organisations. As I shared earlier, by doing this it promotes competent and sustainable positive outcomes for survivors. Quality of support comes before quantity, facilitating long-term support in survivors recovery and reintegration is crucial if we are to see lasting healing. In essence, the long-term impacts of abuse require long-term support and this is how we aim to facilitate and empower survivors in reaching their full potential.

Anthea McCarten

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