Kirsty Tate | The Nelson Trust/Phoenix Rising retreats | Gloucester District, Gloucester, UK
Positive Role Model (Gender)
Where to start! Its fair to say I've faced my fair share of adversity in life, growing up in relative poverty in a Lancashire town to addicted parents. I was taken into care, and from there almost developed a feral attitude towards life. I stopped caring, and others who stepped in to try and care for me, got hurt in the process. At 18 years old, I decided this was my time, I was going to try and turn things around, get it together, live my life etc. I managed to get a job in a restaurant and had stable accommodation. Five days after that job started, I was walking home through a park after my shift, and was attacked and raped. That experience sent my whole life into a tailspin. After I had seen the police that experience, despite the help of others, I went home, and felt as though I was the only person on the planet. I fell headlong into ten years of drug addiction, during which misery spread from me, into the lives of others. I did many things during those years that at the time that I couldn't comprehend the seriousness of. I was so disconnected, so lost. I spent a time in and out of prison, for offences I committed that cause me to shudder to this day when I recall them. I was stuck in a rat race of misery, pain, degradation and hurt. But I was in so deep that I couldn't see a way out.
In 2007, I hit an emotional rock bottom when I started to look at how low I had fallen. I decided enough was enough, I was going to stop investing all of my time into trying to die, and start to fight to live.
I managed to get onto two different rehab programs both of which turned my life around in ways I never could have imagined.
I made a decision in those early days that I would do everything I could to ensure that in the same way as I had spread consistent misery for over 10 years, that during my recovery, I would do whatever I could to spread positivity. Instead of darkness, I wanted to spread light, instead of hatred, love, instead of anger, compassion, instead of isolation, connection.
I started building my way up volunteering with organisations, dedicating my time to developing a skillset that would support me to become employable. I then managed to secure a job working in youth housing, with a heart for supporting other young people who were homeless as I had been. I wanted to develop my skillset to working with adults so after a couple of years went to work in a night shelter. This allowed me to interact with a diverse group of people with complex needs. unfortunately, the night shelters funding was pulled after a couple of years, and I was transferred to another organisation. At that time, my dream job came up, working with women who were in the same rehab I had gone through years earlier. I applied and was successful. This was the start of my career with The Nelson Trust, where I have now been for seven years. During this time, it has always been my hearts desire to work in a more meaningful way with women who sell sex. I was afforded the opportunity to apply for a Griffins society research fellowship, and after interview at Cambridge University, was successful! Over the next twelve months I completed a piece of research into the barriers and facilitators of disclosure for sex working women in residential drug treatment. It was painstaking, but what an honour! I entitled the research " Losing my voice" and it literally felt as though I was able to give voice to women whom had lost theirs. I decided it couldn't just end there, I owed it to these women to find a solution, beyond what was already being provided. I went on to develop the Griffin program, which is a 9 week intervention to support women with a sex working history to have safe space to discuss and process the trauma of their experiences. I am now the Learning and Development Lead at The Nelson Trust.
Finally, my latest personal venture is Phoenix rising retreats, a series of four womens retreats providing a safe space for women in recovery to find real solutions for difficulties with intimacy, relationships, sex, body image and empowerment, these are facilitated with a close friend Jessica Elizabeth Opert who is a love and relationships coach. Each time 50 women turn up, fearful, disconnected, ashamed, and leave as warriors and heroes of their own stories. Working with women is my absolute passion, and it is my single greatest life honour to be a channel towards healing and growth for women who were as lost as I. Even just being nominated as a role model for women is tribute enough for me. It demonstrates all over again that my pain has been turned into purpose, adversity into triumph and the emptiness into fulfilment. Trauma can be vicarious, but so is hope!