Is Support for Victims of Child Abuse Going Back in Time?
In 2002, in the wake of the North Wales Child Abuse Scandal, a Home Affairs Select Committee made several recommendations, but one of which is being so clearly ignored today, that it will inevitably lead to victims of historical abuse taking their lives.
The recommendation that in the event of historical trawls, a comprehensive victim support strategy should be put in place, is particularly relevant post Savile, Smith et al, given that thousands of people are being contacted about allegations of historical child abuse by the Police. – These historical trawls are not instigated by the victims or witnesses, but rather by the Police in response to a changed climate where the hitherto impossible is now believed to be possible.
Victims and witnesses have lived their lives with the impact of abuse – some have been terribly harmed, most have buried the memories of what happened to them and others – but the effects are profound nonetheless. Amongst the consequences of this early life trauma are; an inability to trust anyone or form any form of close relationship – thus many victims are sentenced to a life without the most simple but critical thing – emotional intimacy. Family life is made very difficult, and it is no wonder that so many victims are single. Moreover, it is likely that they will have issues with certain categories of people – such as school teachers, the police, male or female authority figures and the like (– this is not helpful when re-contacted by these people later in life!) Naturally this is also going to blight their career prospects somewhat – and their reactions to some situations can be seen as extreme – demonstrating the full range of “flight or fight” responses, but also the unusual reaction of paralysis, learned through an inability to stop the abuse they endured in their early years. It is also likely that victims will not fully integrate with those around them, tending to operate on the fringes. Many, many victims will use alcohol or drugs as a means of blanking what has happened to them, others may become workaholics or engage in extreme risk-taking activities. Personal identity may be a major issue if their trauma did not allow them the scope to truly find out who they are. It is true that the prison population is massively over-represented by child abuse victims – and it is no wonder given the above! In short – the effects of childhood abuse are profound and lifelong – look around and you will see the signs everywhere.
Each of these victims carries with them a black box of horrors – marked “do not open – ever!” – it is the only way they can exist with the terrible events of the past – and exist in safety and peace – the most fundamental human right (according to the Human Rights Act.)
The impact of historical trawls is equally profound! The Police knocking at your door is daunting at the best of times – but when they want to open your box of horrors – it is a horrific place to find yourself. It returns victims to a place of total vulnerability in an instant – all safety is gone – the world is a cruel place once more! They are placed right back at the centre of abuse. It is for this reason that the need for a “comprehensive victim support strategy” was outlined in 2002.
It becomes especially important when the media become involved, and as there seems to be a veritable feast of “B-List” celebrities to feed on, many people are being caught up in show trials where their secrets are being made public through no action or desire of their own. There are even cases where names of alleged victims are being left on the internet for months on end – what prospect for emotional safety exists when this is allowed to happen?
But surely if society did not help these people at the time of their abuse, it would help them now?
Anyone who has been stopped by the Police for speeding, or caught doing something at school, who doesn’t know what is going to happen to them, can understand the feeling of dread that lasts for a few minutes – the fight or flight response where your body equips you to run or fight. If you can’t do either it turns to a feeling of dread. Sadly, this feeling does not go away for Victims of Child Abuse, when it is brought up years later – they are left with permanent fear, paranoia and above all dread. This state lasts for months even years -they are abused all over again!
Perhaps they will become known as someone abused as a child. Perhaps they have to tell family members before they find out some other way? Perhaps they have to tell the people they work with? Perhaps the have to disengage with groups of people for fear of how they might respond? Perhaps parents might think that their own children are at risk from someone who has been abused? It is certain that it will create a shift in how they are perceived – but how?
And…..all the time, for the victim, their safety has gone, and there is a need to put their lives back together again, but with the contents of their “black box of horrors” now very public!
Surely – if society didn’t help them when the abuse happened – then it would now – particularly given the 2002 findings.
The reality is very different! Whilst the Government make grand statements about stopping abuse and bringing the perpetrators to justice – the comprehensive victim support strategy involves nothing more than handing a Victim Referral Leaflet to the person who’s life has been turned upside down again. – No More – No Less – a leaflet with some phone numbers of voluntary agencies.
For those that then get interviewed, and charges raised, the deep dark mystery of the Crown Prosecution Service kicks in – “protecting public interest”, and keeping victims in the dark. Imagine that someone is charged with “intent to commit buggery with persons unknown” after 30 plus years, against you! They attend court, twice in relation to these charges and others, and then at the eleventh hour the charges are dropped, not because of insufficient evidence, but to simplify the conviction – and with no plausible explanation to the victim! Can anyone comprehend how a “Justice” system can do this to a vulnerable human being? He has been sought out, and put through hell…….again…….and what for? Is this part of a comprehensive victim support strategy?
