Sue Cox began her talk with the moving and inspiring story of her life so far. Born in rural Lincolnshire, she experienced a strict Catholic upbringing. She was taught that practically everything was sinful, and the family household revolved around the church. At the age of 5, she had to take part in praying for her cousin to die, since he was going to marry a divorcee. Cox described the brainwashing of confessions, guilt and ritual, such as sleeping with your arms across your chest, as touching your body was sinful.
As her parish was poor, there was no vicarage, meaning that the priest lodged at the family’s house. The neighbourhood’s attitude to the clergy was that they could do no wrong: as they were so close to god, their hands were sacred, meaning that they could do no work and should be served by everyone. The local priest was often ill and was replaced temporarily with others, one of which abused Cox from the ages of 10 to 13.
Cox described her horrendous experiences and the effect they had on her later life. The death of her father, the Catholic environment and the abuse by a priest led to her becoming disturbed: self-harming, suffering from an eating disorder and an alcoholic. After a violent first marriage Cox found herself with six children. Remembering the inaction that followed her rape, she slowly distanced herself from the church, and began her recovery with the help of support from her friends, education and a job in counselling.
As well as a successful career as an addiction councellor, Cox became involved in telling her story as part of the campaign to expose the damaging actions of the Catholic church. A documentary appearance led to a speech at a rally, and making links with the Italian anti-clerical Radicali Party. At a party meeting, the stories told by fellow survivors inspired Cox to co-found her organisation Survivor's Voice.
Survivor's Voice aims to empower survivors with information and support, rather than being involved in fundraising and campaigning against the church.
Check out their website for more information: http://survivorsvoice-europe.org/ and thanks to everyone who came!