Jess has come a long way since Children 1st helped save her life.
In 2013, Jess was the ambassador for our See. Hear. Speak. Act campaign on sexual abuse, been voted Young Scot of the Year 2013 and recorded a beautiful song to raise funds to help us support other young people recover from abuse.
As a child, Jess was neglected by her mum. She was preyed on and sexually abused by a number of men in the community where she grew up.
She says: “When I first came to the Children 1st Killen service, I was estranged from my family. I suffered from post-traumatic stress from the abuse I had experienced and was recovering from drug and alcohol abuse and was self-harming.
“Being abused shatters your world. It’s all-consuming, it takes over your life. You feel guilty, ashamed, embarrassed – like it’s your fault. I didn’t believe anybody could understand what I was going through.
“The centre at Killen doesn’t feel at all clinical, they don’t sit you in a room with a clipboard and say: “how do you feel?” which would just put you more on edge. There’s a sensory room, a playroom full of soft toys. I went through a lot of regression, I was able to be a three-year-old drawing pictures and do all the things I needed to do. It’s a beautiful setting, with plenty of space to relax and work through your feelings – I used to take a hockey stick into the field outside to let off steam.
“The staff at Killen were great and really supported me. Over time I was able to see that things would get better. Having that support makes a huge difference. It definitely sped up the healing process for me. Even though I had to throw my life into it for a while, it really did have much more of a positive effect.
"Eventually you see there is a chance for life and to be more than just a statistic - the abuse isn't at the forefront of your mind any more.''
Jess is now 23 and has a family of her own. But she is also determined to increase awareness of sexual abuse and help raise vital funds to support abuse recovery services, like those Children 1st provides.
Jess is also a Children 1st ambassador for the Kiltwalk.
Jess wrote the emotional song 'How Would You Know?' about her own experiences of childhood sexual abuse to raise funds and support the work of Children 1st. You can download her song from our Bandcamp site.
Lecturers at University of West of Scotland (UWS) were so impressed by her courage and the heartfelt song that they invited Jess to visit their state-of-the-art recording studio at the Ayr Campus and record her music.
David Scott of the University’s School of Creative & Cultural Industries is Programme Leader of MA Songwriting and Performance. David, a member of the Pearlfishers and the BMX Bandits and collaborator with artists such as Isobel Campbell and Ricky Ross, said: “Jess is a truly inspiring individual and we were delighted to invite her to come and access the industry-standard recording facilities at our Ayr Campus.”