Another story of child sexual abuse hits the headlines in today’s papers. Unfortunately we will never eliminate sexual abuse from our society, but we can substantially improve the treatment of those reporting allegations and the legal process that follows. Changes can be made to our system that can reduce the number of cases and protect the innocent.
Jimmy Savile’s case has highlighted the perverse and injustice system that supposedly protects the vulnerable. The newspapers are saturated with stories of the vulnerable being abused. The witnesses that try to speak out against bad practice are condemned and silenced. It is time to change our system so that those who are brave enough to speak out are heard. We all have a part to play in enabling this to happen. We all hear and see things that make us feel uncomfortable; we all need to embrace our courage and speak out.
A report by the Metropolitan Police into the allegations of sexual assault by Jimmy Savile concluded, he abused more than 200 people over a 60 year period, with a total of 450 complaints. On the 11th January 2013 the Metropolitan Police and NSPCC published their investigations in a report titled ‘giving victims a voice.’
Since Jimmy Savile’s enquiry further stories of childhood sexual abuse have hit the headlines with suspects from the Catholic Church, Politics and Television.
The Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer is reviewing guidelines for child sex abuse investigations, which should be finalised by the end of May 2013. He states that child sex abuse victims are treated ‘overcautiously’. Professionals need to consider patterns of behaviour, previous allegations and the credibility of the suspect as well as the alleged victim. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-21673703
Esther Rantzen founder of childline said, ‘the legal system has been created to frighten adults into telling the truth and what it’s been doing for decades is frightening children into silence.’
As a trauma therapist I have been witness to hearing child sexual abuse stories for over 10 years. This is an epidemic and we need to find ways to isolate it. ‘Nearly a quarter of young adults experienced sexual abuse during childhood’, NSPCC.
This is a prevalent problem that corrodes and eats away at the underbelly of our society. Jimmy Savile’s case has brought this epidemic to the forefront. Keir Starmner’s report is an important first step on the ladder to inoculating this disease, but we have a long way to go on this journey and there won’t be a cure. It is vital that we keep this topic alive and prevent it from being put back under lock and key, due to people’s discomfort or abuse of power. I challenge you all to sit in this discomfort so we can form a space that enables creativity to inspire positive change. As I said earlier it is all of our responsibility to speak out when we see and hear abuse of those who are more vulnerable. Mr Starmer states, ‘We cannot afford another Savile moment’.
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