Child abuse victims shouldn’t have to battle the mental health system
The whistleblower who exposed the Rotherham child abuse scandal has told Sky News that the issue of gang-related child exploitation has been “forgotten” by the government and “victims are being let down.”
It comes as 20 MPs from areas where there have been high-profile cases of sexual grooming have written to the home secretary calling for more action to tackle the problem.
Jayne Senior was the social worker who in 2011 helped uncover industrial scale child sexual grooming in Rotherham by gangs of mostly Asian men. She says promises the government made to resource the police and provide care for victims have not been kept.
Mrs Senior told Sky News: “I think Rotherham has been forgotten.
“When I went to see David Cameron in 2015, I naively believed that this issue would be resourced. That the victims would be given an opportunity to not only come forward but also to receive support around therapy and counselling.
“But that hasn’t happened.”
A cross-party group of MPs has written to Home Secretary Sajid Javid calling for more action.
Signed by Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs from areas where there has been organised child abuse, the letter states: “Cases of gang related child sexual exploitation, such as those in Rotherham, Telford and in Newcastle conform to a precise model of recruitment, manipulation and exploitation.
“Despite these commonalities, we are not aware of any research being undertaken to understand the drivers for this kind of crime.
“We believe the Government should commission research covering the specifics of gang grooming including the national networks in which this crime exists.”
The MPs also want the home secretary to confirm that child grooming is still being treated as a national threat, as promised by David Cameron. The top two signatories are Sarah Champion Labour MP for Rotherham and Lucy Allen, Conservative MP for Telford.
Ms Champion told Sky News: “The government are failing on their promises, they’ve been telling me personally for over three years now that they’re going to prevent this crime, that they’re going to properly resource the police, that they’re going to resource social services but that just hasn’t translated into action.”
Responding to the letter, a Home Office spokesperson said: “This Government is working to tackle child sexual exploitation, declaring it a national threat and making significant investment to protect children, support victims, and bring perpetrators to justice.
“All victims and survivors of child sexual abuse should be confident that they will get the support that they need.”
Mrs Senior clearly thinks this isn’t happening. She said: “I thought we’d have a blank piece of paper and we’d be able to look at education, policing, law and social services, but that’s not happened.
“Here we are four years on still reliant on small charities to offer what I believe should be a mandatory service. This is not just a six-month quick fix.”
Sky News also spoke to “Elizabeth” who was groomed, trafficked and abused in Rotherham from the age of 14. She went to court, the perpetrators were convicted, but she says there’s been little support for her and other victims.She told Sky News: “We’ve organised car boot sales and sponsored walks to raise money so we can get counselling. I’m on an 18-month waiting list to get help.
“This is what’s always happens in Rotherham. We’re always put second.”
Will Scotland Yard prosecute Nick? Pic Credit: Wikipedia
CROSS POSTED ON BYLINE.COM
The storm after the damning Henriques report into how the Met Police police handled a series of high profile paedophile investigations -including Operation Midland and Yewtree -has led to demands that one of the principal accusers called ” Nick ” be prosecuted for perverting the course of justice.
I have never met ” Nick” as the story was handled by my colleague Mark Conrad but am aware of the circumstances of the Exaro investigation.
Henriques himself – while deciding that all the prominent figures accused in Operation Midland are innocent and were subject to false allegations – stops short of actually recommending this despite being pressed by the Janner family and seeing the strong demands from former Tory MP Harvey Proctor.
He says “Such a course is well outside my terms of reference and may well be cited as…
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Bailey warned that the number of victims could run into the hundreds of thousands, and called for much more support for survivors of child abuse.
Chief Constable Simon Bailey, who heads Operation Hydrant said:
“The government has allocated millions of pounds to provide additional support, but I am not sure that is going to be enough. We are talking about hundreds of thousands of victims.”
John Brown from the NSPCC said the failure to support victims amount to a public health problem. “That is the issue. We are not helping children and adult victims to recover and there are huge costs to society, there are economic considerations and individual psychiatric costs.”
………nothing’s changed then?
I was abused, and I know that neither the cash-poor voluntary sector nor the NHS is currently able to provide the support survivors need.
As a victim of historical sexual abuse, currently under investigation, I watch the daily news coverage with interest. Unquestionably, police inquiries and prosecutions are welcomed, as is greater exposure of the problem in a “post-Savile” era.
