Isle of Man: Counselling for Victims / Survivors

Isle of Man: Counselling for Victims / Survivors

When I heard from victims and survivors of child sexual abuse in the Isle of Man that there was no counselling immediately available after being contacted by police in historic abuse cases, I was shocked.

When victims are reminded of their childhood abuse, this can cause an eruption of feelings from the victims past about their abuse that had previously been locked away.  This often cannot be mentally put back into the same place.

The post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can show itself by difficulty sleeping, intense distress, intrusive thoughts and images, nightmares and physical sensations such as nausea, sweating, pain and trembling.

People can start to have problems inside their family, lose their job, go into debt, self harm and thoughts of suicide or worse.

It is simply not acceptable for the Police to approach victims / survivors wanting help with “historical” child sexual abuse without professional child sexual abuse counselling being available. Police eagerness to achieve justice and make up for past failures is laudable but  should not be at the expense of victims health without the correct support available.

Victims and survivors want the truth, and many want justice and will go through considerable hardship to achieve this, but truth and justice must NOT come at the expense of retraumatising victims without proper professional trained child sexual abuse counselling available immediately.

I contacted Safeguarding Children Board via their publicised email on Feb 5th iomscb@gov.im and did not receive a reply in 10 days. I also contacted them on the 15th.

I contacted the Public Protection Unit (PPU) headed by Detective Inspector Michelle McKilop, via Inspector Derek Flint, media inquiries on the 5th and 6th February. Inspector Flint was in a difficult position but his standard but incorrect media reply was “the Isle of Man Constabulary applies the highest standards of victim care, especially in cases of abuse.” He passed two messages on but again no reply from PPU in 10 days.

After writing a third time with the very simple question “Is there any proper professional child sexual abuse counselling available when the Police approach victims and reopen victims emotional wounds?” and I asked for a media and PPU reply.

Derek Flint replied “I forwarded your emails on to PPU. I suspect they may choose not to comment for operational reasons. The Isle of Man is a very small place, and in order to absolutely ensure the anonymity of victims, disclosure on any support methodology utilised will remain confidential. This is not confined to matters of abuse. ”

Hiding behind “operational reasons” is of course disingenuous nonsense, designed so that PPU do not have to answer the very valid points brought up nor adjust what they are currently doing. This is the type of thing that victims meet all the time when dealing with authorities. When the authorities make a mistake or have pointed out that what they are doing is not best practice, their first reaction is not to admit their error and improve, but to hide the error and cover up. Part of that cover up is to refuse any information on what they are doing.

I had written to the Police “I expect the [my] information to be checked thoroughly and I would be grateful if found to be not correct, then to be contacted immediately to correct it.”  Of course I have not been corrected.

The answer that the Police should have given to that last question is along the lines of    – No, there is not immediate counselling available if needed.  We should have been aware of this, we were not and we will make every effort not to jeopardise victims health and safety in the future, by having that correct support available if needed.

The Police actually at present recommend going to Victim Support. Victim Support Isle of Man quite openly state on their website ” It is independent of both the Department [of Home Affairs] and the Isle of Man Constabulary although many of its clients are referred by the police.”

The work of Victim Support Isle of Man includes assisting with criminal injury claims plus providing emotional support for victims of various offences including physical or sexual assaults, thefts, burglaries and criminal damage. ”

Whilst I am sure that Victim Support do as good a job as they are able, the Manager of Victim Support told me  “If counselling is required, we can be the stop gap until the counselling commences.” On Manx Radio [7] the manager said Victim Support offer “psychological first aid” not counselling.

It is not acceptable to put any victims, but particularly victims of failures by the authorities, in a position where they have to accept stop gap support or psychological first aid, perhaps for weeks or months until that proper professional child sexual abuse counselling becomes available. It is putting them at risk.

Victim Support are partly funded by the Department of Home Affairs (so to claim independence from the Department is odd), and the rest has to be raised by donations. The website states “In 2006 it changed from a charity to a company limited by guarantee to protect its Trustees who are also volunteers”. However the Facebook site calls it a charity so the exact status is unsure at the minute.

Counselling for victims needs to be put on a proper and secure basis. Funding of help for victims needs to be put on a secure and sustainable footing and not subject to the whims of donation. It is partly the result of Government and Police failures in the past that the problem exists today.

