Portsmouth counsellor supports children as young as 5 through court process

Helen Hogben
Helen Hogben
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THE COURT process can be difficult for anyone to navigate but for a young child, reporting abuse, understanding the justice system can be near on impossible.

But the job for Helen Hogben, part of the Portsmouth Abuse and Rape Counselling Service (PARCS), involves supporting children and their families through what can be a lengthy and traumatic procedure.

The 41-year-old support youngsters aged five to 12 years old who have reported abuse, sexual assault, violence or rape.

Helen, a children’s independent sexual violence advisor said: ‘From reporting to court hearings and sentencing can take a really long time and sometimes not even happen and it is so hard and tiring for children and their families.

‘I am there to help them every step of the way, which can be years, but it means they have someone to turn to and ask questions to which is so important.

‘There are a lot of emotions to deal with including the child who has to recount what has happened and them perhaps being confused as to why what happened was wrong. They might be angry and their behaviour becomes worse. There can also be loss if it is someone close to them who has gone to prison and they don’t fully understand why.

‘In terms of the families it really can rip them apart. The family can be divided and blame each other for what is happening. For parents there can also be a sense of guilt that this has happened to their child so my job is to make sure everyone feels supported.’

Helen, who used to work for the police, is currently dealing with 19 cases and her role is jointly funded by Children in Need and the Hampshire Police and Crime Commissioner’s office. 

The mother-of-three said: ‘I think what the police do with what they have is amazing but it is interesting to see it from a different point of view. 

‘I have a really good relationship with the police team and I think for them it helps because they know there is someone for the family to be supported by.’

PARCS was set up in 1981 by a group of local women in response to a number of rapes in the city. Many of the women who came forward also disclosed sexual abuse in childhood and the organisation developed provision to meet this need.

The charity also began offering services to men and two years later established a counselling service for young people.

Since 2012 PARCS has been offering counselling to adult survivors of domestic abuse.

For more information visit parcs.org.uk

Call 02392 669513 or email admin@parcs.org.uk for information on children, young people and parents/ carers support.