What a year! We’ve gone from finding our feet to spreading our wings

26 January 2022

A celebration of our achievements in 2021

Written by TMOF volunteer ambassador – Dr Linda Jane Newby

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2021 was a truly transformational year for The Maggie Oliver Foundation. As we start a busy new year with lots more exciting plans, we wanted to pause to reflect on how far we’ve come and the difference we have made in the lives of survivors.

Over the past 12 months, we provided emotional and legal advocacy support to over 400 survivors of sexual abuse and their families. We continued to give survivors a voice by sharing their stories and hope that this helped other victims and survivors to know that they are not alone. And we keep uncovering injustices, fighting for a criminal justice system that is fit for purpose in investigating a prosecuting these terrible crimes.

We couldn’t do any of this without our people: our amazing ambassadors, our new staff team and the huge support and generosity of the public. As we look back on our achievements, there is a real sense of empowerment and appreciation for those who took action and made a difference in our world. They are the ones who inspired us to be the best version of ourselves, gave hope or helped us to grow. And perhaps, to us, they were all of these things and more.

Our year started and ended with Kelly’s inspirational story of survival.

If we were to symbolise The Foundation’s journey throughout 2021, it would be in honour of one of our wonderful ambassadors: Kelly. She epitomises ‘Pain into Power’ and is a real-life example of what survivors can achieve with determination, the right support and specialist help. But Kelly is so much more than what happened to her. For us, it’s her tenacity and grace that touches us.

At the start of the year, we heard how she overcame the most horrific circumstances in her childhood. With our encouragement, Kelly slowly began to grow in confidence until she found her voice and bravely shared her story on Woman’s Hour, helping to raise awareness of the hidden plight of so many voiceless victims and the enormous failures within the criminal justice system.

Approximately 60% of our current team are survivors, many of whom have found the courage to share their stories with us. And many more victims and survivors have come forward to share their stories after being inspired by Maggie and Kelly. You can listen to Kelly telling her story, “My childhood was taken from me, by the system and my abusers” https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000wz45 To read other survivor stories, please follow the link to our website Survivor Stories

By the end of the year, we had our annual Fundraising Ball, and butterflies punctuated the event. Their wings were adorned with survivors stories and personal messages of how The Foundation had positively impacted their lives. It was truly spine-tingling to read them.

Our events team tirelessly worked with a metaphor for transformation. A chrysalis gave a symbol of hidden PAIN. And then change can happen to become a magnificent butterfly as a symbol of emPOWERment. A concept that Kelly and countless other survivors of sexual abuse in childhood or as an adult would embody.

Chris Gilbey Smith, Maggie and Kelly collaborated to script her survivor story carefully. The impact of its words and the eloquence of its storytelling by Chris Gilbey Smith was breathtaking. On the night, in the presence of storm Arwen and an audience of over 250 people, you could have heard a pin drop! Maggie and Kelly shone and quite rightly so. Their gratitude was heartfelt for all the exceptional people who gave The Foundation extraordinary support and loyalty to make many things happen throughout 2021 and beyond. Afterwards, the feedback from the audience was palpable because Kelly’s survivor story had deeply touched them. What an accomplishment for generating greater awareness of the humanitarian need and the importance of radical change to a broken system.

Many of our ambassadors attended the Fundraising Ball, including those whose multitalented efforts were key to planning the event. Maggie conveyed her utmost appreciation for their dedication and creativity with the butterfly themed decorations, event literature and implementing ways to generate funds.

How we have spread our wings during 2021

What we’ve accomplished this past year has helped us spread our wings. We’ve built positive relationships with trusted media partners and gained financial support from corporate and charitable partnerships. They have enabled The Foundation to grow at a pace. Our team has grown from one member of staff to four, and the number of volunteer ambassadors continues to increase well beyond 30 people. Our survivor-led ethos means that everyone who works and volunteers at The Foundation has had their own experiences of traumatic events.

Still, at the heart of our endeavours is exposing the hidden scandal of how victims are being let down time and time again by statutory authorities—shaming them and making them accountable for their repeated failings. We have gained increased support from the public through sharing knowledge gained from survivors and their families who reached out for our help. Our constant hope is to bring about long-lasting improvements and positive change to the criminal justice system and specialist support services.

Since its inception in 2019, The Foundation has supported over 2000 victims, survivors, and families. We increased our reach after the ‘Pain into Power’ helpline launched in January 2021 and have provided over 62,300 minutes of support. It has helped send a strong message that victims and survivors are not alone in their darkness. Our trained team, including the ‘listening ear’ ambassadors, have helped bring survivors back into the light through empathy, compassion and empowerment. We’ve supported them unconditionally to find their voice, tell their story and seek justice. Together, we celebrate the measurable impact on survivors’ emotional and mental well-being.

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“The service The Foundation is providing is something as a survivor I have been looking for, I have phoned many phone lines and had to explain myself repeatedly, and  I then stop calling.

This service is personal and something I feel many survivors will want.” – a survivor

By Mid-May, The Foundation ran its pilot Trauma-informed Therapy Group to support a small number of survivors who felt ready to access online therapy. Dr Georgina Clifford led the 12-week course focused on psychological education about trauma and strategies to help survivors. We were delighted when both the qualitative and qualitative feedback showed the women had made notable improvements. So part of our celebration is about their achievements as they demonstrated better ways of coping with and improving their complex PTSD symptoms. We are proud to have reinforced the work they needed to do in their journeys towards recovery.

“The Foundation’s group therapy, support, and understanding have changed my life completely. It has given me the strength to make those changes.” – a survivor

At the end of May, our ambassadors came together in person for the first time and did a Sponsored walk at Studley Royal Deer Park, Ripon. And what a day we had! The sun shone, and spirits were high as we walked to raise money for The Foundation. We embraced the time spent together and shared our vision with passion, laughter, and tears. Collectively, we made a difference through kindness, compassion and trauma-informed understanding to best support survivors of childhood sexual abuse to turn their Pain into Power.

New horizons as we start to take flight in 2022

Now that 2021 has drawn to an end, we celebrate our many achievements as they are the things that bring forth new horizons. We will continue to be there for any survivors of sexual abuse who find it difficult to fight for themselves. The Foundation is the go-to place in the UK when victims feel they have nowhere else to turn, and we are a place where they’ll be listened to, heard and believed.

Our community of like-minded professionals and volunteers are working together to change things for the better! Through generous donations and fundraising during the year, we can support more victims and survivors of sexual abuse. Our survivor-led support system can continue to facilitate the much-needed help survivors seek—no matter where they are on their journey towards recovery. If the need is support with reporting, emotional or legal advocacy, or CiC, our dedicated team will help them get justice. Survivors can access our ‘Pain into Power’ helpline to speak about how they’re coping. And some will progress further still by seeking professional and peer support through our Trauma-informed Group Therapy course.

As for the new projects, we are on the cusp of launching our new website early in the year. We aim to put down roots for our team and secure office space in central Manchester. Ideas abound as we plan for a Survivors’ Ball in the Spring and other creative ways to raise funds and awareness across the UK. Perhaps, another sponsored walk or a marathon where we can wear our TMOF T-shirts again. So watch this space as we go from spreading our wings to welcoming 2022 as the year we start to take flight.

If you would like to donate

A monthly donation of £15 to The Foundation could provide emotional support to a survivor like Kelly through our ‘Pain into Power’ phoneline. We will drive change by empowering survivors to share their stories of how the police and other statutory services have failed them. Click here to donate.

Please note, our team are taking a short break over Christmas as will not be checking emails regularly. We'll respond once we are back on Tuesday 3rd January. Thank you for understanding.

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