'I speak to so many brave young people': Leeds woman who went from Childline caller to counsellor

A woman who called Childline as a child and later became a volunteer has spoken about how proud she is to help the charity continue to support vulnerable children.

Friday, 24th January 2020, 5:00 pm
The woman turned to Childline as a teen after suffering sexual abuse

After suffering sexual abuse and relentless bullying from the age of 12, the woman first contacted Childline when she was 16 years old.

She said: “So incredibly lonely, feeling dirty and ashamed from the sexual abuse, I began to self-harm. I felt suicidal and even made plans to end my life.

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“I decided to contact Childline for a one-to-one chat and for the first time in a long time, I felt someone understood me. They never interrupted, were never impatient and accepted that, at times, I might not say much but it didn’t mean I wasn’t engaged. Childline gave me a place where I could talk and find solace.”

She said the Childline message boards were of enormous significance as for the first time she could access peer support.

“I have never forgotten certain messages or threads about self-harm and about sexual abuse that changed my life. They gave me hope and helped me realise it wasn’t my fault. They even suggested I should be a Childline counsellor one day and now, I can’t tell you how proud I am to say, I am one.”

As a teenager, the Leeds volunteer was offered a regular counselling session with the same contact each time.

“For the next two years every Sunday evening I shared my life with Karen. She was so kind, honest and absolutely hilarious, making me feel that I could do anything I wanted to do with my life.

"She knew that when I was struggling, just mentioning my favourite TV show could calm me, make me smile and start again. Childline sat through my anger and my pain, they heard me even when I had no words to tell them how scared or hurt I was. I remember the day after my Granny died, I had been talking to Karen for quite a while. I had quite a big meltdown that night, I was shouting, screaming and crying down the phone but Karen stayed with me. I managed to somehow mute myself and Karen could no longer hear me but I could hear her. It was that moment, when she didn’t even know I was still there but she was still talking to me, calmly, until she had to go, that I will never forget.

“Childline helped me understand that the sexual abuse was not OK, it is a shock to hear at first and finally realise what it is that is happening. I am no longer ashamed of what happened to me, I no longer feel dirty and I forgave myself for not being able to make it stop sooner.

She said she always knew she would volunteer for the charity, adding that her own situation helped her understand how important the service is for the young people who get in touch.

“I knew first-hand how vital a service it is and I know how important it is to be there to listen to young people and give them a voice, just as Childline gave me a voice,” the woman said.

She added: “As a counsellor I speak to many brave young people. I always feel proud of every single person who has the courage to come through and talk to us about what is going on in their lives.

“It is never easy to listen to young people share their stories and wishing you could just take their pain away but I know the difference being given a space to talk can make. To go from feeling like you have nothing, to realising that your life is worth something – that is the true meaning of empowering young people.”