A mother whose young son was sexually abused by a teenager has opened up for the first time about her family’s horrifying ordeal in order to help raise funds so that the NSPCC can help more children and young people.
The children’s charity is facing a significant shortfall in funding, and is encouraging people across the region to get involved in the NSPCC’s Childhood Day so that it can still be here for local families with its prevention and protection services.
Zoe (name changed) who lives in the South West of England is supporting Childhood Day on Friday 26 June, and tells how her son was helped by the children’s charity to rebuild his life after he was sexually abused.
Nathan )name changed) was four years old when he was first sexually abused by the son of family friends.
“We learned that the teenage son of family friends would touch Nathan, and expose himself whilst also carrying out acts on himself,” she says.
“He would offer Nathan sweets and money if he allowed him to carry out the sexual acts telling him that it was ‘their special secret’ and not to tell anyone.”
The abuse went on for four years and Nathan was raped from the age of six. After courageously speaking out to his mother about what was happening to him, Nathan was referred to the NSPCC’s Letting the Future In programme.
Zoe says: “Before Letting the Future In Nathan was very confused, he was in a constant state of anxiety, would lose his temper easily, very reactional, would avoid certain situations and was unable to articulate why he didn’t want to do certain things.
“Letting the Future In has helped pick that apart and pinpoint it. It was really helpful to address the feelings, get him to identify what he was feeling, what was making him feel like that and slowly build his confidence, understanding and coping mechanisms around it.”
The NSPCC has helped Nathan come to terms with what has happened, and supported him to move forward with his life.
“As a parent, you go through a whole array of emotions including guilt and shame,” adds Zoe.
“But I know it’s not my fault – it’s the perpetrator’s fault. There was also a sense of loss – that I just can’t ever give my child his childhood back again.
“I can’t change the past but I can work to a better future for me and my children and the NSPCC has played a big part in supporting me and family to do that.”
In 2019/20, the NSPCC Schools Service visited almost 450 primary schools across the South West of England, reaching over 80,000 children in the region with its free ‘Speak out. Stay safe’ assemblies.
Children learn about Childline, the different types of abuse and how to identify a trusted adult that they can speak to if they have a worry or concern.
“It’s really important to educate our children about sexual abuse and be open and honest,” she says.
“We can give our children that knowledge that there is somewhere to go. From an early age, we can raise awareness of what is appropriate and what is not.
“It is important to do that because children do not know that what is happening to them might be wrong unless we educate them.”
To help raise funds for its preventative and protection work, NSPCC is encouraging local people to get behind the charity this Childhood Day.
Supporter Fundraising Manager, Caroline Morgan said: “Since the lockdown began, life has been strange and difficult for almost everyone, but in particular for vulnerable children who are struggling with their mental health or are at risk from abuse or neglect.
“Child abuse can ruin lives and we don’t want anyone to have to go through what Nathan has.”
This Childhood Day, the NSPCC wants to bring together local people of all ages to celebrate everything that’s great about being a kid and raise money so that it can be there for more children when they need it most.
Caroline added: “It’s a great chance to “Be a big kid” and help us raise crucial funds by organising a childhood themed quiz night, getting sponsored to dress up for the day or holding a mini sports day in your back garden – in all cases remembering to follow the latest social distancing rules.
“Donating £24 could pay for trained counsellors in our Childline bases to answer six children’s calls for help.”
Childline has been inundated with contacts from children and young people since lockdown, with more than half of all counselling sessions delivered to children during April related to mental health, suicidal thoughts and feelings and self-harm.
For more ideas on how to get involved and suggestions for fun events visit www.nspcc.org.uk/childhoodday.