Victims and survivors of child sexual abuse need to be given a powerful voice in government, writes Baroness Newlove.
Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) has wrecked the lives of thousands of children, and there has been a systematic and institutional failure to tackle it. Yes, it is important that we address these failures. But, just as important, we need to make sure that those who have suffered are provided with all the support they need to rebuild their lives.
Having met many survivors and victims, I have no doubt about the catastrophic impact this abuse has had on their lives, damaging their mental and physical health and harming their ability to form lasting, loving relationships or hold down steady employment.
The provision of services to support victims/survivors of child sexual abuse varies across the country – victims and survivors can face a postcode lottery, with the prospect of receiving excellent services in some places, but inadequate ones in others. Agencies, however well-meaning, often work in silos, leaving survivors constantly having to repeat their stories and battle to be heard.
I welcome the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse’s work in investigating failures of the past. But we need to do so much more. We need to be sure that when victims/survivors come forward, they receive the support they need. They have been let down badly in the past, often by the people who should have protected them from harm. We cannot let them down again.
We need to transform our approach to sexual abuse, with guaranteed levels of support for survivors/victims regardless of what part of the country they come from and with agencies working together to provide holistic packages of support.
I believe we need a CSA Commissioner, appointed by government and with statutory powers. This commissioner can champion the needs of victims and survivors, monitor the support on offer to them and hold the police and all other criminal justice agencies to account.
A CSA Commissioner can ensure the issues facing victims and survivors of CSA are at the centre of public debate, and that their voices are heard. They deserve nothing less.