What to do if you’re worried about FGM
Female genital mutilation, or FGM, is a painful and illegal process that involves cutting and removing a girl's external genitalia. If you're worried about FGM there are places to get support and advice.
FGM, sometimes called female circumcision, is an illegal procedure carried out on young women and girls. The procedure involves removing or altering a girl’s genitals, which can cause long term damage to her emotional and physical health.
It is usually done by an older woman with no medical training and the girls aren’t given anesthetic to help with the pain.
The side effects of FGM include:
- Intense pain
- Problems going to the toilet
- Difficulty having sex
- Difficulty giving birth
- Problems with mental health, such as suffering from anxiety or depression
Why does it happen?
FGM is practiced in areas of Africa, the Middle East and South Asia as well as in countries where migrants from FGM affected communities live. The reasons given for practicing FGM are that it is a cultural tradition that all girls need to follow. Despite this, FGM is a criminal offence. There’s no religious or medical reason for FGM.
I think my family want me to get it
There can be a lot of pressure from families and the wider community to undergo FGM. This can often make you feel frightened and alone but you’re not alone in this. If you believe your family are arranging for you to have the procedure done, either in the UK or abroad, you can:
- Call the police or speak to an adult your trust such as a teacher or youth worker
- Call NSPCC’s dedicated 24/7 FGM Helpline on 0800 028 3550
- Your local social services department can provide support
- The local child protection unit will be able to protect you and provide support
If you’re going abroad and are worried about your safety, take this government statement with you in your passport. Show it to your family to explain to them FGM is a criminal offence. If you’re already abroad and worried about FGM you can call the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on +44 (0)20 7008 1500.
I’ve had FGM and I don’t know what to do
If you are feeling unwell and in pain seek medical attention immediately. There are specialist medical services for women and girls who have undergone FGM. Check with your local GP to see if these services are available in your area. If it’s an emergency call 999 or go to A&E.
FGM is a distressing and traumatic experience that can massively affect your mental health. If you need to talk to someone about it, you can call Childline for support and advice.
I’m worried my family will get in trouble if I speak out
Girls are often pushed to get FGM by members of their own family making it hard to figure out how to feel towards them. It is common to feel:
- Like you want to please your parents and make them happy
- Worried about what will happen to your family if you speak out
- Scared that you can’t tell them how you feel
- Fearful that your family and community will turn against you if you don’t do it
It’s normal to feel this way but it’s important to make sure that you are safe and free from the threat of FGM. Speak to a trusted adult or one of the services listed at the end of the article for advice and support.
I’m worried about my friend
You might feel concerned that your friend has had FGM if they:
- Seem down or upset
- Have trouble walking
- Have trouble going to the toilet
- Are in a lot of pain
If you are concerned about your friend try talking to them alone. FGM is a distressing issue so you can always talk to a trusted adult, such as a teacher or doctor, for advice and support.
How to get support
If you need advice and support on FGM you can contact:
- NSPCC has a dedicated FGM helpline. Email on firstname.lastname@example.org or call for free on 0800 028 3550
- FORWARD works to end violence against women. Call them on 0208 960 4000 on Monday to Friday from 9:30 am to 5:30 pm or email on email@example.com
- Daughters of Eve work to protect the mental and physical health rights of women and girls affected by FGM
- Bawso supports women and girls affected by FGM in Wales
- 28 Too Many work to end FGM. It has information on FGM and where to get support
- FORWARD works to end violence against women. Call them on 0208 960 4000 on Monday to Friday from 9:30 am to 5:30 pm or email on firstname.lastname@example.org.
- The Dahlia Project is a specialist service for women who have undergone Female Genital Mutilation. The service offers therapeutic support groups for FGM survivors. For more information call 020 7281 7694.
- You can talk to Childline about anything. Call them for free on 0800 1111 or visit their website.
- Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.
- Need help but confused where to go locally? Download our StepFinder iPhone app to find local support services quickly.
Updated on 03-May-2017
Image courtesy of Shutterstock
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