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Child sex abuse victims saw lockdown ‘setback’ as face-to-face therapy postponed

PUBLISHED: 06:00 16 September 2020

There are fears children receiving therapy before lockdown have been 'set back' by the pandemic, with charity Fresh Start New Beginnings hiring new case workers to deal with the 'waiting list' of referrals. Photo: Getty Images

There are fears children receiving therapy before lockdown have been 'set back' by the pandemic, with charity Fresh Start New Beginnings hiring new case workers to deal with the 'waiting list' of referrals. Photo: Getty Images

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A sex abuse charity has warned children receiving support for trauma have been “set back” by lockdown as the service was forced to cut face-to-face contact.

Fresh Start, New Beginnings logo. Photo: Fresh Start new beginningsFresh Start, New Beginnings logo. Photo: Fresh Start new beginnings

Norfolk and Suffolk charity Fresh Start new beginnings (FSNB) said the lack of therapy during lockdown meant children lost the support they relied on as a way of processing their abuse.

According to the charity, this has caused a huge backlog in referrals - with two new child sexual abuse workers (CSAs) being recruited purely to “bring down the waiting list”.

Since lockdown was lifted, FSNB has seen a 50pc increase in referrals - but expects this figure to grow as children return to schools and teachers notice signs of abuse.

Pippa, who has asked us not to reveal her surname, is a CSA worker with FSNB.

Pippa holding flowers and chocolate given to her by one of the children she provides therapy sessions to. She said: Pippa holding flowers and chocolate given to her by one of the children she provides therapy sessions to. She said: "The reward for helping a child no longer feel the blame and shame is much more important than flowers and chocolates. These are such a lovely touch, but knowing a child has put themselves back together is the real gift." Photo: Fresh Start New Beginnings

She said the victims she helps regressed when the country went into lockdown as feelings of loneliness were intensified.

She said: “One young girl who had been abused by a member of her family felt what lots of children feel when they are sexually abused - that it was their fault.

“When she came to FSNB, she felt anxious that the abuser or someone else may hurt her - and this impacted her confidence.

“As she felt so alone, she began to shut herself off from friends and family, and was self-harming as a way of coping. She was considering suicide.

Patsy Johnson-Cisse of the Fresh Start new beginnings charity said: Patsy Johnson-Cisse of the Fresh Start new beginnings charity said: "If a child trusts you enough to tell you what is happening to them, listen and get them help. Picture: CAROLINE HORNE

“She began to talk with me about her trauma before lockdown, but faced a setback when face to face sessions stopped.

“We continued to talk via phone calls, text messages and Facetime until face-to-face sessions could resume.

“She has since completed her treatment and knows that she was absolutely not to blame for the abuse.”

MORE: Spotting the signs of child abuse

Pippa, who will have therapy sessions with three or four children each day, has had to “adapt” to new ways of working due to coronavirus.

Minnie Moll, who has spoken of how she was abused in her childhood, is now an ambassador for the charity Fresh Start New Beginnings.  Picture: CONTRIBUTEDMinnie Moll, who has spoken of how she was abused in her childhood, is now an ambassador for the charity Fresh Start New Beginnings. Picture: CONTRIBUTED

FSNB said: “Some children we see need 20 therapy sessions based on the level of trauma.

“But throughout the pandemic, we provided advice via parents because communicating with a toddler by telephone is not easy in the best of circumstances.

“Our CSA workers were also able to hold video sessions with teenagers who feel comfortable doing this.

“We are in the middle of creating a clear plan should the country go into lockdown again.

Children who have experienced sexual abuse need to be listened to and, most of all, believed.”

MORE: Child abuse victims speak out to encourage others to seek help


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