Despite a history of abuse, Ruksana is rebuilding her life and has personal insight into what makes a good social worker. Josephine Hocking reports
Ruksana* is 18. She is stressed by her college work. She is often to be found chatting on her mobile. Pizza is her favourite food. In many ways she is like any other teenage girl. But unlike most young women her age, Ruksana was sexually abused by a cousin for six years and is now disowned by her Asian family, who think she is telling lies.
Ruksana lives alone in a housing association flat. She moved to a different part of the city from where she grew up to get away from her abuser. She lives on benefits and is studying health and social care at college. The support she has received from professionals has been variable: some very poor indeed.
Calm, chatty and composed, Ruksana’s demeanour belies her traumatic experiences. She has a quiet determination to get on with life, despite the intense suffering she has survived.
“The abuse started when I was eight. I realised what was happening to me during a biology lesson at school and I walked into the science lab, drank acid and ended up in hospital.
“I told a teacher about the abuse when I was 14. I was crying and crying and, after I agreed, they called social services who said I could have an appointment in three weeks.
“I wondered if social services had any idea how many more bad and disgusting things could happen to me in the next three weeks. I went to the toilets, and cut myself really badly with razor blades. A teacher saw me and called social services again. That time I got an appointment in two weeks. I had to wait three hours for the social worker though, because she forgot to put the meeting in her diary.
“My family turned against me. They said my cousin was a family man, who would never hurt girls. My sister thinks I will falsely accuse her husband.
“I’ve made friends at college, but they’re not like deep childhood friendships. I don’t want to tell people what happened to me, so it’s hard to get close.
“I understand why some children won’t say they’ve been abused, because people don’t believe them. I’ve had a lot of good therapy and counselling, but some of the people who were supposed to help me haven’t. One doctor told me I was selfish for trying to kill myself.
“I have had good social workers, and bad ones. A good one listens, so they can analyse what a child wants and what would help. Sometimes children get scared and put on an act and don’t say the exact truth. It was good when me and my social worker made an agreement that my mum could only talk with me about the abuse if I wanted to.
“A bad social worker doesn’t listen. Mine had too many cases and kept complaining about that. She wanted to close my case because she had so many.
“If a social worker is up all night typing reports she could miss the signs if a child is in danger.
“I’m OK. I still cry at home a lot. But I know I just have to get on with life.”
* Not her real nameThis article appeared in the 17 May issue under the headlineDisbelieved, disowned and in need of much better support