COMMENT: Abuse victims need expert help to deal with issues

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It’s awful enough that anybody should be subjected to emotional, sexual and physical abuse during their childhood. But imagine being robbed of what should have been carefree years, then still being haunted by such terrible experiences later on in life and being unable to access the right help to deal with them.

Pauline Sharp reveals today how she suffered at the cruel hands of her own mother and father from the age of three to about 22.

Thirty-three years on, she has to contend with a number of health issues including chronic post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), memory loss, anxiety, flashbacks and nightmares.

Pauline has told us how she would drink heavily, binge eat and self-harm to try to cope with the trauma she had endured. They were all attempts to mask the pain she was feeling inside.

She admits: ‘Over the years I have abused my own body, because I was violated, raped, and indoctrinated for so long, told I was evil and worth nothing.’

Pauline eventually escaped the clutches of her controlling parents. Her story is a powerful reminder that the effects of child abuse are felt for a lifetime. Left unaddressed, they can be extremely harmful.

She says she is one of the lucky ones. She has finally accessed the right therapy to deal with her demons via the charity Survivors of Abuse.

But there are other survivors out there who face long NHS waiting lists.

Even when they get to the head of the queue, the therapies are time-limited because of a lack of government funding. As a result, recovery is very hard.

The National Association for People Abused in Childhood says there is ‘minimal’ NHS support to address any abuse underlying mental health issues.

So it is pleasing to hear NHS England say it aims to radically improve access to services for abuse survivors and help them to gradually rebuild their lives.

We trust it is as good as its word. Because people like Pauline really need that help to be able to face up to what has happened to them and begin to move on.