Some of you will have heard of my story before, however for the sake of those new to our work, please let me introduce myself.
My name is Sarah, and I am the mother of a former Extreme Right-Wing activist.
My Son was only 14 when he was introduced to that world by another student from his school.
Over the weeks, months and years that followed, I could only watch in horror and confusion as the son I knew and loved disappeared and what replaced him was an angry young man who was resentful and bitter towards the world and many of the people that shared it with him.
I felt hopeless and lost during this period and whatever I tried to do to make things better only resulted in making things worse.
All of the rational ideas I had such as speaking to his college or talking to the police etc, I talked myself out of, because not only was I afraid of judgment and let's be honest who wouldn't be?
I was also terrified I would lose my son forever. I convinced myself that my silence would protect him from getting into trouble, however as I am now aware my silence allowed these organisations to take more control over my son, and it gave them a lot more time to cause division within his life and mine and dragged him further into their world of hate and fear.
I was extremely lucky. My son’s teacher in college recognised the signs of radicalisation and brought it to the attention of the safeguarding lead in college. From there, a Prevent referral was made to protect my son, not hurt him.
Between that happening I had one call and one question from the college and that question was “ Sarah, do you have any concerns about John”. I knew at that moment that if I continued to say nothing then I was going to become a part of the problem. I knew that my silence was not protecting my son, instead my silence was only enabling him and putting him in danger.
Everything moved quickly after that. Again, I cannot reiterate how fortunate we were and in some ways were not.
You see at the Prevent meeting my son was deemed a high concern/risk so much so that he was considered eligible for a referral to the Channel panel.
Not everyone referred will be eligible and there are many different things that need to be taken into consideration. Depth of involvement, personal circumstances, the individual themselves. Plus much more.
Alternative methods may also be suggested in order to see if they can help the individuals involved.
My son's first meeting with his Intervention Provider went better than I could have possibly hoped. For a start, he didn't start playing up in the meeting.
John came home from that meeting looking relieved, he wasn't his usual agitated and argumentative self, he looked quiet and instead of picking a disagreement with me he went straight to his room after mentioning that the meeting went okay, the guy liked football and that he had agreed to go to another meeting with him.
As the time passed, after every meeting, I could see slight improvements in John.
Suddenly he didn’t walk like he had the weight of the world on his shoulders. I noticed that his social media platforms where he used to vent his hateful opinions and views began to disappear. He became more engaging and less defensive.
I began to see glimpses of the old John. The John that we all knew and loved. John that was kind, caring and once full of fun.
Within a few months and with support from his Intervention Provider (Mentor) my son turned his back on his Extreme Right-Wing Family and came back to his real family.
So, I am here now, not only as a Family Support Officer at Exit Hate UK, but as a mother who has been through this herself.
Please I beg of you, don't make the same mistakes that I did! Don't allow extremism to take away your voice and silence you like it did me.
Silence protects nobody but the extremist organisations that will destroy not only your loved one's life but the lives of you and your family too.
If you have any concerns about anyone, and you think that they may have or that they may be becoming involved in any kind of extremism then please reach out and get some support.
If you are in a School or a College, then please talk to a teacher or your safeguarding lead.
If you are a parent/guardian, friend or loved one then please reach out to one or all of the following.
Every link listed here wants to help and protect, not judge.
Open the door to support and get the help you need.
Act Early – https://actearly.uk
Prevent – Search Prevent Support and then the name of your town or city.
Exit Hate – Looking for support from a lived experience – Then why not talk to us here at Exit which is made up of reformed former members and family members of loved ones who have been involved. Just visit - https://exithate.org/index.html or email us at – firstname.lastname@example.org
That one call could make a big difference, not just for the individual involved, not just for the families of that individual but also it could prevent pain and suffering of people targeted by extremist groups.
Working together, we can create a safer world for all, but someone like you needs to reach out………………………….
Mom of a former extreme right-wing activist and Exit Family Support Officer