REVELATIONS about alleged sex abuse by former television star Jimmy Savile have rocked the nation in recent weeks, but they have also had an impact closer to home.
Chichester-based rape and sexual abuse support charity, Lifecentre, has seen a dramatic rise in calls, suggesting ‘a significant and undisclosed issue within the community’.
The Jimmy Savile sexual abuse allegations have highlighted the profound impact on victims of sexual abuse, and alerted people to this extreme violation of humanity, physicality and trust.
It appears, if anything at all positive can come out of the Jimmy Savile sex abuse allegations, it can only be the affirmation that support, therapy and intervention are available, and the realisation for victims that they are not alone.
Lifecentre works alongside men, women and children who have been raped or sexually abused.
Figures released by Lifecentre reveal the scandal has had a significant impact on those who might be searching for help, with a 70 per cent rise in referrals for counselling in the first three weeks of October, compared with the same time last year.
Maggie Ellis, founder and director at Lifecentre, said: “We are really pleased people are coming forward and we hope people who need any kind of support will continue to make the calls.
“We want to encourage people, because they aren’t alone.”
“Obviously, there is a cost implication, and with West Sussex County Council cutting our funding we want to raise the profile of the Lifecentre to make people aware of the work we do and the support that is out there for them.
“As a charity, we rely so heavily on fundraising and we would really like to push the message that people can help the cause.
“Although they refer cases, the NHS give us no funding.
“We want to emphasise that we want people to keep coming forward, and we have to pull together as a community.”
The majority of the cases dealt with by Lifecentre are historic incidents, which means the abuse occurred during childhood.
Around 20 per cent have been abused as an adult, and around ten per cent as both an adult and a child.
Victims often cope with flashbacks, eating disorders, depression, personality disorders, suicide attempts drug and alcohol addictions.
Lifecentre aims to deal with the trauma of sexual abuse by ‘unlocking the past, surviving the present, and reclaiming the future’, enabling people to rebuild their lives.
“People can either contact us on our helplines, or we can hold face-to-face counselling,” said Maggie.
“We talk to people as to how they feel about reporting to the police. We don’t put pressure on anyone to report what has happened to them. Sometimes we can talk to the police on their behalf, through a third party referral scheme. It may mean the police might see a pattern in reports.”
In her newly-published book, The Butterfly Train, Sue Mills describes how she was raped when she was 14.
The book documents her ordeal and poor treatment by the police when she reported the incident.
Sue Mills said: “This, I learnt later, is one of the main reasons why so many victims of sexual crime in those days felt unable to report such incidents.
“I’m pleased to say my story has a very positive outcome and today I work with Lifecentre supporting the survivors of rape and sexual abuse. Our relationship with the police couldn’t be better.”
Specialist sexual offences liaison officers work closely with Lifecentre, and the Crown Prosecution Service in Sussex has the highest conviction rates ever.
Lifecentre marks every referral with a glass pebble, dropped into a large glass bowl. It now holds well over 2,000 pieces of coloured glass which acts as a constant source of motivation and inspiration for those who work and visit the centre.
Peter Watt, NSPCC director of child protection advice and awareness, said: “The case of Jimmy Savile has caught the attention of the entire country.
“And while we have seen a wave of calls relating to abuse by the late celebrity, as well as calls from other adults who were abused in childhood, we have also seen a very welcome surge of calls relating to children suffering abuse right now. This is especially encouraging as we may be able to help stop this abuse in its tracks and bring the perpetrators to justice.”
To visit the Lifecentre website click here