Speak up now now’

YOUNG people in the Coleraine area are the target of a powerful internet message to be launched this week by ChildLine.

The charity is launching a campaign to encourage children to speak out about physical abuse as new figures show a link to self harm and truancy.

ChildLine figures show that local bases in Londonderry and Belfast had a total of 349 counselling interactions with a child or young person who spoke about physical abuse. Of those, 590 described the abuse as hitting, and 142 as hitting with an object.

One call to the Foyle office from a teenage girl said: “I am really worried, sad and depressed.

“My mum is hitting me and emotionally hurting me. I find it difficult to handle this abuse. My friends are supportive but it is very hard. Chatting to ChildLine helps.”

New figures from a ChildLine self-selecting survey of 1,730 children and young people found that over 1,300 had suffered some level of abuse. Half of those who had suffered abuse said it had caused them to self-harm with over a quarter confessed to skipping school as a result of being abused.

Children reported that they were being punched, kicked or having their hair pulled.

ChildLine President Esther Rantzen says “It is devastating that so many vulnerable children are being seriously physically hurt, so often by the people closest to them, in their own homes where they should be safe but all too often they feel unable to speak to anybody about it.

“The suffering they endure in their young lives, often maps out their future. It is absolutely vital that children know there is always somebody they can trust at ChildLine, who will listen to them in complete confidence, comfort and protect them.”

NSPCC’s Physical Abuse in High Risk Families expert, Professor Julie Taylor, added: “We know that physical abuse has a hugely detrimental effect on children’s behaviour and education.

“Children and young people often express their feelings by causing harm to themselves or others. We also know that a child’s normal development can be damaged by witnessing or experiencing physical or emotional abuse at a young age. Seeking help as soon as possible can reduce the long term damage of physical abuse.”

To view the film, please go to ChildLine’s website www.childline.org.uk/physicalabuse or www.youtube.com/childline.