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Sexual Abuse & Mental Health 

News from today’s conference on reducing the impact of sexual abuse on mental health, chaired by Paul Scates, Survivor of Sexual Abuse, Peer Specialist, Campaigner and Ambassador; 
“Sexual abuse in the UK is an epidemic disease which destroys the lives of many young children. 
Perpetrators sinisterly lure their victims and families into a web of repugnance by deceit, savagely tearing apart their lives and robbing them of their innocence. The catastrophic tsunami effects leave long lasting devastation which is aggressive and rapid. Child abuse is hidden and children are too young, too scared, and too ashamed to speak of their abuse. UK statistics are vague due to the unspoken silence, but it’s estimated to be in the hundreds of thousands of children that are being sexually abused yearly. This disease increasingly continues to pervade our society. No child should face sexual abuse. Society has a duty to provide better support for survivors and their families, better education within schools and a better understanding of the signs and symptoms of abuse. Education is key and pivotal in the prevention of child sexual abuse. When we talk of child abuse we often forget the millions of adult survivors whose needs are rarely met. Many suffer in silence, hiding behind the prison cells of their minds and that of their abusers. Sadly, my own journey followed a lifetime of addictions, self-harm, attempted suicide and self-disgust. The wounds may heal but the scars never leave us, it’s a lifelong sentence for many. But when people get the right support and interventions required, the results are revolutionising and enable people to turn their lives around.”

Understanding the lived experience of childhood sexual abuse: a survivor’s perspective 
Sue Crocombe
Survivor of Abuse

In her presentation Sue stated:

“Child sex abuse leaves an insidious would or stain.  You are left with feelings of pain, anger, guilt, shame and worthlessness”

“It leaves a stain that will never be completely scrubbed away”

“The mind of a child is fragile. Their emotions touch their future. Your words shape their destiny”

“For me, being sexually abused as a child by a family member feels like the ultimate betrayal”

“Once an adult has sexualized the relationship they can then use shame to silence and isolate the child”

“Child sex offenders are master manipulators. They groom other adults with the goal of having them lower their defenses and allow the child to spend time alone with the offender”

Full presentation

Identifying and recognising abuse
Marilyn Hawes
Founder Enough Abuse UK

In her presentation Marilyn discussed:

"recognizing the signs of abuse in victims and perpetrators"

"educating parents and teachers on how to recognise the signs"

"changing the lives of abused people"

Helping reduce the impact of abuse on later mental health problems
Ann Moulds
Clinical Behaviour Psychotherapist and Founder Action against Stalking Scotland

In her presentation Ann discussed:

"Defining Stalking and it’s link to child abuse"
"Importance of early identification and intervention"
"Understanding the impact on the victim"
"The dark side of the web"
"Risk assessment and Importance of early notification and early intervention"

Pre-Event Abstract: The Sexual Predator Stalker

All Stalkers have the potential for violence although, fortunately only around one third actually commit it. Of the five types, the Sexual Predatory Stalker, is a completely different breed and by far the most dangerous and determined. Motivated by a perverted sexual desire, they are the most prolific of sex offenders. 

A true predator, they engage in actively planning an attack and premeditation as how they will go about engaging in a sexual act(s) with their victim. On the surface these predators, are often able to maintain a facade as a devoted husband, father, upstanding citizen, caring professional, or even the kind hearted neighbour, but underneath lurks a cold and calculating   underbelly of twisted sexual desire and often predatory violence. When caught it is often proclaimed by those who knew him as the least likely of perpetrators. 

Since stalking was criminalized in 2010, with the introduction of anti stalking legislation into Scotland, followed by England  & Wales in 2012, it has rapidly become one of the most commonly recognised examples of interpersonal violence, but despite the increased reporting of child abuse cases within the media and the plethora of information available on the internet, stalking and its links to child sexual abuse has never garnished the attention it deserves. 

