Author Archives: SomersetSurvivors

Historic / non-recent Child Abuse Investigations. The case for a safety critical system

What is a safety critical system

A life-critical system or more commonly a safety-critical system is a system whose failure or malfunction may result in one (or more) of the following outcomes: death or serious injury to people. loss or severe damage to equipment/property.

But a more intuitive explanation may be

with the consequences of failure .If the failure of a system could lead to consequences that are determined to be unacceptable, then the system is safety-critical. In essence, a system is safety-critical when we depend on it for our well being. [1]

So does an investigation by the police constitute a safety critical system?

Despite it being rather counter intuitive, how can an investigation into a report of a crime that may have happened 10, 20 or more years ago, be safety critical and does it fit the into a reasonable definition of a system anyhow.
I would argue that yes it does meet both of these requirements.

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After Reporting Non-Recent Abuse: A Personal Journey Pt1

One of the most difficult thing for an adult survivor of Childhood abuse to do is disclose what happened to him as a child, and the impact it has had on his life.

Often this first disclosure is to a friend, a medical professional or partner. Going to the Police and making a ‘formal complaint’ is another thing altogether. This is particularly true when the survivor had good reasons for believing that there is little or no chance of the abuser being brought ‘to book’ and a ‘good’ ending to the experience.

So having recently made that step to not only disclose but to make the formal complaint I want to share the journey.

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Why I Reported Non-Recent Abuse to the Police

While there is a lot of talk, and I hope action, around detecting abuse so that it can be stopped and the child given help and protection there is less understanding of why adults don’t report abuse to the police once they are adults.

Some recent statistics from the British Crime survey suggest that the top reasons adults don’t disclose, and make formal complaints to the police, is embarrassment and thinking that they either wouldn’t be believed and / or that the police wouldn’t do anything about it. [1]

These reasons are certainly high on my list but there are others that are as difficult for me to deal with.

Possibly top is fear. Fear that my abuser, a family member, will react negatively to it and punish me. Even though I have no contact with the person, know that there is nothing left that they can do to hurt me and they already know I have talked to Social Services about it that fear is still there.

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Who Commissions Support for Survivors?

Like many who have been sexually abused as children I suppressed the memories of the abuse for many years as a self-protective mechanism. It was only in the last couple of years that I have found those memories and feeling beginning to surface despite my best efforts to keep them down.

As they did my own mental health deteriorated and I began looking for support and help only to find that there seemed to be no help tailored to Adult survivors of abuse available in Somerset. Even that provided by charities was sparse and focused in the bigger cities.

This prompted me to begin asking questions believing that either the NHS or Local Authority would be responsible for the recognition of the need for such support and its provision. After finding little or no information on the web sites of wither the Clinical Commissioning Group or the local authority I decided to ask, via a freedom of information request, what provision they had in place and what their planed provision was.

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The Inner Child: How we cope day to day, and when we fall to pieces

One of the impacts of child hood abuse is that the child will often need to disassociate from the experiences he, or she, has faced.

This can result in being unable to remember specific instances of the abuse or, as In my case, a more general inability to remember much of the childhood at all. These memories are locked away an frozen in time. They are never processed, never integrated and put into a proper context.

But it is not just memories that get frozen. In a way, it is the child, memories, experiences his whole being that is frozen in time. For the IT literate among you it is like taking a snapshot of a running system, or perhaps taking a 3D hologram snapshot of the child. One that not only captures the whole image of the child but also captures his thoughts, feelings and fears and freezes it in place.

Over time around that frozen core the adult forms. New experiences and memories overlay the inner child and these memories, skills and experiences often suffice to allow the adult to operate in what appears to be a ‘normal’ way.

The adult part of the person can accept adult experiences and problems and react in an ‘adult’ way. The day to day life of the adult survivor doesn’t seem to need to access the inner child, the adult crust built up over the years processes the experiences its self.

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Supporting Adult Survivors of non-recent sexual abuse: Needs and Provision

Summary

The need for specific support for adult survivors of historic / Non recent childhood abuse is neither well understood or provided for.

The belief within the groups that commission both physical and mental health services is that the existing generic services are adequate.

Needs and Provision.

One of the big issues, at least in my limited experience, is that dealing with the fallout from childhood sexual abuse isn’t easy. It requires a lot of support and professional help.

That support is increasing being put in place for children, as it should be. But in many cases the abuse is not disclosed at the time and often not coming to the surface until the victim is an adult, often years or decades later.

The support that an adult victim will need is officers going be different for each and every one but there will I feel be some commonalities that need to be provided for.

I would suggest that the support falls into two general categories, Mental Health issues and trauma related problems.

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Somerset: Policy on Disclosing Identity of a Survivor

Somerset Council has now responded to my request for details on their policy regarding disclosing the identity of adult survivors of child abuse.

Interestingly while they do not  have a specific policy they do note that they have to work under the Care Act 2014 and Care and Support Statutory Guidance 2016, the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 and the Data Protection
Act 1998.

This is an interesting repose, acknowledging as it does that there is some legal requirements on them even if they are not specificity related to adult survivors of child abuse.

The general policy was described as

We take the decision to disclose the identity of people who disclose historic

 

sexual abuse
very seriously. This would not be a decision that Somerset County Council

 

takes in isolation;
we would work with relevant partner organisations to decide what

 

information should be
disclosed, to whom and by whom. The information disclosed depends on the nature of the criminal investigation and is dealt with on a case-by-case basis.

One concern I have is that when asked what support & protection was be provided should a disclosure take place the response didn’t seem to acknowledge the needs of the survivor concentrating on the risk to any investigation

The decision to disclose the ‘complainant’s’ details to the alleged abuser will be
fully risk assessed as part of a multi-agency strategy discussion to ascertain the parameters
of this disclosure and the impact it could have on an investigation.

You can read the full response in this PDF  somerset-foi-disclosure

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Hampshire: Policy on Disclosing Identity of a Survivor

Hampshire County Council has responded to the request for information regarding its policy about disclosing the identity of somebody who discloses historic abuse to them.

On the face of it, it looks a lot better than some, but the proof is of course in its application and personal experience tells me that in this case I don’t think we can rely on the policy actually being implemented.

This is of course the danger where we have to rely on procedures and guideline not backed up in law.

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North Somerset: No policy on disclosing identity of Survivor

So I asked North Somerset for some information regarding their policy about disclosure:

Dear North Somerset Council,

 

I would like to know you policy regarding the disclosure of the identity of people who disclose historic sexual abuse

  • Also Specifically:
    Is the identity of the complainant disclosed to the alleged abuser and if so under what conditions?
  • What processes and procedures are in place to protect and support the complainant when / if his or her identity is disclosed
  • What prior notice is given to the complainant regarding potential disclosure of his / her identity
  • What warnings about potential disclosure of his / her identity are provided before the complainant discloses.

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