What does justice look like for survivors following childhood abuse? In what ways could society offer greater justice? Facilitated by Dr Elly Hanson

imageBelow are power points by Elly Hanson (see her Bio at the bottom) from the workshop held by The Southmead Project
6th January 2016

Part of the “wall of Silence” exhibition

“Many survivors may seek a deep acknowledgement of what they have experienced and its impact and at the very least, respectful interpersonal treatment by those in authority. There is a recognition that such things are not always prioritised or present.”

•Explore what justice means to survivors and compare this justice with what is currently on offer and other models and possibilities
•Develop ideas on what should be changed and how
•We see this as the beginning of something, and you playing an important part in this process


•Similarity and difference: there are some principles that are likely to be universal; there are also different preferences and different situations – nuanced responsiveness to these differences may be an important part of holistic justice, i.e. one size doesn’t fit all
•Justice whether in child or adulthood
•You bring to this workshop your own experiences, those of others that you know of, your views and your values – please have confidence to share and contribute

•What is justice from survivors’ perspectives? (some caveats)
•Different ways abusive people may respond to what they have done, and the impact of these on sense of justice or wellbeing
•Current systems and problems
•Alternatives in particular inquisitorial and restorative forms of justice
•Discussion groups – questions along the lines of:
What should be the minimum standards and provision to child and adult survivors around justice?
Should there be a campaign to increase justice – if so, what should it focus upon? What other ways can we achieve change?

•Absolute justice is of course that the abuse never took place in the first place
•But in the situation where child abuse has happened, justice might be thought of simply as: what is the right and fair thing to happen next? What should happen?
•Important ideas it relates to and draws on: human rights, fairness, equality, and liberation
•Focus of this workshop foremost on the justice system, second on other societal systems and responses, but at the same time we need to keep hold of how many people and systems are relevant to a survivor’s sense of justice, for example:
Green (2006)

Criminal justice system

Social services, NHS



Family and friends


Abusive person(s)

They each have opportunities to facilitate justice.

‘I felt respected, believed and supported, even when my memories were confused. I was often reminded that I was a child at the time of the crime who needed safety, care and protection; abusing adults not children are responsible for the crime. Didn’t feel so alone! Felt part of a strong protective team.’
Shereen Lincoln (Living as your hero)

‘Part of justice is seeing the effort for justice they put in and the impact of that’
Survivor quoted in Holden (2014)
➢Validation and acknowledgement by the system & community in relation to what happened, its seriousness and its impact
➢Respectful interpersonal treatment from the system (‘procedural justice’), e.g. taking seriously, recognition of standing, feedback, attending to their welfare
➢Influential voice
➢Safety for themselves and others
➢Deprivation of offenders’ undeserved status (esp. relevant to abusers with status)
➢True responsibility taken by enablers & accomplices as well as offender(s)
Herman (2005); Holder (2014); Wemmers (2013)
‘What if one of those other girls went forward; maybe this would never have happened to me. That’s what keeps me going. I kept thinking I’m protecting someone else.’
‘I want him to be seen for what he is by the people who matter to me.’
‘My ideal of a just resolution in my case would be that my father would confess to everything… in a way that I and the rest of the family could believe and trust… I want to be believed, not just on the basis of my word alone’
‘[The prosecutor] said to me “Julie I don’t think you really know what happened.” That hurt more than the rape. I’ll never forget that line.’
‘I knew as a lawyer that you file papers, and then they deny everything. I knew that. It doesn’t mean anything to lawyers, it’s a ritual, but still it affected me… I felt: What do you mean they’re denying it?

