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.

My thoughts on Andrew Picard ( Boeckman ) & his father Phillip

Imagine – if you can – a tiny girl of 3 being filmed & photographed whilst she is being raped. It’s unimaginable isn’t it? But it happened & it was captured in photos & film.

Now imagine that somewhere in the UK –  in a world far removed from her – an Etonian pupil looking, watching & sharing her trauma with his friends. To feed his fascination/addiction to viewing this detestable crime. Unimaginable too? No. It happened & Andrew got caught.

Now back to the little girl. Not only does she not understand what’s happening to her, she does not even have the language to be able to tell anyone.

And who is she? Where is she? Does she have a caring family? Has anyone rescued her? Are the police investigating? Somehow I doubt it.

Conversely, the Etonian Andrew Picard (or more correctly Boeckman ) not only knew his activities were against the law, he comes from a privileged background. He has a wealthy family & his father Phillip Boeckman is a well known UK lawyer. It would appear his family fought hard (and succeeded) to protect their family name & also to gain a non custodial sentence for their son.

They are hoping that their son will move on, put this all behind him and gain a successful career & life for himself & that their family scandal will be forgotten & their privileged respectable life will be able to continue as before.

But what will be the plight of that little girl? Just one of many children depicted in those detestable images that Andrew viewed and shared?

Based on my own experience – arguably less traumatic than hers – she will be facing a life of mental & emotional turmoil, anguish & pain. That is – if she survives. Her survival & any degree of recovery will only be possible if she is found, rescued  & given a life time of specialist help & support.

Dear Phillip & Andrew Boeckman tell me – when you are both  lying in your beds  at night – alone with your thoughts – do you think about that little girl & her plight? Or do you just think about yourselves & breathe a sigh of relief that damage limitation for you & your family has been achieved?

I suspect it is the latter.

But if I’m wrong – and your conscience keeps you awake – then here’s something you could do.

Give some of your wealth to enable one or some of the many charities who work hard to rescue & support traumatised & extremely damaged children/adults who have experienced childhood sexual abuse.

Also how about campaigning for stiffer sentences for those who commit such vile crimes against children & those who fuel the demand for child abuse images by viewing & sharing them online?

It won’t help that tiny innocent traumatised little girl who provided sick “entertainment” for your son & his friends.

But it will go a long way to help other victims & survivors & make for greater deterrent for those who  commit crimes against them.

who knows – it might also go some way to restoring your “good” family name – much better than using your power & influence to manipulate the justice system & hide/cover up the scandal don’t you think?


The Wall of Silence Exhibition

You can help get this exhibition touring around the UK! Read on and be inspired to help!

Scroll down watch 2 minute TV news clip  ⬇️

The Wall of Silence is an exhibition of images, stories and poems from
adult survivors of abuse. It highlights the extent of child abuse and
Its impact on victims and adult survivors.

The wall invites us to connect to each experience;
To bear witness
To stand against abuse
& the silence around it.

The photos, words & art on display at the Wall of Silence Exhibition have immense power. They express:-

•the emotions of experiencing abuse and its aftermath

•the pain, losses and confusions

•the resistance and pride of surviving

Below are some of the comments made by visitors to the exhibition held at the Colsten Hall in Bristol in January 2016


If you are a victim/survivor of child abuse in UK & would like to contribute to the wall –

– or if you would like to have the exhibition in your area see below –

The Wall of Silence was produced by The Southmead Project and is a unique exhibition that not only highlights child abuse, its impact and the suffering this causes, but also the sheer determination and doggedness of those affected in trying to overcome the aftermath of that abuse: self-harming, substance misuse and sadly, attempts – sometimes successful, to take one’s life.

Child abuse is regularly being highlighted in all media outlets and the government has set up an Inquiry into the matter. The exhibition is a very powerful way of ensuring the voice of the victims and survivors will be heard. Following the initial launch of the exhibition at Colston Hall Bristol early January, the exhibition moved on to City Hall London and this was another enormous success. The next event will be held at Avon and Somerset Police HQ North Somerset running from the 3rd to the 6th May 2016 with a further 4 venues in England and Wales already in the diary.

Further details contact Dr Mike Peirce MBE – CEO Southmead Project: 0117 9506022 or email:

Address:   Southmead Project,
165 Greystoke Avenue, Bristol,
Avon, United Kingdom, BS10 6AS




WATCH this 2min TV news item featuring The Wall of Silence Exhibition at the Colsten Hall in Bristol

(courtesy of ‘Made in Bristol TV ‘)

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.