Historic Abuse in Children’s Homes – The Management Context by Wally Harbert

Originally posted on cathyfox:

Wally Harbert writes from his  personal experiences about the wider context in which child abuse was allowed to happen in the Social Services Sector. This is valuable not only so that we can understand how child abuse was allowed to happen, but also so that we can learn from this and prevent child abuse occurring in the future from the same reasons- IF we learn the lessons from the past.

This is even more valuable because it is available for the public to read and also for free, not stuck in academia or a report that needs to be paid for and thus the readership is limited. If we are to learn the lessons of the past, people must be able to access information to hold authorities to account. The sooner Wally and other knowledgeable professionals are able to give evidence to child sexual abuse inquiries, the better. An inquiry…

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Interview with Tim Tate: Leon Brittan – the evidence and what should happen next


Leon Brittan by Nick SinclairA radio interview with writer and filmmaker Tim Tate about the evidence behind the Leon Brittan allegations. It covers the interception by a customs officer of ‘child abuse pornography’ in the possession of Leon Brittan, and the investigation by MET officers into the alleged rape and sexual abuse of children by the former Home Office Minister and Home Secretary at Elm Guest House. Tim encourages people to write to the Home Affairs Select Committee (chaired by Keith Vaz) and ask them to call the customs officer and the MET detectives to appear before them, along with the case files from the MET. Tim Tate writes a post covering the same topic here.

You can email the Home Affairs Select Committee here (I’d suggest copying in your MP): homeaffcom@parliament.uk

Update: as its now revealed that the MET were investigating allegations against Leon Brittan – which they believe to be credible and true – that he raped children and even watched as one child was murdered, the call to the HASC is also that they do what they can to ensure the investigations continue to ensure all living perpetrators are brought to justice, and for the benefit of the victims who call for this.

The HASC interviews Ben Emmerson (QC, Counsel to the Independent Panel Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse) on 26 January 2015 3:30 PM about the Independent panel inquiry into child sexual abuse.

Originally posted on Desiring Progress:

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White Flowers Campaign: messages from Michael Mansfield QC, Jim Gamble…

Statement from Michael Mansfield QC

I welcome this opportunity to make my position clear.

From the start of this initiative, for me last July, when I became aware of the public petition, I have been more than willing to consider chairing an Inquiry into Child Abuse as requested by the survivors and their families. I say ‘consider’ because I am currently engaged in the Hillsborough Inquests representing the families of the deceased. There would therefore have to be some negotiation around this. Logistically there are many ways in which difficulties can be accommodated or resolved, particularly as the early stages of any Inquiry are devoted to preparatory matters.

I am honoured to be approached by the families because much of my working life and practice at the Bar has been spent representing communities, groups, and families seeking truth and justice in the face of obfuscation, hostility and deceit by the authorities.

As you are acutely aware, however, the authorities have a habit of ignoring the wishes and needs of those most affected. This has happened yet again on a massive scale until the whole process was ground to a standstill by the second proposed chair standing down. Now of course all kinds of blandishments are being offered to the survivors. I’m sure no one will be taken in and everyone will exercise circumspection.

There are many other issues besides the chair. There are question marks over some of the panel members and the behaviour of at least one already; the terms of reference are restrictive both historically and geographically.

Plainly a Government Inquiry, properly constituted and empowered, would have the best chance of succeeding. I am sanguine about the real possibility of achieving this when none of the obvious steps were adopted in the first place. The ramifications are hugely political and everything will be done to ring fence these risks.

It is for these reasons that I am also prepared to consider an alternative course should the Government renege on their promises and obligations, namely a People’s Commission. I have served on a number of these over the last decade concerned with Northern Ireland, Palestine, Iran and London. They have all provided an effective forum for the exposure of malpractice and the determination of accountability. Usually they come into play when the normal institutions have failed.   Therefore should this Government or the next fail to meet the basic criteria, the alternative could then be engaged.

Put shortly I want Government to fulfil its democratic remit. To that end I would wish to assist in that exercise as chair of full and fair Inquiry.

MM   10 Jan 2014

Message from Samantha Jane Morton (read out at the 14/1/15 Parliament meeting)

“A message to survivors – We will not be forgotten, we will not be quiet. The abuse that we suffered is happening right now to a child / infant that is in desperate need of rescuing. We come together as one to stop child abuse and so the perpetrators of these horrific crimes can be brought to justice. I keep peace in my heart which I share with you all.”