However, every headline and breaking news story, such as Wednesday’s arrest of 660 suspected paedophiles, is accompanied by a mixture of conflicting feelings. Each shocking new revelation brings a personal delight that this filth is being uncovered at long last, but with it comes hurt as it has been hidden for so long – both by society and inside me. Very old scars are opened, and thought patterns become an electrical storm – overloaded by adrenalin, cortisol and a malfunctioning hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, which governs the fight or flight response. It is called Complex PTSD for a reason.
But alongside the emotional exhaustion of the nervous system, I am reminded that others cannot understand the depth of pain that I feel. Friends are unable to provide much meaningful support – the hole in which I find myself is too deep and too dark – and eventually they stop calling out.
And so with each call for victims to come forward, I want to scream: “Do not ask them to come forward if you are not going to help them.” The trauma suffered is such that victims need help, nursing and wrapping in cotton wool. They need compassion, understanding and to be able to trust – something that they have not been able to do for so long. However, what happens is that police refer victims into the voluntary sector, where agencies provide some immediate “first aid” and kind words – but little else. There is no funding to arrive at a proper diagnosis of what psychological problems may exist – and the prospect of meaningful long-term therapy at no cost is unrealistic. These organisations are so starved of funding, that often much more than a helpline is impossible.
So, what of the NHS? My first doctor said “you seem OK”. The second said “the NHS are really bad at this sort of thing – if I were you I’d pay for it myself”. Eventually after a year I got to see a psychotherapist, who assessed that I would need unlimited support. However, as they were only able to help for two years on the NHS, they said that they were ethically unable to begin any treatment as I might end up in a worse state than when they started. They agreed that I needed help but the impending court case meant that they didn’t “want to open my can of worms”. This only serves to compound my lack of trust for authority figures.
So, I am left delighting in the exposure of decades of abuse, but screaming for a sensible victim support response – the absence of which traumatises me, and will traumatise others. I know my life will never be the same again. I have a criminal case to endure, followed by inquiries into institutional abuse followed by inquiries into the failings of the criminal justice system – but the question I ask myself is “after all of this … will there be enough of me left to enjoy the days I have remaining?”
All I can do is try to help create change for the children I will never have.
My apologies for not posting about this story in The Independent on Sunday at the time.
It covers two important areas. There are actually more than two big stories here but I’ve got to be mindful of ‘fair usage’ and I’m quoting a great deal already. [follow the links and read the full story]
The first is the news that at least one victim intends to sue the government as he believes that Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which guarantees respect for home life has been breached because of his treatment since being approached at the beginning of 2013. This follows an intervention earlier in the year by Keir Starmer, the former Director of Public Prosecutions and head of the CPS, who said:
“The principles and practices that underpin our justice system were developed long ago. There are good reasons for protecting those suspected of or charged with…
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This is an incredibly difficult piece to write, but possibly a profoundly important one to the debate as to how victims of childhood abuse should be treated. Victims, like others, have rights, but without expensive practitioners in law, it is very difficult to exercise these. It is even more difficult in the area of Human Rights, which enshrines the states responsibilities to take positive steps to ensure that the rights of the individual are protected. I write this as a lay person, with no legal training, but having sought some advice on this issue.
The Human Rights Act outlines core principles which should be protected – no matter what – and places the burden of responsibility to act – clearly upon the state and its agencies.
Victims are vulnerable, and the protection of their rights is critical to confidence in the Criminal Justice System. If Victims are being Victimised again – then the entire Criminal Justice System is unfit for purpose. The implications of this are huge, and lead to a two tier state – with a legal system for those who are fortunate, and frustration and mistrust for those who are not. It is where we are heading, and if we do not change our path, it is certainly where we shall end up!
In the area of childhood abuse, the difficulties become profound, given the emotional impact involved. This is compounded further in historical cases, where victims have created safety, and a world in which they can survive. It is pretty much universally recognised that the investigative and legal process is harrowing at best for victims. Suicides are not unknown – personal impact is huge – and well recorded. The court process is adversarial, and people have taken their own lives as a result – even in cases where guilt has been proven, and before the verdict has been delivered. Francis Andrade repeatedly said ‘I can see why nobody comes forward. I can see how people crack under the pressure.” “Recently, Tracey Shelvey fell to her death following a rape case retrial. Stephen Quinn ended his life last October just weeks before he was due to testify about the the abuse he’d suffered as a 13 year old.
It is clear that the system is not working. It is clear that the emotional impact is often unbearable and it is clear that this will happen again and again if nothing is done! “Grandstanding” about “Victim’s Codes” and “National Groups” has no relevance other than to provide the illusion of action!
