The brave victim of a sexual predator is urging parents to talk to their children about their bodies.
Belinda Nolan was only eight years old when her cousin Richard Watkins, who was 17 at the time, began to sexually abuse her.
However, it wasn’t until she was a teenager that she realised what was happening to her was wrong.
Watkins, 29, of Winskill Road, South Shields was jailed for six years earlier this year after a jury found him guilty of seven counts of sexual assault.
Now, aged 19 and mum to a little boy, Belinda opened her heart earlier this week in a bid to encourage other victims to come forward.
Now she is also urging parents to speak to their children about their bodies and about what’s right and what’s wrong.
I think children need to be made more aware.Belinda Nolan
Belinda, from South Shields, said: “At the time I didn’t really know what was happening. I didn’t understand what was happening was abuse.
“What has happened to me has made me more wary of people and that it does happen. I often asked myself why did it happen to me? But it could happen to anyone.
“I am a lot more protective over my little boy and I’m always making sure he is covered up in the right places around strangers even around family members.
“Speak to your children and make them aware of what’s right and what’s wrong. I think children need to be made more aware.”
Belinda’s plea has been backed by the police who have commended her bravery for not only coming forward and reporting her abuser, but for also speaking out to encourage others to do the same.
Detective Chief Inspector Shelley Hudson, of the safeguarding department, said: “People do have a perception that a police officer will be aggressive, we wouldn’t believe them and that couldn’t be further from the truth.
“The public sometimes forget every police officer joins the police to help people, to put the bad guy away and get justice for the victim.
“We have to work with our partners to educate in schools around healthy relationships, domestic abuse and sexual exploitation and to encourage anyone who is a victim to tell a trusted family member of friend.”
Over 50% of crimes reported to Northumbria Police are made by females, with figures increasing each year, and DCI Hudson believes this is due to the excellent work around protecting vulnerable women and the Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy, which has really helped encourage more female victims to come forward.
Children’s charity the NSPCC is currently running it’s PANTS awareness campaign which gives parents advice on how to speak to their children about their bodies as well as teaching children important messages, like their body belongs to them and they should tell an adult if they’re upset or worried.
For more information on the campaign and for advice on how to speak to youngsters about their bodies visit www.nspcc.org.uk
BELINDA’S BRAVERY PRAISED
The bravery of South Tyneside mum Belinda Nolan to speak out about the ordeal she endured as a youngster at the hands of her cousin has touched the hearts of our readers.
In a bid to encourage other victims to come forward she opened her heart to tell her story in the hope it will help others find the strength within to speak to police about their ordeals.
Readers have since taken to social media to commend her bravery.
Gemma Cain said: “Brave lady, well done for getting the courage to get help, it must of been so awful.”
Amy Riley posted: “Amazing Belinda I hope this gives others the confidence to speak out.”
Graham Slesser said: “Good luck on your future Belinda.”
Tammy Jo Manczak wrote: “Bless you Belinda didn’t no you went through this awful ordeal but I’m very happy you got some justice .”
Pauline Clouston posted: “Well done for disclosing what this animal did. Belinda. Good luck to you and your son.”
Nicola Alexs Mullan said: “Good on you for coming forward, it is a difficult thing to do, glad your cousin got the sentence he deserves. Wish you all the best for you and your sons future x
Lynn King posted: “What a brave woman. Good luck to you and your son in the future.”
Niki Newman wrote: “Very courageous. Well done for speaking out.”
Kirsty Vaughan said: “Very brave Belinda hopefully if anyone else been through similar they will speak out.”
Maria Davison posted: “How brave and courageous this young lady is.... I hope she has given strength to others in similar situations to speak up. May you now move on with your life and hopefully it will be happy one.”
Pauline Hunter said: “You have been so brave in telling your story. I hope your future will be a happier one. Good luck to you.”
Terry Lea posted: “I hope you move on and live a happy life well done for coming forward, hope people see this and realize there is a system out there, not to judge you but help and defend you.”
Jackie Jubb Belinda posted: “What you have done is so, so brave. Despite your awful experience, you’ve spoken out and have likely prevented this from happening to another child. I hope that you can gain some closure from this in time because you certainly deserve it.”