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Mental Health Support to Victims of FGM With DORCAS

FGM charity DORCAS have teamed up with Leicester based counselling service My Solution Wellbeing to provide therapy for FGM victims.

In the UK it is estimated that around 137,000 women have undergone Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and an estimated 60,000 girls under 15 years old are at risk.

The practice of FGM in the UK became a crime in 1985, and since then, there have been two convictions. The most recent was the conviction of Amina Noor last year in assisting in the FGM of a 3-year-old girl abroad.

Jaspreet Aujla, the executive administrator for DORCAS and manager for the Leicester branch, believes that the UK conviction rates for FGM are too low compared to other countries:

“If you look at the country next to us France they prosecute massively, they have prosecuted over 100 parents and practitioners. If you compare that to the UK it’s unbelievable, we are very far behind and we shouldn’t be because our levels of FGM are too high.”

The UK has legislation in place against the practice and assistance of FGM, known as the Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003.

Tessa Clarke, CEO, and support services manager of DORCAS says, “I feel like the legislation that is in place is quite robust, and there is a lot of safety when you look at it on paper, but the fact that it is not actually actioned or brought to court is a different story all together.”

 

Tessa offers an insight into why the conviction rates in the UK is so low:

 

“A lot of women don’t know they have had FGM. Lots of girls grow up thinking that it is normal and when they do come to realise, they don’t want to prosecute their family members.”

There is not enough evidence for the police to prosecute and there is not enough coming forward for them to take it to court. Could that be down to the families and communities lack of trust with the police and healthcare professionals?”

Are professionals scared to get involved because they think the race card is going to be brought up on them? Probably, but they have a duty of care and are they exercising that duty of care? Well from our point of view you’re not. Why have we only got two convictions when the prevalence is so high? This is a child protection matter and should be taken more seriously than what the Uk are currently doing.”

Not only does the charity feel that there is a lack of justice for victims but also not enough mental health support due to a lack of counsellors that are specialists around FGM.

 

“The NHS do a great job, but they are limited in what they can do. They offer 6 free sessions with a counsellor but again are they specialists around FGM? Do they understand the level of trauma and are they culturally aware?” Tessa says.

 

“People from black and Asian minorities are less likely to come forward for mental health issues. It is a hidden crime so when it comes to accessing therapeutic services many won’t come forward because they have to disclose that they have gone through FGM and it’s that shame and embarrassment around that.

And then it is the specialisms around it, you need someone who understands FGM, the culture and around the sensitivity and if you don’t have that then you will find that women are not going to want to come forward and engage.”

 

Currently, DORCAS does not receive Government funding but gets support from external funders such as the National Lottery and the Leicester police.

 

Tessa says that

“Government funding of FGM is very sporadic and is not consistent,” and “If the NHS or the Government funded FGM services properly then more women and more children could access counselling on a long-term basis, and it will be beneficial as opposed to six weeks of scratching the surface.”

Jaspreet adds that

“I also think you would find that people would come forward more.”

DORCAS will now be working with My Solution Wellbeing in Leicester to provide long-term mental health support and counselling to FGM victims.

 

“It is a great partnership because we are always going to need the therapists and the counsellors.” Jaspreet says.

The director of My Solution Wellbeing Gurbinder Singh said:

“It is a pleasure to work in partnership with DORCAS, this is an opportunity to provide mental health support for women who have been affected by FGM that have nowhere to turn to. There are not enough services that are culturally aware around this matter, and after having our staff trained through DORCAS, we want to create a safe environment to support victims.”

 

DORCAS is a registered charity that has been created to promote and protect the human rights of girls and women who are at risk of abuse; in particular those who are at risk of or have undergone female genital mutilation (FGM). Our mission is to raise awareness about FGM and work with partnership agencies to help people affected by this practice and ultimately help end this abhorrent crime.

Their ultimate aim is to end this practice and offer support to those who have no voice and no choice.

 

A message from DORCAS:

 

We have adapted our unique counselling trauma service to provide support as we know it is a lifeline for many FGM survivors, who may have life-long physical health issues and emotional scars which can make them especially vulnerable.

Survivors of FGM are not only affected physically but psychologically, and their presenting issues include:

 

  • Trauma issues, including PTSD
  • Feelings of shame, embarrassment, or guilt
  • Lack of, or low, self-esteem
  • Sexual issues/anxiety around sex
  • Depression
  • General anxiety
  • Anger
  • Romantic relationship issues
  • Trust issues
  • Physical pain/discomfort
  • Body image issues
  • Social withdrawal/ isolation
  • Difficulties managing the incongruence between cultures
  • Fear, or anxiety, around disclosure
  • Feelings of helplessness, or loss of control
  • Confusion
  • Reproduction/childbirth issues
  • Affects all aspects of life
  • Acceptance
  • Difficulties expressing feelings, emotions, or experiences
  • Self-loathing
  • Substance misuse
  • Re-experiencing (flashbacks/nightmares)
  • Denial/dissociation
  • Suicidal ideation/self-harming behaviour
  • Feelings/fear of being judged
  • Loss, or confusion, of self-identity
  • Attachment issues
  • Fear of medical intervention
  • Feelings of dehumanisation
  • Feeling betrayed
  • Eating-related issues
  • Feelings of loss

Counsellors will provide individual therapeutic services to survivors of FGM through trauma therapy, CBT, EMDR, psychosexual therapy, relationship issues, mindfulness, hypnotherapy, and various other person-centred approaches. Group therapy is also facilitated, which includes well-being, mindfulness, self-esteem, and confidence building. Each counsellor works alongside a support worker, who will offer the client continued support throughout the duration of their counselling, allowing us to provide a holistic service.

Counselling can help in many ways at various stages they are in their life. It can act as a support if they are in the initial process of accepting that FGM has happened to them and the consequences of this abuse.  It can help to restore self-esteem and confidence and re-examine healthy ways of relating following abuse, substance abuse, eating disorders, and suicide.

Learn more information at their website https://dorcasuk.com/

Written By Ria Kaur 

 

 

By MSWB Team on 27/03/2024 in News

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