Essex Girl Speaks Out About Abuse

15 February 2011, 08:00 | Updated: 1 March 2011, 17:25

Nearly one in five secondary school children in the UK have been severely abused or neglected during childhood, the NSPCC's found.

The charity did a survey of 2,275 children aged 11-17 and 1,761 adults aged 18-24 back in 2009.
Almost a million secondary school children aged 11-17 year olds had been physically attacked by an adult, sexually abused, or severely neglected.

One in four of the 18-24 year olds (25.3%) also reported severe maltreatment during childhood.  
The study follows an earlier NSPCC survey of the childhood experiences of 18-24 year olds in 1998-99.

The studies show childhood abuse has been falling over the last 30 years.
Dan Russell, head of region for the NSPCC, said: "Our research gives a fuller and more up-to-date picture of child abuse and neglect in the UK than we have ever had before.

"Steps are being taken to improve child protection but the UK, and indeed Essex still faces a problem in tackling child abuse."

There are currently around 46,000 children of all ages on a local authority child protection plan or register, and 1,118 in Essex.
Bella from Essex took part in the survey - she was abused by her father.

Now 22 - she's described what happened to her.

"On the outside, superficially speaking, I got everything I wanted as a kid. We went on nice holidays and my parents bought me a brand new car for my 17th birthday.

"But at home, behind closed doors, my dad was violent and malicious towards my mum and me.  He dad used to knock my mum about long before I came along. My granddad even paid him to leave my mum alone and he left the UK to go abroad.  But my mum found out she was pregnant with me, phoned up and told him and he came back.

"My mum used to hide her emotions - that was her way of dealing with it all.  She and I didn't communicate. Her way of protecting herself was to shut out the bad memories. I grew up hating her, but at the same time I protected her.  

"My dad sexually abused me three times when I was 6 years old. I didn't know it was wrong. But when he did it again for a second time and then a third time, I told him it didn't feel right and I didn't want him to do it any more. He left me alone after that. I think maybe he was scared he'd get caught.

"I shut the memory away for some time.  But the feelings stayed with me. It wasn't until my friends came out years later saying he'd done stuff to them that I knew those memories had been real and I wasn't going mad.

"I got into drinking as a teenager. I became self-destructive when I was feeling low. I was shut off emotionally, I wouldn't let anyone in.

"After I came out about what happened and spoke to family friends and relatives, I couldn't believe how many people had their suspicions. Maybe things would have been different if someone had had the courage to take a stand.

"I have seen how many people in the community turn a blind eye because they don't want to deal with abuse in someone else's family. It's so much easier to turn away and close your door. Too many people do that instead of standing up for what's right.

"I wish I had spoken out straight away. If I could wave a magic wand and go back to those days, I would ask an adult to help or to take me to the police. But children need to know they've got support otherwise how are they going to be brave enough to say anything?

"In nine times out of ten, abusive behaviour keeps going around in cycles in families. But it just takes one person to break that cycle. Now I'm studying to be a counsellor so that I can help other people move on from traumatic experiences."