A SURVIVOR of childhood sexual abuse who experienced mental health problems when she reported her abuser is now running a successful support group to help others.

Karen Bentham, of Northallerton, plucked up the courage in 2019 to report the appalling abuse she had suffered as a teenager 30-years earlier.

Going through the police reporting process brought back a lot of trauma, and after she completed 13 one-hour counselling sessions offered by the authorities, Karen found there was little else in the way of local support available.

She said her mental health took a turn for the worse and left her with suicidal feelings.

Deciding to do something about the lack of resources for people struggling with their mental health, she set up an online support group called Karen's Safe Haven.

She said her expectations were low, with the hope that she might be able to reach a few dozen people, but since launching the group in November last year, it has now grown to more than 800 members online.

Karen Bentham set up a mental health support group on line called Karens Safe Haven to help people going through difficulties Picture: SARAH CALDECOTT

Karen Bentham set up a mental health support group on line called Karen's Safe Haven to help people going through difficulties Picture: SARAH CALDECOTT

Karen, 45, wanted to take the next step and offer in-person meetings and Karen's Safe Haven now meets every Tuesday evening from 7pm to 9pm at Northallerton Town Hall.

She now wants to expand the meeting groups into surrounding areas such as Thirsk and Bedale and is in talks with various organisations to find suitable venues.

Karen said: "18-months-ago I was in a very scary place.

"I had carried this (trauma) for 30-years and didn't know how to talk about it.

"My daughter turned 14, which is the age I was when the abuse happened, and I think that triggered it.

"Once the counselling finished there was nowhere for me to go and I thought, if I am looking for some more support, there are probably other people looking for somewhere to go, so Karen's Safe Haven was born."

Karen said that the group welcomes anyone experiencing mental health problems for any reason, it does not have to be related to abuse or a traumatic event, it is simply a peer support group where people can talk openly about how they feel.

She said: "I'm not offering a cure, I'm not offering medical advice, I'm there to support people going through a difficult time with their mental health.

"When you have been abused, it is so traumatic that you develop coping mechanisms and strategies that you would probably never think of if you'd not gone through something like that.

"I don't want anybody to feel alone like I felt; it isn't a nice feeling, life is hard enough and when you've got nobody to turn to or talk to, it just gets that bit harder.

"So if I can be there for somebody, that's all I want from this."

The group can be found on facebook under 'Karen's Safe Haven' and anybody is welcome to join the free Tuesday evening meetings in Northallerton.