By 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
By Liz Dux