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  • Danny Byrne

No Age Limit to Trauma: The Importance of Counselling for Young Survivors of Domestic Abuse

Domestic abuse is a devastating experience that can have long-lasting effects on individuals of all ages, and as a parent or care giver it can be difficult to know what to say or how to support a child who does not want counselling. While adults are often the primary focus when it comes to domestic abuse, it is important to remember that young people can also be affected by this form of violence. According to statistics from the NSPCC, in the UK:

  • One in five children have experienced severe physical violence at the hands of their parents or caregivers.

  • Around one in seven young people aged 11-17 have experienced emotional abuse from a parent or caregiver.

  • In 2020/2021, Childline received 27,631 counselling sessions from young people who reported experiencing abuse or neglect.

  • Children and young people aged 16-17 are more likely to experience abuse from a partner or ex-partner than any other age group.

In Cornwall and beyond, young people aged 16 and 17 who experience abuse often face unique challenges. They may be at an age where they are transitioning from childhood to adulthood and facing new responsibilities and pressures. They may also be facing barriers to seeking support, such as concerns about confidentiality or fear of retribution from their abuser.

"It is these statistics which highlight the need for services such as WAVES in Cornwall to continue to provide free counselling to those aged 16 and over, to ensure our children and young people are empowered to exceed and achieve a bright future for themselves with the support of their counsellor" - Jo Stone, WAVES Counselling Project Manager

Despite these challenges, it is important to provide therapy and support to young people who have experienced domestic abuse. The effects of abuse can be particularly damaging for young people, who may be still developing their sense of self, their relationships with others, and their ability to cope with stress and trauma. It is also important to recognise that while generational abuse will not affect everyone, it can be a factor for future abusive or unhealthy relationships, therefore it is important to address this too.

Generational abuse refers to patterns of abuse that are passed down from one generation to the next. This can occur when individuals who have experienced abuse in their own childhoods go on to perpetrate abuse against their own children or other family members.

Studies have shown that individuals who experience abuse in childhood are more likely to become victims or perpetrators of abuse in adulthood. This is because abuse can have long-lasting effects on an individual's psychological and emotional well-being, their ability to form healthy relationships, and their coping mechanisms.

When it comes to 16 and 17 year olds who have experienced abuse, providing therapy and support can be particularly crucial in breaking the cycle of generational abuse. By intervening early and providing young people with the tools and resources they need to heal, we can help to prevent future generations from experiencing the same trauma.

Moreover, 16 and 17 year olds are at a critical stage in their development, where they are forming their identities, values, and beliefs about relationships and intimacy. Providing support at this stage can help young people to develop healthy coping mechanisms, build resilience, and establish healthy boundaries in relationships. This, in turn, can help to prevent them from becoming victims or perpetrators of abuse in the future.

This is why services like The WAVES Counselling Project are so vital. By offering free counselling to anyone aged 16 and over, regardless of gender, sexuality, ethnicity, and other factors, The WAVES Counselling Project provides a safe and confidential space for young people to explore their experiences and receive support.

Through counselling, young people can learn to recognize the signs of abuse, understand the dynamics of power and control that underlie abusive relationships, and develop strategies for staying safe and healthy. They can also address the emotional and psychological effects of abuse, such as feelings of shame, guilt, and self-blame, and learn to build a sense of self-worth.

Counselling can help young people feel validated and heard, which can be particularly important for those who may feel marginalized or disempowered. It can also help young people to understand that they are not alone in their experiences and that there is no shame in seeking support.

Supporting a child who has experienced abuse can be challenging, even just knowing what to say or when to say it, so with that in mind, if you are a parent or caregiver and you believe that your 16 or 17 year old may benefit from counselling with The WAVES Counselling Project, there are several things you can do to encourage them to reach out:

  1. Start the conversation: Talk to your child about your concerns and encourage them to share their own thoughts and feelings about their experiences. Listen actively and without judgment, and try to create a safe and supportive environment where they feel comfortable opening up.

  2. Provide information: Share information about The WAVES Counselling Project, including the fact that we provide free counselling to anyone aged 16 and over. Let your child know that counselling is confidential and non-judgmental, and that our counsellors are experienced in supporting survivors of abuse.

  3. Offer support: Let your child know that you are there to support them, no matter what. Encourage them to explore their options and make their own decisions about whether or not to seek counselling, but also let them know that you are available to help them access support if they choose to do so.

  4. Normalize seeking help: Let your child know that seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness. Help them to understand that it is normal to struggle with difficult emotions and experiences, and that seeking support is an important step towards healing and growth.

  5. Respect their boundaries: Ultimately, it is up to your child to decide whether or not to seek counselling. Respect their decision, and let them know that you will be there to support them in whatever way they need.

Remember, seeking counselling is a personal decision, and it is important to respect your child's autonomy and agency. By providing information, support, and a safe and supportive environment, you can help your child make the best decision for themselves. If you child however is not ready for counselling or does not want counselling, there are still things that you can do to support them in the meantime. Here are some tips:

  1. Listen actively: Even if your child is not ready for counselling, it is still important to listen actively and without judgment when they want to talk. Let them know that you are there to support them, and encourage them to express their thoughts and feelings in whatever way feels comfortable to them.

  2. Encourage healthy coping strategies: Encourage your child to engage in healthy coping strategies that can help them manage their emotions and stress levels. This might include exercise, mindfulness practices, journaling, or spending time with friends and family.

  3. Model healthy behaviours: As a parent, you can model healthy behaviours for your child by taking care of your own mental and physical health. This might include seeking support for yourself if you need it, engaging in self-care practices, and modelling healthy communication and conflict resolution skills.

  4. Connect with community resources: There may be community resources available that can support your child in the absence of counselling. This might include support groups, advocacy organisations, or crisis hotlines. Do some research to find out what resources are available in your area.

  5. Seek professional advice: If you are concerned about your child's mental health or well-being, consider seeking professional advice from a doctor, therapist, or other healthcare provider. They may be able to offer additional guidance and support.

It is important to recognise that supporting your child through their journey towards healing is a process, and it may take time for them to be ready for counselling or other forms of support. By listening actively, encouraging healthy coping strategies, modelling healthy behaviours, connecting with community resources, and seeking professional advice when needed, you can help your child feel supported and empowered as they navigate their experiences.

The WAVES Counselling Project is committed to providing free counselling to anyone aged 16 and over, including young people, in order to help them heal and thrive. If you or someone you know is in need of support, please do not hesitate to reach out to us for support here in Cornwall, you can make a referral via our Home Page.

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