'I often wonder what my life could have been like' - Rotherham child sex abuse survivor speaks out
When she was a little girl, Elizabeth had her whole life carved out ahead of her. She would work hard at school and continue her studies to become a primary school teacher. She would also meet the man of her dreams, get a house and have a family of her own.
But, her dreams were shattered when at the age of 14, she was was targeted by a Rotherham grooming gang.
For nearly 10 years, Elizabeth- not her real name - was groomed by an older woman who plied her with alcohol and drugs, before leaving her at the peril of dangerous, older men.
For Elizabeth, now 31, life is very different to how she imagined.
“Although I have a child of my own, life is very different,” Elizabeth said.
“I struggle to have close relationships with men because of what I have been through.
“What happened to me will affect me for the rest of my life
“I have been diagnosed with PTSD, anxiety and clinical depression, which I am on medication for.
“I often wonder what my life could have been like if all this had never happened. If I had done my education and gone on to college to study to be a teacher, which is what I always dreamed of, but it’s not possible.
“I can have days where everything is pretty normal, but then other days it just hits me and my anxiety just takes over.
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“I can be up for hours in the night because I just can’t sleep.”
Elizabeth has shared her experience after a report by the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Adult Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse, revealed government failings concerning the information and support provided to survivors.
The results of a six month inquiry, gathering the views of nearly 400 survivors from across the country, revealed the abuse negatively impacts every aspect of a survivor’s life.
The figures showed 90 per cent of victims have struggled with intimate relationships, 89 per cent had suffered with their mental health, 81 per cent had struggled with family life and 72 per cent had struggled with their careers.
Only 16 per cent said NHS mental health services met their needs, with survivors saying professionals rarely recognise the impact of impact, treat them insensitively and give them incorrect information.
Elizabeth said: “Not once was I ever offered counselling.
“I want to see more money put into helping victims so they get better support than what I and many others have had, especially here in Rotherham.”
The report makes a series of practical recommendations to Government to improve the lives of survivors including: a strategic fund in the upcoming Spending Review to transform Government’s response to child sexual abuse; NHS action to ensure CCG funding for the specialist voluntary sector nationally; a nationwide public health campaign to raise awareness and provide information to survivors and professionals; and guidance and training for frontline professionals on how to respond to survivors’ needs.