Samantha Jane Morton, Mother, Campaigner for Children’s Rights, Actress, Writer, Director

Pauline A. CLARE, England’s First Female Chief Constable (read out at the 14/1/15 Parliament meeting)

I’m sorry I’m not available to attend the public meeting at the House of Commons on the 14th January 2015 – though I would like to say that I support the intentions of that meeting.

The sexual abuse of children has impacted on the lives of so many young and vulnerable people and has wrecked the lives of many others.  It is time the truth is established about what has happened in the past and that offenders are identified and brought to justice for their crimes.   It is also important that this is done in a timely manner and in a way that give confidence to victims and survivors that they have been heard. And finally that measures are put in place to protect vulnerable young people in the future.

Pauline A. CLARE, Former Chief Constable of the Lancashire Constabulary (1995-2002)

9th January 2015

Survivor Carl’s Message

Pete McKelvie wishes you to know of this statement from Carl he hoped to read out yesterday. Carl is a survivor of horrendous rape and brutality at the hands of the most powerful elite yet to be identified and brought to the Police’s attention. Carl’s allegations include murder

Carl wants to speak out in the hope that the many petrified victims also abused by this most powerful group of Establishment abusers will have the courage to come forward. He also wants to emphasise how supportive and determined the Police team that he has disclosed to are and express his disappointment that the Government and The Home Office have to date failed to deliver a truly Independent Inquiry fit for purpose.

“Some of you will follow me on Twitter, some of you will have read some of my story via my blogs and the national media. I was full of hope for this national inquiry into child abuse, however I also have to recognise that without the delay I would not have finally gone to the police. Despite the majority of Main Street media ignoring the calls for inquiry, over a very short space of time over 100 MPs from all parties, survivors of child abuse and supporters were speaking with one voice. Over 100,000 people makes one loud voice and something which could not be ignored.

”However, here we are 191 days since it was announced, we have to inappropriate chairs appointed and subsequently resigned, a panel has been established and had met with survivors and groups that support the, the Home Secretary has even met with survivors and survivor groups. And now with rumours that the panel will be scrapped, no news on the next chair, no news from the Home Secretary and the continued silence from the prime minister. Are we any further forward? I’m not sure.

”What I have seen is division amongst survivors, people having a go at each other, and it appears we are no longer speaking with one voice. What I would like to see from today is that we get this unity back. We all want the same thing, we want an inquiry that is fit for purpose, that is open and transparent with us and that has teeth to get to the truth. It’s ok to have different ideas, that’s what makes us who we are, but on such an important issue that effects so many, let’s use the power of our collective voice to make a difference. I desperately want this inquiry to take place, I want it for me, I want it for my friends that I held close as they died, I want it for other people that have been though the horror of abuse in childhood and I want it for today’s children and future generations. No child should have to go through what I and others went through.

”Finally I just wanted to say that we are all human, we all make mistakes and sometimes say things we either didn’t mean to say or didn’t think first. I personally would not he here now if it had not been for a friend of mine encouraging me to use my voice. I would not have been able to speak out, carried on, or reported it to the police without the continued support from Mark Conrad at Exaro, Peter McKelvie, Tom Watson and more recently Tom Symonds.”

Message from Jim Gamble, former Head of CEOPs

Following the memorial I sat amongst the audience as I did not wish to push myself forward, on a day that was all about survivors, their stories, hopes and fears.

I have tweeted several times about the day which left me sad, emotionally exhausted, but overwhelmingly impressed.

I thought the meeting represented a good start and was certainly a step in the right direction. If you repeat it, I think it would be important to give survivors from the audience an opportunity to speak and question. Fewer speakers would allow for this.

It would also be good to either survey the attendees, as this would strengthen your future negotiating position and, or, have two or three key points to agree/disagree during the meeting.

What you have achieved is remarkable. Bringing so many people together and managing the pain and anger in the room was no small thing. Harnessing the power of yesterday’s group and focusing their influence must, in my opinion, be your next step.

I don’t think it’s too late for government to pause and plan a way forward using a more sensitive and sensible approach.

This is what I think should happen.

The government should first and foremost establish a fund to support survivors. This would give them better access to specialist services, resources and other support. Such a gesture would be an immediate recognition of the fact that they have been let down over many years by establishment bodies and governments.

