Nujoji Calvocoressi 13 November 2020

Listening to the voices of survivors

Nujoji Calvocoressi is a member of the Victims and Survivors Consultative Panel at the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse. In this blog, he describes how the voices of survivors are central to the Inquiry’s work, and argues that if things are to change, it’s essential we listen to those voices.

“I finally had the opportunity to have my voice heard. This has been the most important thing in my healing journey.”

These are the words of a victim and survivor of child sexual abuse who shared their experience with the Truth Project. It’s no doubt that feeling heard is important for anyone - in fact for many of us, it’s something we don’t have to think twice about. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case for everyone. For someone who may have been disbelieved, ignored or told to stay silent in the past, having the opportunity to share their experience may be the first step on the road to recovery.

Part of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, the Truth Project provides an opportunity for survivors to share their account and put forward suggestions for change. Just last month, it published a further 80 experiences shared by survivors, who described abuse taking place in residential care homes, sports settings and religious communities. They talked about the barriers they faced in coming forward and the detrimental impact the abuse has had across all aspects of their lives including relationships, education, their career, as well as physical and mental health. Many said that by sharing their account, they hoped to help others who had been through a similar experience and to make a difference.

“Thank you for giving me the ability to share my story for the first time. I felt empowered, listened to and had the opportunity to help others…” - Truth Project participant

Making a difference is exactly what their experience contributes to. More than 5,000 survivors have now shared their account with the Truth Project, with each one helping to inform our recommendations to better protect children in future. All who have generously and courageously offered their experience help to build the case for change and improvement. Whilst it’s coming to a close next year, for now we are still encouraging those who wish to share their account with the Truth Project to do so.

As well as the Truth Project, survivors also make an important contribution to the Inquiry through our Victims and Survivors Forum, with members providing a true insight into their views on issues such as the criminal justice system and access to records.

Most recently, members of the Forum were invited to put forward their views on the subject of redress, with more than half of those who had sought redress describing the overall process as negative.

“The whole experience which has lasted years has been a time of hypervigilance and anxiety on an almost daily basis”. - Forum member

Forum members described how they felt inadequately supported with the emotional impact of seeking redress. Some said the process was retraumatising and told us that it had caused them harm, whilst others said they had been treated poorly by those from whom they had sought redress. Many described apologies and acknowledgments as the thing they would have valued the most, with one survivor saying: “So many people never apologise or say these words, ‘I am so sorry this happened to you’”. The full summary report is available to read here.

The generosity of survivors who have shared their accounts with the Inquiry provide a powerful insight into the difficulties many have to deal with across numerous aspects of their lives. Their accounts tell us there is still much work to be done to better support and better understand the challenges, barriers and life-long impacts victims and survivors face in England and Wales. If things are to change for the better, it’s vital that we continue to listen and learn from their experiences.

The Truth Project is drawing to a close next year so all of the experiences shared can be used to inform the findings and recommendations in the Inquiry’s final report. More information about sharing an experience is available on the Truth Project website.

More information about how to join the Inquiry’s Victims and Survivors Forum is available here.

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