Pioneering work by a Leeds charity is providing intensive support to women who suffered sexual exploitation as children.
Some have lived chaotic lives, self-medicating with drugs and alcohol as a result of their experiences.
It’s very brave what they did, I think, to fund us.
Taylor Austin-Little, Basis Yorkshire
Others now have children of their own and are happily married,
with their loved ones totally unaware of the troubles they have carried
alone for decades.
Using £52,400 in Home Office funding, Basis
Yorkshire was able to appoint Taylor Austin-Little to lead a 12 month
pilot scheme offering an independent advocacy and support service to 16
of these women.
Miss Austin-Little said: “Imagine you have had years of
bottling up this and everyone telling you this was your choice, and then
you realise it wasn’t. You are very vulnerable.
thing that came out of it for the women was gaining trust. You can
imagine it takes months and months because they’ve had years of not
being believed, of blaming.”
The women, aged between 20 and 43,
included some of those approached by police as part of Operation
Applehall, an investigation reviewing potential historic child sexual
exploitation (CSE) cases in the city.
Miss Austin-Little said: “Because it wasn’t in their control when the police came to them, they didn’t have choice again.
“I was using some of the things I used with young people to get them to recognise it wasn’t their fault, it was abuse.”
of the women had one-to-one sessions with Miss Austin-Little every few
weeks, but others needed almost daily contact in person or by phone.
were also opportunities to be referred to other support services, with
fast-track access to the Women’s Counselling and Therapy Service.
Austin-Little said: “One of the important lessons is it wasn’t
necessarily linked to a criminal case. It’s all about giving them
choices, options of how the wanted to report it if they did.”
“Some cases have been fully investigated and the
police can’t do more, but it was enough for the women to be believed and
listened to now.”
As the pilot scheme began to take shape, it soon became clear that they were venturing into a new area of work.
Austin-Little said: “I wanted to look nationally to who I could learn
from and what became very apparent was this was very pioneering.
“It’s very brave what they did, I think, to fund us.”
had been doubts as to whether the scheme could continue after the
pilot, but West Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner has funded the
project for a second year with Jo Hall taking over as advocacy support
It means women who took part in the pilot can
keeping receiving support if needed and others on the waiting list can
now been offered the chance to get involved.
Miss Austin-Little said it had become clear that this was a crucial area of support that had been lacking until now.
people are very well supported now, but what about the victims who
didn’t have teachers, social workers, parents? Jo might be the only
support they have,” she said.
An independent evaluation of the
pilot by Professor Maggie O’Neill found it had a significant impact on
the lives and wellbeing of the 16 women given intensive support in the
It also made a series of recommendations, some of which came from the women’s feedback.
They included a peer support group and a family support worker for the children and partners of the women.
Click here to find out more about Basis Historic CSE Support.
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