FGM follow up – DPP calls for mandatory reporting of cases.

DPP Alison Saunders

DPP Alison Saunders

Our last post was a call for greater awareness of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and our horror at the way the practise of cutting young girls can continue in communities in Britain seemingly without fear of prosecution.

To write on the subject last week was good timing. Over the weekend reports and comment in the national press indicated that the challenge of eradicating FGM is gaining support and prosecutions will become more common. However, it is still far from easy to see how this will come about.

The director of public prosecutions, Alison Saunders, has criticised medical staff for the poor number of referrals. Only 11 cases of female genital mutilation have been referred for prosecution by the police to the Crown Prosecution Service in the last three years, even though at least 144 complaints were made to police. The first prosecution for female genital mutilation was announced two weeks ago. It is 29 years after it became illegal in England and Wales.

The DPP was appearing before the House of Commons home affairs select committee, the Chairman of which, Keith Vaz said they had taken evidence that as many as 66,000 women in England and Wales had been subjected to FGM. “Eleven referrals sounds a very small figure,” he said.

The DPP claims it is lack of evidence that prevents prosecutions proceeding, rather than loopholes in the legislation. That is why she wants reporting by health staff to become compulsory, but she would not go so far as to say compulsory examination of girls, such as that required in France, should become part of British law.

We appreciate that this is a legal issue that is fraught with difficulties, but it is too important to be lost in a mire of discussion. Even the announcement of a prosecution has met with concern, as the case is not straightforward, involving as it does a repair rather than the actual act of FGM.

What do you think? Are we guilty of talking too much and doing too little? How should medical staff approach this? Are you in favour of compulsory examination of girls? After all it has almost eradicated FGM in France.

We would love to know your views. This is a subject we will come back to and a campaign we are committed to supporting.


A commitment to stop abuse: the NSPCC is our charity for 2014

nspcc_logo_masterHere at The Terrace in Taunton we have, for a number of years now, ‘adopted’ a charity with whom we work for a year and for whom we raise funds at various events. In the past we have supported bibic and St Margaret’s Somerset Hospice and both remain dear to our hearts. However, in 2013 we announced that we would be raising funds for the NSPCC and for the first time we are continuing that support into a second year. Why? Well the work we know they are doing to support our children and young people is getting more important as time passes, and technology develops that offers more opportunities for abuse to those intent on exploiting children. The government of the day always says they will put in place new rules and regulations to prevent those intent on ‘grooming’ girls and boys. But still it continues.

Child sexual exploitation rings have been uncovered in the big cities and most recently there have been big court cases involving perpetrators in  Rochdale and Oxford. It is hard to believe that this could happen in other, more rural areas such as here in the south-west of England where we assume communities are closer and we would notice if such a thing were happening. Many of those young people who fall victim to these gangs are vulnerable in some way – perhaps in local authority care or in a family where parental controls are not in place.

This is not the case. It is important to realise that  some abusers are brazen enough to approach young people in town centres in the middle of the day. They hang around schools, pick a ‘target’ and offer attention, making the young person feel special and taking them for coffee, flattering them in exchange for their mobile phone number.  An older man may make an under-age teenager feel they are more mature than their peers and encourage them to believe they are in a genuine relationship by showering them with expensive gifts.

campaignpngThe NSPCC offers support not only to young people but to parents and carers, to ensure we as adults recognise the signs and take action. We need to be on the look out for a change in habits, expensive items that we know our child could not have afforded, or a sudden need for secrecy about where they are going and who they are seeing. The young person may not perceive the behaviour of the man (it is rarely women, but not impossible so take nothing for granted) to be abusive and this can inevitably lead to friction so the NSPCC can be there for all sides, as can a counsellor or psychotherapist with particular skills in family mediation.

So this year we will once again be highlighting the work this wonderful charity does and working to raise funds for them. It is vital that we work hard to eradicate opportunities for the shocking abuse that can wreck young lives.

