A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of spending some time with our Youth Advisory forum. What an impressive bunch of young people they are too, very articulate, very considered about what they feel are the important priorities for us to concentrate on and very passionate about improving things.
This forum is definitely the most active we have, working the hardest on ensuring we are moving in the right direction and being part of that development. Their latest efforts being the launch of their own Say Something campaign with a 24/7 free phone helpline in Westminster in partnership with Missing People.
It was very disturbing to listen to their concerns that the numbers of young people needing services outstrips the number of specialist services available.
Comments such as
“we need support for a long time afterwards, this will keep coming back to us in flash backs for ever”
The discussion covered the need for services to be extended but the reality was that as they got older, nearer to or past 18 years old there is “less access to services but it all keeps coming back to trouble you”.
We all recently heard about the Aylesbury case
“The Aylesbury child sex ring was not discovered as most would expect – with a victim complaining to the police, a parent voicing concerns or online surveillance. It began with the main victim – known throughout the case as child A – trying to prevent her own children being taken into care.” (BBC News 24th July 2015)
which demonstrates that many young people, without the appropriate support experience difficulties in managing throughout their lives.
In a statement, girl A spoke of her feelings of “worthlessness” as she battled depression and alcohol addiction, adding:
“I feel my teenage years were taken away from me.”
The second girl – known as B – said today’s sentencing was
“academic” because “no sentence could ever put right what happened”.
It has been one of my concerns for a long time that therapeutic care has and still is in many cases a very low priority for professionals working with survivors of sexual trauma. Some victims have been manipulated to have sex with hundreds of adults over the years of their exploitation, but have not received specialist mental or physical health support or long-term recognition of the impact of their trauma on their lives. How do you learn to live with that type of abuse alone?
There has to be significant investment available for those who wish to access the support, not just immediately after the abuse but long term access and support to assist them to reach their full potential in adult life.
Talking recently with a parent whose daughter was exploited back in the 80’s, the impact is still very evident, mental health issues such as Bipolar disorder, self harming, suicidal thoughts and emotional issues such as losing her children, the inability to maintain a stable relationship or work …… the list goes on. All these issues then led to housing issues, instability and their own inability to live without state support in later life.
How can we ever justify not investing in our young people and the long-term impact of sexual trauma at the time we discover what has happened to them? It means we have to support them through services for a lifetime, and watch as their world falls apart again and feel it all is too late to help!
CEO NWG Network