google-site-verification: googleb77b0e78d57c2188.html We must work to stop child abuse - Tessa Munt

We must work to stop child abuse

eDUC.jpgThe Home Secretary will change in May, but my pursuit of justice for children will continue. The acknowledgement of the true scale of child abuse in our society over the last couple of years is a major breakthrough, but my work to expose and stop the rot will carry on.

Last year, a group of seven MPs from across the political divide met to discuss the calls, visits and information we'd been receiving from people who said they had been abused by extremely powerful and "well connected" people.

As someone who was abused during childhood, I understood how they felt and I believed them. Child abuse is happening everywhere, all the time and at the hands of all kinds of people.

It affects everyone. Boys and girls, men and women, rich and poor, of every ethnicity, background, from all faiths and none.

For some of my colleagues, the crimes being described and the people being implicated in these most vile crimes, were unbelievable – Cabinet ministers, celebrities, household names.

As another of the original seven MPs, Zac Goldsmith, remarked:

 

"It's a horrible thing. It's one of those areas that attracts so many conspiracy theories. Whereas a few years ago the inclination would have been to dismiss them as conspiracy theories, as time goes by, they start to look less like theories."

That's why the seven of us called for an independent, Hillsborough-style Inquiry into historic child sexual abuse. This would be the vehicle to give victims a chance to step forward, speak out, be listened to and believed.

At first, the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary resisted our calls. But I knew that as soon as the seven of us made that demand, it was only a matter of time.

There have been major hiccups along the way, mainly because the "establishment" forever looks inward. Trying to put the panel and chair of the inquiry together was a slow, painful process for the seven MPs who had taken the initiative to get the Government to this point. Had the Home Secretary embraced our ideas and experience from day one, the Government could have saved itself some considerable embarrassment, and retained the confidence of survivors.

I can only imagine what watching the Government stumble and fall, not once but twice, was like for those who had been abused. Many lost hope and confidence in the inquiry there and then, which was massively frustrating and deeply regrettable. In July, I had recommended to the Home Secretary that she might find a candidate for the inquiry chair from the Commonwealth; someone who was at a distance from the British "establishment". The appointment of Judge Lowell Goddard, a New Zealander, happened eventually, but only after two chairs had resigned and seven months were lost.

I'm a survivor myself. In speaking out, I hoped others would find strength and come forward, knowing support would be available, they'd be heard, believed and, if they wanted, action would follow. That's happened.

Now that the victims of these horrendous crimes have come forward some, not for the first time unfortunately, they must get justice. We must increase awareness generally, but in particular, a professional "curiosity" – so that those who come into contact with children ask questions, don't turn a blind eye and know they must report signs of abuse and see that their concerns are followed up.

Those who know me know I am driven. I've proven that I can work with anyone and I don't give up. With another five years as an MP, I can ensure that whoever is Home Secretary after May 7 continues to prioritise this inquiry. If they don't, I shall certainly speak up.

The inquiry must pursue the truth, ensure those who commit or cover up such hideous crimes account for their actions and omissions – whoever they are, whatever their connections – and make perpetrators face the full force of the law.

Child abuse is abhorrent. We must work to stop the rot and change how society protects the vulnerable, and deals with the perpetrators of these crimes.

One thing I do know – with the right help and support, we can all recover our lives, survive and thrive.

Tessa

14th March 2015

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