Sussex

Teen felt 'unreal relief' after reporting abuse

Distressed girl Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The NSPCC fears lockdown gives abusers "free reign to harm children"

A 14-year-old girl who was sexually abused by a relative has spoken of the "unreal" relief she felt after confiding in her mother.

The teenager, who was abused between the ages of three and five, said she wanted others suffering abuse not to fear seeking help during lockdown.

"I'm not saying it's easy, but it makes you a better person," the girl said.

The NSPCC fears abuse is going unreported during the pandemic.

The Sussex teenager and her mother went to police and her abuser was eventually jailed.

"From the moment that I spoke to mum and told my mum, the sense of relief was unreal," she said.

But for children without supportive families, charities can provide a way out, she said.

"It's awful to think that parents won't believe their child because they don't want to believe it themselves, but there are places you can go, which will believe you."

She praised the support she received from Family Matters, the NSPCC and Barnardos.

"The demand after the lockdown is over will probably be massive, with children needing that help," she said.

Signs of abuse

It was difficult for her to recognise the abuse for several years, she said.

"I never understood it because of the age, and being someone that you should trust.

"I didn't even know it was sexual abuse until after we spoke to the police."

During lockdown, the NSPCC is "increasingly reliant" on members of the public calling or emailing its helpline with concerns, said Kam Thandi, head of the NSPCC Helpline.

"If reports drop we fear abusers will have free reign to harm children," she said.

While social distancing measures have made abuse harder to spot, the charity said common signs included children crying for long periods of time, or appearing withdrawn and anxious.

If you have been affected by the issues raised in this article, help is available from BBC Action Line.

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