They know this happened!’ Ross Cheit, lawyer, academic, survivor
‘By victimizing me, the wrongdoer has declared himself elevated with respect to me, acting as a superior who is permitted to use me for his purposes. A false moral claim has been made – this false moral claim [demands] correcting.’ (Hampson, 1988)
Herman (2005)
•Research shows that some of these forms of justice are associated with increased wellbeing and fewer difficulties – e.g. unfair CJS procedures are correlated with PTSD, & control within the system leads to greater general empowerment (Wemmers, 2013; van Wormer, 2009)
•In the limited research on this topic, survivors of violent crime did not emphasize punishment, deterrence or rehabilitation (some caveats)
•Although they emphasised the importance of control and supervision in the prevention of re-offending

•What do we think of this list – would we add or remove from it?
•It seems that we may expect or hope for different forms of justice following sexual abuse than we do sometimes following other forms of abuse, e.g. emotional abuse or neglect – what might be the reasons for this? (acknowledgment; particularity of intentional use of a child for own purposes?)
•What, if anything, should be expected from the person(s) who abused?

•Tries to understand & respect the abused person’s feelings and experience
•Accepts culpability for their acts & their impact
•Faces and carries feelings of shame & remorse
•Doesn’t have expectations or make demands of the abused person
•Recognises that abusive behaviour is ‘unforgivable’
•Extends oneself through consideration of others’ feelings and experiences, without ‘strings attached’
(Jenkins et al., 2002)
•‘Quick-fix’ solutions which involve avoidance of responsibility
•Feelings of personal loss which are confused with remorse
•Apology as a means of achieving pardon
•Apologies carry implicit demands
•A sense of entitlement to resume relationships following restitution attempts
Self-righteous indignation

•How does the position an abusive person takes affect our sense of justice?
•Would we add anything to the other-centred list?
•How might the justice system impact the position an abusive person takes?


Aims: Deterrence, punishment, incapacitation, rehabilitation


Police, CPS, judge decision-making:
arrest, charge, bail & prosecution

Procedural justice: for example – being treated with respect,
having an influential voice, having the right information at the right time

Court-room processes

Jury decision-making



•Child sexual exploitation prioritised as a ‘national threat’
•Revised CPS guidance – victim vulnerabilities should not be seen as signs of lack of credibility
•‘Special measures’, e.g. screens & video links
•Training for prosecution barristers and judges
•In cases with multiple perpetrators, the judge can order only one defence barrister to cross-examine
•Victim impact statements
•Rights to greater accountability and speedier feedback
•Police appear to exercise considerable latitude in whether they investigate allegations and how much resources they invest
•Safety of victims not always appropriately prioritised and standard investigatory processes can compromise this
•The process makes many people feel too fearful to come forward (not just its adversarial nature)
•Attrition at all points in the process
e.g. Bunting (2008) found that in Northern Ireland only a fifth of recorded child abuse allegations resulted in detection and formal sanction (e.g. charge)
•Routine delays and problems, often associated with the very measures designed to ease stress
•Some evidence that guidance is not being acted upon, as it goes against ingrained cultures and embedded incentives
•Sentences perceived to be low compared to other serious crimes, bail decisions and community supervision etc not victim-centred
•Survivors deprived by therapeutic support they have a right to

‘Can I just make the position clear to you that I do not accept that you ever spoke to your mother about your stepfather sexually abusing you’
numerous times ‘I put it to you that you are lying’
‘During the day I can cope with it. In my sleep… you can’t control your subconscious’
(Tina Renton, You Can’t Hide)
1. ‘That is simply not true’
‘You are indulging in the realms of fantasy’
‘Utter fantasy is it not?’
‘This is a lie’
‘What you have told this jury is a complete pack of lies’
2. ‘She described it as feeling as if she had been assaulted all over again. All that she could think was that she was being attacked.’
‘I really understand why so many cases have not come to court’
3. A few days after her court appearance, Francis Andrade killed herself

Recent findings from observations of 18 rape or sexual assault trials in the UK:
•Extreme interpretations of ‘right to a fair trial’ and supposed culture of ‘neutrality’ lead to judges and prosecution barristers not intervening enough to stop irrelevant or distressing questioning
•Victims’ rights subordinate to defendants’ rights
•Use of stereotypes to influence the outcome of a trial despite many being aware that the issues they raised were myths – incentivised to use them – ‘winning at any cost’ is the priority, not discovering truth
•To arouse suspicion of the survivor they also used invalid comparisons between survivor’s behaviour and supposedly rational behaviour in hypothetical scenarios
•Manipulative questioning and criticism particularly directed towards victims
•Extreme interpretations of ‘Beyond reasonable doubt’
Smith & Skinner (2012); Smith (2015)

