As we are all aware of the ongoing investigations into historical abuse of children and adults in many differing settings it is very disheartening to hear our media commentators repeatedly ask the question of why are we doing these investigations. They ask victims’ and agencies who support victims or those who investigate these crimes whether it is right to investigate allegations that took place decades ago.
I do not know why they keep asking these questions as I feel it undermines the serious nature of these crimes and the unimaginable horrors that victims have faced.
Germany 2016 saw three man charged with war crimes emanating from 1943, all men were in their 90’s but this did not stop the German prosecutors from charging them and instigating criminal proceedings because it is the right thing to do, this investigation is called Operation Last Chance and is ongoing. Kurt Schrimm who is the federal prosecutor said: “In view of the monstrosity of these crimes, one owes it to survivors and victims not to say, ‘A certain time has passed, it should be swept under the carpet’.
Therefore we have to have the same attitude towards investigation of historical child sexual exploitation and abuse, yesterday during the opening statements of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, chaired by Professor Alexis Jay, it cited the appalling and depraved abuse of children who were sent to a Catholic School in Australia, there are still some survivors who are going to give evidence who are still deeply affected by their traumas and we must hear their “voices” to ensure that we learn lessons from the past. In recent months we have had some high profile footballers disclose high levels of abuse within their sport, one footballer Paul Stewart was featured on BBC TV Crime watch last night (27-2-17 http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b08h4hsm ). Paul played for Tottenham Hotspurs and represented England at international level. In the programme Paul highlighted the effect that his abuse had on him and his wider family and he felt that still more needs to be done to combat this crime in sport.
There is a strong push now for all sports clubs to have policies and procedures in place regarding child protection, however for them to be effective a change in culture needs to be in place, we need to be able to discuss abuse in an open and honest manner with clubs, coaches, parents and our children without being fearful of the topic in question and worried about having to talk about sensitive issues. Sports governing bodies need to be honest and open in admitting that abuse has taken place within their own sport and take responsibility to ensure any abuses are fully investigated by the appropriate authorities and any perpetrators are brought to justice. We need to hear the testimony of victims and survivors to ensure we develop good resources for our sports clubs, schools and other institutions or activities where children attend and develop mandatory training for adults working with children, not simply on-line courses or a simple three hour presentation. Learning needs to be embedded by coaches, parents and children for it to be effective, this requires a change in culture with regard to safeguarding so it can be discussed in an open, consistent and transparent manner without the hype portrayed in the media and some of the daft questions posed by some journalists.
Education and Communities Lead
CSE Response Unit