Stories: Children, Communities, Futures

Helpline from the frontline: a counsellor’s perspective

Regina* is 17 years old. She called the helpline to seek help in escaping ongoing sexual abuse.

Both Regina’s parents are deceased. She lives with her married older sister, who struggles to make ends meet for her own children – let alone Regina.

Regina grew up in poverty after her father died. She felt like an outcast at school because her mother could not afford to buy new clothes, shoes or books, or pay for her bus fare to school.

She became isolated from her peers and developed very low self-esteem.

Regina first faced sexual abuse when she was just 14. She was lured to a hotel room by a man from her community. Regina reports the man is in his 50s. Since then, she has experienced regular abuse.

Initial discussion

My first conversation with Regina was an invitation. I asked if she would feel comfortable to talk to me about what she was going through.

Regina began to explain her situation and her feelings. She cried as she told me about all the hurt she had been feeling for years.

The abuse had already affected Regina’s academic performance, and she had also lost her appetite and a lot of weight.

I identified that Regina was experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder.

I explained how she could report the abuse to the police and confide in her sister so she could get protection and escape the situation.

I also encouraged her to change her phone number and stop communicating with the perpetrator.

The counsellor speaking at a school

Follow up phone calls

I made follow up calls every week to support Regina and check on her progress.

Once she was free from her abuser, I helped her to deal with the emotional impact of the abuse.

I helped her to see ways she could feel confident again, how to think about a brighter future and to focus on school and finishing her education.

the counsellor in the helpline office

Other Notes

Regina learned about the helpline when we visited her school to educate students about physical and sexual violence.

We make school visits to raise awareness about the helpline, and help put an end to violence against children.

Our visit empowered Regina to fight back and take control of her situation. Until then, she could not see an alternative to her abusive situation.

Outcomes

Counselling has helped Regina feel more psychologically and emotionally stable. She has been able to understand her self-worth and has escaped her abuser.

Overall, she has recovered emotionally, is more confident, and has regained some control over her life.

Finally, Regina now feels mentally prepared for school, and knows that she can pursue her dreams and look forward to a brighter future.

* Name has been changed to protect the child’s identity

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