Delivering therapeutic and practical support to adults who were abused as children and have turned to drugs, alcohol and other ways of self-harming as a consequence of that trauma
Dr Mike Peirce MBE
CEO Southmead Project

In his presentation Mike commented:

"Stigma in any form is a massive massive burden"

"We help to rebuild lives fragmented by abuse and trauma"

"Addictive behaviour arises not as a pleasure seeking strategy but as a survival strategy"

"The ‘voice’ of the traumatised child needs to be acknowledged and truly heard"

"The charity considers outcomes in both quantitative and qualitative formats : quantitative being necessary to demonstrate numerical related outcomes and qualitative in order to show what it really means to a human being to reclaim their life"
Full presentation

Pre-Event Abstract:

I will share with those present what, why, where and when The Southmead Project delivers therapeutic and practical support to adults who were abused as children and who have turned to drugs, alcohol and other ways of self-harming as a consequence of that trauma

During this presentation I will briefly discuss the history of the charity and why it was initially founded, some details of the local community in which it is based and its proud record of achievement over the last 23 years across the City of Bristol and beyond. 

In more detail I will share what my colleagues and I and many service users have learned over that 23-year period whilst focussing on: 
• the impact and consequences of trauma
• specialist abuse counselling: what works from our experience
• providing practical support and developing coping skills
• reclaiming lives affected by trauma and abuse

A more recent inclusion in the work of the charity has been the stepping up of our campaign work on behalf of victims and survivors of child abuse epitomised most effectively by the Wall of Silence exhibition. I shall share some of the findings from the many places where we have exhibited across this country and Wales in the last year and include extracts of feedback about the exhibition

Included in the presentation will be essential key points from research and evaluation we have helped produce ourselves or gathered from other sources over that period. I shall argue the necessity for the full acknowledgement from across the health spectrum, of the impact of child abuse, subsequent trauma and the correlation with drug and/or alcohol misuse as well as other ways of self-harming /self-injury as a direct consequence of that trauma: often leading to numerous labels and stigma. With the evidence available from people like Janina Fisher, showing very clearly how as children, the formation and function of our brains depends according to the environment into which we are born and raised, I am asking the question; how much longer do we need to go on without due consideration being given to this fact – especially where mental health diagnosis and subsequent treatment is concerned. 
 Also for due consideration I will argue: can any child who has faced abuse whether through deprivation, sexual, physical or emotional and whose young life had been torn apart by such a traumatic experience, be expected to function the same as those children who were born and raised in far safer, healthier, more loving and more caring environments? Can any adult who experienced child abuse be expected to function the same as those adults who did not have this experience? I will relate how trauma affects our ability to live well and the consequences of trauma on our ability to live a more emancipated life if survivors do not get the appropriate support.

Over the years at the charity we have developed what we call The Cycle of Harm which is the model we work to and I will demonstrate how, unless the underlying causal factors such as child abuse are addressed through appropriate interventions, the cycle of harm is likely to persist with huge cost implications: we cannot of course put a price on the cost in human terms 

Finally, I will share with the audience Recovery: Transforming the experience of child abuse from a Southmead Project perspective and introduce the training we offer and have delivered across England and Wales over the last 15 years

In conclusion I feel eminently capable and in many ways I guess, as well equipped as many to share my views given my personal experiences of child abuse, my 14 years as a drug addict being compounded by copious use of alcohol, my continued recovery and, following this most painful of apprenticeships, going on to attend university and specialising in working with the aftermath of child abuse. 

Related organisations:

Future events of interest:

Delivering Excellence in Recovery Oriented Services in Mental Health
Tuesday 4 October 
Hallam Conference Centre, London

Improving Mental Health Crisis Care: Maintaining Momentum
Tuesday 6 December 
Manchester Conference Centre, Manchester

Safeguarding Children & Young Adults: Level 3 Mandatory Safeguarding Training in Accordance with the Intercollegiate Guidelines
Monday 16 January 
De Vere, West One, London

Meeting the National Reporting Requirements for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)
Monday 23 January 
De Vere West One, London

Transforming Mental Health Services for Children & Young Adults
Monday 30 January 
De Vere West One, London

20 September 2016


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