If you are worried or have questions about FGM – maybe you have undergone it, maybe a friend or family member has, maybe you are worried you or someone you care about is at risk – there is HELP and SUPPORT available.
You are not alone.
FGM has happened to you?
There are a lot of reasons why someone might want to speak about what has happened to them. Sometimes young people have a lot of thoughts and emotions and want to talk with somebody who cares and won’t judge. Sometimes they might have questions, perhaps about their health, their periods, or how it might impact them when they have sex.
Although sometimes people might feel intimidated or embarrassed to talk about FGM or genitals, there are places you can go which are safe and where people have a lot of experience working with these issues.
You can contact FORWARD for support – we have worked with many young people who have undergone FGM. We promise to listen to what you have to say without judgment, allow you to share information or frame your experiences however you feel comfortable, and to help you as much as we can. We will try our best to answer any questions you have and help you access specialist services if you want to.
What help is available?
This can take the form of peer support (support from other young people), counselling, psychosexual counselling (counselling around any issues you might be experiencing with sex), and counselling in community languages. These are safe places where your feelings and thoughts are the top priority, and you can be supported to explore your experiences and emotions.
There are a lot of help available if you are experiencing health complications in relation to the FGM you have undergone – for example, if your periods are very painful, if you take a long time to empty your bladder and sometimes leak urine, or if you have a lot of infections down there or inside. There is also help available if you just want to find out how you have been changed down there and ask questions – there is no obligation to move forward with any treatment if you don’t want to.
If you have been ‘closed’ there is an operation available for free on the NHS called a ‘deinfibulation’. This is where you are opened up safely by specialist doctors under anesthetic (pain killers, so either the area will be numbed or you will be unconscious throughout the procedure). This can help ease the flow of urine or your period, and can also help with sex and childbirth later on. You do not have to have this operation if you don’t want to, and you may want emotional support before or after the procedure.
A list of specialist FGM clinics can be found here, but if you want to talk more about your options or would like a bit of support making up your mind or attending the clinics, you can always contact FORWARD here. We have worked with a lot of young people who have undergone FGM and we are happy to listen, to talk you through your options, to answer your questions to the best of our ability, and to support you as much as we can.
Concerned FGM will happen to you or someone I care about?
If you are worried that you or someone you care about (such as a friend or little sister) may be at risk of undergoing FGM – IT IS OK TO TELL SOMEBODY. FGM is not allowed in the UK so professionals have a duty to step in and stop FGM happening in the first place. You can:
- Call FORWARD on 0208 960 4000. Leave us a message if we can’t get back through to us first time – we WILL get back to you. You can also email us on [email protected]
- Tell a trusted adult in your life – it might be that you are unsure about telling a family member. You can also tell your teacher, doctor (GP) or any other adult you trust.
- You can call the police on 999. They have a duty to stop FGM happening if they can.
- You can call ChildLine on 0800 1111
You may feel torn if you have promised to keep something secret or are worried about getting people in trouble. It is important to remember that the health and safety of all girls is the most important consideration. If you are feeling unsure what to do, please call FORWARD for non- judgemental advice. We are here to help.
FGM has happened to someone I care about?
If someone you care about has disclosed to you that they have undergone FGM, it can be quite a confusing time.
If you want to support your friend, it can help if you are able to share accurate information. Have a look at our ‘What is FGM?‘ and ‘Bodies and Consent‘ and ‘FGM and religion‘ tabs to get accurate and non-judgemental information on FGM.
Give your friend space to explore her own experiences. Be mindful of when and how you share your own thoughts and feelings about FGM. Try to avoid using judgemental language.
If you think your friend has told you about her experience of FGM because she wants help, you can let her know about all the support available. Do not push her to access support until she is ready.
Get in touch with FORWARD if you want more advice, information or support for yourself. It is great that your friend has someone they trust enough to share their experiences with, but remember to look after your own wellbeing too.
You can call FORWARD on 0208 960 4000 for help or support. Our normal working hours are 10 am – 5:30 pm, however, if you need to call outside these hours you can leave a message. In your message you only need to leave as much information as you feel comfortable – however, to help us get back to you, please let us know a number you are happy for us to call you on, and if it is safe to leave you a message.
Please email us on [email protected] and let us know if you are happy for us to email you back.