The inquiry should begin/recommence with a survivors forum. Not dissimilar to your large meeting yesterday. The group must be as inclusive as possible and be given the difficult task of achieving consensus on key/critical terms of reference. They should then be asked to elect an advisory panel. That panel would provide advice and oversight from a survivors perspective to government. It would provide a forum to discuss the pros and cons of different types of inquiries and achieve some sense of agreement on what is needed and the best method of achieving it, i.e., statutory v Royal Commission.

A chair should then be appointed and an expert panel established via a ‘transparent’ process. All of this would be overseen and informed by the survivors oversight panel, who would have representation on the expert panel. Whilst survivor experience must be represented the expert panel would also require investigators, academics and other appropriate child protection professionals.

I am sure many of the individuals on the current panel are good people, this is not about them, it’s about a process that lacks transparency and therefore undermines the confidence of many survivors in it.

This approach would be a good first step in the long process of rebuilding trust.

Once established the inquiry should be fundamentally independent and that includes government.  An inquiry imposed by government is very different than one facilitated by it.

If this process had been followed in the first instance survivors would have had ownership and government credible advice and support.

The handling of appointments has been disastrous and demonstrates that the current government don’t do detail. They don’t take time to listen, to plan or to consider better options.

The recent Wanless review, of reviews, only reinforces the need for government to be distanced from the inquiry. That review was in my opinion about the government retaining control. You cannot successfully review yourself by choosing the method, no matter how honourable the individual. The loss of documents by the Home Office needs to be investigated, not reviewed and their approach to it demonstrates they have yet to learn lessons from the past.

I am content for you to share this email with whomever you think appropriate. If I can help in anyway please don’t hesitate to let me know.

Jim Gamble, QPM Chief Executive

Unity, fear and hopes for a better society

Sarah Champion MP addresses attendees of the 3rd White Flowers Campaign vigil opposite Parliament

Sarah Champion MP addresses attendees of the 3rd White Flowers Campaign vigil opposite Parliament

Ian Pace live tweeted yesterday’s (14 January 2015) White Flowers campaign meeting in the House of Common’s here. My summary of the meeting, plus the meeting I had afterwards with Hilary Benn MP is below.

Committee Room 14 – the largest committee room in Parliament – was packed with survivors, campaigners, whistle-blowers, charities and concerned members of the public for the White Flowers Campaign Group meeting aimed at kick-starting the Child Sexual Abuse Inquiry. A number of MPs were there as well, including John Mann, Simon Danczuk and Sarah Champion who all addressed the audience (it wasn’t clear how many more were in the room, or how many had engaged outside the meeting).

Dr. Liz Davies (whistle-blower and reader in child protection) explained to the audience that the White Flowers name comes from the Belgian campaign which remembers the children who were abducted, abused and murdered by a paedophile ring involving members of the Belgian establishment. The idea has spread internationally (e.g. Australia).

Photo of white flowers, The 3rd White Flowers Campaign Vigil, opposite Parliament.

The 3rd White Flowers Campaign Vigil, opposite Parliament. (http://bit.ly/1CamFuP)

The first White Flowers vigil was outside Elm Guest House; the second at Grosvenor Avenue, Islington honoured victims from Islington Children’s homes. The third vigil took place before yesterday’s campaign meeting in Parliament and was very well attended by survivors, campaigners, MPs and members of the public and press.

The campaign group meeting was chaired by Phil Frampton who is a survivor from Southport Barnados (his story is here). He opened by saying that survivors have been called treasure hunters, publicity seekers and now even conspiracy theorists. In Phil’s experience, the only thing that stopped abuse from happening was people coming together and acting – unity is needed. This was the main theme of the meeting and something echoed by all the speakers. The meeting was the first time that MPs, survivors, whistle-blowers and charities had come together in a public meeting. The media were there too, and Phil said they were essential in getting messages to survivors and driving for the truth. But they mustn’t exploit or exaggerate survivor stories to sell papers – this undermines the cause.

Phil said the group would not respond to the Inquiry until it was transparent and had a drive for justice, and when it safeguards and protects those coming forwards. The Inquiry is only one tool to do the job though. More whistle-blowers need to come forward, and journalists must be true to their profession and uncover the truth.

Actress Samantha Morton, a survivor herself, was unable to attend the meeting due to her filming schedule, but sent a message of support to the meeting. She said survivors must not be quiet. Abuse is happening right now to children – we must all come together for justice.

