Confidentiality and young survivors

One of the most common questions we are asked by young people who are looking for support is….will you tell? Even when we explain our policy of confidentiality, young people are still hesitant and unsure whether it’s ok to say anything. It can take us many weeks and months to build up trust with the young people. We are tested frequently. We are given bits of information. We are slowly given more and more of a picture of what is going on for a young person. Over time, young people are able to build trust and start to talk about what is really going on for them and some of it can be harrowing and extremely sad.

One of the saddest things is that these young people have been unable to tell anyone about the extreme abuse they have been living with for many years, because they are afraid.And what is it that they are afraid of? Strangely they are afraid of the services that are there to protect them. The last people they want to find out about the abuse is the child protection services. Why?

There are many reasons for this. Lack of knowledge of the services; fear of losing control; fear of what might happen to them or the abuser; fear of not being believed; fear of breaking up the family; fear that all the abuser has said will come true. Lots of fears and most are justified. Then there is shame, embarrassment, guilt, self-blame to take account of in this. And let’s not forget protecting the abuser; protecting the family; protecting siblings; protecting pets and so on. Many young people don’t even know that it is abuse as it’s not talked about. They might believe all that the abuser has said to them. After all, young people have limited knowledge and look to those the trust to provide it. Unfortunately, most abusers are the people that are trusted.

One of the really common emotions that can allow abuse to continue is love. Young people who love their abuser, and there are many of them who do, will do anything to please that person. They fear the lose of the abusers love and attention and fear losing the person who is most important to them.

What can make a difference for these young people is being able to build trust with a safe and supportive adult who can, over time, let the young person explore their feelings, talk about what is really going on for them and help them look at options. To do this, they need to have confidentiality.Even if the abuse is happening right now, giving them the opportunity to talk, rather than shutting them down, can make all the difference. Letting young people stay in control of their own lives and helping them stop the abuse, rather than treating them as witnesses and searching for evidence to prosecute someone can really work. It’s not easy. But as the current system continues to fail survivors of sexual abuse, maybe another approach is long overdue.

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Web Site & Forum

18u is currently updating its web site to make it more user friendly, up to date and informative. On the web site we have now created a new Message Forum to replace our old message board. The old message board will remain as an archive for visitors to access and read. It will not be possible though to post on the old board. For the new Forum there is a new to sign up and be approved. This provides greater safety and security for users.

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Peer Educators in schools

Our peer educators have been doing a fantastic jobs recently. In a high school, training was provided to 2 young people from every PSE class in 2nd year in how to deliver a Violence Is Preventable programme to their peers. With support from volunteers and staff from 18u, these peer educators then went on and delivered the programme to their classmates. It was a dynamic and empowering process and a brilliant way to cascade information, tackle a range of social issues and help young people communicate effectively with each other.

This was a pilot project and the evaluation is currently being written up. The teaching staff have already communicated that they found this project really interesting and thought provoking. Young people listen to other young people and seem more able to learn from each other. Having observed several of the peer educators delivering the programme to their classmates, i was very impressed by their maturity, the respect they showed each other and their classmates and the highly interesting discussions that were generated.

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Workshop in School

We were recently privileged enough to carry out workshops with 180 young people in 2 groups. Now you would think that having a discussion with 90 young people at a time might degenerate rapidly into noise and mayhem? That’s what we thought too! Not with these young people though. We had an amazing discussion about whether or not violence was preventable, how confidential services should be and 18u. Both groups of young people were so informed, articulate and respectful that it was a pleasure to work with them. On top of all that, many of them expressed a wish to volunteer with us. Wow!

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Xmas Gifts

This year people have been very generous and we have been able to provide lots of families with good quality Christmas gifts. Our appeal this year for more things to give out to teenagers was heard and we are happy to say that we have had enough to share widely with our own young people, but also with poorer families that we have been signposted to. Thank you to everyone who has helped out this year. It is all very much appreciated. It helps our young people to know that people care.

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Christmas and the invisible young people

Christmas is a great time for most people and we hope that everyone has a good festive time.

