Increase in NI victims reporting abuse

Published Wednesday, 05 February 2014
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Charities and police in Northern Ireland have recorded an increase in victims of sexual exploitation coming forward to report their abuse in the wake of Operation Yewtree.

Increase in NI victims reporting abuse
Allegations about Savile in 2012 led to hundreds of people reporting abuse. (© Getty)

Since the revelations in 2012 that deceased broadcaster Jimmy Savile could have abused hundreds of young victims, the number of historic sex crimes recorded in England and Wales in the last year increased by 122%.

There was also a 17% rise in recent sexual offences recorded.

And it seems that the 'Savile effect' has led to more victims coming forward in Northern Ireland.

The latest police figures show that more than 1,000 offences against those under 18 were reported in the past year - an increase of 7% on the previous year.

Almost 400 of those offences were against children under the age of 10.

Sharon Henry was abused by a trusted family member from the age of six.

"He would always have a wee drink and sweets for me," she said.

"He would abuse me in the pantry and make me do a lot of things to him.

"At a later stage as I was growing up and maturing, he then raped me in the bedroom when playing hide and go seek."

Her ordeal lasted for five years until she was 11- she said her abuser, who is now dead, made sure she didn't speak out.

"The thought of somebody while they're doing it to you, they're saying that your mum and dad won't love you. Your mum and dad will put you in a home and that nobody will like you, constantly being told that in your ear while not nice things are happening to you.

"I became very depressed, very down about school and I kinda shut myself off a bit. Yes, I had friends and whatever but I think that really deep down, nobody understood what was going on in the background."

She added: "I was kinda holding on to the blame and thought it was my fault, you know, 'what did I do wrong, why did he pick me, what was so different about me?' - it was just kind of paranoia, you just felt that you had no self esteem.

"Even today I feel it very hard to look in the mirror."

PSNI Superintendent Alan Skelton said people are now more aware of what was once a hidden crime.

He commented: "It's all horrendous abuse. If you are looking at figures for sexual abuse against an under 10, there's not just as many crimes that are as horrific as that.

"Maybe we're more aware of what to look for, and (they are) more aware that they can report it and if they do, a thorough investigation will take place."

Nexus is one charity which support adults in a similar situation to Sharon.

It says calls are up 40% as a result of the so-called Savile effect.

"We deal with people who are 16 years old and above, last week we even had someone who was 85 and came to us for help," Pam Hunter from Nexus explained.

"The majority of abuse happens between five and 10, it takes them until they are 25, 49 or 85 before they are actually coming to us for help.

"There's an awful lot of years that are wasted (at) the hands of the abuser."

Sharon is urging anyone who is keeping abuse they suffered a secret, to reach out.

"Pick up the phone, you're not alone," she said.

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"There's help out there. My only regret is that I didn't get justice, but hopefully by doing this other people can get justice."
© UTV News
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