Nigel O’Mara spoke about the long-term effects of sexual abuse. It affected the individual deeply, but also those around them, and society as a whole. He had rebelled against his abusers and ended up being sent into care in the 1970’s. He lost his chance of education and as a result ended up homeless and destitute, not emerging from prostitution and hard drug use until his mid-20’s. Forty years on from his abuse he is still unable to find work – partly because of education – but mainly because he experiences difficulty in situations where people have power over him, such as in the workplace. Survivors can only ever learn to live with effects – there is no cure. He asked the Government to put proper support in place for survivors.

Chris Tuck, a survivor who runs the Survivors of Abuse Network, also spoke about the long term effects, which include PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). Chris said we need a body that supports victim’s needs and helps them through the criminal justice system. At the moment, no-one knows what is happening – this has a negative impact on survivors. Chris also called for mandatory reporting of abuse – something which has strong support across government, and proper sex and relationship education in schools so children understand what is a good and a bad relationship and learn to set boundaries. Chris said it was controversial, but we also need help and support for paedophiles.

Andy Kershaw – a survivor of Forde Park – shared some of his experiences, including how the authorities had consistently failed to deal with reports of abuse. Whistleblowing had built evidence against 190 people but only 4 were ever convicted. Andy reiterated the White Flowers Group’s call for the cut-off date of the inquiry to be pushed back to 1945. Andy said the Group had confidence this was going to happen.

John Mann MP speaking to the press by the 3rd White Flowers vigil

John Mann MP speaking to the press by the 3rd White Flowers vigil

John Mann MP spoke of the symbolism of holding the meeting in a parliament committee room. He said how in his Nottinghamshire constituency people had now come forward from every single care home to report abuse. But the police and social services need the resources to deal with this – at the moment they don’t. He said that if those in the room couldn’t be united then they would be handing power back to the abusers. We must stand together.

Liz Davies said we’d moved from whispering about abuse and cover-ups from dark corners during the early 1990’s to shouting it out loud today. However, the stakes are very high for those trying to stop the organised abuse because it relates to so much power and money. Evidence of the abuse was being used to manipulate the abusers, so there were vested interests in seeing the abuse continue. We are challenging the establishment, so people are trying to undermine us, spread disinformation, attack us – academics are trying to justify paedophilia – but we will continue to fight them off every day. With the cross-party support we have we will move forwards. Personal testimony was so important when evidence is routinely ‘destroyed’ – not just the Dickens dossier, but on many investigations, including Liz’s in the past.

Liz said she rejected the NSPCCs move to medicalise paedophilia, and said we need to reinstate the definition of ‘organised sexual abuse’ and the guidance to deal with it that this government had removed from the statute.

Ex-chief constable of the Lancashire Police Force, Pauline Clare, sent a message of support to the meeting say she understood how abuse has wrecked the lives of so many and it was time that abusers were brought to justice – stronger measures needed to be put in place now to protect children. She offered to work with the campaign group.

Whistle-blower Peter McKelvie recounted how, 21 years after his investigations were closed down, he went to MP Tom Watson who then raised his concerns about a paedophile ring going to the heart of government with Prime Minister David Cameron during Prime Minister’s Questions. Peter said that, regardless of some people saying ‘don’t go to the police’, things were changing and survivors should now go to the police with their evidence. This was a very contentious point for some members of the audience who spoke of their terrible experiences when doing this in the past – not being believed, or even being punished or prosecuted themselves as a result. Sarah Champion MP later said she was unimpressed with changes to policing following the Rotherham Inquiry, and others had expressed resourcing and capability concerns. Ann Coffey MP’s report into child sexual exploitation in Greater Manchester documented many similar experiences of policing. There is clearly a long way to go to build up trust. Sarah Champion MP said she didn’t want to politically point-score but the Coalition policy of police budget cuts and probation privatisation was the opposite of what we need.

Simon Danczuk MP, co-author of ‘Smile for the Camera’ which exposes the detail of the Cyril Smith scandal, said there were far too few meetings about child sexual abuse in parliament. MPs needed to connect with the mood of the nation on this. He said the factor that linked the scandals of the past to the slowness of progress today was ‘fear’. Frontline child protection workers, social workers, nurses, all say they are scared to speak out – scared of losing their livelihoods, being blacklisted, being prosecuted under the Official Secrets Act. Fear protects the abusers. We must introduce practical measures such as mandatory reporting and properly protect and celebrate whistle-blowers. He said people wanting to whistle-blow had contacted him to ask ‘who will protect and support me?’ Although the law had been strengthened recently, Ministers were paying lip service and not driving home the culture change. We must stop gagging public servants. This is a sophisticated cover-up. People in the frontline must be empowered to come forward.

