An opportunity for survivors of child abuse to encourage others


A friend of mine, who is a survivor artist, is collecting brief messages of support to survivors of child abuse to make a visual monument celebrating their strength and letting them see the community of support that is out there. This will counter the feelings of isolation, shame and silence that can occur.

At a recent event in Bristol, people were invited to write on a blue ribbon a message of this sort. Reading what people had written had a huge impact on survivors and she is hoping to grow and develop this.

The idea is for people (whether survivors or not) to each write a simple, brief message to those who have or are experiencing abuse. This will be transferred onto a blue ribbon and the blue ribbons will be brought together to create a powerful impact. Some messages may also appear on a short film, as text.

To give you a feel of how long such a message could be, here are some from the event in Bristol:

I am a survivor too. i look like I’m doing well-a success .But today everything is a struggle.
A happy life is the best revenge-get to where you can be happy
Feel no shame-it never belonged to you

If you would like to contribute, it might be useful to think what you would say to a friend. If you have experienced abuse, it might be powerful to think about what you would like to say to yourself as a child, or what you might have needed to hear then or now…

If you would like to contribute feel free to email me or email Jeanie direct with your message: jeaniejones.unvarnished@gmail.comimage


A poem of thanks to my husband

IMG_0754You lived and breathed this with me,

you saw the pain and tears,

you were always there beside me

to help me through the fears.

Don’t know what I’d do without you,

You understood it all

No questioning the bad stuff,

just believing every word.

It meant everything to me

that you listened and you cared

you cared and you listened

then you heard it all again!

My love grows stronger for you, for the rock you have been for me,

you make me want to live to see this journey through, dont know where I’d be without you, love you x

Can Child Sexual Abuse and Child Sexual Exploitation really be uncoupled?



There is currently a consultation led by Government to redefine Child Sexual exploitation (CSE) – and they want it to be a subset to child abuse – thereby uncoupling  it by definition from Child Sexual Abuse (CSA)

You can read more about the consultation (not too many pages, so fairly quickly) at:


Whilst I welcome the willingness to consider the need for a CSE definition – I’m not in favour of uncoupling it from CSA. The reasons for this is that some of the children/young people who have been victims of CSE have previously been a victim of familial child sexual abuse.

I consider, and work on the basis that, CSE is a form of CSA – and not separate.

I am NOT in favour of the present proposal and consider an that the following is more appropriate:

“Child sexual exploitation is a form of child SEXUAL abuse. It occurs where anyone under the age of 18 is persuaded, coerced or forced into sexual activity in exchange for, amongst other things, money, drugs/alcohol, gifts, affection or status. Consent is irrelevant, even where a child may believe they are voluntarily engaging in sexual activity with the person who is exploiting them. Child sexual exploitation does not always involve physical contact and may occur online.”

The background to this counter proposal – is that the exchange of money, drugs/alcohol, gifts, affection …….. is common within ALL forms of CSA – and not unique to CSE.

The majority of the women who access specialist rape and sexual abuse services have been sexually abused not only within their familial setting, but also by others outside of the home. In recent years I and others have been concerned at the lack of focus on the overall landscape of CSA, as government continues to focus on CSE. I feel that CSE is an important subset of CSA & not a separate category under the general heading of child abuse.  If the government choose to make it so – I fear they will continue to ignore the needs of the majority of children/teens who are currently or will be future victims of Child Sexual Abuse.

If you look at the definitions of CSA & CSE  the one thing that stands out for me is that the grooming process involving gifts attention and affection appears to be confined to CSE which is simply not the case

Child Sexual Exploitation via NSPCC

Child Sexual Abuse Definition via NSPCC

I would welcome your comments

New courses on child sexual abuse by Carolyn Spring

imageNew courses  avaliable this year – by @carolynspring

“It’s awful trauma – but the good news is that we can recover”

“Child sexual abuse is when you’re powerless and betrayed, and you’re all alone and you mustn’t tell, and there’s confusion and pain and deep down inside there’s the fear that it’s all your own fault, that there’s something wrong with you, something terribly and toxically wrong with you, and there’s nowhere to go, and no one to run to, and no way to stop it because you’re small and weak and stupid and if only!!—if only!!—if only you had known, if you only you hadn’t been there, if only you hadn’t said what you’d said, or done what you’d done, or felt what you’d felt…That’s what child sexual abuse is.”

