A pair of friends who were sexually abused as children have launched a support group to help other victims.
Gina Despard and Shelley Knowles, survivors of two unrelated cases of child sex abuse (CSA), decided to act and waive their right to anonymity after reading about Jimmy Savile’s crimes.
The duo, who met through existing support services, said not enough help was currently provided to CSA sufferers.
And now they are determined to use their knowledge to set up ‘Release into Victory’ - a group releasing survivors of childhood abuse into a ‘Life of Victory’.
Gina, 48, from Preston, said: “It’s not just the experience of the abuse - your whole life is ruined.
“You don’t have any self worth, any self esteem and you don’t know how to look after yourself.
“As you grow up you can make wrong life choices. People can turn to drink and drugs. And there is not enough support out there. Where there is support there is a very long waiting list.
“I’m ready to support others and help them move on.
“It’s a lifelong battle and people need support.”
Both Gina and Shelley said they were too scared at the time to report the crimes committed against them to the police, and those they confided in, did not believe them.
Shelley, 49, from Southport, said her ordeal left her questioning whether she was at fault.
But she came across Lamplighters, an international movement for CSA recovery, and has since helped set up chapters in the Southport area and in Scotland.
However, because it is predominantly American-based, she felt it was important to set up a North West group, using some of the same methods and material.
She said: “Their ‘repair programme’ is fantastic and it’s good to use something you have been through yourself. But we are not local to them and I feel we have got the skills and experience to start a support group ourselves.
“When the Jimmy Savile story came out I went online, looking at what support was available, and I couldn’t really find anything.”
Gina, who works with children’s charities and in domestic violence support, said the pair were looking to set up a Community Interest Company (CIC), a form of non-profit making social enterprise, which would mean they could apply for funding.
She said: “We’ve been offered a meeting room by the CVS.
“We are offering a befriending service and would like people to get in touch to offer one-to-one support. They can just come and talk to us or we can signpost them to professional services. It will be in the strictest confidence.”
Long-term they aim to achieve charity status for the group.
Gina said: “There are probably people out there now thinking ‘if only I could contact somebody’.
“If something like this had been out there it might have saved us from a whole lot of pain.”
You can contact Gina and Shelley via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook at releaseinto victory.
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Sunday 19 May 2013
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