“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

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Curator of the “wall of silence” exhibition on child abuse Mike Peirce gives new update

imageThe Wall of Silence
Following the enormous success of the launch of the WOS in January 2016 and the equally successful exhibition held at City Hall London in early February, the Southmead Project has been inundated with messages from well-wishers across all forms of the media. In so many ways it is extremely difficult and contradictory to use such words as success given the context and the content on the wall: the heart-breaking tragedy that is there, right in front of our eyes, for all to see. But success in this instance stands for giving power to victims and survivors, providing them with the rightful opportunity to have a voice and to make that voice heard. Success means making others aware of just what it means to face abuse, what it really means to battle to survive that abuse, to make it through and to reclaim our lives. So tragically, the wall also displays the pain, the anguish of so many: the ultimate death of so many innocents.
Yet within the wall lies hope too, within the wall lies courage, tenacity, determination, the will to go on and on until we cannot go any further, and then to go twice as far until we reach our goal – freedom, emancipation. The many comments left in the message books provided at each exhibition are so poignant, heartfelt and touching and the following examples help sum up what the exhibition has meant to many, many people:
“One of the most powerful exhibitions I’ve ever seen, a stunning tribute to those who survived and those who didn’t”
“Amazing brave and candid stories with some messages of hope – let’s hope we all see this. Thank you”
” An extremely powerful and emotionally charged display of personal images and words which tugs at the heart of the issues. Each must play our part in ending the abuse of our children”
Without doubt these two exhibitions exceeded what was hoped for and are likely to continue to do so. Already confirmed are 3 further venues: Dorset, Wales and with the next event being held at the Avon and Somerset Police Headquarters in North Somerset in May we expect this will no doubt be a continuation of what has gone before. The very fact that the police themselves have requested the exhibition be displayed right in the heart of their operations speaks volumes for their genuine recognition and acknowledgement of what child abuse means: its impact, the awful nightmare of complex post-traumatic stress disorder which follows and the very battle to survive.
The Police and in particular Mike Steven, are to be applauded for their efforts in helping charities like the Southmead Project dismantle an existing wall of silence that guarantees the status quo remains where child abuse is concerned. They have allowed us to once again illustrate in such dramatic fashion, what child abuse really is and what child abuse really means.
Dr Mike Peirce MBE
March 2016