A temporary drop-in centre has opened in the Ballyduff estate, offering help and support to people who have suffered sexual abuse.
The Families Against Sexual Abuse and Trauma (FAST) facility at Ballyduff Community Centre was officially opened on Monday, January 13.
The launch event was attended by Mayor Fraser Agnew and local political and community representatives, including Cllr John Scott and Cllr Thomas Hogg.
Glengormley man Michael Sloan, chairperson of the organisation, set up FAST last year in response to failings in the system regarding survivors of sexual abuse.
The 33-year-old, who spoke at the launch about his own experiences of being abused as a child, explained: “Our aims are to address the failings in the system and help survivors of sexual abuse get their lives back on track and look to the future.
“We don’t use the term ‘victim’ as there are no victims regarding sexual abuse, there are only survivors.”
The new drop-in centre will offer a number of support and advice services.
“We offer a number of services, like our open ear service where we offer a coffee and a listening ear to those who feel they are not strong enough to contact the police,” Michael explained.
“We also offer court support where we go to court to offer people physical support as well as emotional support. We also hope to offer workshops for survivors.”
Michael thanked all those who helped get the new facility up and running, particularly Cllr John Scott, Queens Park Women’s Group, New Mossley Community Group, Ballyduff Community Group and local MLA Paula Bradley.
“This is a good facility and FAST are very welcome at the community centre in Ballyduff,” said Cllr Scott.
“This is an important service for the whole Newtownabbey area and beyond.
“The drop-in centre will be open six days a week and it will give those people affected by sexual abuse somewhere to go for help for and support,” the UUP man added.
The Ballyduff drop-in facility will act as temporary premises for FAST until the organisation can make the move into its new offices in the centre of Glengormley.
The former Community Development Agency premises at Ferbro Buildings are currently being refurbished as part of a major project funded by FAST committee members.
Once work is complete, the new facility will incorporate four private consultation rooms and a larger communal space for holding workshops.
Michael is hopeful that work on the new offices will be finished within the next four to five months, with the official opening due to take place in late June or early July.
FAST is also due to open offices in Newtownards, Londonderry and Aughnacloy in the coming months, giving it a presence across Northern Ireland.
The Ballyduff drop-in centre will be open every Monday - Saturday, 10am to 6pm.
For more information telephone 07547 503813.