Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 25 December 2014

TV star Rantzen 'victim of abuse'

ChildLine founder Esther Rantzen has revealed she was a victim of child abuse
ChildLine founder Esther Rantzen has revealed she was a victim of child abuse

TV personality Esther Rantzen, who founded children's helpline ChildLine, has said she was the victim of child abuse herself as a schoolgirl.

As the charity approaches its 25th anniversary, Ms Rantzen admitted she was molested by a "relative" in the 1950s.

The That's Life star, who campaigned to become an MP in Luton last year, made the disclosure when being interviewed about ChildLine, which was created in 1986.

Ms Rantzen founded the service after a one-off BBC TV programme Childwatch was inundated with calls by children desperate for help.

The charity now offers a 24/7 helpline for children in danger or distress.

Ms Rantzen said she decided to talk about what happened to her when she was asked by a journalist if any one moment in her own childhood had influenced her decision to want to set up ChildLine.

"I went to talk about the beginning of ChildLine and how it happened and then he said, 'have you ever experienced something like this in your own life?', and you've got the decision at that moment, you either refuse to answer or you tell the truth.

"I felt that it was really incumbent on me, since we encourage children to talk to us, and since the book I'm doing called Running Out Of Tears is based on adults' memories of their own childhood, I couldn't very well not go down that road myself."

She has described the incident, which happened when she was a schoolgirl, as a "grope" by the man, who was not a blood relative, but "somebody who was called an uncle".

Ms Rantzen added: "From my point of view I don't feel that it in any way prompted the creation of ChildLine although there may have been, at a level, a sensitivity in me, an understanding of how children feel when somebody within the family circle treats them badly."

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