At last the inquiry into child abuse can set about winning justice for survivors

By Chris Tuck (The Guardian)
February 9, 2015

I am a survivor of mental, emotional, physical and sexual abuse within the home, and sexual abuse by a third party outside of the home. While writing a book in which I share my story, I came across the National Association for People Abused in Childhood (Napac). Through meeting and working with Napac I now know that most abuse occurs within the home, and I wanted to try to raise awareness of this, and show how devastating abuse is to victims and survivors – often for the rest of their lives.

I became involved with the government’s child sex abuse inquiry when Theresa May requested to meet survivors. I, like many others, could not believe the shambles we saw with the appointment of the first two chairs. I am not a political person, but I felt that as a survivor and campaigner my input could be of value. It was important to step forward so that my voice, alongside many others, could help shape an inquiry that would be fit for purpose.

After meeting with May again this week, I truly believe she wants to get to the truth and gain justice for victims and survivors of institutional and organised abuse. She was the first person to acknowledge that the inquiry started off on the wrong foot, perhaps because she didn’t fully understand what she was dealing with, or know how to deal with it in the right way.

At the very first meeting, all the individuals in the room introduced themselves by name, stated what had happened to them and explained how they had suffered as a result of abuse. I truly felt that this was the first time May had realised how devastating abuse can be on the individual, and how important it was to get the inquiry right. I think she heard from enough of us to work out that she needed to listen to victims and survivors if the inquiry is to be successful.

The consensus of opinion was that we needed: an independent statutory inquiry; a chair and panel that had the skills, knowledge and expertise to deliver a successful inquiry; amended terms of reference that would go back to 1945, and cover an extended geographical location; and a support fund to safeguard those giving evidence and for organisations that support adult survivors of abuse in need of help.

When you are abused you are stripped of any power and control, and you find it hard to trust others. There are too many abusers out there, especially people in positions of power who feel they are above the law and can do what they want. When I was researching institutional and organised abuse I was horrified by what I found. I learned of vulnerable kids who have been befriended by perpetrators and forced to become rent boys and prostitutes. Of children being taken into care because of abuse in the family home, and are then abused all over again in the care system. Of children being abused in boarding schools, and by people in the church.

Abuse is everywhere. It is the cancer in society that no one wants to acknowledge or talk about – and therein lies the problem. By talking about it we take away the power and control from the perpetrators, and give it back to the survivors. They will find a voice, break the silence and secrecy that surrounds the abuse they have suffered, and get justice for what happened to them.

This inquiry is a massive opportunity to uncover where and how children have been catastrophically let down. We have the opportunity to reveal the truth and bring the perpetrators to justice. This is a historical moment in itself and a time for everyone to come together and say no to abuse of children. The perpetrators of abuse must realise that child victims grow up to be adults, and once we regain control of our lives we will speak out, and they will be punished. The tide is turning and we are saying: no more, what you did was wrong – you are no longer getting away with it.

The importance of transparency around the inquiry and those involved in it is paramount in order that survivors can have trust in the process and its outcome. While I do believe there has been a cover-up of institutional abuse, and I do believe that the perpetrators want to protect themselves at all costs, I also believe that the lid is off and we are never going to put it back on again. With the announcement of the new chair of the inquiry – Justice Lowell Goddard – I believe the truth will prevail in the end.