‘Beyond reasonable doubt’ requires the absence of reasonable doubt, not no doubt at all… yet for example:
‘It’s just saying… how can I be sure? I wasn’t there at the time’
‘If you think there is any possibility… not probably lying or must be lying, but do you think there is ANY possibility… it’s not saying to her that she’s lying, it’s just saying I’m not sure’
•And leads to a focus on whether the victim can be believed rather than the defendant
Smith & Skinner (2012); Smith (2015)
•There is no clear evidence that this approach helps to discern truth (Park, 2003)
•Lawyers often focus on hiding parts of the picture and distorting it
•Inhibits the use of clarifying questions even by prosecutors, because fear of backfire prevents lawyers delving into the unknown
•‘It seems likely that the greatest legal engine for discovering the truth is discovery and investigation, not trial cross-examination’ (Park, 2003, in an examination of the impact of adversarial questioning)
•Encourages abusive persons to be pitted against survivors, and to become entrenched in self-righteous denial

•It may be best thought of as on a continuum with adversarial approaches – different emphases
•Focus on the uninhibited pursuit of the truth, versus establishing ‘fair play’
•Holland e.g. judge or panel consider written evidence and reach a conclusion, may interview as well
•Countries with inquisitorial systems have higher rape conviction rates (Kelly & Lovett, 2009)
•Less expensive and time-consuming
•Current inquisitorial systems are not without their limitations & risks, e.g. often judges instead of jurors used & they may have different biases

Restorative justice

•Different aims from traditional criminal justice:
greater survivor empowerment; healing & closure; resolution; validation; offender accountability (and rehabilitation?)
•Process should amplify survivors’ voice and their influence in directing justice
•Requirements: Victim-led, voluntary, offender must take responsibility
Keenan & Ailbhe (2015) van Wormer (2009) McAlinden (2011)
•Victim-offender conferencing
•Family group conferencing
•Healing circles
•Community reparation, e.g. truth commissions
•(Victim-offender panels)
•Key features: training, preparation, personal choice, attention to safety and boundaries
•Pressure on survivor to forgive, accept reparations
•Reinforce power dynamics, re-enact violence
•Some offenders may use it as an opportunity to further terrorise or gain information etc (not appropriate to all offenders by any means)
•Particular difficulties with child victims, e.g. too much responsibility
•Many more complexities and risks when as an alternative to CJS versus a complement…
•Others that we would add?


Parallel Justice
•Victim and offender justice are addressed by parallel, decoupled systems
•Victim support needs are met regardless of what is anything is happening with the offender
•A framework into which RJ could sit?
(Westmarland, 2008; Herman, 1999)

‘If I had a magic wand I would in one instant create a dedicated service for victims of crime where they could go to initiate a RJ process with the person who harmed them if this is something they would seek… I often think that there must be many people out there who are right now suffering.. and who may have a better quality of life in the long run if they were given the option to engage in the RJ process. However they do not known that it exists or how to seek it and to me that seems like a great pity.’ Ailbhe

Some ideas
•Specialist national team for investigation of organised primarily offline child abuse
•Legislation that helps survivors to come forward without fear of prosecution for their forced ‘participation’
•New rules around bail, ability to conduct search warrants
•Develop and evaluate, with the idea of rolling out, an inquisitorial approach to child abuse, sexual violence and domestic violence
•Develop, evaluate, potentially roll-out restorative justice options for all survivors
•Specialist courts with specialist professionals and more informal atmospheres
•Independent representation for victims in the court room
•Sentencing increases
•More personalized rehabilitation, including dealing with own victimization if necessary
•Centres for children (that already exist in many other countries) which co-ordinate professional involvement, minimize interviews and involvement with the CJS, & provide support
•Asset seizure; reparations made to survivor organisations

