Guest post: “One mother’s story affected me so deeply that I had to find a way to prevent others from going through her anguish”
One mother’s horror inspired Sarah Champion MP to create her website, www.dare2care.org.uk for parents and professionals to understand the many forms of child abuse
Posted on: Tue 27-Feb-18 10:02:16
(4 comments )
In the five years I have been the Member of Parliament for Rotherham, I have supported parents through some horrendous situations: children denied help for complex medical needs, challenging custody cases and young mothers trying desperately to get out of poverty. Of course, there have also been abuse cases – lots of abuse cases. However, one mother’s story affected me so deeply that I realised I had to find a way to prevent others having to go through her anguish. That encounter led me to develop www.Dare2Care.org.uk – a website to help parents and professionals recognise, understand and prevent child abuse.
Kate (not her real name) booked in to my constituency surgery to talk about her 12-year-old daughter, Sophie. When Kate arrived she looked scared, exhausted and likely to cry. She almost crumpled into the chair like she just wanted to disappear, so I dispensed with the formality of being across a table and went to sit next to her, at which point she opened up and started to talk to me.
Six months previous, Kate realised that her daughter was spending more time alone in her bedroom, becoming very secretive and seemed to be obsessively at the beck and call of her mobile phone. Putting it down to the onset of puberty, Kate was utterly horrified to find that Sophie had been taking obscene images of herself and sharing them. Equally shocking to Kate were the numbers of unknown men contacting her daughter. When Kate went to the police, she was simply told to take the phone away as her daughter was: ‘just a young girl exploring her sexuality’.
Kate was horrified to find that her daughter had been taking obscene images of herself and sharing them. Equally shocking were the numbers of unknown men contacting her.
Kate was understandably unhappy with this response so contacted Social Services who appeared to take her concerns seriously. In reality, the social worker appointed to the case simply visited Sophie at school to discuss the risks of ‘sexting’ (taking and sharing sexual images of yourself). Kate was convinced that this was considerably more than sexting. She saw a vulnerable child being groomed, coerced and exploited by a group of men. This was organised child abuse.
Kate confiscated Sophie’s phone but Sophie simply stole her brother’s. Kate removed all her children’s phones but Sophie just borrowed them from friends and used their computers when visiting their houses. In desperation, Kate took Sophie’s phone to the police station and as the officer appeared to be about to send her away, she showed him a video of her daughter.
At that moment all hell broke loose. Detectives got involved, Social Services swooped. Kate’s other two children were seen as vulnerable to similar abuse. There was even talk of taking all Kate’s children into care and, shockingly, this was being seen as Kate’s fault for not being a good parent.
When she got to telling me this part, Kate began to cry.
“How could all this have happened?” she said.
“All I wanted to do was protect my children. I tried everything to get help and now they are blaming me. I wanted to stop this but didn’t understand what I was dealing with. There is so little information out there about what a parent should do.”
At that point, I realised I had to act so that parents like Kate could possess the skills, confidence and contacts should they ever feel their child was being groomed or exploited.
Nearly two-and-a-half years on, Kate and her family are safe, but after all they have been through, are broken.
If you had been in Kate’s shoes, would you have acted differently? Would you have spotted the signs or known what to do?
Kate’s horror inspired me to create my website, www.dare2care.org.uk for parents and professionals to understand the many forms of child abuse.
The site is a one-stop-shop of resources created by charities and organisations including NSPCC, Barnardo’s, CEOP and the Government, telling you how to spot the signs and learn practical skills to intervene and report. It contains case studies and blogs as well as signposting you to organisations who provide specialist support. The topics cover on and offline abuse, how to speak to young children, violence in young people’s relationships and practical parenting skills.
Please visit the site and share the information with other parents.
Together we can prevent child abuse.
By Sarah Champion MP
Thank you a great website, recently I attended a safeguarding talk but felt disheartened at the lack of practical advice for parents. This website is excellent and full of useful tools, I wish you every success in your campaign to keep children safe.
Great website, I have already shared with several professionals working with families. Very useful.
That poor lady. All she wanted to do was help her child but no one was helping her were they? I just don't know where people get these attitudes from or how these situations arise. A parent being concerned about their child should be cause for help not distress. Appalling.