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Abuse survivor wants 'child houses' in Wales

By India Pollock
BBC Wales social affairs correspondent

media captionMaya Meftahi explains why a safe place for child victims is so important

Maya Meftahi suffered years of abuse as a child and now wants to create safe places for young victims to turn to.

Her father was eventually caught after a relative found video evidence of his crimes by chance in his home.

Now Ms Meftahi is pushing ahead with her campaign for "child houses" in Wales to provide a place of safety and support for others.

The Welsh Government said it was "committed to doing everything we can" to strengthen help for abused children.

Ms Meftahi, now 35, waived her right to anonymity to tell the story of her trauma, as she campaigns to help other survivors of child abuse.

She was only four years old when the abuse began and it went on until her late teens.

'Damaged and confused'

She had actually believed the abuse had stopped once she was a teenager. But her father was using date rape drugs, so she couldn't remember what had happened.

Then a video of the abuse - found by chance by a relative looking after her father's house, along with details found in a diary - finally brought him to justice.

Ms Meftahi was shocked when she received a call from police in 2011 - while on holiday in Tunisia with her husband and child - saying her father had been arrested.

"I said, what are you talking about - it's too late. I actually said to the police officer 'why are you trying to destroy my life now, when I've rebuilt my life?'"

Her father was jailed a year later for 10 years for incest, indecent assault and gross indecency with a child. He has been released on licence after serving six years.

The abuse has had a huge impact on her.

"You grow up in such a damaged and confused environment. As children we want to be nurtured, we want to be loved, we want to be protected and we look up to our parents - they're our role models.

"You're conditionally in love with your father because you have to love your parents - and then you hate them. I did keep him to a certain degree in my life, but that's the grooming process."

"As a child, when you come to an age when you know something isn't right, something really bad is happening to you, you're in a really conflicted state of mind.

"In your teens, you don't know the difference between love and hate, role models, power and authority and grooming.

"It was a very challenging and horrible upbringing, it was awful and you have the sexual abuse side of things and then you have the emotional abuse and you have physical abuse as well, so you're just going through a completely traumatising childhood, and you ask yourself what is childhood? I don't know what that is."

Ms Meftahi runs a social enterprise to support women who have been victims of violence.

She is now campaigning for "child houses" to be introduced in Wales.

These are places where children and teenagers can receive medical help, social care, therapeutic and advocacy services in a child-friendly environment under one roof.

There are currently two in London that are based on Iceland's Barnahus model.

In Wales, there are only two places where children can receive forensic examinations following a sexual assault.

"We have a natural instinct when we know 'something's not right here, I've got to go' - so my concern is that at that particular moment when they're ready to go, where are they going to go?" said Ms Meftahi.

The Children's Commissioner has previously called for better provision of services and is supportive of Ms Meftahi's campaign, which has led to a petition to the Welsh Assembly.

Sally Holland said that often children have to go through a long process of medical examinations and giving evidence to court which can impact their recovery from trauma.

"In Wales we still need to get the basics right although I would love to see a model like the child houses moving forward.

"[We need to] make sure that children who have been victims of sexual assault are seen by a properly trained paediatrician as soon as possible so they're not having to wait, so they don't have to travel too far and they can get on with their therapy and recovery as quickly as possible."

She said children were also waiting too long for therapeutic support.

"They're two absolute basics that we're still not getting right in every case yet in Wales although I'm pleased to say some progress has been made."

The Welsh Government spokeswoman added that work had started to develop a National Action Plan on Preventing and Responding to Child Sexual Abuse.

"Providing forensic medical examiners is not a devolved matter, though health boards in Wales work closely with the police, safeguarding and third sector partners to support victims," she added.

"The evaluation of 'child houses' in London is under way and we wait to see the outcomes from the pilot services."

Related Topics

  • Child abuse

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