We hope though that you can spare a thought for young people who are currently experiencing abuse in their home, the place they live or on the streets. Most abusers are people known to the child and in a position of trust with them. Most young people never tell about abuse until they are older. Some young people flee from the abuse and risk life of the streets rather than live with abuse. Others simply suffer and tell no one. Why don’t they tell? Because they love the abuser. Because they fear child protection agencies. Because they have been silenced and taught not to tell. Because they are afraid of what might happen. There are so many reasons not to tell.

These young survivors are invisible and unknown to authorities. Having said that, we know that they are out there and can look out for them. We can let them know that we care. We can think about them and raise awareness about abuse.

We at 18u are in contact with some of these young people and we are able to provide them with someone to talk to in complete confidence. Though it can take a long time before the young survivors learn to trust us, having someone they can talk to breaks down the isolation. We are able to provide them with information such as where to charge a phone when you are living rough; how to get advocacy service or legal help; how to treat a wound or infection; how to get a termination; how to begin to talk about abuse; etc. There are so many things that young vulnerable people don’t know about, and they need a safe way to get this information. they need to be able to talk and trust someone.

More than anything, they need a fully confidential service so they can learn to trust. That’s what we provide!


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BSL Level 3 passed

2 of our workers have recently passed Level 3 of British Sign Language. This is a fantastic achievement and means that we are more able to provide quality support to young deaf people and their families. BSL is recognised in Scotland as a proper language, and hopefully will soon be taught in schools, enabling more deaf people to be able to communicate with hearing people and vica versa. In the Centre, we have been providing signing classes for young people and volunteers for the past year and many meetings are held in silence though a lot of talking certainly goes on.

If you know of any young deaf survivors who need support, let them know where we are.


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Supporting young people

The way we support young people has changed over the years. It used to be that young people would find their way to the Centre and sit down and talk with a worker. They would maybe come just once, come down regularly for some time or just appear when they felt the need. Now, while some of that still happens, most support happens differently now.

Now, a support worker can be anywhere, doing anything and an email or text pings onto the phone. Instantly, the worker can read about a problem a young person is having, or a young person is looking for a chat. It’s the same with social media with the possibility of instant chat available. All this is wonderful as young people can get pretty instant help or someone to talk to at times to suit them, and it can be highly confidential too, but it has it’s downside.

Talking through typing can easily lead to misunderstanding. The lack of commas, full stops and other such things that can help someone make sense of meaning, can mean big misunderstandings. So too with text talk, easy to type and easier to misunderstand. Being readily available can also lead to problems when you are, for one reason on not, suddenly unavailable. A crisis can develop all too quickly for a young person, and if they are used to having someone only a text away, and that person is missing. It can feel like a real let down. I try to make sure that all the young people I talk to, know that I can’t always be there and let them know what times I am more likely to be there.

Another issue with talking this way is that I sometimes feel like the invisible person in the room. I can have a young person telling me all about the family. Whose saying and doing what to whom, and the only person who knows that I know everything, is the young person. Bit of an invasion of privacy really. I even get videos, recordings and pictures from inside people’s homes. The good part of this, for the young person, is that if they are living in an abusive situation, they are able to share what is going on for them and get help.

I get the young people to teach me how to use all these new ways of communicating. Let’s face it, without their help it would be impossible. I wonder what the next 20 years will bring?

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Scary times in the Centre

The Halloween party in the Centre was the scariest party ever. The Centre was redecorated with spooks and scary things and there was a haunted walk round the Centre. The air was full of spooky fog. There were strange and scary noises, cracks, groans and screams. The screams were from the adults who were taken on the ghost walk! Ghosts and monsters appear everywhere and the dead walked. The children and young people did not seem as scared as the adults. One adult, who shall remain nameless, was too scared to even go on the ghost walk.

Then there was the amazing food. Dooking for apples and the usual crazy games, made crazier by the young volunteers. It was fun! Fun! Fun! The best bit though, was when a worker was trying to be scary during the spooky story and his hand went through the glass on the door. It was pretty funny.

This party was organised entirely by the young volunteers. They planned everything, cooked, cleaned, decorated and organised the games. All credit to the young people.

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