In the wake of Stuart Hall, Savile and others, it is clear that there is a balance to be struck between protecting the innocent and falsely accused, and creating the opportunity for further witnesses and victims to come forward. The Government and ACPO have moved quickly to address this, with a huge shift in the practice of justice, to prevent the naming of those arrested except in exceptional circumstances presumably based on an understanding the damage that may be caused to the lives of high profile figures if falsely accused, but with no regard to the impact on victims, and in the face of history which tells us that paedophiles and others lie! This move has been made quickly, despite serious concerns over the balance required to maintain the rights of victims and accused alike. The decision over naming of those arrested appears to now rest with the Police, though one must question what control their political masters may have over this. It is clear, however, that both have moved quickly and decisively to address the issue – but what have they done to help the victims? Is the pain caused to high profile figures more important than the on-going pain of the victims? Further to this, any enquiry has the potential to cause Secondary Wounding to victims.
Secondary Wounding is caused in people suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (which most child abuse victims are to some degree or other) and is described as “often more painful and devastating than the original traumatic event.” It is life changing, and takes victims to a place of emotional vulnerability, beyond the time that they were abused, and adds to it the feeling of injustice if they are not provided with the support they desperately need in desperate times. The “denial of assistance” is widely recognised as one of the key triggers for Secondary Wounding.
Armed with this knowledge, a civilised society would ensure that proper support was put in place to support victims, but sadly this is not the case. Whilst the “establishment” has moved quickly to protect the accused, it has failed completely to put in place a support strategy for victims and witnesses, who have clearly been damaged in earlier life.
Let me explain my experience:-
Four months ago the Police knocked on my door, wanting to question me about an enquiry into historical child sexual abuse. This goes back over thirty years, and my life had moved on, to a point where I could play an active role in society, and live safely without fear of my past coming back to haunt me – or so I thought! I was given a Support Agency Referral Leaflet, and asked if I was prepared to give a statement or interview in the next few days. I told them that I would think about it, but that I was minded to “do the right thing, and help if I could.”
Shocked, I went on the internet to find out what I could, and imagine my horror to find my name on a list of boys “Recruited to be abused!” I had been “outed” and my safe world was about to fall apart – but I was not prepared for how quickly and how suddenly! I feared for my life, feared for press at my door, and knew my life was going to change – but had no idea how! I knew that “bad things” were going to happen to me, but had no idea what, or where they would come from! I needed help!! The emotional impact started to kick in – I was numb, angry, hurt and desperate – but surely help would be available to get me through this – I was doing the “right thing” after all!
I am fortunate enough to be articulate and able to express my thoughts. I knew there were others who were more harmed by their experiences than me, and I had them in mind whilst I sought help. Like many other victims, I had isolated myself from others, to minimise the impact of trauma in later life – but now I really needed support! When was this going to be in the media? When was my name going to be made public? Oh my God – I was probably going to have to go to Court! What on earth could I do?
I had not spoken out about my childhood experiences for over thirty years, so starting now was going to be very hard, but I had to – I knew I needed help – so eventually I started the process of seeking help. To cut a long story short, it became clear that getting the help I needed was going to be difficult, and it was going to take time, but the emotional impact was starting to kick in….and my name was still public! I needed to tell my mother, before she read about it in the papers, or on the internet…or saw it on the news….but when was that going to be? I was so alone, hurting, isolated, needing help…..and my world was getting darker….I tried blanking it out in whatever ways I could – but there was no peace, no sleep, no light……..and……no help! What on earth was wrong with me???
After two weeks of total isolation, I spoke to support agencies, and spoke for the first time of what had happened to me, and they then referred me on to another agency – I couldn’t believe it – I had to do it all over again!!! – Hell no! Meanwhile, the feeling of injustice was growing – how could I be left in this position –why did I feel so awful? What was going on? I tried contacting MP’s, met with one, highlighted the need to for some joined up thinking, and pointed out to him that a Home Affairs Select Committee in 2002 into Historical Child Abuse Investigations had made some recommendations including “complainants should be offered appropriate victim support services, such as counselling, from an early stage of their involvement in the investigation.”
Hellelujah! It was just an oversight, pointing it out would surely put it right!
Wrong! Despite highlighting this to the Police and MP’s alike, I was informed that “Support offered meets nationally agreed standards” – by my MP, quoting the Head of CEOP, who also said “that in his opinion, the newspapers would not find me, because my name was significantly mis-spelled” on the internet. I questioned both of these points with my MP, and highlighted that we might not be doing everything right, and perhaps there was an opportunity to gain some learning from the situation given that more and more similar cases were likely to be forthcoming. Alas, my words fell on deaf ears, nothing happened.
It was time to put some pressure on. Two members of that Select Committee included Tom Watson MP, and David Cameron MP, who had signed up to the findings! Exaro News wrote to number 10 to get the PM’s response, and a standard political fudge took place – “we are devoting 10 million pounds over 3 years for rape crisis centres!” This response came despite the fact that funding is being cut to charity organisations supporting the abused, with a massive increase in demand post Savile, Cyril Smith, Stuart Hall, ……………insert future names here!!!!
Hang on just a minute! – Secondary Wounding is caused by “denial of support” which the victim might feel entitled to! So…despite a Select Committee’s findings, no co-ordinated victim support was put in place.
Bastards – you might as well have abused me yourselves!!!
Four months on, I have been diagnosed with severe depression, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and I am struggling to keep my life together. The simplest of tasks are incredibly difficult, and keeping a business and house going are almost impossible – and I am still alone with no support. The Sun Newspaper knocked at my door last week, and my mother is showing signs of depression too – I cannot even face her – it is too painful. My Doctor is concerned that I might “do something stupid” – but I have a fight on my hands!
It is an important time, and many lives have been blighted by evil people. The fight for justice and support has just started for me, but I worry for others – for no other reason than I know how resilient I am. Sadly others have suffered far more than me and the impact on them must surely be greater? How many more suicides are needed? Is Secondary Wounding a criminal offence – perhaps it should be? It is truly a shameful situation – like a “witch-trial,” but where no matter what – the VICTIMS are going to drown! You don’t have to be a genius to work out who is at the opposite end of that see-saw!
Secret Justice versus Secret Pain? Well, the privileged can “buy” their way out of most things, and can probably afford to get some support if they truly need it – but what of those they have abused and damaged along the way??? Have the privileged carried this burden with them all of their lives? Are they being abused all over again? Who is the “establishment” rushing to support? You decide………