Abuse she suffered as a child left Sharon Shaw confused, fearful and desperate to be properly understood by a trusted person.
Trauma she experienced as a young girl, at the hands of two different men, had a profound effect on every aspect of her life as she was growing up.
But the courageous Doncaster woman overcame her past to undergo years of training and become an established psychotherapist treating both children and adults.
She specialises in cases of childhood sexual, mental and emotional abuse.
Sharon is now able to share her own troubled story in her words, within the pages of her first book, that carries a strong message of hope to others who may have been afflicted similarly.
As an adult woman of 40 with two children, Sharon has dealt with her difficult past.
She was just six when her abuse began, and it was three years on from that when she first disclosed, she reveals.
One of her tormentors was convicted and sentenced to 18 months in prison, while the other was found not guilty. But in the latter case, Sharon said she remained glad that she had ‘disclosed’ as it did allow her to ‘move on’ knowing that, despite the result of the hearing, she had been believed. She later corresponded with the man concerned.
“I did it to tell my story and to be believed,” she said.
“At 18, I was breaking down.
“It was the right thing to do, for me, and it did finally give me a sense of peace.”
Her developed ‘gut intuition’ is now incredibly strong, expained Sharon.
“I will never ignore that intuitive sense, or inner voice, as I’ve come to trust it.”
But it has taken years of work, involving therapy and ‘safe disclosure’, for her to gain self-belief and empowerment.
“I’ve had so much fear in my life but now I can deal with what life throws at me because I know how to heal,” she added.
Recently she underwent a split with her partner of some years: but her previous therapy and subsequent healing process enabled her to deal more effectively with this trauma.
Sharon said: “I knew, when I was healing, that I needed people to see me with my emotions unmasked.
“My mum was a safe place to an extent, where I could talk, but it was so painful for her to hear, so I would hold stuff back.”
Through her new book, Sharon explains the many ways in which abuse continues to haunt its victims, through distorted language and actions of self harm, or self blame, poor self image and dysfunctional relationships. “When I was younger I told people fragments of my story but would invariably shut down if I felt they couldn’t understand,” she said.
“As a child you don’t have the cognitive ability to process events properly, to understand or voice them. Confusion builds up.”
Nothing is more important than talking and sharing, creating a safe space in which people can be truthful about their experiences, said Sharon.
“Theymust re-engage with that terrified child they keep hidden inside, in order to begin the healing process. “
She is a vocal campaigner for more play therapists to be placed in schools, and explained: “In play we all project out at different levels....much is revealed through play, and can be interpreted by experienced eyes.”
“The work play therapists do is so valuable.”
Her book, ‘A Child Inside: understanding, healing and freedom following childhood abuse and trauma’ is made all the more powerful by the fact that its author’s understanding and compassion stems from her own awful experience.
It explores the complex issues of trust and responsibility between adults and children, and the passage from acute distress through the full spectrum of understanding, and then, finally, to forgiveness.
The message Sharon gives, ultimately, is that abused children can be healed, and can go on to live fulfilling adult lives.
She has already written her second book, to follow on from her first investigation, using her own painfulmemories as material.
A Child Inside is published by Clink Street Publishing in paperback and ebook and is available from Amazon and most book stores.