West Country man talks out about his childhood abuse to help others

From NSPCC SW:

A man from the South West of England who was abused as a child is urging people to report their concerns after it was revealed by the NSPCC that over a quarter of adults are unsure where to seek help about suspected child abuse despite worries about the heightened risks to young people during the lockdown.

The NSPCC surveyed over 2,000 adults in Britain and found that 26% are not confident they would know where to get advice if they thought a child or young person was being abused or neglected.

The findings also reveal that more adults are worried about the impact of the lockdown on children suffering domestic abuse than any other type of harm, with 76% reporting they were ‘fairly’ or ‘very’ concerned, compared to 74% for physical abuse and 73% for emotional abuse.

Tom (name changed) from Devon, now 50, was physically and mentally abused for about 10 years by his parents. He was mentally tormented by his controlling mother and lived in constant fear of his violent father.

My earliest memory is being very, very little – six or seven – and going in the garden. I dropped a ball and it landed on the garden, so my father hit me with a spade several times. I think this memory sticks in my head because my father hit me with the spade quite a lot: it was one of his main weapons against me. I still remember the spade, it had a deep red loop handle, not a straight T bar one

“While my mother wouldn’t attack me with a spade, she would lock me away, she would deny me things that normal kids would take for granted, like dinner, the toilets, or a bath. I’m not talking about being denied a daily bath, or even a weekly bath. I was never allowed a bath.”

There is a growing concern for the safety of vulnerable children during the coronavirus crisis, particularly as teachers and social workers have limited access to them with most not taking up the places at school allocated to them.

Pezibear / Pixabay

The Local Government Association (LGA) has already reported that councils are seeing up to a 50% decline in social care referrals of children who are at risk.

That is why the NSPCC has launched a nationwide campaign, backed by survivors and £1.6million of Government funding, to ensure more people know they can raise concerns about child safety and wellbeing to its Helpline.

Kam Thandi, Head of NSPCC Helpline, said: “It is terrible to think that cases of child abuse and neglect may be going unreported because people don’t know where to go to for help and advice.
“At the moment, we’re increasingly reliant on the public to come forward with their concerns and if reports drop we fear abusers will have free reign to harm children, both physically and emotionally.
“Even if you are not 100% sure, we urge any adult who is worried about the safety or wellbeing of a child to contact our helpline. We can answer any questions and concerns, provide reassurance or importantly take quick action if we feel a child is in danger.”

Spotting the signs of abuse or neglect may be more difficult in the present climate, but indicators can include:

  • aggressive or repeated shouting
  • hearing hitting or things being broken
  • children crying for long periods of time
  • very young children left alone or are outdoors by themselves
  • children looking dirty or not changing their clothes
  • children being withdrawn or anxious.

Tom escaped his abusers at the age of 16 when he left home, and having endured a childhood of abuse says early intervention is vital to help keep children safe.

“I was terrified to talk for fear of the repercussions, so other signs might include children who are wary of their parents, scared to talk in front of them, or talk about their family with others.

Most bystanders wouldn’t hesitate to report any normal crime, such as theft, but child neglect and abuse are different – still very taboo, and often ignored.

“Reporting neglect and abuse can change, or even save a life.”

To help workers who regularly visit homes, such as postal workers and delivery drivers, spot safeguarding concerns the NSPCC has made a 15-minute safeguarding course free.

If you suspect a child or young person is in immediate danger call the police immediately on 999. Alternatively, contact the children’s social care team at your local council by visiting https://www.gov.uk/report-child-abuse-to-local-council.

Any adult concerned about the welfare of a child or young person can call the NSPCC helpline for free and confidential advice and support on 0808 800 5000 or via help@nspcc.org.uk.

Children can contact Childline for free on 0800 1111 or childline.org.uk 365 days a year, and speak to a counsellor about a worry or concern they may have.

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