Go the NSPCC website  here for phone numbers to use to report a concern or for support in a crisis.

The Terrace Taunton offers support to families and to children and young people. See our website at www.the-terrace.co.uk for more details.

‘Sexting’ – how we must make sure young people know how to ‘Zipit’…

7841-Sexting234x346Here at The Terrace we are keen to promote charities that work to support children and protect those that are vulnerable, or who find themselves in situations that could leave them open to abuse and exploitation. We support the NSPCC as our chosen charity and run regular events to raise money for them, maintaining close links with the representative of the charity in the South West.

But it seems that we, as a society can never do enough. Those who want to abuse or place young people in the way of danger seem to find new ways to avoid detection and social media offers endless opportunities to put pressure on those with access to the internet to behave in ways that are harmful.

In the coming weeks we will be highlighting areas of concern that have been mentioned in the press, or which are part of good safeguarding practice. If you are a parent, a professional working with young people, or a young person we hope these posts will make you think and offer ways of identifying possible abuse. They will also offer you ways to address the issue.

Today we focus on ‘sexting’ – which generally refers to the sending and receiving of texts including pictures of young people naked, in their underwear or in sexual positions. It also includes text messages or videos of a sexual nature. They might be sent from a friend, boyfriend, girlfriend or a stranger met online. Often it starts as an innocent conversation, but can rapidly go further than one party intended it to.

The charity Childline receives many calls from young people in deep distress  – images of them may have ‘gone viral’ at school or in their community, causing deep embarrassment at least, and at worst a wish to run away or even to commit suicide. Matters are now particularly acute, as a Childline survey showed that 6 out of 10 children own a smartphone, offering instant access to such pictures and messages.

Childline gives the example of one  17-year-old boy who told them sexting was “pretty normal” among his friends.

“My friends and I talk very openly about our experiences within our relationships, and the sort of things we’ve sent each other. It seems like everyone’s doing it…Someone saw a video message I had sent to a previous girlfriend, took a screen shot and posted it online. They called me a pervert and lots of people I knew saw it….I was completely devastated and, to be honest, almost suicidal.”

Isn’t it shocking that we allow such a thing to become a ‘normal’ experience for our children, many of whom are not yet teenagers?

Our nominated charity, the NSPCC, commissioned a report which was published as long ago as May 2012. Findings showed:

  • the primary technology-related threat comes from peers, not ‘stranger danger’
  • sexting is often coercive
  • girls are the most adversely affected
  • technology amplifies the problem by facilitating the objectification of girls
  • sexting reveals wider sexual pressures
  • ever younger children are affected
  • sexting practices are culturally specific

This indicates that where many parents protect their children effectively from ‘stranger danger’, they do not take sufficient account of peer pressure.

Zipit_bannerChildline has developed a phone app called ‘Zipit’ which offers the opportunity for a young person to send an appropriate response to any ‘sexting‘ they receive – a witty ‘killer comeback’ that gives them control. Essentially though, we need to ensure that schools take responsibility for education children and young people about the dangers of sending sexy images or messages using their phone. We also need to encourage them to check out the Childline website which has a terrific section on how to deal with a situation that makes them feel uncomfortable. It is all about defusing the pressure that they feel coming at them from their peers.

So we must all make ourselves aware of the issue and recognise that we as adults are not always innocent in this area. Celebrities have been caught out tweeting images of themselves in compromising positions and something that we feel comfortable sending as a flirty message may feel very different when it is read at the other end of the ‘line’.

So take a look at all the great information on the websites of children’s charities. Awareness of these issues is a great start.


Make St Valentine work 365 days of the year….

Valentines-Day1-300x217More relationship tips for St Valentine’s Day – and today is the day…

For many, this is a day that can really intensify feelings of loneliness, and we do recognise that.  The commercialisation of one day of the year upon which all our hopes of love are apparently supposed to hang can be frustrating and, quite frankly, distasteful. But for others it can offer the opportunity to reconnect with a partner and really notice and appreciate them in a way that compensates a little for days we take them for granted as life’s stresses take over.

Our last post gave a few first tips for real intimacy with a partner, rather than just superficial romance. Today Jane Gotto offers more thoughts to build on that intimacy.

Firstly you can make your own Day – it does not need to be the 14th. It is difficult to highlight one day of the year as the most ‘romantic’. Make sure the time feels right.

Think about what quality you would like to bring into your relationship – you can check back with last week’s relationship tip – and see how you are getting on. Is it working for you? We had a number of people get in touch about last week’s post saying how quickly they had realised that their relationship was loving but that real intimacy had drifted away. You may not be getting the response you want directly,  but stay with your desire and what you want, and resist getting resentful and critical.  Changes can take time and the response from the other person can come in unexpected ways.

Secondly, what would make this period of  St Valentine’s different and special, and even a ‘growing experience’? Perhaps  you could spend time every day for the next week telling your partner about something you really like about them –  a quality of theirs, something they have done for you, something they have thought of or taken time with. The important thing is to say it to them, in a way they can hear. Hopefully, they will want to join in and do the same for you.

Discuss what would be a fun and a novel way to ‘celebrate’ your relationship during this time. Some music, a walk, a leisurely day spent together, cooking your favourite meal, having dinner…..

The secret is not what you do, it is HOW YOU DO IT. To help you get in the mood, here is a poem to inspire you, one that wraps you in a really intimate embrace of its own…

The Hug by Thom Gunn

It was your birthday, we had drunk and dined
Half of the night with our old friend
Who’d showed us in the end
To a bed I reached in one drunk stride.
Already I lay snug,
And drowsy with the wine dozed on one side.

I dozed, I slept. My sleep broke on a hug,
Suddenly, from behind,
In which the full lengths of our bodies pressed:
Your instep to my heel,
My shoulder-blades against your chest.
It was not sex, but I could feel
The whole strength of your body set,
Or braced, to mine,
And locking me to you
As if we were still twenty-two
When our grand passion had not yet
Become familial.
My quick sleep had deleted all
Of intervening time and place.
I only knew
The stay of your secure firm dry embrace.

So do take a look at our previous post alongside this one and let us know what you think these tips could add to your relationship. Or let us know what already works for you – we would love to hear your own tips.

Relationship tips for St Valentine’s Day & beyond..

240px-Antique_Valentine_1909_01In recent weeks Jane Gotto has been offering a ‘Relationship Tip of the Week’ on our Facebook page for those of us interested in Valentine’s Day, or for anyone interested in a good opportunity to refresh and look at a relationship. Today we bring some of the most recent ones together and next week will make a digest with some new ones for the big day itself.

So firstly,  have a thought about what you  are putting into the relationship in comparison to what you would like to take out of it.

So if you are thinking ‘I would like her/him to be warmer towards me ‘, ask yourself the question “How am I being warm?”

If you would like more affection , the same question applies –  “How am I being affectionate towards my partner?”

It’s so easy to want something different and expect someone else to give it to us – and we can often feel quite entitled and expect that ‘they should’ be meeting this need.  However, when we think in this way we are being judgemental and attacking.

Thinking of what we would like, and seeing ways we can put this quality into our relationship for ourselves, is taking responsibility. Taking responsibility is also being able to find a way to talk to our partner when we do want something different or to make a change; we can find ourselves saying it in a caring and open way and allowing them time to hear it, digest it and continue the conversation. That is INTIMACY!

Romance is different from intimacy, and it is intimacy we are looking for to satisfy us in long-term relationships. Romance is the unexpected, not knowing, being whisked up and into the ‘romantic bubble’. This is great in its right place, such as the beginning of the relationship, but long-term it does not last or satisfy. Real connection comes from commitment, and that contact with another creates an intimate relationship.

So coming back to Valentine’s Day –  if you find this idea interesting, look at  how you can you create connection and contact with your partner  and just what you would you need to do or say. It is a challenge, but that deep intimacy is the basis for a lasting and nourishing relationship with a partner.

Psychotherapy & Complementary therapies – how to convince, not confuse

147285612There is no doubt that the world of psychotherapy, counselling and complementary therapy has much to offer us as human beings, working  towards emotional well-being and physical good health. But occasionally, it seems, the simple fact that there are so many different types of therapy to choose alongside, or instead of, conventional medicine confuses  the lay person. The language excludes them, the choices are too numerous and the benefits seem uncertain.

It is difficult to address this. Therapists often stay within their ‘modality’ or specific approach, others are happy to work across the different schools of thought. But what is most important is the eventual benefit to those who seek help.

Gestalt, Humanistic, Core Process, Cognitive behavioural, Psychodynamic, Mindfulness, Neuro-linguistic programming, Life-coaching.  Hypnotherapy, Reflexology, Reiki, Bowen, Homeopathy, Cranio-sacral, Acupuncture. These are but a few of the options open to a newcomer to the field. For many, even the apparent distinction between ‘counselling’ and ‘psychotherapy’ is confusing. Some feel the therapy will prove too expensive; they don’t realise that they are also involved in the work and that often the therapy must continue for a long time. Some might need to come with a partner, or will be best served in individual or group work.

So it is really important to explain all the possibilities to a client, and offer sufficient time to make a proper assessment. Some clients will sit with a therapist, with whom they cannot properly connect, simply because they are too embarrassed to say so.   The triggers that have encouraged them to seek help are many and various and it is the skill of the therapist that ensures the interactions are successful and that sensitive issues are handled properly. An in-depth training is vital of course, but a good therapist is not born of book-reading.

Are there any therapies you would like more information about? Do you think the world of psychological therapies and complementary medicine is too confusing and exclusive?

Your thoughts?

The Terrace Humanistic Psychotherapy & Complementary Therapy Centre, Taunton, Somerset

2014: On the New Year – resolutions, re-acting and relationships…

newyearHappy New Year and our best wishes to you for health and happiness in 2014.

There are many ways people support themselves towards health and happiness at the beginning of the year  – many of us start by making ‘New Year’s resolutions’.

That’s great – and it is an opportunity to see what you like about yourself and your life and to make decisions to improve the areas you would like to change.

Importantly, making New Year’s resolutions which are genuinely possible to achieve can create a feeling of well-being and increased self-esteem. It’s good to consider, carefully in the cold light of your life,  the decisions you have made to see if they are realistic, and if the time scale is actually possible. Re-negotiating a resolution could make all the difference to achieving it. That is a success, and puts you in charge of the decision you have made.

You might also need support or a ‘buddy’ to help you achieve what you want; making it public and sharing an aim can be more fun and you can enjoy the process too!

Enjoying the process is really fundamental to the continued success of what you want to achieve. It is one thing to make a change, but to feel good and substantial about that change is long-lasting and makes you feel good about yourself.

Couple with counsellorWe also have to consider whether, for those relationship changes that are important, having as ‘D-Day’ that one day at the beginning of January is a good thing. Often people find they are reassessing their lives after major celebrations or life events – Christmas, birthday, a bereavement or redundancy for example – and although these are important moments, they are also times to meditate on, and take time with, a decision. Taking that time and making space for contemplation may make for a better long-term result than the initial ‘re-acting’.

So if you are considering ending a relationship, take time to understand what that really means. Talk about it with your partner (if that is possible) so that when you come to your final decision it is well-considered, thought through and processed. At this point it can be beneficial to include professional counselling. When people do this the outcome is genuinely better emotional and mental health for themselves and for their family.

This Christmas and New Year had a particular spirit which seemed softer, and I keep hearing people talk about feeling good about 2014. My best wishes to you for yours.

Jane Gotto