Children as young as 10 are seeking help in coming to terms with sexual abuse in Dundee, as a local charity warns it is struggling to cope with demand.
Women’s Rape And Sexual Abuse Centre (WRASAC) Dundee and Angus has a new service, Dundee and Angus Young Survivors (DAYS).
The service offers support to all young survivors aged 11-18 who have experienced rape, sexual assault, sexual abuse, child sexual exploitation or sexual bullying.
While the meetings are confidential, if a young person is thought to be at harm then action is taken with social work, child protection or Police Scotland.
Helen Hampton, senior young people’s support worker with DAYS, said: “The service is for people between 11 and 18 but there have been 10-year-olds who have come to us for help. We would never turn them away.
“Because I only work 35 hours a week and cover this huge area, it’s difficult.”
Helen — whose role has been funded by Comic Relief until 2019 — added: “The more we do, the more people become aware of the service and are coming forward to speak to us.
“There are no other services specifically for young survivors of sexual assault in the area.”
The service supports the victims of a range of sexual crimes, including those abused by family, exploited into prostitution and sexually bullied by peers.
Sinéad Daly, 42, manager of WRASAC, said people often aren’t aware they are victims of abuse.
She said: “Young people will suffer sexual abuse at the hands of people in a guardianship role but there are peer-on-peer concerns as well.
“One of the problems is that often these young people don’t see themselves as being abused, assaulted or subjected to sexual exploitation or violence because it is the norm for them.
“For these people, the feelings of guilt, responsibility or self-blame can also stop them from coming forward. Establishing that what they have experienced is not their fault is really important.”
One 10-year-old survivor of sexual violence who was helped by WRASAC wrote a poignant poem describing their journey to rehabilitation.
The poem includes the lines: “I cannot forgive, I cannot forget, but I hope one day soon I can put this to rest.”
Sinéad said the number of young people seeking help had increased for every age group in the 10 months to October 31 this year, compared with the same period last year.
In total, 83 youngsters between 10-18 have had some form of support since January – up from 66 in 2016. This year, six users were under 13, there were 24 aged 13-15 and 53 were 16-19.
While DAYS offers help to people of all gender identities, Sinéad said service users were “overwhelmingly” female.
Laura Wylie, 24, a violence protection worker with Rape Crisis Scotland, with which WRASAC works closely, said new technology poses new challenges in reducing sexual crimes.
She said: “With ‘sexting’ you have young people pressured into sending intimate images to people which are then shown to others.
“There is often a culture where young people think this is OK but it’s not OK – it’s a form of sexual violence and against the law.
“I think there can be this idea that you are either raped or you aren’t, and that covers sexual violence, but that is not the case.”
n If you have experienced rape, sexual abuse or feel you are being or have been sexually exploited and are looking for support, contact WRASAC on 0300 365 2001, Monday and Friday from 10am-noon and Wednesday from 2pm -4pm. If you need support after 6pm, you can contact the Rape Crisis Scotland’s national helpline on 08088 01 03 02.