•Social services
•The NHS
•The voluntary sector
… bearing in mind holistic justice and human rights, for example:
‘State parties shall take all appropriate measures to promote physical and psychological recovery and social reintegration of a child victim of: any form of neglect, exploitation, or abuse… in an environment which fosters the health, self-respect and dignity of the child’
UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, Article 39

•Should the government work to key principles for improving justice around child abuse? If so, what should these be?
•What should be the minimum standards and provision to child and adult survivors around justice?
– in the criminal justice system?
– in other systems / parts of society?
•Should there be a campaign to increase justice – if so, what should it focus upon? (top 3?) What other ways can we achieve change?
•Keeping connected and further workshops

And possibilities ahead:
•Questionnaires, research…
•Local initiatives and evaluation
•Pilot Schemes

Dr Elly Hanson is an independent Clinical Psychologist who works in the field of abuse and trauma. She is a consultant to the CEOP Command of the National Crime Agency (NCA) and within this role she provides advice and training to the NCA and local police forces in relation to working with survivors of sexual abuse and exploitation. She also undertakes psychological assessment and therapy, academic research, and policy work with other organisations. Her publications include a Centre for Social Justice policy report on domestic abuse, and an evidence scope for Research in Practice on serious risks facing adolescents.
She has previously worked in an NHS substance misuse service, helping adults overcome difficulties relating to childhood trauma and domestic violence, an NSPCC service for young people with sexually abusive behavior, and a company providing residential care for looked after children.


“Sometimes fighting the system becomes harder than the fight to survive the abuse.”


This is a Guest blog post by Ivy who tweets at @ivy1428ivy

Ivy is a survivor of sexual violence. She writes about her struggle & experience of the Criminal Justice System since reporting to police…

I started 2016 hoping, believing even this would be MY year. My year to be safe, my year to heal, my year to discover who I am & what I want to achieve, and mostly my year to lock the tremendous struggles of 2015 in the past, for good.

The events of the past week, however, have disappointed & not stuck to the script.

Over the past week I have spoken to numerous individuals from various professions, those working within the fields of Mental Health, Domestic Abuse, Sexual Violence & the Police, all in an effort to resolve what feels like a never ending situation. Each have provided me with different opinions and different options which only seem to add more confusion & complications to the situation.

The bottom line is: I should not be put in a position where I have to fight against the very system which is designed to help, support & protect me – the victim. When forced to do this, the system has failed, completely.

The Background:
My case is a complex case. It includes 24 years of Domestic Abuse, ranging from sexual violence, physical violence, financial control, psychological abuse & emotional abuse. I have been identified by police as being at high risk of murder or serious harm.
My ex also abused our 2 children & made it a habit to move us every couple of years which meant we have lived in various locations throughout the UK. As part of the domestic abuse, I was also subjected to sexual violence by multiple individuals in numerous locations.

As a result there are 5 different police forces involved in my case. 4 police forces hold criminal cases for us. My current police force (no. 5), which is the area we were relocated to by MARAC, holds no cases but is responsible for our safeguarding.

Each force has their own unique way of handling the cases & in some forces there are various units within the force working on the cases, for instance, the DV Unit handles my DV case relating to my ex. The sexual violence cases do not tick the box of DV as the offenders are not related to me, although they are known to my ex & were specifically introduced as part of the DV. These cases are therefore handled by the Serious Sexual Offences (SSO) Unit. The Child Protection Unit handle the cases with the children. All of this means there are multiple officers involved.

The DI handling my case in my current force vehemently disagrees with the way in which the cases are being managed & investigated by the previous force as he feels it is exposing us to greater risk of being found & therefore risk of further violence. I am extremely grateful for the safeguarding plans that have been implemented since we moved here & for the way in which our case is managed by the current team.

One of the cases went to court in December. At the request of the DI from my current force, the remaining cases where all put on hold until the conclusion of this particular case. Following the conclusion of the case, the DI requested that I seriously consider withdrawing from the remaining cases. His reasoning being if I continued to proceed with the remaining cases:
1. The volume of officers involved across numerous units & forces is exposing us to a high risk of being located & therefore undermining our safety.
2. I have been diagnosed with C-PTSD, depression & severe anxiety which the NHS MH have refused to provide treatment for due to the on-going criminal cases. With previous, recent suicide attempts the DI is rightly concerned the amount of police involvement will lead to further suicide attempts.

