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Trauma network care plan for victims of abuse

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A ‘SIGNIFICANT’ amount of money is being sought to set up a centralised network to support adult victims suffering from complex trauma in the wake of decades of sexual abuse, the JEP can reveal.

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Specialist psychologists and clinicians – likely to come from outside of the Island – would be recruited as part of the plan to set up a Jersey Complex Trauma Network.

Dr Tara Woodward, consultant clinical psychologist for Jersey Talking Therapies and the Specialist Psychology Services, said up to 80% of the workload of clinicians she worked closely with involved dealing with adults with complex personality-related disorders. These can be conditions that are often, but not always, brought on by prolonged sexual trauma.

‘In the time I have worked over here I have never seen so much complex trauma as a result of complex sexual abuse as I have in this Island,’ said the psychologist, who spent five years working in Scotland before returning to Jersey in 2005.

‘I did not see anyone with complex post-traumatic stress disorder or complex personality disorders in Scotland. Here there are lots. It’s about 80% of my case load of about 15 patients with severe and complex specialist psychological needs. The three other full-time equivalents will have similar case loads with similar issues.

‘They’re not all victims of sexual trauma, but it is right to say that victims of sexual trauma are likely to develop complex personality disorders.’

Dr Woodward said more and more patients in Jersey were presenting with complex post-traumatic stress disorder. Sufferers present normal symptoms associated with PTSD such as flashbacks and nightmares, as well as more complex issues including dissociation symptoms, a loss of their sense of self and regular suicidal thoughts.

‘Complex PTSD is caused as a result of long-term exposure to life-threatening or persistent abuse, as we might see with people in the Island who were subject to years of sexual abuse.’

The Independent Jersey Care Inquiry heard two years of evidence about decades of institutionalised physical, emotional and sexual abuse in Jersey’s care system.

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Dr Woodward said more victims than ever were coming forward to get help for historic abuse in the wake of Care Inquiry, the exposure of Jimmy Savile and high-profile investigations locally and in the UK.

Statistics released this week showed that 116 alleged child victims of abuse reported claims to the police between April 2017 and the end of March this year, or, on average, one child every five days.

The proposed Jersey Complex Trauma Network, which would bring together other agencies such as drug and alcohol support groups, mental-health charities and domestic violence experts, would be dedicated to adults.

Dr Woodward said Jersey’s much-publicised high drinking rates, may, in part, be attributable to the levels of historic abuse in the Island.

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A Health and Community Services Department spokeswoman said the amount of funding being applied for for the new programme could not be revealed due to ‘commercial confidentiality’. Dr Woodward described it as a ‘significant’ amount. A decision is due to be made in October.

The government spokeswoman added: ‘The Independent Jersey Care Inquiry found that many adults still living on the Island, who had suffered physical and sexual abuse while in Jersey’s care system, had suppressed their traumatic childhood experiences. One of the panel’s recommendations stated that Jersey needed to further develop accessible services to meet the different recovery needs of survivors.

‘In a bid to meet this need, officers from the Health and Community Services Department submitted a business case on how to resource the service to the Government Plan in May 2019 for the proposal of the development of something which would offer bespoke support for people who have survived what is known as complex trauma, called the Jersey Complex Trauma Network.

‘The proposal to develop a Jersey Complex Trauma Network is one of a range of responses designed to meet the mental-health needs of people with complex trauma in support of their recovery. Under the proposed plans, the service would be staffed by a range of professionals including a consultant forensic psychologist, clinical psychologists and sexual health domestic violence counsellors.’

Currently, survivors of physical and sexual abuse can access support and therapy through Jersey Talking Therapies and Psychology Services, both of which are run by Health and Community Services.

Dr Woodward said the waiting times for Jersey Talking Therapies were well documented and moved to urge people worried about their mental health to seek help as soon as possible.

‘Our wait times for Step Two [the least complex conditions] is weeks, for Step Three it’s months and months. Please go and see your GP early before it becomes more serious,’ she added.

Jack Maguire

By Jack Maguire
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