Rotherham abuse victim starts campaign for counselling services funding

Rotherham abuse victim 'Jessica'

Rotherham abuse victim 'Jessica'

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This victim of the Rotherham child sex scandal was raped and abused for two years, made pregnant twice and tried to kill herself – but is still on a waiting list for counselling.

Now Jessica has issued a heartbreaking plea for more money for therapy services to help abuse victims.

Jessica – not her real name – has written to Justice Secretary Chris Grayling calling for more cash to be available.

And she has launched an online petition, with the help of The Star, to try to increase pressure on the Government to release funding to help child sexual exploitation victims.

Jessica tells the Justice Secretary how she:

* Was abused aged 14 by one man for two years

* Became pregnant twice, aged just 14 and 15

* Suffered depression and attempted suicide

* Has never had counselling

Jessica’s plea comes after the Jay Report revealed at least 1,400 children had been victims of abuse in Rotherham between 1997 and 2013.

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Her petition reads: “In the wake of the Rotherham child sexual exploitation scandal, detailed in Professor Alexis Jay’s report, we call for more funding to be made available for counselling services for abuse victims.

“Victims of serious sexual abuse in Rotherham who have suffered from depression and attempted suicide are on waiting lists for services because of the limited funding available to counselling groups. This petition calls for the Government to make a commitment to increase funding for such specialist services, to ensure there is structured help and support for victims to allow them to rebuild their lives.”

Jessica, now 29, was abused from the age of 14 by one man for around two years, with attempts by her parents to get the police to stop the abuse going ignored.

She became pregnant twice – first having an abortion, then a baby boy at 16 – suffered depression, and made a suicide attempt, but is still on a waiting list for counselling because of the high demand for services.

Jessica said in her letter: “I want to raise awareness for victims and survivors like myself to help prevent this happening to anyone else.

“I believe if I’d had the correct support and counselling when I was a child it would have helped me and my son have a more stable and structured life. I am currently on the waiting list to receive counselling so I am writing to you to ask you to put more funding into the help and support of abuse victims and help them to build a future.

“I feel not enough is being done, not just in Rotherham but around the country. If our authorities are seen to be taking things more seriously more victims will come forward and have faith they will be listened to and helped.”

She said she has struggled in her adult life with coming to terms with what she went through as a teenager.

She said: “I had a bad time and I tried to kill myself. I felt really dirty. I just felt I was below everybody and not worthy. I got diagnosed with depression and put on medication.”

Jessica’s main abuser met her just after her 14th birthday and – despite being known to the police and social services – was able to have a sexual relationship with her for two years.

Her parents told the police within days of the abuse starting, but were told there was nothing officers would do to stop the relationship.

Her parents placed her in care in an attempt to protect her – but her contact with the abuser continued and Jessica claims he even went on a holiday with her and her foster carers to Skegness.

The relationship became violent and Jessica said she ‘lost count’ of how many times she was attacked as she tried to sever contact with the man – who has never been arrested in connection with her case.

Jessica says she hopes organisations such as Rotherham Women’s Counselling Service, which has seven part-time counsellors and two student placements, can be provided with more Government funding.

The organisation relies on grants to survive, and its funding from the Ministry of Justice due to ended.

It also received Lottery funding, which runs until 2017, and money from the Police and Crime Commissioner’s office, which is available until March.

It has no money from the NHS, despite 30 per cent of its referrals coming from the health service.

Rotherham Council does not fund the organisation, but is due to agree a £20,000 grant for more specialist counselling.

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said the Government ‘is working’ to increase the money it provides to victims’ services and hopes to double the £50m it spends.

He said: “This government agrees that victims of heinous crimes like rape and sexual abuse should receive the specialist support they need to help them cope and recover. That’s why we delivered on the pledge to put rape support centres on a more secure financial footing as well as help establish 15 new ones. There are 84 female rape support centres across England and Wales, with two to follow.

“We are also working to double the £50m we have historically provided to a wide range of victims’ services.

“This year more money than ever before is being spent to support victims, much of which is allocated to Police and Crime Commissioners so they can ensure local services meet local need.”

The MoJ has also set aside around £4m a year since 2011 to fund existing female rape support centres.

A pokesman added: “The Coalition Agreement also pledged to set up 15 new centres which we have delivered on. Two of these support centres are local to your area, in Sheffield and Doncaster, while an additional Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) can also be found in Barnsley. It is important to note female rape support centres offer support to victims no matter when the abuse occurred.

“In addition, we have arranged for a specialist £12m fund to be awarded to Police Crime Commissioners to spend on local victims’ projects in their area. A number of these are related to tackling domestic and sexual violence. Under this, the Rotherham Women’s Counselling Service could apply for funding.

“We have also established the first ever fund specifically to help male victims of sexual crimes, and the Home Office has committed £28 million for specialist services to tackle violence against women and girls until 2015, including £1.72 million per year to part fund 87 Independent Sexual Violence Advisor (ISVA) posts on a stable basis from 2011/12 – 2014/15, an increase from 44 in 2010/11.”

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