OPINION: Our children are so precious, especially in this current time

PUBLISHED: 09:30 18 May 2020 | UPDATED: 09:38 18 May 2020

Children need protection at the best of times, but even more so as they spend more and more time at home with schools closed, says The Lady Dannatt

Children need protection at the best of times, but even more so as they spend more and more time at home with schools closed, says The Lady Dannatt


The Lady Dannatt MBE, HM Lord-Lieutenant of Norfolk, says this a time we need focus on our children and ensure they have our love and support

What a superb, timely and welcome initiative is this. I have often spoken of these ‘hidden crimes’ i.e. those that are taking place behind bolted doors and curtained windows, every hour of every day, without respite. To be blunt, children being abused, physically, mentally, and sexually by the very people who should be protecting them the most. Family should be our safe haven. Sometimes, tragically, the complete opposite is true.

In Norfolk alone we have a staggering 9,500 children who have already reported being sexually abused. And these are just the ones of which we know. Unbelievably, nearly 10,000 of them. And there will be hundreds more believe me, who are too traumatised, too ashamed and above all else, too scared to come forward. For now, the abuse will largely be at the hand of family members without a doubt. Hidden crimes indeed. And crimes that stretch right across every echelon of society.

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Until recently, I counselled one day a week for the Sue Lambert Trust in Norwich. It will be organisations and charities such as these,
 SLT, Homestart, NSPCC,
 that will need every kind of support, particularly financial, in the weeks, months and years ahead. They will be completely deluged by clients once lockdown is relaxed. The effects of sexual abuse in childhood destroys any semblance of childhood at all. And unchecked, it can go on to wreck every aspect of adult lives like little else. We all have a responsibility to raise children who will thrive in society; not children who are so damaged by their childhood experiences that later on they may need months, even years of therapy, just to survive.

Recently I received a lovely photo of a young mother with her two little children playing in a sun-lit paddling pool in their tiny back yard. Few would have guessed at the unbelievable pain and trauma this young woman has experienced in the past, before eventually being offered asylum in UK. We should be so proud as a community here in Norwich, this City of Sanctuary, of the fine tradition of support, acceptance and love offered to young families such as these. Childhood does not wait. And alongside this, if just one rainbow postcard reaches a child in need, the project will have succeeded without a doubt.

And the best news for us as a family earlier this month? After eight amazing young grandsons, we finally have a granddaughter! My hope for little Theodora Rose, as indeed it is for every child across this remarkable county of ours, can be summed up in these words: ‘We didn’t realise we were making memories; we just knew we were having fun.’

Let us together do all we can to ensure as many of our children as possible have the chance to make precious, happy childhood memories, safe and protected from all forms of fear, violence, exploitation and abuse. Above all, may they know they are truly cherished. And so importantly, may they also, please, have fun!

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