I survived child abuse and now I’m a trustee for the small charity that helped me

By Dawn Neville, Trustee, National Association for People Abused in Childhood

First published in the Guardian on 22 June 2017

As a survivor of child abuse and rape, I’ve always been passionate about doing work that makes a real difference to people’s lives. As a charity communicator, some of my proudest achievements have been for small charities.

That’s the reason I recently volunteered to support the National Association of People Abused in Childhood (NAPAC), by becoming one of their trustees. The other reason is that, a few years ago, when I finally came face-to-face with my own childhood experiences, if I hadn’t been able to talk to someone on NAPAC’s support line, I don’t know who else I could have turned to.

NAPAC is a small national charity that makes a serious impact with just 10 staff and about 30 volunteers. It’s vital to recognise the amazing work of charities like NAPAC, which shows the real impact a small charity can have.

Five years ago, the charity used to get about 10,000 call attempts a year. But since the Jimmy Savile report in 2013, demand has shot up. In 2016/17, it received a staggering 88,000 call attempts. But its funding has not increased on the same scale.

This intense increase in demand for the charity’s services is partly due to the media coverage the charity receives following every high-profile case or TV programme, such as the BBC’s Three Girls drama based on the true stories of victims of grooming and sexual abuse in Rochdale.

On some days, callers struggle to get through. We don’t have the marketing might to reach out for funding in the same way that big charities do, yet a relatively small increase in funds would make a big difference.

I know only too well how important it is to pick up these calls. Child abuse profoundly affects a person’s whole life: their mental and emotional health, their physical health, with trauma being linked to chronic disease, and their relationships.

If someone is brave enough to pick up the phone, this may be the first person they are ever telling about it. One in seven callers to our charity are sharing the abuse they suffered with someone for the first time. Imagine if nobody picks up.

When callers get through to our charity, we can make an incredible, positive and lasting impact on their lives. Even people in their twilight years, who may have never told a soul about their experiences, can start on the road to recovery. It’s heartwarming, and if it weren’t for this small charity, making a huge impact, where would they be?

In spite of its small size, NAPAC leads the way in terms of child abuse recovery, and has developed highly effective support tools based on its unrivalled expertise in trauma-focused work with survivors. This includes highly effective survivor support groups (when we have funding for them), for which demand massively outstrips supply.

Being a small charity focused on this one issue has enabled NAPAC to really understand what it takes to help survivors turn their lives around.

One of the ways I’m looking to help is by investigating different forms of funding, including corporate partnerships and sponsorship.

NAPAC, and the countless other small charities in the UK who do great work, are always looking for support, whether as a volunteer, regular donor or an advocate for the wider needs of adult survivors of abuse.

Click here to read the piece on the Guardian Voluntary Sector Network

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