Stress Awareness Month: the impacts of self-isolation on child abuse survivors

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April 7, 2020 | By Samantha Follows |

April 7, 2020 | By Samantha Follows |

We are currently living through unprecedented times as the coronavirus and the current restrictions in place are having a major impact on all of us. Our day to day lives are very different at the moment and whilst the effects will vary depending upon our individual circumstances, we are all having to restrict our contact with others. This can be an isolating experience. Some people are having to self-isolate for 12 weeks for medical reasons.  Others may be finding it hard to cope with the lack of face to face contact with others.

Communication, and interaction with others, is of major importance to us as individuals in terms of our wellbeing. We all need others to speak to and support us when we are going through difficult times.

This has led me to reflect on the possible effect upon those who have been abused in childhood. In my many years of working in this area I have quite often been the first person to have been told about the abuse. There are many reasons for the delay in disclosing such as shame and embarrassment, the fear of not being believed, the worry over how others such as family members will react. I find that male clients in particular struggle with the fact that they were not able to prevent the abuse.

These feelings often prevent disclosure until an event or trigger occurs which leads the individual to be able to speak out about what happened to them. This can be more difficult to do if the person tried to in the past but their allegations were not taken seriously or they weren’t believed.

I would hope that it is becoming easier for disclosures to be made now. There is much more coverage in the media around abuse and there is also the ongoing Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA).  Storylines in dramas are increasingly tackling this emotive and highly sensitive issue.

For example, I was struck recently by a storyline in The Archers on Radio 4 where the character Jim Lloyd’s trigger for disclosure was seeing his abuser for the first time after many years when the abuser was unwittingly invited to his birthday party by his son. His instinct was to flee and hide away from his baffled family. However, he was eventually able to disclose the abuse. Although his abuser subsequently died, his relief at telling his family and their supportive attitude towards him was excellently handled. What impressed me further were the details of a helpline being given at the end of each episode featuring this storyline.

Such storylines can be of real benefit to those who have been abused as they help create a more open attitude so that abuse can be more readily disclosed and discussed. Anything which brings this issue more into the open has to be welcomed. A positive outcome to a storyline can also be helpful to those thinking of disclosing as they can see the potential benefits. Signposting is crucial to ensure that appropriate support can be accessed.

Help and support is where we as solicitors can assist, in addition to offering legal advice on the options available. This is important in allowing the abused individual to feel that they have control, which they may not have felt they had previously, and in achieving some form of closure. If the abuser is alive and there can be a criminal trial a conviction can greatly help with this.

In these challenging times we may feel socially isolated but communication is crucial and victims of abuse need to be reminded that there is always someone to talk to, listen and understand.  At Switalskis the team of solicitors have many years of experience in dealing with child abuse claims and all enquiries are handled with the utmost sensitivity.

If you would like to contact Samantha Follows confidentially her email address is Samantha.follows@switalskis.com

Samantha Follows

Samantha is an experienced Child Abuse compensation solicitor and is based at our Head Office in Wakefield. Samantha's Profile

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