15 August 2011

Where is there help for those who suffer FGM in the UK?

Where is there help for those who suffer FGM in the UK?

For girls that suffer FGM, it is a very traumatic event, as often these girls do not know what is going to happen to them. Their heads are filled with promises of wonderful gifts and becoming a woman, but what they receive instead is a life full of pain and suffering which is more than physical.

The psychological implications of FGM can be huge. Although the physical wounds may heal, the emotional trauma can cause the girls longer term pain. Due to the age these girls are when FGM is carried out, many people will put their change in mood and attitude down to hormones and often the girls do not get professional help to deal with their feelings.

I have spent the last 18 months training on a Counselling and Therapeutic Interventions course for working with women overcoming experiences of violence. Run by the Women & Girls Network,they offer survivors of gendered violence an integrated range of therapies aimed at sustainable recovery, empowering and transforming women’s lives to move from survivors to thrivers. Apart from skills in communication and diversity, we studied the myths and realities, types and consequences of violence. A difficult challenge for women is breaking the silence. When women do, one of the places offering support is The Women’s Therapy Centre.

The thousands of women’s organisations across the UK sometimes need to work together to support women and achieve more together. The Women’s Resource Centre helps organisations lobby, campaign, resource and train its people on relevant topics, enabling them to be strong, resilient and independent. Their values cover sustainability; professionalism; collaboration; integrity; equality and feminism.

Knowing where to go for help is the first stop on the road to recovery. In the current economy, we need to lobby government to ensure sufficient mental health, education and social services are provided for women in need.

If girls recovering from FGM are given counselling, it can help them overcome the trauma. Many of these girls may go on to suffer from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). This commonly occurs after an emotionally traumatic event such as FGM. Such events and experiences can make us question safety and destroy trust we held in others. These girls may become unable to cope with, or understand, the ideas, emotions and reasons for them suffering FGM at the hands of their families.

These types of trauma can be helped with counselling and psychotherapy as it can help the girls come to terms with what happened to them and help them move on. It is important for them to talk to someone as trauma such as FGM can lead to other mental health issues such as depression, loss of self esteem, anger problems, flashbacks and nightmares.

In the longer term, girls or young women may need the support of African Women’s Clinics to consider their reproductive health needs, maternity support or deinfibulation (FGM Type III reversal).