Abuse charity celebrates first year

A Sidmouth mum-of-four, who entered a downward spiral after being abused as a child has bounced back and helped develop a support victims’ network - which is due to celebrate its first birthday in August.

Kelly Smith, 29, said because of abuse, she turned to drink and drugs and had her children taken into care.

She was at rock bottom when she met Patsy Tobin, the founder of Helping Hands Against Abuse (HHAA).

“She founded the group because her daughter had been abused and she wanted to provide a help network and education to stop it happening and to make people realise that they are not alone,” said Kelly, of Manstone Avenue, Sidmouth.

“She made me realise that I could get through my problems and that I could help other people too.

“We’re not trained, we’re not professionals, we just want to help people based on the experience we’ve had.”

After overcoming her drug addiction and tackling her emotional trauma through counselling Kelly has her children back and is now one of HHAA’s 11 administrators nationwide.

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She helps provide online support to 896 members across the country who access resources through the organisation’s “cyber family”.

“It’s about letting people know there is support out there and that they are not the only one,” said Kelly.

“Abuse is a lonely road. When I was abused I thought I was the only one but now I work with over 800 people who’ve experienced some kind of abuse. Our main purpose is to show sufferers that they’re not alone and that actually figures show that abuse is on the rise.”

HHAA helps men, women and children of all ages who have suffered or been affected by abuse, including child sexual abuse, domestic violence, or any kind of physical or mental abuse.

The administrators provide support and a listening ear and refer those who come to them to professionals where necessary.

“It’s not all doom and gloom; we have some fun too and it’s important that sufferers learn to laugh again,” added Kelly.

On August 10 to 12 HHAA will throw a first anniversary Hawaiian-themed beach party in Exmouth.

“It’s about raising awareness but also having a bit of fun,” said Kelly. “It will be a double celebration if we manage to secure charity status.”

The organisation hopes to expand its reach to younger people by rolling out its Good Touch Bad Touch campaign into schools across the UK to educate and empower young children about appropriate and inappropriate contact.