Many people will tell you that many people are doing many things – there are reviews after reviews after reviews – but the reality is quite clear in relation to Victim Support – it is not the job of the Police, nor the CPS, nor even the Criminal Justice System to take care of victims – it is up to the voluntary sector – who quite simply do not have the funds to do this job properly.
A document prepared by the London Assembly, Mayors Office of Policing & Crime, called Duty of care – Improving support for victims of crime , published in January 2013 makes this clear.
Taken from the Appendix
The police’s role involves: dealing with the report of the crime; identifying vulnerable or intimidated victims; ensuring the victim has access to information about local support services; gathering evidence; and providing follow-up information to the victim about the progress of the case.
CPS and Joint Witness Care Units
The police work with the Crown Prosecution Service in Joint Witness Care Units. These units aim to provide the main point of contact for victims and witnesses, from the point where a defendant is charged through to the conclusion of a case. The CPS also has additional responsibilities about informing victims if a decision is made to drop or substantially alter charges.
The Court Service has a role in ensuring victims’ visits to court are as straightforward and positive as possible. They must ensure that victims are directed to a separate waiting area and seat in the courtroom away from the defendant’s family and friends, and that special measures are in place if requested.
The Probation Service has a duty to inform and consult victims of serious sexual or violent offences where the offender is sentenced to 12 months or more in custody, about the timescale for the offender’s release, and the conditions of their release.
Third sector agencies
Third sector organisations provide a range of practical help and support for victims throughout their journey through the criminal justice system. These roles include: provision of refuge places, counselling, help with benefits, and help in making homes safe. Some agencies provide advocacy services to support victims on their journey through the criminal justice system.
Thus it can be seen that the role of support for Victims (ie counselling) is left entirely to the voluntary sector. This is quite interesting, given that the CPS have recently issued new guidelines in relation to Child Abuse cases. Whilst the guidelines have taken positive steps in relation to “de-bunking myths” about abuse, they have also taken a massive step backwards in terms of support for Victims. No longer does the CPS have any role in ensuring that the victim has any support whatsoever, other than if it would help support a prosecution. However, the guidelines do refer to Pre-Trial therapy for vulnerable and intimidated witnesses. They make it clear that the CPS should not prevent this!! A legacy of the old CPS guidelines, is that it identifies that victims and witnesses might need therapy, in which case A Full Assessment of Needs should be carried out, by a properly qualified person – and this would be the start point for any form of treatment by any doctor. However, who is this to be carried out by? Where is the funding for this? Do voluntary organisations have the budget, remit, or resources to provide this? Or is this simply wishful thinking?
So, who has the role of organising an assessment of needs? – it would appear that this is the role of the victim, along with securing the funding for it, and establishing the referral pathways to enable it to happen – at a time when they are probably suffering like never before – a comprehensive victim support strategy indeed!!!
There is no help for victims, the Criminal Justice System does not serve them well. Instead it serves its political masters and the goals of the privileged. Shame on those who have not put a comprehensive victim support strategy in place. The members of the 2002 Home Affairs Select Committee were:
Mr Chris Mullin MP (Labour, Sunderland South) (Chairman)
Mr David Cameron MP (Conservative, Witney)
Mrs Janet Dean MP (Labour, Burton)
Mr Humfrey Malins MP (Conservative, Woking)
Bridget Prentice MP (Labour, Lewisham East)
Mr Gwyn Prosser MP (Labour, Dover)
Bob Russell MP (Liberal Democrat, Colchester)
Mr Marsha Singh MP (Labour, Bradford West)
Angela Watkinson MP (Conservative, Upminster)
Mr Tom Watson MP (Labour, West Bromwich East)
David Winnick MP (Labour, Walsall North)
The measure of a society is how it deals with its’ most vulnerable. David Cameron is standing by, watching people suffer terribly, whilst “grandstanding” about child pornography – Why?
If we do not provide proper support to the Victims, we are by default providing support to the perpetrators of such terrible crimes.
The cost of Child Abuse to the UK economy is estimated at between £20-40 billion per annum!
Victims are being let down……..by everyone around them…….and then again by the Criminal Justice System.
Children are being fucked by people in positions of power – then being handed a piece of paper……….This is neither right nor just!
Where is the “Comprehensive Victim Support Strategy?”