Child Counselling

Seven months ago, my youngest daughter (then aged 12) walked into her school registration class one Thursday morning & told her Form Tutor that she didn’t want to be alive anymore & wanted to die.

I remember well the frantic phone call I received from the Head of Year informing me that my daughter had been taken out of class & was sitting with a SLT member of staff & requesting that I attend the crisis meeting hastily arranged for later that day.

Don’t get me wrong, no parent ever wants to receive a phone call like that and like any other normal parent, the news was devastating to hear. However, it was by no means surprising to me.

From the moment we were relocated by MARAC for the first time, my youngest had struggled to cope. She began to self-harm numerous times on a daily basis and expressed her desire to no longer be alive. I took what I assumed to be the correct action – I informed our GP, I informed the Social Worker, I informed the school, I informed the DV Children’s Key Worker, I informed the police officers working on our case & I informed my IDVA.

Apart from the DV Key Worker (not a trained counsellor) arranging to meet my daughter on a weekly basis, no further help was offered. In fact everyone seemed to point the finger at someone else – the GP informed me it was the Social Worker’s issue to sort out, the Social Worker told me it was the School’s job to arrange counselling & the school referred me back to the GP & so it continued.

The situation continued to deteriorate with us being relocated a further two times & the last relocation required a move completely out of the area. This resulted in an entirely new & unfamiliar team of professionals working on our case. My daughter’s distress continued to escalate & with it her self-harming & suicidal thoughts. Once again I informed all the relevant people, desperately looking for assistance to help my daughter. When we initially moved into the new area, due to local council bureaucracy, my youngest daughter was out of school for 3 months whilst appeals were made for her to be accepted into the same school as my eldest. When asking for help we went round in the same circles as before with the GP informing me it was the Social Worker’s job & the Social Worker informing me it was for the school to sort out – it seemed to have no bearing to her that my daughter wasn’t in a school for the school to provide counselling!

Once she was eventually allocated a place at school (mid April 2015), I immediately informed her Head of Year & the Safeguarding officer of her desperate need for counselling and her name was added to the waiting list. The school were fully informed of the nature & severity of our case as the Safeguarding manager was required to attend all multi-agency conference meetings & had been updated on the case by the police Child Protection Officer handling my daughters’ case. In the meantime, my daughter was given a 30min session once every 2 weeks with the school Pastoral Support Worker.

Such was the level of her trauma by this stage, that my daughter didn’t even attend school on a daily basis – if I managed to get her to attend 3 times per week it was an achievement.

Eventually she was allocated a weekly counselling session with the school counsellor ….. 3 weeks before the end of the school year. I had originally been informed by the Safeguarding Manager that every child accessing counselling through the school system was only entitled to 8 sessions, but that due to the severity of my daughter’s case this would be increased. Because her counselling had started prior to the end of the school year & as she had only had 3 sessions, I assumed the counselling would continue once she started the new school year in September – I was wrong. With every new school year starts a new counselling program which you are required to register for at the end of the previous year. My daughter’s name went back to the bottom of the waiting list!

It was early October when the phone call came from the school. In the crisis meeting the Head of Year, Safeguarding Manager & Pastoral Support Worker all expressed their utter shock at the current situation & how completely unaware they were of how my daughter had deteriorated to this level. I sat and listened in complete bewilderment – how many times & how many people did I have to keep informing & literally begging for help for this poor child? I sat and listened as they squabbled among themselves, pointing the finger at each other.

An urgent referral was put through to the counselling team & an assessment was arranged. Although a counsellor was allocated, it was a different counsellor to whom she had had previously. This counsellor also informed my daughter that if she divulged any information relating to abuse, the counsellor would have to contact police. This baffled me as the previous counsellor was already aware of the abuse suffered & the need for counselling was as a direct result of abuse from her father. This information only served to cause further distress to my daughter as the police we already involved & due to a very negative prior experience, my daughter was terrified of police officers. The 5 sessions she had with this counsellor where of no benefit as she was too afraid to talk about anything in case the police were called.