Child sexual abuse has been in the headlines constantly since the Jimmy Savile scandal broke in 2012. But why? Why is it such a big story? Why does it impact the victim so profoundly? What is the ‘transfer of responsibility’ in grooming? How many people are abused, by whom, and why? Is there hope for recovery?

Some people might say, ‘Oh, but I’ve been on child sexual abuse training before.’ We can guarantee that this training will be different! Carolyn will be covering rarely discussed subjects such as images of abuse (also known as ‘child pornography’) and the sexual abuse of children by females, as well as talking from her personal perspective both as a survivor of organised abuse and incest, and from her experience over 15 years as a foster carer.

This will be a hard-hitting, but hope-filled day and is suitable for a wide range of professionals working with survivors, in particular counsellors and psychotherapists, but also people working in adoption and fostering, Rape Crisis, social work, occupational health, education, police, prisons, lawyers and healthcare. Survivors are welcome but should be aware that there will be potentially triggering material throughout the day.” ( Carolyn Spring. Child Sexual Abuse Survivor)

This course is running as follows:

Child Sexual Abuse – Crawley
Saturday 24 September 2016
Child Sexual Abuse – Rotherham
Saturday 01 October 2016
Child Sexual Abuse – Darlington
Saturday 05 November 2016
Child Sexual Abuse – Bristol
Friday 02 December 2016
Child Sexual Abuse – Bristol
Saturday 03 December 2016
Child Sexual Abuse – London
Saturday 10 December 2016

Please forgive yourself for being a child and not acting as an adult.

imageTo all survivors of childhood sexual abuse:

Please forgive yourself for being a child and not acting as an adult.

Too often we look back at what we did (or more often, didn’t do) and cringe with shame.

That’s an adult judging a child for acting like a child.

We take our imperfect hindsight and put that knowledge into our child mind, ignoring the ignorance, the fear, the innocence, the lack of power, the shock, the pain, that existed at the time.

Be kind to your little self.

Be realistic.

Forgive yourself for not having perfect foreknowledge, for not having an adults altruism, for not being as strong willed, strong minded, strong bodied as an adult.


This beggars belief: Re victimisation by the very service that should protect & advocate for domestic abuse victims

image.jpegThe following blog has been written by a Domestic Violence Victim who I know. I have agreed to host the blog as a ‘guest blog’ in order that her story can be shared more widely. Sue Crocombe @shinybluedress

I was recently sent a link to an online petition created by Claire Webb who is asking for a change to ‘Stop Children’s Social Services Victimising The Victims of Domestic Abuse’.

The link and information to the petition set up by @cmwebb87

can be found here:

I read the background to Claire’s petition with interest and much of what she had to say resonated with me, both through my own personal experience with Social Services and through witnessing other victims’ experiences. Sadly what Claire has to say about victimisation of victims by Social Services is not uncommon. I hope Claire receives the required amount of signatures she needs to achieve her objective, however with not many people having heard of these issues being faced by Domestic Abuse victims I wonder how many will step forward to add their names to the petition.

There are also perhaps many people out there who don’t believe these problems exist, or if they do that the victims must have behaved in such a manner as to warrant the action taken by Social Services. It is for this reason that I have chosen to share my story with you, as had I not experienced my very own re-victimisation by Social Services, I too may have not believed it occurred.

When my Domestic Abuse was first brought to the attention of the police, they understandably contacted Social Services as we have two children who were living in the family home.

I remember my first visit from the Social Worker who had been assigned the case, vividly. Her opening remarks to me at the start of the interview were, “I don’t care about you or how you are being supported, that’s not my job. I am here to care for the children; that’s all I’m concerned about and that’s what I am here to determine”.

As the police investigation proceeded and the case developed, my history of being sexually abused throughout my childhood was uncovered. This information was in turn shared by police with the children’s Social Worker.

