Abuse victim 'warning' over inquiry support

Boy's hands silhouetted through glass door Image copyright Thinkstock

An alleged victim of child sexual abuse has warned the inquiry into historical cases faces failure without fast-tracked psychological victim support.

The overarching inquiry commissioned by the Home Office will consider cases going back several decades.

"David" told the BBC his experience suggested victims who came forward could "go through hell".

The Home Office said it was working across government to ensure victims had the support and help they needed.

Home Secretary Theresa May announced the inquiry last week to examine how public institutions had handled their duty of care to protect children from paedophiles.

On Monday, Lady Butler-Sloss stepped down as the head of the inquiry saying she was "not the right person" for the job.

She had faced pressure to quit from MPs and victims concerned about her family links, because her late brother, Sir Michael Havers, had been attorney general in the 1980s.

Lady Butler-Sloss said: "This is a victim-orientated inquiry, and those who wish to be heard must have confidence that the members of the panel will pay proper regard to their concerns."

But David, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, told the BBC the inquiry had to show it was being carried out with "transparency, openness, honest and integrity" to gain the backing of victims.

He called on the Home Office to ensure that immediate psychological support was made a priority for victims who offered to give evidence.

"It is up to society to support [victims] at that point - to provide them with a fast track to appropriate therapeutic support and to hold them up.

"If you don't have their cooperation, you don't have an investigation," he said.

He described how he had been a victim of "a variety of different types of abuse" from an early age through to adolescence, leaving him with a "complete mistrust of other people".

"When you're a kid and you're in an abusive situation, all you're looking for is safety," he said.

"You aren't able to plan a life. I was sure that I was going to be dead by the time I was 30," he said.

For 30 years David did not speak to anyone in authority about the abuse he had suffered, until police officers knocked on his door last year.

Image copyright PA
Image caption The former head of the child abuse inquiry, Lady Butler-Sloss, said it would be "victim-orientated"

He said the experience had felt like a "thunderbolt" and left him "in meltdown" psychologically.

David was diagnosed with depression and what he described as "complex and compound trauma". After a number of NHS referrals taking several months, he was eventually told that he was in need of ongoing psychological therapy.

But David said he had been told the maximum amount of available treatment would be limited to two years.

"That leads to an ethical dilemma where they are unable to start a course of treatment where potentially I might be worse off by the end of it," he said.

"It leaves me in limbo, just carrying the scars and trying to fight what battles I can just to get through."

A Home Office spokesman said: "Child abuse is an abhorrent crime which can scar people for life, and this government is determined to stamp it out.

"This government has ring-fenced nearly £40m for specialist local support services and national helplines, including more than 80 independent sexual violence advisers.

"Special funding has been made available to help male victims of sexual violence and encourage them to come forward," he added.

A spokeswoman for the NHS said she couldn't comment on individual cases, but referred the BBC to a 31-page document on "public health functions" that promises to "assure improvement in local delivery of sexual assault referral centres".

Listen to Tom Bateman's report on BBC Radio 4's Today programme between 06:00 and 09:00 on Thursday 17 July 2014.

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