Andy (a survivor) then spoke about how the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Abuse was dealing with the issue in a much more robust way than our CSA inquiry was – it ensured that survivors were treated appropriately, and had the power to make people come forward. He also said that Ireland had set up an agency to support victims of the church – if Ireland can manage it then why can’t a country as rich as ours do it? Andy said he saw widespread denial about what was going on in this country. This plays to the sublime arrogance of the paedophile.

Phil Framptom said that a demand had been sent to the Tony Blair Government in 2001 for a national inquiry, but all they got was the North Wales Children’s Homes Inquiry which was limited by William Hague to looking at abuse that happened on the premises, missing out the abuse that occurred as children were trafficked around the country.

Alison Millar from Leigh Day Solicitors who represents CSA clients and has been very critical of the CSA Inquiry’s process for involving survivors, highlighted the issue of civil redress where survivors pursue legal action against the institution that failed them. She said there was currently no legal power to compel institutions to apologise to victims. Later on, Tim Hulbert talked about how insurance companies pressure Local Authorities into not apologising to victims.

Ian McFadyen – survivor and campaigner – made a point echoed later by Stuart Syvret: the CSA Inquiry is not actually about child abuse. It’s about the failure of government and institutions. Ian said many of the people in the room had been failed – for them the damage had been done and it was too late – but we can hold the people who failed us to account and make sure it doesn’t happen in the future to our children.

Tim Hulbert, ex-Director of Bedfordshire Social Services, said that missing files were not important – the most important thing was whistle-blowers coming forward. Tim talked about the malignant influence of insurance companies who, in wanting to minimise their liabilities, instruct councils not to apologise to victims. They try to narrow terms of reference and insist that the names of those involved are not released. When he resisted this the insurer started talking to the Chief Executive and councillors. They implied the threat that the council would not be underwritten if they did not comply. A statutory inquiry would have the power to tackle this. (The Jillings Report was compromised by the Municipal Mutual Insurance Company). Tim urged whistle-blowers from the institutions who had failed children to come forward.

Phil Frampton said he’d asked Barnados why they wouldn’t support victims in their quest for justice; their response was that their insurance companies wouldn’t let them. Phil said a FOI had been submitted to find out which insurers were underwriting the CSA inquiry.

Whistle-blower and ex-Jersey senator, Stuart Syvret, recounted how he had been jailed twice for whistleblowing. Jersey was further down the line in this process and could pass on some valuable lessons to the new CSA Inquiry: What do we want the CSA inquiry to investigate? And what does success look like? Stuart echoed Ian McFadyen’s point that this was not about child abuse but rather the abuse of power and the absence of real accountability of those in public office. He suggested a successful CSA Inquiry would result in properly enforced law, an independent prosecution service, and the removal of corruption from the police. He said it was the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta, but we still did not have the properly enforced rule of law.

I left the meeting at that point (missing the last few speakers) to meet my MP, Hilary Benn (who had signed the call for the inquiry) to discuss the White Flowers meeting and the CSA Inquiry. Hilary said he and Labour fully supported the Inquiry, but he voiced some scepticism about whether there was, or had been, a paedophile ring operating through parliament. Where was the evidence? Hilary said he’d only followed the mainstream news reports on the Inquiry and related events, so I showed him some of the recent evidence reported via Exaro provided by new witnesses coming forward, and summarised some of the things said in the White Flowers meeting, in particular by the whistle-blowers and by his peers Simon Danczuk and John Mann, the latter having recently handed further evidence to the police (and said it was inconceivable that police would not now arrest and interview some of the politicians he has named). We discussed Simon Danczuk’s co-authored book which showed how, time and time again, the police knew what Cyril Smith was doing but were prevented from acting – things were never allowed to go through the proper CPS process – I’m not sure if Hilary had entirely appreciated this. Politicians – Hilary’s peers – knew what was happening but put party success before justice and children’s well-being, as in the case of David Steel. To countenance the idea that members of the establishment are above the law, Hilary Benn cited the example of the expenses scandal which led to MPs being jailed (Hilary was one of the tiny minority who emerged with a perfect record on expenses). My view was that this was only a handful, with relatively small sentences, and then only after huge and sustained public and media pressure. When it comes to the sexual exploitation and rape of children we only see entertainment figures being convicted, or revelations properly emerging after the criminal has died.

