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My NSPCC Story – Schools Service

Caroline’s son Luke* was sexually abused by a 13-year-old friend of the family when staying at his dad’s house. Luke’s behaviour had deteriorated over a period of months. He had become aggressive, and he had really low self-esteem. After seeing one of the NSPCC’s Speak Out Stay Safe assemblies, Luke disclosed the abuse to his mum Caroline at the age of seven years old. She believes that he would never have spoken out without the service. They reported what had happened to the police and Luke is now doing well.

We are a really normal family. My husband and I both work and we live at home with two happy children. Luke is my son from my first marriage – he’s normally a lively and energetic little boy. But over a period of months last year, I noticed a change in his behaviour. Every time he came home from staying over at his dad’s house, he would be acting really strangely and out of character. I remember he was very keen to get a mobile phone. I think he wanted it so that could call me when he was at his dad’s because he felt unsafe there.

It was nothing major at first. I thought he was just confused about my separation from his dad. Then he started getting aggressive and frustrated, mainly directing it at my husband. He would get annoyed and say that he hated himself. He would blame himself for things and be really self-critical. I think he was trying to deal with what was happening and it was coming out in an aggressive way. He had really low self-esteem.

His school were very concerned too. I remember speaking to one of his teachers who told me that she had noticed a massive decline in his behaviour and his attitude to learning.

I remember receiving a letter from the school about the NSPCC’s Speak out. Stay safe service coming to visit the children. I didn’t think anything of it at the time. On the day of the assembly, Luke came home and he was very quiet. He’s normally a really active little boy. He never sits still. But that day he was lying down by the window next to me while I was working. He seemed so withdrawn and exhausted. It was as though he had the world on his shoulders I gave him a hug. Thinking about it now, he was trying to tell me something.

“If it hadn’t been for that assembly, I honestly think the abuse would still be happening. The Schools Service needs to keep happening so that children understand what is right and wrong.”

Luke went swimming that evening and when he came home he was being really argumentative. We were struggling to get him to sleep that night. He was really upset and angry. He kept saying ‘I hate myself’. I couldn’t calm him down. He said that he wanted to kill himself. I just remember hugging him. I didn’t know what was wrong. I told him that there were people that he could talk to if he didn’t want to talk to me. He said that he knew that he could ring Childline. I asked him what he meant and he relayed the Childline phone number to me just like he’d seen it in the assembly that day at school.

He said he had something to tell me but that he didn’t want me to be cross. I told him that I wouldn’t be. He kept putting his head under the pillow. I remember he was sitting on the top bunk of the bed. I told him he could write it down if he didn’t want to say it out loud. I got a paper and pen. I can’t recall exactly how he said it – it’s all such a blur. But he told me he was being sexually abused by a boy called Jamie when staying over at his dad’s house. He wrote down more information about what had happened over the course of the next hour and a half. I remember him saying to me ‘I’ve had child abuse. That’s what it is and it’s wrong.’

I was so shocked. I wanted to cry but I couldn’t because I needed to be strong for Luke. I rang the NSPCC Helpline. I think I broke down but I can’t really remember. They told me that the police needed to be informed so I called them. Within an hour, the police had come round to take statement from me and the next day they took one from Luke. We had to wait a week for Luke to give video evidence which felt like too long. Luke couldn’t concentrate on anything during this time. The police felt that there wasn’t enough evidence to take the case to court in the end. I don’t know if I’d want my son to go through that process anyway.

In the following months, things started to get back to normal for Luke. He knew that the abuse would never happen again. Now he’s doing really well - the school have said that he seems much happier and his attitude towards learning is much better. His teacher even came to find me in the playground to say how well he’s doing and to say that she is really proud of him.

If it hadn’t been for that assembly, I honestly think the abuse would still be happening. The Schools Service needs to keep happening so that children understand what is right and wrong. It gave my son the words to articulate what had happened to him and to be able to say it was not ok. Luke remembered from the service that there is help out there for children and he had the right words to tell me that he wanted the abuse to stop. It’s so crucial that we find the resource to support this vital service. We need to focus more on the role that schools play in protecting children and keeping them safe.

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Caroline *

*Names and identifying features have been changed to protect identities

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