The truth that no one tells teenagers

20 February, 2020

Matthew McVarish was a victim of Childhood Sexual Abuse. He is now a multi-award winning Human Rights Activist and has collaborated with various organisations internationally to advance legislation and protect the rights of children and adult survivors of sexual assault. Matthew is the International Ambassador for the Moira Anderson Foundation.

He walked 10,000 miles around Europe, campaigning for the abolition of the Statute of Limitations on reporting CSA. Matthew is the author of: ‘The Quality of Silence’, an academic exploration of the varied cultural, social and economic obstacles to reporting abuse faced by survivors in different nations, commissioned by the Scottish Government.

After seeing Matthew speaking on television, a child who recently suffered abuse asked what had helped him recover: answering this simple yet profound question led to the creation of his new book ‘The Truth That No One Tells Teenagers.’ Matthew used his own experience to help young people who have been victims of childhood sexual abuse to better understand what rights they have.

Extract from ‘The Truth That No One Tells Teenagers’ by Matthew McVarish

I can’t remember exactly when Terry started abusing me. I guess it must have been while I was too young to even form memories. Thinking back, I just remember always being abused, as if it was a normal part of life, like going to school or helping my mum with the groceries.

I hated everything Terry did to me, but he did it so regularly that, at first, I had no idea it wasn’t supposed to be happening at all.

He seized every opportunity to get me alone, abusing me in his house, in my house, in my cousin’s house, in bedrooms, bathrooms, living rooms, on holiday, in his car… the list goes on and on. Literally nowhere was safe.

My parents didn’t stop him because they had no idea what he was doing to me and I didn’t know how to tell them. I imagined that if I did say something, my mum would get really upset and my dad would get angry, then perhaps there would be a lot of shouting. I didn’t want that. Arguments scared me, so I stayed quiet to keep life peaceful for everyone.

I was a tiny kid who was secretly being used in the most embarrassing way, by my own Godfather – the one adult who had sworn to protect me, and I was too scared to tell the only people who I believed could help me because I didn’t want to cause any trouble.

It’s so easy to see how unfair this was when I look back on it, but the same is true for you right now.

No matter who your abuser was, what they did to you was not fair. It was never okay for them to do anything they did to you. They are completely responsible for their terrible actions. ALL blame is on them.

It’s not fair that the other adults around you allowed it to happen. It’s not fair that your childhood was interrupted in this horrible way, and it’s so not fair that after everything you’ve been through already, you are the one left to pick up the pieces and put your life back together.

You should not have to go through any of this!

It might seem like this first truth is obvious, but to begin to heal, it’s really important that you fully grasp this: what you have been through was not fair. It was a massive violation of so many of your human rights. So many other adults, who should have protected you, let you down.

They messed up, so badly, and you got hurt. It’s not fair!

This should not have been done to you.

But… it was.

The first problem for many people who have experienced abuse is that they cannot accept what was done to them, because it was not fair. Children are not supposed to be abused, ever. It’s just wrong. So, they burn with anger, insisting that their childhood should not have been that way, but then they get stuck in that rage. As they can’t change the past but they also refuse to accept it, every day starts to feel heavy and they start to feel depressed. Eventually, this heavy sadness ruins the rest of their life.

Don’t worry, this will not happen to you. Just by continuing to read you are gently beginning to save your own life right now.

An awful fact is that what they did to you was actually nothing to do with you. They wanted to do these things to a child, and you were there. If another child had been there, they would have done it to them.

It’s so incredibly unfair, but it was nothing to do with who you are or what you’d done or what you look like.

You were just there.

Stop for a moment right now and just let this sink in. Acknowledge for yourself that you have been treated so unfairly.

To find out more about Matthew’s work and where you can purchase ‘The Truth That No One Tells Teenagers: Ten Facts Every Teen Victim Has the Right to Know’ go to

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