Child sex abuse victims ‘will feel cheated’ if report is not hard-hitting

The final Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse report will be laid before Parliament on Thursday.

19 October 2022

Victims will feel “cheated” if the findings of an overarching report from the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse are not hard-hitting, a survivor has said.

The final report, taking in all 19 strands of the inquiry such as investigations into abuse in Westminster and the church, will be published on Thursday.

One victim, who wishes to go by the name Joanne, said she hoped a mandatory reporting law would be recommended, forcing priests to pass allegations of child abuse to police even if made during confessions.

She told the PA news agency: “The 15 investigations have shown across the board catastrophic failings to protect and safeguard children – not just historically but in the very recent present.

“There’s no ambiguity as to how serious that is.

“The only outcome should be and must be mandatory reporting, and very uncompromising mandatory reporting.”

Joanne said she was “almost conditioned” to believe the abuse inflicted on her was OK, describing it as her “private nightmare”.

“I think what the inquiry has shown is those that cover up and take no action are effectively enabling abuse – they are collaborators of it,” she said.

“The inquiry has shown the consequences of doing nothing.

“It goes beyond those who are victims of the abuse to those who have been at risk of abuse, and I think that’s unacceptable.

“I think the Government who commissioned this inquiry have an absolute duty of care to act on whatever the recommendations are… and not postpone doing anything about it.”

Asked what she hoped would come of the report, Joanne told PA: “Quite a lot of people keep talking about historic abuse and I think a lot of the cases that have been heard had that terminology – as if it’s something in the dim and distant past.

“The act of abuse is perhaps historic but the impact is past, present and future. It’s a life sentence.

“All of us who have given evidence to the inquiry are not just doing it in the ‘wallowing in the past’ sort of way – we are telling our stories to show that this must not happen in the future.

“If, on the back of the evidence that has been heard… there isn’t something very hard-hitting, I and other victims will feel very cheated and it will be very hard to get closure.”

Asked if she thought abuse would ever be rooted out of the church, she said: “I believe it will potentially be reduced but I don’t think that’s coming from the church.

“The protection comes from third parties, not from within the church.

“I think the church can’t be left to regulate itself, I think it’s for statutory bodies to take that control.”

In 2019, a scathing report into abuse allegations at the Church of England concluded the King, who was then the Prince of Wales, was “misguided” in his support for shamed clergyman Peter Ball who was cautioned for gross indecency in 1992.

Asked if she found it troubling that the inquiry had heard that abusers received support from high-profile figures, Joanne said: “Very troubling.

“I’ve been a victim of that power that these men have had.

“They’ve got very senior positions in society, they’ve got very strong networks.

“I was silenced by the hierarchy at the church but I was also silenced by the power of the network around them, which my abuser and other abusers in the church knew they had.”

Addressing what it was like for the victims giving evidence at the inquiry, Joanne said: “I think we’ve all paid a very high price giving evidence.

“It’s been very traumatic to do it. It’s in the title, really – public inquiry.

“It put a lot of very personal and traumatising information into the public arena.

“I felt often like a human sacrifice and I felt angry that I had to be exposed to this and for it to be exposed and heard.

“If the legacy of that can bring about some meaningful change and not just some wishy-washy words… then that will help me get some closure.

“We can let it go knowing others are taking control to protect others.

“When I went to seek help at the time I was being abused, and in the years afterwards nothing was done.

“I expected my abuser to lie and cover his tracks but I thought all those in positions of power would stand up for the truth.”

Commenting on what she wanted to happen after the report’s publication, Joanne said: “Nothing we have done has been about some self-indulgent wallowing in the past – we have done this to show why things need to change for others in the future.

“I think the Government has an absolute responsibility to own this inquiry, own the findings, and act and give it priority.

“Then I think I and other victims can get an element of closure.

“I have been burdened for decades by the anxiety and fear for other children knowing my abuser was surrounding himself with children.

“Everybody I went to disclose my abuse to, who knew he was an abuser, kept him close to children.

“If there are statutory bodies who take away that risk then it helps me to let go of that burden – and it has been a burden for most of my life.”

The final IICSA report will comprise two parts: victims and survivors’ voices and the inquiry’s conclusions and recommendations for change.

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