So….what of the Human Rights of Victims? …….and the Human Rights Act 1998? http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1998/42/schedule/1
The Act sets out general principles for application in a variety of circumstances, but gives a clear framework within which the state must manage its activities. Some provisions are absolute, and others have triggers at differing points – however, it is the responsibility of the state to protect the rights of individuals.
A summary of the key points can be found here:-
Some Relevant Highlights follow:-
Article 2 – Right to Life
The Human Rights Act requires the government to protect human life.
This means that nobody – including the government – can try to end your life. It also means that you have the right to be protected if your life is at risk.
Similarly, public authorities should consider your right to life when making decisions that might put you in danger or which affect your life expectancy.
The real question being whether authorities “know or ought to know of a real or immediate risk to life.” It is well established that this risk need not come from third parties, but a risk of suicide is included also. I refer you to the deeply saddening deaths outlined earlier.
If, the adversarial nature of the court process is such that people may take their own lives, then there is an obligation to deal with this. The court process itself, follows months or years of suffering for the victim, their family, and even those investigating the case.
Remember – the state has the responsibility to take positive action to protect its citizens from this!
Article 3 –Protection from torture and mistreatment
The Human Rights Act protects you from:
- torture (mental, physical or both);
- inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; and
- deportation or extradition (being sent to another country to face criminal charges) if there is a real risk you will face torture or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment
Public authorities must not inflict such treatment on you, and they must also protect you from this treatment where it comes from someone else. For example, if they know you are suffering inhuman or degrading treatment, they must intervene to stop it.
So, given our understanding of the impact of historical investigations, it is the responsibility of the state to put in place proper support to deal with this, otherwise it is culpable for the outcomes and in breach of the most fundamental of Human Rights. This is not optional, but a universal Human Right
Article 8 – your private and family life
You have the right to respect for your private life, your family life, your home and your correspondence. But at the same time you must also respect the rights of other people.
Your private life
The right to a private life means that you have the right to carry on your life privately, without government interference, as long as you also respect the rights of other people.
The courts have interpreted the concept of ‘private life’ in a very broad way. It covers things like your right to choose your sexual identity, your lifestyle, and the way you look and dress.
It also includes your right to control who sees and touches your body. For example, this means that public authorities cannot do things like leave you undressed in a busy ward, or take a blood sample without your permission.
The concept of private life also covers your right to develop your personality and to develop friendships and other relationships. This includes a right to participate in essential economic, social, cultural and recreational activities of the community.
In some circumstances, public authorities may need to take steps to support you to realise your right to a private life, including your ability to participate in society.
The right to private life means that the media and others can be prevented from interfering in your life.
It also means that personal information about you (including official records, photographs, letters, diaries and medical records), should be kept securely and not shared without your permission, except in certain circumstances.
Many Victims find relationships and family life impossible – and are thus denied their right to family life. Often, privacy is taken away, and again personal choices removed – authorities have an obligation to act! Borderline or Dissociative Personality Disorder is common amongst people who have been abused, and thus agencies may have a commitment to ensure re-integration.
Article 14 Protection From discrimination
Discrimination occurs when you are treated less favourably than another person in a similar situation and this treatment cannot be objectively and reasonably justified.
It is important to understand that the Human Rights Act does not protect you from discrimination in all areas of your life. Instead it protects you from discrimination in the enjoyment of those human rights protected by the European Convention of Human Rights. This reflects the core idea that all of us, no matter who we are, enjoy the same human rights and should have equal access to them.
There are other laws that protect you from discrimination more generally.
The protection against discrimination in the Human Rights Act is not free-standing. In other words, in order to rely on this right, you need to show that your ability to enjoy one or more of the other rights in the Human Rights Act has been affected by the discriminatory treatment. However, you do not need to prove that this other human right has actually been breached.
The Human Rights Act prohibits discrimination on a wide range of grounds including ‘sex, race, colour, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, association with a national minority, property, birth or other status’.
The case law relating to this right has shown that the term ‘other status’ includes, among other things, sexual orientation, illegitimacy, marital status, trade union membership, transsexualism and imprisonment. It can also be used to challenge discrimination on the basis of age or disability.
If Victims are part of a group which is not afforded these basic human rights – this is likely to apply!
It is unusual for any large group to have issues amongst a number of Articles,however, Keir Starmer’s comments highlighting the possible incompatibility between the Criminal Justice System, and The Human Rights Act might possibly have some substance!
Keir Starmer Continues to Speak Out! from the Telegraph………20th Feb 2014