The courage of the victims of paedophile Jimmy Savile has helped lift the lid on a Pandora’s box of hidden child abuse in Northern Ireland.
The Nexus Institute, which deals with adults who experienced childhood sexual abuse, has reported a massive surge in calls following the relentless succession of scandals surrounding Savile.
Nexus’s four offices in Belfast, Londonderry, Enniskillen and Portadown have been inundated over recent days as more and more victims of the Jim'll Fix It presenter come forward.
Helena Bracken, director of Nexus in Derry, said that the first call they received when the Savile story broke came from a 79-year-old woman who had suppressed what had happened to her all her life.
A distressed elderly man has also made contact because his wife, herself a child abuse victim, took the constant revelations surrounding Savile very badly and began self-medicating.
Another elderly man rang in concerned that his grand-daughter was being abused.
“We have noticed a major increase,” Ms Bracken said.
“Most of the people said the trigger to them getting in touch had been the events surrounding the Jimmy Savile saga.
“Most of the people contacting us here in this office are 40-plus.
“We had one lady in here talking about Jimmy Savile and saying that he might have been in England but that there are people in every jurisdiction and town who had abused children.
“She said the person who abused her had been a well-known person as well, and she had not had any counselling.
“We have also had a couple of ex-clients who had gone through counselling and moved on with their lives, but this dragged things back up and made them uncomfortable.
“We had a woman who said that she had picked up the phone umpteen times over the past five years but never called.
“She said the Jimmy Savile thing has pushed her over that edge.”
Ms Bracken said the effects of childhood sexual abuse were well known and varied. They include depression, self-medicating, self-harming, excessive drinking, over-eating or under-eating, poor parenting and poor relationships. She said the historical barriers to people reporting abuse were still very much in place.
“The whole issue is still surrounded in secrecy,” added Ms Bracken.
“People still feel they are to blame, there is still guilt, and it is still such a taboo thing.”
Ms Bracken said the majority of victims they have worked with at Nexus in Derry had no intention of bringing the perpetrators through the courts.