Annie Bowman: What Survivors for Peace means to me

February 21, 2014 | Nick Taylor

Annie Bowman is the daughter of Barry Gritten, a soldier in the Bomb Disposal squad who was killed when she was nearly 3 years old in 1973.

During my childhood I had nightmares and periods of darkness, recklessness and utter loneliness. As I grew up these became so much a part of me that no-one, let alone me, realized that something was wrong. I couldn’t talk about what had happened without getting very upset, and I was too young to understand what had happened or remember my Dad.

These feelings of devastation, isolation and depression are not unique to me and affect our close relationships.

In 2002, in the wake of 9/11, knowing how all those children whose parents were killed in America would be feeling for the next few months, years and decades, I decided to find some help for myself, so that in the future I might be able to help others.

The Foundation’s Survivors for Peace Programme has not been merely a support group, as people cannot meet regularly because of the distances those of us involved have to travel to Warrington.

Survivors for Peace for me, is about finally getting help after being traumatized for the majority of my life. It is about meeting people who understand that losing someone to terrorism is not the same as losing someone to illness or accident. Even though the pain may be the same, the response of family, friends and community isn’t. I am no longer alone with my feelings. I have met people who have helped with the isolation and depression just through our shared experiences.

Every day there is a terrorist incident mentioned on the news. Every day the trauma is lurking behind each headline, waiting to pounce.

On the day of the London Bombings for instance, people were killed and injured, people were traumatized because they escaped death and injury, but also those who have experience of terrorism were at risk of being re-traumatized. Every time there is an incident, big or small that knocks us, or it is the time of year that we find difficult, like anniversaries or Christmas, the staff and fellow participants are there to talk to and to talk through our feelings with us.

The Foundation has offered, not only a safe place in a non-judgmental environment for us to talk, but they have also given us a positive step forward, by offering courses including leadership, advocacy and peer support. Many of us have talked at conferences where there were delegates from the government, armed forces and the emergency services. They can then use our experience to help them know how best to cope with future incidents.

None of us want to wallow in our own misery, and this is what makes Survivors for Peace unique in my eyes. We are not fighting for justice, compensation, or complaining about our lot in life, we are taking steps forward to help the next lot of victims and survivors.

Jo Dover has led a team that has worked tirelessly over the last 12 years for these positive steps. I don’t believe there is any organisation in the UK that knows more about the sort of help people need long term than Survivors for Peace. The majority of the people that have been helped have already suffered in silence for many years. Jo Dover and her colleagues have an immense amount of knowledge that can help with any future attacks at home and abroad or can help refugees and veterans from previous violence like the Balkans, or the Middle East.

Acts of terrorism, unfortunately aren’t going to stop, and aren’t going to avoid us. Without funding for this programme, the priceless knowledge that Jo Dover has gathered will be lost forever.

We need to petition the government to find a department that will take ownership of this issue and carry on the work that becomes more vital as people all over the world feel more and more aggrieved about their personal identity and feel the need to use violence to fight for their freedom. Lets try and show people that we care after a terrorist incident, not just for the immediate aftermath, but for the long haul.

Annie Bowman

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