I would have liked to have seen Hilary Benn at the White Flowers meeting so he could hear the speakers himself, but he did meet me and genuinely debate the topic; some attendees MPs wouldn’t meet them, and a lot of MPs refused to sign the call for the Inquiry. The CSA Inquiry will need to make some serious progress before Hilary Benn and other’s faith in Government and the criminal justice system is shaken. Hopefully the White Flower’s Campaign will be a catalyst for that progress and, in the long-term, we’ll have a better society as a result.

Je ne sais pas

We naturally want to make sense of horrible events as quickly as possible, but despite a clear narrative from politicians and the media there are lots of things I’m uncertain about at the end of today. One of the few questions I am sure about is whether there is any justification for the murdering, hostage-taking and spreading of fear in Paris today. The answer to that is, without a doubt, no.

Outside of that question lies a lot of uncertainty. I can’t read French and so I can only understand the Charlie Hebdo magazine covers on a very basic level. Yes, I think freedom of speech is important, but how does Charlie Hebdo taking the piss out of all religions in their ‘dumb and nasty’ style help anyone? Je ne sais pas. It’s being referred to as satire – is it like Private Eye? I understand Private Eye – it’s written in English (the one language I’m proficient in) and I’ve read enough copies to know that they do proper investigations into areas the mainstream press often won’t, that they uncover a lot of failings and wrong-doing by people in power, and that they’ve been sued countless times for trying to tell the truth. Is that what Charlie Hebdo does? Je ne sais pas. Or are Charlie Hebdo more like Richard Dawkins than Private Eye? Je ne sais pas.

When I saw the footage of a group of young Muslim people living in poverty on the outskirts of Paris saying ‘we were offended by the Hebdo covers but we would never want to kill someone because of that’ I thought, why is this magazine offending some of the poorest, most disenfranchised people in France – what does that achieve? Je ne sais pas. What recourse do those young Muslims have to lampoon the middle class liberals lampooning their God? Je ne sais pas.

All the talk is of intelligence failings and freedom of speech – we need to snoop more, read more emails, intercept more phone calls – we must re-publish the cartoons and continue to satirise and lampoon. But when do we talk about the conditions that can foster terrorism? Of how we allow multiple viewpoints to co-exist in a terror free world? Or even more straightforward questions like, if prison is a hotbed of radicalistion then why do we cut the budgets for prisons and allow them to become so overcrowded that no-one has any idea what is happening inside? When do we talk honestly about history?

Maybe none of that matters. Perhaps the politicians answers are the right ones… Je ne sais pas.

The imbalance of power between sexual abuse victim and perpetrator

Prince AndrewThe imbalance of power between sexual abuse victim and perpetrator has been starkly highlighted again in the last few days following Jane Doe 3’s legal move which named Prince Andrew as one of the people she was “forced to have sexual relations with when she was a minor”. Prince Andrew (who presumably would be referred to as Andrew Albert Christian Edward in court – a theoretical point) was quickly able to utilise Buckingham Palace’s and his US business contacts media power to outnumber Jane Doe 3 in the press. The co-accused Harvard law professor and criminal defence attorney who advised convicted paedophile Jeffrey Epstein on how to respond to the FBI’s investigation, Alan Dershowitz, tells the public via the mainstream media that accusations against himself were “totally false and made up…this person has made this up out of cloth, maliciously and knowingly in order to extort money from Mr Epstein” and in reference to Prince Andrew “if she’s lied about me, which I know to an absolute certainty she has, she should not be believed about anyone else.” Dershowitz even threatened the lawyers who filed Jane Doe 3’s “carefully investigated” lawsuit with legal action to disbar them. Jane Doe 3’s response: “These types of aggressive attacks on me are exactly the reason why sexual abuse victims typically remain silent and the reason why I did for a long time. That trend should change. I’m not going to be bullied back into silence.”

Abusers have a number of advantages over their victims. An abuser in a position of power will have more as a result of their wealth, access to the media and the fact people tend to see them as part of the fabric of society. The general public will find it very difficult to believe that criminality might have occurred when the accused is the son of the woman they’ve watched deliver an annual message to her subjects at 3pm every Christmas Day since 1952. You could cut the cognitive dissonance with a knife.

An list of some of the perpetrator’s powers is set out below, but also some of the positive changes which I think/hope are happening now to gradually shift the balance of power from perpetrator to victim. Some of the powers are applicable to abusers in general, some more so to abusers in positions of power.

