You have to be living in an hermetically sealed box these days not to know that child sexual abuse is a widespread scandal of epidemic proportions. Savile, Janner, Harris, Rotherham, the IICSA – all have driven home the message that this evil has been both widespread and deeply damaging to those affected. Around three-quarters of those who seek our help at SurvivorsUK have been abused as children. I attended a recent briefing on Operation Hydrant which the police set up in August 2014 following the surge in reporting after revelations about the offending behaviour of Jimmy Savile. Its main purpose is operational coordination – it quickly became apparent that there was potential for Police Forces to begin investigations into the same suspect as victims from different parts of the country could make allegations against one offender – a teacher for example who may have moved across geographical areas as they progressed their career. To avoid duplication, and to ensure effective intelligence and information sharing, Operation Hydrant was established.
At that briefing we were told that over a three-year period, commencing in 2012, the police service saw an 80% increase in reports of child sexual abuse. Yet figures released by the Crime Survey of England and Wales in August 2016 demonstrated that there is still uncertainty among survivors about contacting the police – 3 out of 4 adult survivors of child sexual abuse had not reported what happened to them. Among the reasons for this were that victims and survivors felt they would not be believed. There is now a major effort by the police to show that a survivor will be believed initially and we must wait to see if this truly filters down into all police forces.
The increase in reporting is welcome if it shows that more survivors are prepared to come forward. An increase in reporting of current abuse, however, may mean either improved reporting or increased occurrence of crime – which is less encouraging. It may mean, of course, an increase in both. What is interesting is that there are 2,539 victims on the Operation Hydrant database and the majority of these are male (1814), with 698 of victims being female (27 victims are listed whose gender is unknown). So with this being so much a problem affecting male victims why is it still that the Crown Prosecution Service produces annually its crime report Violence Against Women & Girls with a small subscription-heading stating “(inclusive of data on men and boys)”? Surely, men and boys have earned the hard way the right to be in a separate category? I have a meeting lined up soon with the Director of Public Prosecutions Alison Saunders and you can be sure that this point will be made!
Against all this background we at SurvivorsUK continue to provide much needed services to male survivors – from nationwide information on our website with self-help guides, a blog and newsletter as well as the seven-day a week webchat operation available to all to individual counselling, telephone counselling, group work and the development of online counselling. I am pleased that our impact remains highly beneficial to those who come to us with a large percentage gaining a sense of better wellbeing, more self-reliance and less risk of self-harm or reliance on drink or drugs. That is why we exist and why all of us gain so much fulfilment when our clients can begin to rebuild their lives and manage them having come to terms with the abuse they have suffered.
How can you play a part? Many of you do so already by giving us regular donations to enable us to carry on our work – but you do not have to give financially to support us. You can spread the word among your friends, partners, colleagues and communities that we are here for those who have been abused, that we offer a wholly confidential setting in which survivors can share their stories and overcome the wall of silence. We are a small but earnest charity determined to ensure that everyone who needs us knows of us. We cannot do that alone – so please help to spread the word in whatever way you can. If you want leaflets about our work we can provide them for distribution or for a fundraising or community event. Do keep in touch and let us know what more we can do as well as telling us about our blog and newsletter – it is for you so make sure that it is what you want!