More child abuse victims seeking help following Savile allegations

A RAPE and child sexual abuse support centre in the Borders has seen increased numbers of people seeking help following the Jimmy Savile allegations.

The Scottish Borders Rape Crisis Centre (SBRCC) says 44 people have asked for help since April – more than the whole of last year.

And service coordinator Dawn Osborne expects numbers to double following claims that the famous television entertainer sexually abused children.

She said: “Since the Savile case we have had survivors contacting us because it has triggered memories for them of their own abuse, even though it may be many years ago.

“Many rape crisis centres are reporting increases. All over Scotland it has resulted in survivors finding the courage to speak up and ask for help. I expect these figures to rise.”

She continued: “The main thing the Savile case has done is to open ‘the can of worms’ and make people face the fact that this is happening and we must do more to help those who are or who have experienced child sexual abuse. Refusing to talk about or deal with childhood sexual abuse only colludes with the perpetrators.”

The Galashiels centre opened in July 2010, helping at least 15 women who had been raped and 12 who were victims of child sexual abuse between then and March the following year.

From April 2011 to March this year, 43 people asked for help, at least 21 for child abuse and 12 for rape.

Of the 44 this year, “a large number” were child sex abuse survivors, said Ms Osborne.

She explained: “In our data we have a certain amount of unknown abuse because survivors often find it too hard to name their abuser and they may also not be ready to talk about their experiences and not continue the support.”

NSPCC data suggests that nearly a quarter (24.1 per cent) of young adults experience sexual abuse by an adult or peer during childhood. More than one in three children aged 11 to 17 (34 per cent) who are abused by an adult did not tell anyone else about it, and that statistic rises to four out of five if the abuser is a peer.

Scottish Borders Council figures from 2010 show children up to the age of 15 make up nearly 18 per cent of the region’s population and number 19,880 in a total of nearly 113,000.

Applying the NSPCC findings, Ms Osborne concludes: “Only a small percentage of those who have potentially been affected have disclosed or sought help so far. Although the number of people coming to us is quite a lot, there are obviously more people out there who will have experienced sexual abuse and might need support.”

She told us: “Childhood sexual abuse is a very hidden form of abuse and is still something people don’t like to talk about or admit goes on. It is not just celebrities who carry out this abuse. The majority of perpetrators are family members or close family friends.”

Both boys and girls are abused, though girls more so, she said.

“Children are targeted because they are vulnerable, easily manipulated or scared, trusting and often not believed. They also do not have the understanding of what is happening to them.

“We have a duty to protect our children and provide support for adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse who are often profoundly affected by their abuse for the rest of their lives.

“In our area, there are very few resources and services which provide specific support for adult survivors of child sexual abuse, and most of those that do need more support to provide the consistent trauma response which is needed.”

The centre aims to provide a safe, non-threatening environment, and provides free help to women and girls aged 12 and over who have experienced sexual violence at any time. It also offers phone support to men.

The service is holding a ladies’ night with music and stalls at Quins, Galashiels, on Sunday. For more information contact the centre on 01896 661070.