The perpetrator’s power

  • An abuser in a position of power will have huge financial and legal power (far outweighing those of the victim) to:
    • Explore all possible legal routes to avoid or minimise justice, e.g. plea bargaining.
    • Pay for the ‘best’ lawyers who are prepared to aggressively cross-question the accuser and exploit all weaknesses of the court system to the benefit of the perpetrator. E.g., because the brain processes trauma in a disjointed way, abuse survivors can display behaviour which might appear erratic to people who have not experienced abuse (or received coaching to understand these factors) – this can result in juries misinterpreting statements, evidence and answers as being untruthful, especially after direction from a ruthless lawyer. Victims often need to be prepared for trial to minimise the secondary trauma of giving evidence – this can lead to a ‘rehearsed’ feel to statements and answers which again can be exploited by the perpetrators defence.
    • Move financial resources out of reach of the prosecuting authority should a conviction be achieved. This doesn’t prevent conviction but does ensure no long term damage once a jail sentence is completed and it may prevent adequate compensation being paid to the victims, or at least the need for further litigation to secure compensation.
    • Pay for private investigators to dig up ‘dirt’ on the victims to discredit them in court.
    • Pay for PR companies to boost their public image and encourage the public (and jury members) to think that the accusations couldn’t be true.
  • An abuser in a position of power may have cultural power, g. people will finder it harder to believe that criminality might have occurred when the accused is the son of the woman they’ve watched deliver an annual message to her subjects at 3pm every Christmas Day since 1952.
  • The well-connected perpetrator is likely to have media power, e.g. they can get messages out quickly to a wide audience, sometimes through an organisation, such as Buckingham Palace, to add extra weight to their denials. The accused and their organisation may historically have something the mainstream media want, such as photographs of Royal trips, which the media outlets are content to surrender objectivity in exchange for.
  • An abuse ring involving Establishment-level abusers is likely to be able to stop police and journalist investigations at an early stage. This protects all members of the ring. The Establishment ring has the power to silence victims and potential whistle-blowers if necessary. (While particular individuals and organisations may hold evidence of the abuse for blackmail purposes, this does not help the victim).
  • In general, the victim will often be from a group susceptible to othering – perpetrators often choose victims on this basis. These biases affect the general public’s view and therefore potentially the jury’s view should the case reach court. Juries are often unreliable as they reflect the biases and prejudices inherent within society. These biases and prejudices have a disproportionately negative affect on women, economically disadvantaged people, children etc.
  • Our cultural values mean we tend not to believe children because they (apparently) make things up. We take the adults side by default.
  • The criminal justice system has a poor track record of bringing sexual offences cases to court and, ultimately, achieving convictions.
  • Despite occurrences of false reporting being extremely low there is a public perception that they are prevalent, in part due to these cases being relatively over-reported by the media. This fact can be exploited to the abuser’s advantage.
  • Children (although not exclusively children) don’t always have the necessary vocabulary to articulate what has happened to them (e.g. they are less likely to know words to describe genitalia) or understand that boundaries have been crossed and that they have actually been abused as defined in law. Many individuals and organisations are against the sex and relationship education in schools which would mitigate this under the mistaken belief that it sexualises children.
  • Family loyalty can often override the desire to report abuse because children don’t want parents/guardians (either those carrying out the abuse or those related to the abuser/s) to get into trouble or for family units to be broken up. ‘Family’ doesn’t have to be biological.

Some positive changes happening now which are hopefully starting to shift the balance of power towards the victim

  • Increased public awareness of the level of child sexual abuse and exploitation within our society.
  • Increased public awareness of the level of corruption within the Establishment and the failings that can occur as a result of individual biases and prejudices, e.g. within police forces.
  • Increasing pressure from the public on the political arm of the Establishment to uncover Establishment-level sexual abusers of children and bring them to justice. Some members of the political establishment have led the call for a national inquiry (not without strong resistance from some, and minimal action from most).
  • Some high profile prosecutions (although only from the media/entertainment world to date).
  • Partly due to social media, information is shared more quickly and widely now than with traditional media channels in the past. Survivors, campaigners and concerned members of the public are able to connect on their own terms and organise.
  • Emergence of new media outlets not constrained by traditional commercial media models, e.g. Exaro.
  • Better support for victims (although still nowhere near enough).
  • Wider availability of specialist legal support.