FESTIVE PLEDGE: Help us give support to young victims of crime

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Today the Lancashire Post launches its Christmas Appeal for 2017, urging our readers to back an organisation providing vital support to young victims of crime.

Victim Support helps children and young people within Lancashire through its service, Nest.

We are calling for residents to assist Nest and give a helping hand to county youngsters – and families – who have suffered this year through no fault of their own.

Some have been targeted by bullies and predators on an individual basis. Others have been caught up in mass attacks such as the Manchester bombing.

Nightmares, flash-backs and anxiety may have become part of their lives.

These are the youngsters that Nest’s team of case workers help, providing practical steps to ease their path to recovery.

Nest’s case-workers are partly funded by Lancashire’s Police and Crime Commissioner but the charity also relies on donations.

This could be a financial contribution or a pledge to provide activities or days out. It could be something like a trip to the cinema or an attraction.

Or even a donation of gifts for younger children or computer games and toiletries for teens.

Are you a business owner or involved in an organisation that could donate such crucial respite? Or a resident who would like to donate to the service?

Please get in touch with us to donate to Victim Support this Christmas.

Support is a ‘key priority’

Lancashire’s Police and Crime Commissioner Clive Grunshaw said: “Supporting victims of crime is a key priority for me and any way that people can get involved and help support those in Lancashire who have been affected by crime can only be a good thing.

“We don’t want to see anyone become a victim of crime but it is crucial that services are there to support those who unfortunately do and Victim Support in Lancashire is absolutely key in meeting that need across the county.”

‘Our biggest referral route is directly from the police’

Adrian Wright is the children and young people’s services co-ordinator for Lancashire’s Nest initiative.

“Our biggest referral route is directly from the police,” he told the Lancashire Post.

“As soon as a crime is reported and a young person is the victim, we get that information passed through. We then contact them with an offer of support.

“That crime can be anything from bullying related incidents, it could be online bullying or it could be harassment right the way through to the most extreme child abuse cases.

“This year we’ve done a lot of work with victims of the Manchester bombing, that’s been a big part of our work.

“We also take referrals from wellbeing and early help teams particularly around families where domestic abuse has occurred.

“But young people can also refer themselves, it doesn’t have to be reported to police.”

Nest’s support will be tailored to the needs of each victim, Adrian (pictured) explains.

“If it has been a peer to peer assault, for example, like a bullying incident, quite often the victim’s confidence is affected and they don’t want to go out anywhere.

“Those kind of things are affecting them and they’re finding it difficult to identify what good friendships look like and they’re making friends with the wrong people that is leading them into those situations.

“In those instances, we’d do an intervention, get to know that person, get to know what’s going on in their lives but we’ll do some work about building up their confidence, building up good friendships, get them back into the swing of going out and about if their confidence has been affected and they don’t want to leave the house.

“One of our sessions might be taking them out for a coffee somewhere; support to get them back on their feet and doing the things they were doing before they were a victim.”

Victim Support’s Nest service is part funded by Lancashire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, but donations and pledges remain crucial to the service they provide.

Adrian added: “We are funded to go and do one-to-one sessions, what we rely on for donations is for those enrichment things that can help a young person really return to a sense of normality. For us to offer peer support sessions, taking young people out, a day out after something truly traumatic has happened to them is crucial.

“Being able to take them to a bowling alley or a cinema with their friends but also with a support worker there too, those are kind of things we need support for.

“It’s things like this that takes our service to something more; from being in a place where you feel very unsafe to being able to take those steps back into independence.

“It’s very well to create a bubble, during their sessions, where somewhere feels completely safe but we need to expand that into their lives so that they feel they can go out with their friends. 
“We’re giving that supportive step, back into town with friends after they’ve been the victim of a mugging, for example.

“But it’s not like having a teacher there, or a parent there, it’s someone who is a mentor.”

Nest utilises young people who have benefitted from their service to then in turn provide help for others at the start of the process.

This peer-to-peer assistance can have a big impact.

Adrian said: “It’s really nice to see someone go from the point where they feel they can’t do something very normal or perhaps used to do before the crime incident to actually come through that with a resilience. Young people have an amazing capacity to heal if they’re given the right support and the right opportunities and it’s always great to see someone take those steps.

“It’s the icing on the cake for us when we’re able to do peer support days and bring people together, giving them the opportunity to mentor each other is very important too.”

Teenager turned to self-harm after sex attack

Sarah (not her real name) has used Victim Support since last year when she was the victim of an online groomer who posed as a teenager.

The offender, who used a fake identity and has therefore so far evaded the police, sexually assaulted her after arranging to meet up via Facebook.

The 17-year-old turned to self-harm as she struggled in the aftermath of her ordeal but said Victim Support - through Nest - provided a vital service.

She now has her confidence back and is making considerable progress.

She told the Lancashire Post: “I told my mum what happened, after it had been going on for several months, because I was scared.

“The man hasn’t been found, he told me he was from one place but when the police investigated, his messages had been sent from somewhere else.

“They think he was 29 but he told me he was 19.

“I was self-harming and I had issues with my mental health, I was distraught.

“It was through childrens’ services that I was put into contact with Victim Support.

“I spoke with them and explained what had happened and we talked everything through.

“They went through the steps to improve my mental health, we did lots of different sessions.

“I have been so much happier since, I feel so much better and have stopped self-harming. I feel more confident with the support of my boyfriend and my family.

“If I hadn’t been in contact with Victim Support, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

“If I ever had an issue they were only one phone call away, if I needed to speak to someone they were there.”

Pair suffered from ‘survivor’s grief’ after bombing

Cath Hill and her son Jake were leaving the Manchester Arena from a different exit when the bomb detonated in the foyer.

The Ariana Grande concert was the 10-year-old’s first.

Both escaped physically unscathed but were understandably affected by witnessing the harrowing scenes in the aftermath of the attack.

Cath recalls the chaos, panic and confusion as rumours circulated about a gunman opening fire.

They did not receive any initial professional help in the weeks afterwards, the mum-of-two felt those who were injured and the bereaved should be the priority.

But their situation changed drastically when the family were weeks later on holiday in Cambrils, near Barcelona, the scene of another terrorist attack.

Cath, from Lancaster, said: “We had told Jake it was something that wouldn’t happen again, it was a one-off and then we were waking up in the hotel, hearing the news, and having to explain to it to him.

“It felt like everything we had said had completely gone out of the window.”

The pair suffered from “survivor’s grief”. Flashbacks, nightmares and anxiety in crowds became regular occurrences.

Victim Support “stepped up”, Cath said.

A case worker visited Jake and they were able to talk through what had happened, offering practical steps to help him recover.

“He was quite a shy boy and I was worried he wouldn’t want to talk but he said ‘yes’ straightaway,” she said.

Jake was encouraged to write down his worries and place the notes into a container. The method helped the family identify that Bonfire Night was causing a sense of dread and they changed their plans to something more low-key.

The youngster was told his reaction to being in a crowd - numb legs and heart-pounding - was a natural response.

In the weeks since, he has made considerable progress and this, in turn, has helped mum.

Cath said: “Indirectly, the help for Jake helped me. Through knowing he had someone professional and trained to hear these types of things, made me feel better.”

In the aftermath of the bomb attacks, Nest has offered a package of practical and emotional help to anyone caught up in the terror, including those who weer badly injured or who lost relatives in the attack.