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      Depression, Mental Health and Crisis Support   06/04/2017

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mina

Son abused at YCMA gym

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mina   

Dear all,

I was shoked when I found out recently that my son, who is now 18, was verbally abused in YCMA gym for a couple of years before he decided to stop going there. He managed to pluck up the courage to talk about it, encouraged by the friends he has luckily made in college this year. He told me that the gym instructors (volunteers) repeatedly told him that he was a sinner and that he would go to hell etc. They did it after he told them that he believed in God. Since he has ASD, my son is very naive and impressionable and easily believes everything people tell him. And he trusted these people who enjoyed themselves making fun of him and took advantage of the fact that he believed them. They also told him that if he told me or anyone else about it they would call the police and send him to jail. He, of course, believed that as well so did not tell me at a time. I was horrified when he told me that he believed that he was a sinner and prayed three times a day to God. He honestly believed that he would go to hell. He told me that at a time and I was perplexed why. Now I know. They also told him that the satan is watching him too and they are all watching his every move! He was really scared. He told me that he was thinking to commit suicide and tried it once but gave up at the last minute. Even now he hears their voices sometimes and believe them but less than before. And I thought that he enjoyed going there since everyone pretended that they like him and he always wanted to go there! I am sooo upset and thinking about my options. He told the college (they were very supportive) and they told the police woman there about it but she said it would not be enough to stand in court. 

YCMA is a charity that helps young people. It stands for Young Christian Man Association, I think, but did not protect my son from their own volunteers! What are my options? I would like the most if we try to leave the whole thing since it happened more than a year ago, and move on. I am not sure that dragging it would help restore my son's self esteem but it is important what he thinks and he wants something to be done about it, if possible. Any advice appreciated.

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Ferret   

hello mina

 i am autistic. please take all which follows as open opinion. keep what you consider useful, ditch the rest.

 i too had similar experience parallel as a child, though not with ymca. saying that, and i hope without confirmation bias at play, i would comment as follows: your child is courageous and intelligent for speaking up and speaking out. i personally address this message to him: you are not alone. you did the right thing by speaking up. you know you are not wrong, and that is why you spoke up about this. you know that what you feel inside is the real you speaking up for what is right. and you know that the bad feeling is the bit that is wrong, and that is NOT you that is wrong. the bad bit that makes you feel awful and afraid, is NOT you. you are NOT wrong. you are NOT bad. you are NOT a sinner. the information you have been given is WRONG. you are right, the information is wrong. therefore, you are NOT wrong.

 as regards how to proceed, i would if in your position, write to the ymca and bring the matter into the light and to their attention. i would highlight the extent of the damage caused, both in emotional and psychological terms. i would also impress upon those recipients of the letter that although i was aware nothing could be done, at the same time as a matter of moral and ethical standpoint, this issue must at least be put in writing for the benefit of a) reflection B) the future. and i would leave it at that and in their court. whist you have approached the police, and taken their best advices, i would also include that fact in your letter. i would also send a copy to my local mp.

 to get something on record is sometimes all that one can do. i find it astonishing however, that there is no up-line from the police or follow up on this matter. i would be enquiring what their protocols were in such events of "unsubstantiated claims" of verbal or emotional harrassment/bullying etc. there is somewhere, a duty of care breach here, as far as i can see. who that rests with, i cannot say: the ymca? jointly local authority and ymca?

 despite all this, i would also explore the ideas closely associated with a) paranoia B) post traumatic stress (and disorder) and seek help from the gp towards some counselling or supportive guidance. c) grief counselling - this is particularly good as its principles are broad and deal with trauma.

 as a whole, i would say the worst is over, because your child has spoken out. now one can move forward and the cycle of abuse embedded in thought and instilled in your son has been broken. that's a good thing. he is very courageous.

 a note about self-esteem: no-one can take anything away from a person. self-esteem, self-worth, etc is always there. it never goes away. it can be silenced, it can be doubted, it can be suppressed by fear or ridicule, bullying, peer pressure, or even pain both psychological or physical. but esteem and worth never go away. they are always there. it is just a case of re-discovering that truth of the self, that validation of the self, by the self, for the self. this can be done by speaking out, speaking truth to power, and doing so in a supportive environment that reflects the truth back to us. ultimately we remain true to who we are, we always return to ourselves however long the detour may be or have taken. we always find our way back to ourselves.

 i trust the above helps in some way.

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Ferret   

ps, many apologies for the smiley faces, seems an autocarrot icon is at work, smiley faces should be annotative : b )

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mina   

Hello Ferret,

Thank you very much for your very supportive reply. I will definitely think about your advice and the idea to write to YCMA did cross my mind. 

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trekster   

You might wanna try contacting victim support. Or see if a pastor or clergyman can reassure him these lies are completely unfounded and untrue? 

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