As the professionals would not answer my questions, admit any problem or help,  I had no choice but to go to a politician. I emailed Juan Watterson, Home Affairs Minister, who not only replied immediately but within 24 hours had further replied

“I have had responses from the Chief Constable and Chairman of the Safeguarding Board, both of whom have offered to pick this up and work with partner agencies on timely access to counselling.”

I can ask no more of Mr Watterson than that at this stage. I have been most impressed that he is taking the issue seriously and has acted immediately upon it. We now await the outcome of this, and to see what they propose.

In future to expect victims to help police with “historical” child sexual abuse investigations, but not provide the victims immediately with the proper professional child sexual abuse counselling they need, will be to recklessly endanger the victims heath. No authority can now say that they are not aware of the problem.

Neither the Police and Safeguarding Children Board (who have now contacted me after being contacted by Mr Watterson) have admitted the problem, never mind expressed any desire to me to get to the root of the problem. Both have however have wanted to know the individuals that I have been in touch with. I would willingly tell them if the individuals gave me permission and desired that. However they have not given that permission.

The fact that the authorities even ask this means they still do not get it. Victims do not trust authorities as they have been let down, to put it mildly,  by them all their lives. Their experience has been to be revictimised whenever they tell the truth to authority. That is why I contacted the authorities, and the authorities ignored me as well. The authorities need to deal with the problem of getting immediate access to counselling for victims and then when victims see that working, then more might come forward.

I would be grateful if other victims could tell me, in confidence, what their experience were of what counselling or support was offered to them and whether it was adequate. I would also be grateful for any correction of mistakes or clarification in this article from anyone.

My information is that via the GP there is a 6-9 month waiting list for child sexual abuse counselling, and then limited time is available.

There is not yet a survivors support group on the Island, as this issue of child sexual abuse has been hidden so much previously. This type of group / network has been of great support to survivors in part of the UK, and Voicing CSA [3] helps set them up. It might be an idea that this was kickstarted by Police/Government/Safeguarding Children Board funding a visit from them.

More information about the Isle of Man and child sexual abuse is available from two previous posts :  2015 May 25 Cathy Fox Blog [4] Child Sexual Abuse in the Isle of Man,  2016 Feb 15 Cathy Fox Blog [5] IOM Child Sexual Abuse Update Feb 2016

Perhaps this may also be useful 2015 May 25  Cathy Fox Blog [6] 10 Steps on How to Research Child Sexual Abuse in your area – A Rough Guide This uses IOM as an example.

Any help researching child abuse on the island is welcomed iom@cathyfox.33mail.com

Please note that victims of abuse may be triggered by reading this information. These links are generally UK based.

  • The Sanctuary for the Abused [A] has advice on how to prevent triggers.
  • National Association for People Abused in Childhood [B] has a freephone helpline and has links to local support groups.
  • Other useful sites are One in Four [C]
  • and Havoca [D].
  • Useful post on Triggers [E]  from SurvivorsJustice [F]blog.
  • Jim Hoppers pages on Mindfulness [G]  and Meditation [H] may be useful.
  • Hwaairfan blog An Indigenous Australian Approach to Healing Trauma*  [J]

Links

[1] IOM Police Support Services https://www.gov.im/categories/home-and-neighbourhood/emergency-services/police/police-support-services/Polcie

[2] Isle of Man Victim Support http://www.victimsupport.im/

[3] Voicing CSA  http://voicingcsa.uk/

[4] 2015 May 25 Cathy Fox Blog Child Sexual Abuse in the Isle of Man https://cathyfox.wordpress.com/2015/05/25/child-sexual-abuse-in-the-isle-of-man/

[5] 2016 Feb 15 Cathy Fox Blog IOM Child Sexual Abuse Update Feb 2016https://cathyfox.wordpress.com/2016/02/15/iom-child-sexual-abuse-update-feb-2016/

[6] 2015 May 25  Cathy Fox Blog 10 Steps on How to Research Child Sexual Abuse in your area – A Rough Guide https://cathyfox.wordpress.com/2015/05/25/researching-child-sexual-abuse-in-your-area-a-rough-guide/ Uses IOM as an example

[7] 2016 Feb 16 Manx Radio Women Today http://www.manxradio.com/radioplayer/od/3434/

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