Sex/Domestic Violence

Child Sex abuse : Unsilencing the victims through Independent Inquiry

sexual-assault-on-a-childDerby has the dubious reputation of being on an increasingly long list of cities who have gained notoriety for being home to significant child sex abuse cases.

In 2010, Operation Retriever led to the conviction of a group of 13 men, who committed 70 offences, on 27 children,  with all forms of abuse,including rape. 2 of the girls were under local authority care, and this was the subject of a Serious Case Review by the Derby Safeguarding Children Board. The work of the local charity, Safe and Sound, was quoted as being  “pivotal” and “absolutely key” in the Home Affairs Committee report in working with, and supporting the victims before, during and after the case.

2 years later Operation KERN convicted 12 men, who were operating independently, committing abuse against 15 girls, all of whom knew each other.

Retriever was a landmark case, and is considered to be one of the “most serious cases of sexual abuse in recent times”. Whilst both cases involved a significant number of men this is, most likely, to be only the tip of the iceberg…even in Derby. There is too much evidence of individual sex abuse against children to be diverted by the notion that the imprisonment of the big  groups, and “rings” actually solves the problem.

Jimmy Savile,  and the other high profile cases of Rolf Harris, Stuart Hall, Gary Glitter and Max Clifford  brought the subject of child sex abuse, abruptly, into the public consciousness. As most of these men were much-loved TV celebrities, and “welcomed” into everyone’s homes for decades, and  who were trusted to be “safe”, the sense of emotional turmoil permeates through the general public in a way that is unique in our times; it provides us all with a glimpse of what it means to be manipulated, and, in a microscopic sense, to be “groomed”

SV2 ( Supporting Victims of Sexual Abuse), a Derby based charity, has seen a 40% increase in the number of people who are being referred to them as a result of historic child abuse. This increase was most noticeable following the publicity of the high-profile cases. It gave the victims the courage to come forward;  they felt that finally they might be believed.

In the same timeframe, there was an increase in the incidences of allegations against senior political and establishment figures, and questions over historical practices in major institutions including the Church, the BBC, the NHS, Government, Councils and the Criminal Justice System. As the network of cases was growing, and the accusations became  more complex, something had to be done to address this. In July 2014, Theresa May, the Home Secretary, set up an Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse (IICSA).  The Inquiry had a number of false starts as 2 of the initial nominees for the Chair were subsequently considered to be too close to the key figures to be truly independent. Justice Lowell Goddard, a judge from New Zealand, was appointed, and the inquiry was finally opened in July 2015.

“The Inquiry offers an unprecedented opportunity to examine the extent to which institutions and organisations in England and Wales have taken seriously their responsibility to protect children. It will also examine allegations of child sexual abuse involving well known people, including people in the media, politics, and other aspects of public life.”

“Although we are investigating institutional failures, rather than individual cases of sexual abuse, the experiences of victims and survivors are central to our task. We cannot begin to understand the patterns of institutional failures without hearing from those who suffered as a consequence of those failures.

“We are working with victims and survivors who want to assist the Inquiry in its work by sharing their experience of sexual abuse”

“The Inquiry is an independent statutory inquiry and covers England and Wales.

“Being independent means the Inquiry is not part of government and not run by a government department.”

The Inquiry wants to hear from:

“anyone who was sexually abused as a child in an institutional setting like a care home, a school or a religious, community or state organisation, or who first came into contact with their abuser in an institutional setting

anyone who was sexually abused as a child, and reported their sexual abuse to a person in authority, like a police officer or teacher, where the report was ignored or not properly acted on”

On-Line form for sharing information

The inquiry has recently announced the 12 different, wide-reaching investigations which should get to the heart of the problem.

Child sex abuse, and rape will be prevalent in Derby today. Of that we can be certain. There will be many institutions in Derby who were, and continue to be complicit ( whether deliberately or by omission) in the establishment’s failure to protect these children from harm.

Many victims will never have told anyone of their tragic stories, as a result of guilt, shame, embarrassment, fear of being judged, fear of not being believed etc. This Inquiry has been set up to listen to their  voices – they will not be judged, questioned, or challenged – it is there to understand their stories and to act. It is a monumental task – the scope is vast, but this problem begins to question the “fabric of our society” and must be as thorough and extensive as it needs to be.

I would encourage anyone who has read this and who has been sexually abused as a child to contact the Inquiry. It is quite possible that people you know were abused as children but have never spoken to anyone about it; please share this article – it might just help someone to tackle their demons,  unsilence their voice, achieve a semblance of closure, and be instrumental in tackling one of our society’s most heinous scandals.

POSTSCRIPT;

The rape of children does leave lasting damage to the victim in ways that most of us cannot possibly imagine. This previous article gives the Voices to the Victims.

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