Think of abuse survivors, think of their families

Image source:
Image source:

THE EDITOR: Recently, the nation was plunged into a state of high emotionality stemming from new information surrounding the decades-old Akiel Chambers case, the Sabga Report on child abuse and the Justice Jones report on 2021 investigations into children’s homes.

People from all walks of life have shared their discontent, sorrow and utter disgust at the findings and information making their way into the public domain. People want answers.

We have seen and heard calls for further investigations and for those responsible for perpetrating these heinous acts against some of the nation’s most vulnerable, to be held accountable and face the full brunt of the law.

Yet there are those who believe that so much time has gone by they wonder what good can come from any investigation.

As a mental health professional, I cannot help but think of the psychological impact and implications for those survivors who are still in these children homes as well as the others, who are all now adults, and who were forced to relive the traumas of 1997.

Enduring mistreatment, neglect or abuse of any kind can have wide-ranging and long-term effects, derailing physical and mental development in ways that are debilitating.

The fact that these individuals are still here to share their stories speaks to their resilience in the face of extensive and extreme difficulty – something that most struggle to comprehend.

With this in mind, I have to wonder – are we hurting or helping these survivors by having them relive their traumas to sell more papers or score cheap political points?

More importantly, in light of retrieving these stories, are we creating safe spaces for these stories to be told and ensuring the necessary emotional and psychosocial support is on hand to deal with triggered individuals and the physical and emotional responses that may arise with re-traumatisation?

For those who may be wondering, when talking about trauma and complex trauma, research explains that the body keeps the score. So, in rehashing traumatic experiences, the body literally experiences all of the rage, terror, feelings of helplessness and negative emotions as if the abuse is happening in real time.

Is it then worth it to have individuals come forward with no contingency planning in place?

While I understand the need to bring people to justice and the importance of sharing stories to ensure we correct errors and refrain from repeating mistakes, I believe more can be done to protect those who have already suffered so much and their families alike.

As a mental health clinician, I would like to suggest a more trauma-informed approach be adopted. Understanding trauma and how it affects those experiencing it is the first step in helping traumatised people make sense of their personal experiences.

Talking about distressing feelings can indeed be therapeutic and can lend itself to resolve and healing. However, this comes with a caveat, and it should be done in a safe environment where individuals can access and explore traumatic memories with adequate support and feelings of empowerment and hope.

Rehashing trauma is messy as recounting such events is seldom pretty or done in an orderly fashion.

As we think of the survivors and their families, it is my hope that when we share their stories that the focus will be on the tenacity, gumption and resilience it takes individuals to survive traumatic ordeals and keep

keeping on, rather than the details of the horrific experiences they endured. Know better, do better TT!


Clinical therapist


"Think of abuse survivors, think of their families"

More in this section