The Social Worker unquestionably believed my childhood sexual abuse had occurred and stated as much in her written case notes. However, she then went on to state that as a direct result of the CSA I had endured, I was undoubtedly suffering from mental health problems which made me incapable of being a responsible parent and therefore not able to adequately or successfully parent my children. She concluded that I had completely fabricated the allegations of Domestic Abuse and stated this was classic “attention seeking” behaviour on my part.

At no time during her short, individual interviews with both children did she ask either child if they had been abused by their father. The children both went on to disclose to police that they had been abused by their father. The Social Worker claimed the police never shared this disclosure of abuse with her.

At no point did the Social Worker ever meet with my husband (perpetrator) in person as he refused to make himself available for interview. She stated in her written case notes that she had left messages with extended family members for him to contact her and she had spoken to him via telephone when he phoned her office. During the telephone conversation she asked him if he had abused either me or the children to which he replied he hadn’t.

Based on this information obtained via a telephone conversation, the Social Worker stated that this was sufficient evidence to prove I was psychotic and had clearly fabricated the Domestic Abuse and that I had forced the children into claiming they too were abused when in fact no abuse had taken place. With this information to hand the Social Worker requested the children be removed from my care under a Police Protection Order (PPO) until a full mental health assessment could be carried out to determine the severity of my psychosis.

The PPO was granted and the children removed from my care. The Social Worker wished to place the children with an extended family member, even though the police had already identified this individual as being unsuitable due to their links with the alleged Domestic Abuse and the perpetrator. It was only when the eldest refused to leave the Police Station that a Police Officer insisted an alternative arrangement be made.

A PPO is issued for a 72 hour period, after this time the children should either be returned to the parent’s care or alternatively Social Services are required to apply to the Court for a Court Order to remove the children on a more permanent basis.

A Mental Health Assessment was arranged for me the next day. The MH assessment was carried out by a NHS Psychologist and a Psychiatrist. The assessment lasted 2 hours. Both the Psychologist and Psychiatrist concluded that there was no evidence whatsoever of psychosis and diagnosed me as suffering from C-PTSD, Depression and Severe Anxiety. They clearly stated I posed no danger to the children. The results of the assessment were faxed over to the Social Worker as well as given to her telephonically.

The Social Worker refused to accept the diagnosis and stated to my eldest child that it was irresponsible of the Psychiatrist to reach such a diagnosis and they were clearly incapable of carying out their duties as a Doctor.

The Social Worker ordered a second Mental Health Assessment to be carried out two days later. This was now entering into the 3rd day of the PPO and the 72 hours was due to expire within a few hours after the assessment was due to be carried out. I was informed that the decision on whether or not the children would be returned to me or whether a court order would be applied for depended on the outcome of the assessment.

I attended the assessment which was conducted at a different NHS hospital to the first assessment, by a different Psychologist and Psychiatrist. Again the assessment lasted 2 hours. Again they both concluded there was no evidence of psychosis and reached the same diagnosis of C-PTSD, Depression and Severe Anxiety. They also determined I posed no threat or danger to the children.

The results of the assessment were once again faxed over to the Social Worker and the Psychiatrist spoke directly with the Social Worker as they had been made aware that the result of the assessment would determine what, if any, further action was to be taken.

The Social Worker again refused to accept the outcome of the assessment. By this time the PPO had expired but she went on to inform me that a further assessment was needed and as this could only be arranged in another 48 hours the children would have to remain under the care of Social Services for an additional 48 hours.

I again attended the 3rd Mental Health Assessment. This assessment was at yet another NHS Hospital and carried out by yet another Psychologist and Psychiatrist. Approximately 20 minutes into the assessment the Psychiatrist stopped the assessment. They informed me that they felt it only fair to disclose that the Social Worker had written to them informing them that I was so psychotic that I had managed to manipulate my way through two previous MH assessments and that they were to be particularly on the look-out for this psychotic behaviour and prepared for my ability to manipulate them. The Social Worker also stated in her letter to them that she required them to reach a diagnosis of psychosis.
They went on to inform me that they found no evidence whatsoever of any psychosis and as such they felt it only fair to stop the assessment to inform me that they would be initiating a formal professional complaint against the Social Worker concerned. They informed me that the treatment I had received at the hands of the Social Worker was disgraceful and strongly advised me to seek legal advice to pursue legal action against Social Services.

