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Listening to abuse victims.

View profile for Grace Monteith
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In recent years, we have witnessed a shifting attitude surrounding the issue of sexual abuse. Thankfully, this is something that is constantly becoming less and less of a taboo subject.

We are now much more accustomed to reading about sexual abuse in the media, support for victims is widespread and information on support groups is much easier to access online and on social media. We are also continuing to move further away from social stigmas associated with abuse, meaning that more and more victims have the confidence to discuss abuse that they have encountered in the past.

Sadly, the level of support available to victims now was not available in the past. Victims of abuse were often unable to confide in anyone about their suffering and were not able to obtain any kind of reparation for their injuries. This is particularly the case for children that suffered abuse in the past. In a time where children were ‘seen but not heard’, they faced a battle to get support from authorities and on some occasions, family members. Unfortunately, this means that hundreds of thousands of people have survived sexual abuse but have not been able to move forward from it.

Historic abuse within religious institutions dominates much of the media at the moment. The Church of England is just one of various religious institutions that is the subject of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse (IICSA). Members of the Church of England have been accused of allegedly colluding with abusers, rather than seeking to help those that had been harmed or assuring itself of the safety of others.

“It is utterly disgraceful to discover that collusion at the heart of the Church of England led to the abuse of so many… Abuse in our most revered institutions must be exposed and investigated, offenders brought to justice, and victims given confidence to come forward.”

– Spokesperson for the NSPCC.

While the spotlight is on historic abuse, there is no better time to address sexual abuse and sexual assault within institutions and organisations. The failings of various institutions to protect children from sexual abuse are finally being addressed in a series of IICSA hearings taking place throughout 2018. The IICSA are considering historic abuse allegations in a wide range of institutions such as schools, hospitals, churches, mosques or other religious institutions, the police and many others. Victims of historic sexual abuse across the UK are being encouraged to come forward to share their stories so that offenders can be brought to justice.

It is to be hoped that increased awareness, comprehensive reporting and improved vetting will help to prevent incidents of abuse in the future. It is critical that we listen to the victims of past abuse so that we can learn to protect our children in the years ahead