Supporting children, young people and families affected by rape, sexual abuse and domestic violence
Abigail Finnegan pioneered this service for the North of Cumbria back in 2004 responding to a significant gap in provision. We first met with Abby at her home just as her plans were coming together and we have been supporting her vision and considerable achievements ever since.
Joanne was first referred to us in summer 2005 following a rape at school that had been videoed by mobile phone and passed around the school. She was 14 years old and, as a consequence of the rape, was a non-attender at school. All attempts at home tuition had failed. Joanne was in a vicious cycle of destructive behaviour where she shut off from her feelings through alcohol and risky sex. There was a family history of domestic violence associated with financial control by father and violence toward the children. Mother has bipolar depression. Initially Joanne was reluctant to engage, wary of services which dismissed her feelings and further reinforced her sense of isolation. Through representation at case conference she grew in trust of staff at Safety Net and began to attend on a regular basis. She spent approximately 12 months talking, but not really changing. She had become involved with YOT, and her self-medication now involved cocaine binges. Throughout this time, mother was adamant there was no problem at home and that Joanne’s behaviour was all other people’s fault (classic victim behaviour and in line with her previously diagnosed condition). Whenever Joanne became involved with the police it was translated as being the fault of the rapist – not Joanne. Whilst cause and effect was evident, she was also, and needed to become aware that she was, responsible for her own behaviour.
In September 2006, following a repeat rape and further violence from Joanne, mother accepted that there was a pattern and that it was being reinforced at home. Mum also became involved therapeutically at this time. It was at this point that a transformation in the dynamic of the family took place. Joanne was prosecuted for her most recent violent outburst – but with the support of staff from Safety Net was able to address what she wanted for her life. Conditions were put in place for her accessing support at Safety Net and she began to respond. She responded with such positive vigour that we offered her a short (three month) volunteer placement assisted by the V project where her skills an self-confidence were developed. This was success for all involved. Joanne, now 17, has been discharged from her final warning with YOT with feedback being that the visible transformation in attitude was remarkable. She is not longer in need of our services, although mother still accesses support to help her further develop her own skills in supporting her children.