I was asked to consider his request over the Christmas & New Year period, which I duly did. During this time I spoke to numerous individuals to seek advice. Opinions differed depending on who I spoke to. Professionals working within ‘Victim’s Rights’ informed me I could insist all my cases be transferred to my current force. The DI could then manage & carry out the investigations according to his wishes. However, due to budget restraints & limited resourcing my current force has no desire to have the cases transferred to them – a decision which I understand.

It was again highlighted to me that a lack of budgets & police resources shouldn’t take precedent over what is right for the victim & I could challenge this decision legally if I wanted to. However, I have neither the financial means nor the desire to add yet another case to the growing list!

I was also informed I could challenge the NHS MH as they too cannot legally deny me treatment due to on-going criminal cases. Again, this would mean another legal challenge.

After the Christmas break I was called in by the DI for a meeting. Whereas before he had implied that I could make the choice about whether or not I wished to proceed with the remaining cases, what transpired in the meeting was altogether quite different. I was told in no uncertain terms the decision I was expected to make & what the consequences would be should I not comply. I was ‘strongly advised/instructed’ to withdraw from the remaining cases. I was made to feel very much like a naughty school girl being addressed by a Headmaster.

The outcome was I agreed to comply with the DI’s request & withdraw from the remaining cases. At least this way I am a compliant service user & should I need the services of my current force in the future, I trust this will be taken into account.

Now it was time for me to move forward & put the past behind me …………. That was until last week.

The DI has informed me that one of the offenders in the sexual violence cases has logged a formal complaint after being informed his case has been NFA’d. In his complaint he has specifically requested that I be investigated/charged with wasting police time. The previous force will be looking into his request.

The DI in my current force has warned me to expect a backlash. I am now faced with potential criminal charges by one police force for complying with the request of my current force.

All of this may well of course blow over without any action being taken – I hope beyond all hope that this is of course the outcome. However, I should never have been placed in the position where I am having to fight against the very system that is designed to help, support & protect victims of sexual violence & domestic abuse.

Every police force has a campaign to end sexual violence & domestic abuse. Slogans from #EndTheFear, #ItsNotOkay, #WeAreHereForYou etc. are seen daily on force websites & social media accounts. If police forces are aiming to encourage victims to step forward, seek help & report abuse then more has to & should be done to ensure the correct support is in place to help victims from the minute they find the courage to ask for help & to make that report. Forces need to work together & communicate better with each other & ensure the system does not fail the victim.

It should never be acceptable that the fight through the CJS becomes harder than the fight to survive the abuse.

Should crimes die with the accused? Peter McKelvies thoughts Janner sex abuse trial

Lord janner abused 12 at children’s homes -police have info  from 25 alleged victims. Please click here image

This by Peter McKelvie a well respected supporter of child abuse victims & survivors & whistleblower of such crimes committed against them

“Crimes should never die with the accused in my opinion. Justice is a great deal more than getting an abuser convicted in their lifetime.
If they’ve got away with it because they are so powerful ( and sexual abuse is about the
abuse of power) or it has been covered up, their legacy should be about who they really are and what they actually did, and so if the truth only comes out after they’ve died then that gives some justice to the victims.

In the future with Mandatory Reporting and the hoped for recommendations of the Goddard Inquiry when it reports (eventually) and the new awareness of the real extent of abuse amongst the courts, the Police etc we won’t have as many powerful abusers getting away with their crimes in the future ( that’s the ideal world I know )
However – as over the last 100 years plus – the child had NO power, was NOT listened to, and the more powerful the abuser the more they were protected.

Those abusers that were protected and were allowed to die with no criminal record should be investigated after death because that is natural justice and the very least a victim or victims deserve

Let’s remember that the abuse is a life sentence for some victims who never become survivors.”

(Printed with permission)