Posted on 11/08/2016 by Aminul Hoque
The independent inquiry into child sexual abuse will give every victim and survivor the chance to be heard and believed – no matter who is in the chair
‘Many victims and survivors will not report abuse to their families or the police because they do not want to deal with the consequences.’ Photograph: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images
Hearing the news of the resignation of Justice Lowell Goddard as chair of the independent inquiry into child sexual abuse must be upsetting and worrying for many victims and survivors who know about or have engaged with the inquiry to date. As a victim of abuse and campaigner on this issue, I am personally sad that Goddard has resigned, but feel confident that the inquiry will move forward and do the job that it has set out to do. It is important to remember that the inquiry is not just about Goddard; there are many other people involved and a new chair will be appointed in due course.
The inquiry was established in 2014 to investigate whether public bodies and other non-state institutions have taken seriously their duty of care to protect children from sexual abuse in England and Wales. It is a once in a lifetime opportunity for victims and survivors to have their voices heard and for whistleblowers to share their knowledge and experiences of what went on – and in some cases continues to happen – within institutions that have failed children. The inquiry has statutory powers to compel witnesses to come forward, and now the infrastructure is in place it is progressing with its investigation. It wants to hear from victims and survivors if they were sexually abused while in an institution; or if they were failed by an institution, such as the police, social services or their school, after reporting the incident or incidences only for the appropriate action not to be taken.
I joined the victims and survivors’ consultative panel in July 2015. Since then, we have been working with all the different teams within the inquiry to put systems and processes in place, recruit and train staff, and set up offices to undertake “truth project” sessions. In these sessions, victims and survivors are able to share their experiences of child sexual abuse with a facilitator, who will record what they are told. Alternatively, they can make written submissions to the inquiry.
Many victims and survivors will not report abuse to their families or the police because they do not want to deal with the consequences. However, being able to share their experiences via the truth project and being believed (often for the first time), without being judged or cross-examined, will be a liberating moment for many. It is important that all victims and survivors of child sexual abuse (who want to) join together to make this inquiry a success.
No one actually knows the true scale of child sexual abuse in England and Wales as it has been hidden from sight for decades. Most abuse happens within the home environment, but it was brought to the attention of the public via high-profile cases such as Jimmy Savile and the gangs of men who sexually exploited underage girls in towns including Rotherham and Rochdale.
No one knows the true scale of child sexual abuse in England and Wales as it has been hidden from sight for decades
In November 2015, the children’s commissioner, Anne Longfield, in her reportProtecting Children from Harm, stated: “Only one in eight children are known to have reported the abuse they suffered as a child”. This means that only one in eight received the vital intervention needed to keep them safe and help them to overcome their experiences. It also means that seven out of eight children are growing up as adults whose lives will be impacted in some way – be it through addictions, depression and anxiety, relationship issues or other problems, as a result of the abuse they have suffered. Every victim and survivor deserves the opportunity to be heard and to be believed.
We need to know the scale of the UK’s child sexual abuse problem in order to put in place the necessary solutions. With or without Goddard, the inquiry will play an important role in working this out, and offer crucial recommendations to help victims and survivors move on with their lives and protect future generations.
Source: The Guardian