Devils in Skirts
Are you following Matty? Check him out! Today, as of June, 2014, Matty has now made it to Italy. Be sure to follow Matty and read his blog and see how he’s igniting conversations about stopping abuse, all across Europe…literally.
Matty McVarish is walking 10,000 miles around Europe in a kilt!
A conversation with Matthew McVarish who is the European Ambassador for Stop the Silence; Stop Child Sexual Abuse.
Scottish soldiers were the “Devils in Skirts” or the “Ladies from Hell” and their battlefield exploits were legendary.
Their reputation was forged by feats of astonishing bravery amid the carnage of the First World War and just the sight of Scots soldiers dressed in traditional kilts struck fear into the hearts of their German enemy.
Now Matthew McVarish, a Scottish playwright, is walking 10,000 miles around Europe in his kilt to promote peace and stop abuse. 28 countries. Many more opportunities to talk about stopping abuse.
Today he is about half way and he needs our help to get home. And that is about more than getting their back up van unclamped!
I met Matty McVarish at the NPEIV conference in San Diego. He was performing in To Kill A Kelpie, a play he wrote about the unfolding and sharing of a secret between two adult brothers that has never been spoken of before.
A “Kelpie” is a devious creature lurking in the depths of highland lochs. When two grown brothers reunite, following the death of their uncle, they realize that his gruesome tales of a child-devouring monster were simply a climate of fear created to ensure their silence and cooperation during years of sexual abuse.
Matty left San Diego to walk 10,000 miles around Europe educating people about child sexual abuse. In every country he visits universities, talks to survivors and inevitably this eccentric devil in a skirt ends up on the front page of the local paper.
Now he is about halfway and he needs our help to stay dry in the middle of a cold wet winter as he starts his walk home.
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I caught up with Matty and asked him some questions:
How on earth does someone decide to walk 10,000 miles, and in a kilt?
The short version is…I was inspired by the organisation ‘Stop the Silence: Stop Child Sexual Abuse, Inc.’ to write a play called To Kill a Kelpie, about adult brothers who finally discuss having been sexually abused in their childhood. The story was based on my own experience of being sexually abused by my uncle, who also abused three of my brothers.
The first production of the play in Glasgow 2009 encouraged us to talk and we finally pressed charges. Thankfully the UK has no Statute of Limitation on reporting child sexual abuse so my uncle is now in prison.
Stop the Silence then took the play across the US, including a run off-broadway and there is now a movie of my play currently touring with an audience talk-back hosted by Stop the Silence.
After every performance of the play or the film, members of the audience have disclosed histories of abuse, sometimes for the very first time and once after sixty years of silence. Dr Pamela Pine, Founder and CEO then asked me to become the organisation’s ‘European Ambassador’, so I figured I should go around Europe and try to encourage the 100 million survivors here to stop their silence.
You know that scene in Forrest Gump, when the journalists swamp him asking why he is running? Well I guess that’s where the idea came from. I don’t have any particular passion for long distance walking but I imagined that if I walked to every EU capital I would attracted more media attention, which is what this issue needs.
What’s the highpoint of the trip so far?
There’s three aspects of Road to Change and I guess each has had its highpoint.
The first is awareness. I’ve now spoken on TV, Radio and to local and nation press, translated in fifteen languages, including Russian. Millions across Northern Europe have now heard me say:
‘I was sexually abused and its okay to talk about it’.
An Estonian journalist told me I was the first man she had ever met who admitted he was sexually abused. I’ve received many emails from survivors who tell me how the walk inspired them to break their silence and for the first time speak to their families, therapists and even the police. So Road to Change has already catalyzed a number of criminal investigations across Europe.
The second part is encouraging international collaboration, like sharing of best practice and resources where needed. With support Road to Change gained from the British Embassies, the American book My body belongs to me will soon be translated into Estonian, Lithuanian and Slovakian and introduced nationally through current child welfare channels, teaching millions of children personal safety for generations to come.
The third aim is of course change on a national policy level and I’ve been fortunate enough to meet Government Ministries and Members of Parliament in the majority of countries I’ve walked through, sparking many debates over the urgent need to abolish the ‘Statute of Limitations’. Last week, in Bratislava, I spoke at a press conference where Branislav Skripek MP announced a proposal to abolish their Limitation, only three days after meeting Road to Change. I also encouraged their ombudsman to suggest the same measure be included in a new Nation Action Plan currently being drawn up to tackle child sexual abuse in Slovakia.
What was the lowest point? What kept you going?
Imagine standing in a forrest beside the Baltic sea. The freezing rain is stinging your ears while the harsh wind is pushing you around. Your boots are sodden, your kilt is dripping wet. You’re thousands of miles from anyone who knows you and hundreds of miles from anyone who speaks English. Your chest is congested with an infection that you can’t seem to shift and your Achilles tendon has swollen up again. You’ve been walking for four hours and still have four to go but you can’t go anywhere right now. Well, not until you get passed the crazy stray dog that you’re currently locked in a primal standoff with….and just then, your phone dies…I have these moments sometimes. They make me smile because they remind me how lucky I am. See, every one of those difficulties is temporary. Its just discomfort, its not actual suffering. I always know that in a matter of hours I will be some place safe and warm and dry but a child is sexually abused every thirty seconds. Their lives won’t be okay again in just a few hours. Maybe I can’t change the world but I know the Road to Change has already changed some people’s worlds. So, I get passed the dog somehow and I limp on…
How can people reading this help you?
We approached over 200 UK companies but despite trying my kids TV profile angle, no corporate entity has came on board to support Road to Change. They seem scared to have their logo next to the words Child Sexual Abuse, so we progress entirely on the kindness of strangers but thankfully we don’t need much.
Major expenses are fuel for the follow vehicle, where I sleep every 40km, and food.
I am supposed to eat 5000 calories everyday but who can afford that? Hence, I’ve lost 2 stone (28lbs) and five toenails but hey, they’ll grow back…If you would like to support us financially, there is a donate button above but if you’d like to cut out the middle man there is a list of small practical items which we need on our website, just click one of the pictures above.
Maybe you have a friend in one of the cities I’m yet to reach, we’re always happy to find a free couch for a night.
Any and all help is deeply appreciated. Thank you so much for your reading. http://roadtochange.eu/