Tessa Munt

Tessa Munt, Burnham-On-Sea’s former MP and a current Somerset County Councillor, has this week spoken out about her experience of suffering sexual abuse as a child to mark Stop Child Exploitation Day.

The former MP is now Somerset County Council’s Executive Member for Children and Families. During her time in Parliament she campaigned for an independent enquiry into historic sex abuse.

Tessa says: “My childhood experiences made me absolutely passionate about child safeguarding, and I work with a team that feels the same – teachers, social workers, health visitors, police officers, nurses and councillors alike – every one of them ‘gets it’, and we are all here to protect children and young people.”

“Child Sexual Abuse is a terrible experience and it’s really important that children know that if they come forward, they will be believed. Abusers often tell children they won’t be believed, and this is one of the ways they seek to control their victims.”

“This campaign both encourages children and young people to tell someone they trust what’s happening to them, and helps adults spot the signs of abuse. That’s the way to put control back in the hands of young people experiencing abuse.”

“I understand what it’s like. It took me 21 years to tell anyone what had happened to me. I couldn’t find the words. At the time, Childline didn’t even exist. When Parliament finally came round to the idea of setting up an Inquiry, they still didn’t really listen.”

“In 2014, I shared my story, speaking to Carolyn Quinn – a journalist whom I trusted not to focus on me, but to understand that I was speaking from personal experience and understood the situations others face.”

Carolyn Quinn said: “Tessa waited too many years before feeling able to talk publicly in a BBC Radio 4 interview about what had happened to her. Please don’t do the same. Don’t keep it inside. Wherever you live across the country, if you’re worried or frightened, please tell someone you trust about it now.”

The comments come as child protection professionals in Somerset unite on Stop Child Exploitation Day, joining the national Helping Hands campaign to end child sexual exploitation.

Stop Child Exploitation Day aims to highlight the issues surrounding child sexual exploitation, encouraging people to think, spot and speak out against abuse, and adopt a zero-tolerance attitude to adults developing inappropriate relationships with children, or children exploiting and abusing their peers.

If you suspect a child or young person is being abused, report it. In an emergency always contact the police on 999. You can also contact the Police directly by phoning 101. You can also report to the agencies below:

The NSPCC Helpline, available 7 days a week via the website or by emailing help@nspcc.org.uk or calling 0808 800 5000.  Call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111 or use the link at crimestoppers-uk.org

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