At this time, I had been receiving support from the local SARC (sexual assault referral centre). I am not sure why, but it had completely skipped my notice until my ISVA reminded me that there were trauma counsellors specifically trained to work with abused children available at the centre. I completed a referral form, although I was warned that the waiting list to access support was approximately 12 months as demand for counselling was so high. I was prepared to wait though as I was desperate to get her the right sort of help she needed.

Thankfully however, I was contacted at the beginning of January & informed a space had become available for my daughter to be seen by a trauma counsellor. I went along with my daughter to the assessment appointment. I explained the nature & severity of the case, although she already had access to my case notes with my permission prior to our appointment.

My daughter has now had 6 sessions with this trauma counsellor & I am astounded by the difference. She has gone from being a child who didn’t want to be alive, who self-harmed daily & who didn’t want to go to school to a child who once again laughs & jokes & plays the fool and who no longer self-harms.

She is a completely different child all thanks to the specialised trauma help she has been given access to. I cannot begin to express the relief I feel to see this remarkable change in her, there were days when I thought her childhood was lost forever. Of course the abuse has changed us all & undoubtedly we have a lot more to overcome, but seeing her laugh again is something I had begun to think would never happen again.

Our situation has made me more aware of just how vital it is for abused children to receive the correct sort of counselling and support, without it recovery is an uphill struggle if not impossible. I will forever be grateful for the specialised help my daughter has finally received.

Guilt at Reporting

Today, the BBC have published an article on the increase in the number of police officers having to take sick leave with Mental Health related issues due to the nature of their work. Following on from the article, BBC Radio 5Live interviewed DCC Andy Rhodes & Sgt Ed Simpson in their morning show to discuss this topic. It made for a very interesting discussion & listening to Sgt Ed Simpson giving a very brave, open & honest account of his experience of developing PTSD & depression through the stresses of his role was enlightening.

At the same time however, listening to Sgt Simpson brought back a flood of my own feelings of guilt at having reported my case to the police.

It is not necessary to go into the details of my case suffice to say it involved 39 years of horrific sexual & physical abuse & involved multiple offenders. During the course of the subsequent police investigation I went on to be diagnosed with C-PTSD as a direct result of the abuse (this should hopefully provide an understanding of the level of abuse endured).

It took years – a life time – to find the courage to finally contact police & report what was happening. The case was complex & involved countless interviews to give my evidence. There were a few times during the interviews, when having to graphically describe the abuse, one of the officers asked to be excused because he found it too distressing. I immediately thought I had said something wrong, I questioned whether I shouldn’t be giving these details, whether I should have stayed silent. This occurred on a few occasions & I ended up feeling guilty that I had put this officer through this ordeal, that by reporting my abuse had resulted in causing distress to the officers involved. I remember an occasion when I attended for an interview following a violent physical assault & the officer reeling at my visible injuries when I walked into the room. I felt guilty that he had to see me in this condition.

During the course of the subsequent investigation I attempted suicide twice & again I know that had a negative effect on the officers involved – I feel tremendous guilt for that, even though I accept the attempts were symptomatic of my own PTSD. When one of the cases went to trial I felt extremely guilty for the police officer who was tasked with accompanying me at all times to ensure I didn’t commit suicide after having to give evidence. I remember crossing a bridge over the river & immediately assessing the height of the drop, the speed of the water – calculating whether this would be a suitable spot should I feel the need to make the ultimate escape – the officer knew I was having these thoughts, I knew he knew & the level of stress he was under did not escape me. It racked me with guilt.

After the conclusion of my cases at the beginning of this year, I had the opportunity of having an informal chat about my case. I know the DI had sleepless nights over the management of the case, he has said it was the most complex case he has so far had to deal with. I have been told that some of the officers involved requested to speak to a counsellor due to the nature of the case.

All of this makes me feel personally responsible & extremely guilty that by contacting police I have caused this level of distress for those officers involved. I have been told that ‘it’s their job’ & ‘that’s what they are there for’ but that doesn’t erase the guilt I feel – officers should not have to suffer as a result of my own suffering. I feel incredibly guilty that I put officers through that & caused them distress as a result. I am truly sorry for that.