Belfast Telegraph

Having the courage to speak a massive step for any victim

By Caroline Holloway

Sadly there are many children across Northern Ireland who have suffered significant harm as a result of, for example, domestic and sexual abuse. Our specialist teams work with these children and families to help them with their recovery, and enable them to protect themselves in the future.

Abuse is, by its very nature, secretive. Having the courage to speak out is a huge step for those who have been manipulated, terrified, made to feel as though they would never be believed, and for those who were made to feel that they were complicit in their own abuse. We must not underestimate the lasting impact on families and society as a whole.

Our research has found that one in 20 children experiences constant or frequent domestic abuse at home. Existing services often focus on helping mothers to recover from domestic abuse and overlook the harm caused to their children. The suggestion that children are in another room, and therefore oblivious to what goes on between adults in the home, is a complete fallacy. Children and young people are highly attuned to what goes on around them. We know that mothers who have lived with an abusive partner can often overlook their children's physical and emotional needs, and children can find it hard to talk to their mums about what has happened.

Through our Domestic Abuse Recovering Together (DART) programme, children and their mothers can talk to each other about the abuse and begin to rebuild their relationship.

There is no doubt that the face of sexual abuse is continuing to change, but the devastation it wreaks remains the same. We work with girls and boys from as young as four years of age, offering them therapeutic support following sexual abuse. We help them come to terms with the abuse they have suffered, explore and express their feelings about it. No two children are the same, just as no two experiences are the same, so we explore what works best with children of different ages and genders in different situations.

Sexual abuse damages children emotionally and psychologically. They might act out through violence or withdraw into themselves, self-harm or become suicidal. They often find it difficult to build healthy relationships with peers and adults.

We want to get the right help to children to help them move on. Our services work to give them the best chance of recovery and help them to avoid the range of problems that can be carried into their adult lives, for example drug and alcohol abuse, relationship issues and mental health problems.

Belfast Telegraph

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph