Young Women’s Housing Project is a Sexual Abuse Support Service, based in Sheffield, South Yorkshire in the United Kingdom. This specialist service in the UK offers supported accommodation and therapeutic provision to young women aged 16–25 years and their children, who have been affected by sexual abuse, sexual exploitation and intimate partner abuse. By establishing appropriate trusting relationships, their specialist support workers enable recovery and wellbeing. They offer a range of services to help young women get back on their feet; one of the ways in which they do that is by delivering the Parents As First Teachers programme. Here is one mother’s story.
Hi, my name is Ruby.
At the ages of 12 and 13, I was sexually abused by someone who me and my family trusted a lot.
Before I met this man, I was the most outgoing, confident and happy young girl you could of ever met! I had tons of friends in school, I dressed how a typical young girl would in shorts and dresses in the summer and I trusted and confided in everyone around me. However, once the abuse started, I became completely withdrawn from everything. I had no friends, zero confidence, and I started to dress in baggy clothes and always had a coat on, rain or shine.
In school, I started eating my lunch in the toilets until I was caught and they informed me of a safe haven where I could go at dinner times. In here, I felt that I was safe from the outside world. My behaviour started to become violent and aggressive to the point I was permanently excluded from this school for fighting and lashing out.
From here, I went to a behavioural unit for 6 months. This gave me an environment which was more relaxed to be able to focus on school work but I still had major anxiety, trust issues and aggression.
I was then transferred back into mainstream school where, again, I was constantly being excluded, always in isolation and detention and most days was in a fight.
I was denied my right to go to prom due to bad behaviour but nobody ever tried to understand why my behaviour had changed so much and why my grades had fallen so much.
I passed my GCSEs (stands for General Certificates in Secondary Education – I think this would be equivalent to GED?) by the skin of my teeth and I got a place in college.
This is where I met the loveliest lady who was my course tutor and I finally, after 5 years of keeping it to myself, confided in her about the abuse! I had already told my mum a few days before but if it wasn’t for my tutor, I don’t think I would have ever had the confidence to do it. This was the best feeling in the world. The police were informed and they were brilliant at handling my case.
A couple of years later, Covid hit and our trial was postponed. This was heart breaking and then when the next court date came, the jury came to a stand still. I cried so much and I was actually pregnant at this time with my daughter but she gave me the strength to go for a re-trial. This date came and by this point I was living in supported accommodation with the Young Women’s Housing Project due to being homeless and 34 weeks pregnant. The support I received from YWHP was outstanding and I had the best support worker.
The re-trial date came and my support worker and her team at YWHP were brilliant. They sent their love and support with words, gifts and just their presence sometimes was enough for me to feel ok. I knew that I was safe to bring my girl into this world whilst I was working with YWHP!
Unfortunately, the trial did not go as planned as he was found not guilty! I was heartbroken but I had a 4 month old to take care of.
YWHP provided all sorts for my little girl like nappies, wipes, toys, books, stimulating activities, day trips.
With my support worker, we did Parents As First Teachers which is a programme for new parents to engage in different activities with their babies which are all age appropriate to help them get their development on track. Me and my daughter love doing these activities as I can see such a difference in her when we do them. She’s so smiley and happy and I feel so lucky and proud to be able to engage in something with my baby knowing that she loves it. The programme concentrates on bringing you and your baby closer together and helps baby develop at the natural pace. My daughter still loves doing PAFT activities and I love watching her widen her skill set.
Me and my daughter have benefitted so much from YWHP and I will be forever grateful for their support throughout me trying to put a monster behind bars at the same time as trying to be the best first time mom I could be. The staff at YWHP made this possible for me! I also access a counselling service through YWHP which is amazing and is helping me so much with my mental health and stability to be able to get on with my life as normal as possible.
I now have a Boyfriend of 2 and a half years who is also the father to our beautiful 7 month old daughter! I could not be happier! He is amazing with our baby and she absolutely adores her daddy!
I still find it hard to this day to trust anyone and I have major anxiety issues around men especially but the support from my boyfriend has been the best! I am also volunteering at the behavioural unit I attended after being excluded from school and its one of the most amazing feelings being able to tell the kids my story and listen to theirs in order for them to get the best out of their school life and hopefully give them the courage to speak up about what is bothering them, like I did.
I now live in a council flat which I am currently decorating with my boyfriend to make it feel like our home and we plan on having our second child here in a few months time. I am in a happy place right now and I still work very closely with my support worker from YWHP even though I’m not in their accommodation anymore. I will continue to access their counselling service for as long as I need and I WILL become the young lady I was supposed to be all along. I am very proud of myself so far and I will continue to put in the work and accept the help in order to become my best self.
Thank you for reading my story.
Submitted by Bec Slater, Parents as First Teachers Director and National Trainer, United Kingdom. Thanks to Kate Jones, YWHP Programme Supervisor, for sharing this story.