I was given the option of continuing and concluding the MH assessment or stopping it at the point we had reached. I chose to continue with the assessment as I didn’t want Social Services to have any further excuses of keeping my children. The Psychologist and Psychiatrist reached a diagnosis of C-PTSD, Depression and Severe Anxiety and the conclusion I posed no threat to my children.

A statutory multi-agency meeting was held that afternoon and after 120 hours my children were returned to my care.

My story is sadly not that uncommon and I have encountered many victims who have faced re-victimisation at the hands of Social Services. The system certainly needs to change and far better help and support needs to be provided to the non-abusive parent. I have signed Claire Webb’s petition and perhaps after reading my story it will encourage many others to sign up too.

“Why victims deserve the Goddard Inquiry” by Liz Dux

imageBy Liz Dux
Published in The Times at 12:01AM, April 14 2016
Investigation of child sex abuse is crucially important: the evidence needs to be heard and those involved need closure
When the extent of Jimmy Savile’s offending was revealed it shook the nation to its core.
Hundreds of victims lived in silence with their demons from the past for decades, unsurprisingly under the quite correct impression that nobody would believe them. Some did report what Savile did to them, but they were dismissed as fantasists.
It is easy to forget, amid the maelstrom of publicity and headlines, that each of those individuals is a human being who has suffered an ordeal that will live with them for the rest of their lives.
On Monday, this very human element of the story was revealed for the first time in a BBC documentary Abused: The Untold Story.
For the first time it showed full interviews of how abuse not only affects the lives of victims but also those around them. In many cases it can tear families apart. We saw the courage of a victim giving evidence under cross-examination to bring her offender to justice and her despair when he was acquitted of some of the offences even though a guilty verdict was reached on others. “Why didn’t they believe me,” she sobbed. “That’s all most abuse victims want. Just to be believed.”
My clients wanted to participate in the programme because it didn’t just focus on the details of the assaults by Savile, but examined why those he assaulted felt unable to report it at the time, how they felt growing up with what had happened to them, how they kept it hidden from their families and why and how those around them reacted when the story emerged.
Dee Coles, who featured in the programme, told me afterwards: “Living with such a secret for more than 40 years made me weak, but now I’m actually pretty proud of speaking out.
“I know it has encouraged others to do likewise. What’s important is that I can now accept who I am.
“The whole process and the people I have met along the way have made me realise that being abused doesn’t make me a lesser person. I no longer feel tainted and dirty.”
Many victims are accused of being compensation-hunters, crawling out of the woodwork for a quick buck. This is a shocking insult to those who have suffered.
Many of our clients came to us because they didn’t know who else to turn to. They wanted support through the reporting process and they wanted guidance. The reality of them pursuing civil claims against the Savile estate or the BBC or the NHS was because they had no other recourse to obtain justice.
That is why attacks on the forthcoming Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse — led byJustice Lowell Goddard — as being a waste of money or a kangaroo court are unfair. For many of the abused it is their only chance to achieve justice.
In the interests of fairness, the Goddard inquiry is seeking evidence from all parties involved in the investigations to be represented.
Many of those Slater and Gordon represent as “core participants” were denied justice when they gave statements decades ago. Their claims were never heard in court. Now this is their time to break their silence.
It is only right in an open society for us now to understand, no matter what the cost, how it was allowed to happen that hundreds of children were abused in various institutions where they should have been safe.
What price can we put on protecting our children in the future?
Surely the only way to do that is to learn the lessons from the past.
For our clients the Goddard inquiry is crucially important. As human beings, who claim to have suffered abuse that has scarred them, their evidence deserves to be heard and they need closure.
To deny them of that would truly be a travesty of justice.
Liz Dux is a specialist abuse lawyer at Slater and Gordon