Man reveals childhood abuse as child protection referrals rise
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A Suffolk man has opened up about the physical abuse he suffered at the hands of his father as latest figures revealed a rise in child protection referrals across East Anglia.
Police in Suffolk and Essex made a total of 7,140 child protection referrals for domestic abuse in 2020/21, the statistics from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Service (HMICFRS) showed.
The figures, which were analysed by children's charity the NSPCC, showed there were 2,489 referrals in Essex during 2020/21 - an increase of 17% from the previous year.
Although in Suffolk, the number of referrals dropped 28% from 6,467 in 2019/20 to 4,651 in 2020/21.
Across East Anglia, there were 41,571 referrals in total during 2020/21, an increase of 7% on 2019/20.
The NSPCC said its helpline received a record number of calls and messages last year from adults concerned about the wellbeing of a child.
The charity said the risk was exacerbated during the Covid-19 pandemic as children were "trapped in homes" and largely cut off from support networks.
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Ian Erridge, 51, who grew up in Essex but now lives near Bury St Edmunds, said his home life changed dramatically when he was six years old after his father had a heart attack.
Mr Erridge said it was "like a switch had been flipped" and his dad began acting violently towards his mother.
"My dad seemed suddenly short-tempered and so different to the man I’d known previously," he said.
"I remember hearing yelling and leaving my bed to sneak down the hall and peer from behind the kitchen door at what was going on.
"I saw my dad holding my mum by the throat. He had her against the wall and was shouting at her.
"At six years old, I’d never seen this kind of aggression before and didn’t even understand most of the words he was using. I immediately ran back to my room and hid under my covers."
Mr Erridge said his home life was "difficult" and on one occasion, he was threatened with a carving knife as he tried to intervene in an argument between his mum and dad, who died when he was 19.
"The knife seemed to be a one-off thing, but there were other things he used. He had a cane, and he’d hit me with that, or with his fists," he said.
"The worse thing was his leather belt. He’d chase me round the sofa trying to hit me with that and when he did it was so painful.
"Injuries were mainly confined to my ribs and back. I don’t recall him hitting me in areas that were visible, which I think was deliberate."
Mr Erridge's story has been highlighted by the NSPCC as the charity calls on deputy prime minister Dominic Raab to ensure all child victims of domestic abuse in England and Wales have access to specialist, therapeutic services in the community to support their recovery.
The Victim's Law consultation, which seeks to understand how victims can be better supported, closes on February 3.
Anna Edmundson, NSPCC head of policy and public affairs, said: “Sadly, we know these figures are the tip of the iceberg as domestic abuse often goes unreported.
“Domestic abuse can derail a childhood and it is unacceptable that support to recover remains patchy across the country, and what is available risks being axed by cash-strapped councils.
“We urge Dominic Raab to use the Victim’s Law to address this and ensure young victims of domestic abuse have easy access to professional services within their community so they can rebuild their lives no matter where they live.”