A young south Armagh woman who survived sexual abuse is aiming to raise £10,000 for a charity that helped her through the court process.
Ellen Moles, who is from Crossmaglen, wants to raise awareness and help other people also facing the often daunting process of navigating the justice system.
The 18-year-old started fundraising last year for Advocacy Vsv, a charity founded by Annalong woman Niamh Quinn which supports victims of sexual violence in the Southern Trust area through varying stages of the system.
As part of the fundraising, Ellen and her family have walked 180 miles along the Camino de Santiago in France and Spain, as well as having held a quiz night and kids’ disco.
She is currently planning a poker classic as well as preparing to take part in a skydive at the end of April with family and friends.
To date, the total raised stands at £8,500.
Said Ellen: “Advocacy Vsv has provided me and my family with unconditional support and guidance over this past year and is entirely reliant on charity-based funding. It was good to get help from someone who knew the whole system. I had so many questions.
“Everyone else was emotionally involved and it was nice having an outsider come in and take control of the situation and put my needs first.
“Niamh came to court with me and everything I needed to know she was able to find out. She came with me to police meetings so my parents didn’t have to. Everyone else in my family was trying to cope with it too and she was able to answer any questions they had.
“Hardly anybody knows about this service. I only found out about it a year before I was going to court. If I had known about it before then, it would have helped me even more.
“But when I started fundraising there were people coming to me, saying they had been sexually abused and they didn’t know anything about the charity. So it’s good to be able to raise awareness.”
She added: “I had to build up a bit of courage to put myself out there and do the fundraising. I didn’t really get the closure that I wanted so this was a positive way to close it all off.
“I could have lain down and died under it or I could get up and do something with it, to help somebody else.
“The system is not all it’s cracked up to be and only for the charity, I wouldn’t have known how to deal with it. I hadn’t a clue. In the court system, if you can’t prepare yourself to give the evidence, there’s a likelihood the case could be thrown out.”
Ellen, who is currently at university, is planning to become a social worker – another result of having been supported by Advocacy Vsv.
“Before I met Niamh I wanted to do computers and I started questioning her about her job role and I decided then that I wanted to help people,” she explained.
“I am doing a criminology course followed by a fast-track social work degree.”
Anyone wishing to donate to Ellen’s fundraising can do so via her GoFundMe page.