#NoMoreVictimBlaming in sexual abuse cases
Victim blaming is often seen in sexual abuse cases. Survivors of abuse often state they did not report the sexual abuse they suffered because they were worried society would blame them for “allowing” the abuse to take place. A recent example of this is the case of Stuart Kerner.
Judge accuses child of enticing an adult to commit a sexual offence
Stuart Kerner was forty two years old at the time of the offences and he was the deputy head of Bexleyheath Academy in south east London where the victim was a pupil. For the purposes of this blog only, I shall call the victim Sophie. Sophie was 16 years old when Kerner took Sophie’s virginity on a yoga mat in the school storeroom and he continued to have sexual intercourse with her over a number of months.
Kerner was convicted in January 2015 of having sex with a child while in a position of trust as a teacher. It was the comments of Judge Joanna Greenberg however that have caused me considerable anger and concern. When sentencing Kerner, she told Kerner that:
“there is no evidence you encouraged her in any way……………..there is no evidence you groomed her. If anything, it was she who groomed you”.
Sophie was later labelled by Judge Greenberg as being “intelligent and manipulative”.
I am at a loss to understand how anyone, let alone someone such as a judge, could ever blame a 16 year old pupil of “leading on” an adult teacher to commit sexual assaults. How can a victim ever be blamed for the failings of someone who held a position of authority, power and trust over them?
It is comments such as those by Judge Greenberg that frequently deter victims of sexual abuse from disclosing the abuse that they suffered. Survivors of child abuse often worry that people will blame them for the abuse and it is likely this case would have deterred many coming forward. Sophie admitted the same herself a few weeks after the trial concluded:
“I wish the trial had never gone ahead. I regret it more than the affair.”
It is important to remember three key issues:
- It is never a victim’s fault for abuse taking place.
- Abusers will often manipulate matters to make victims comply with their demands.
- Abusers often use their position of power, trust and authority to commit sexual crimes against children and those who are more vulnerable than them.
I therefore ask you to retweet this blog and to help spread the tweet #NoMoreVictimBlaming so other victims of sexual abuse can feel safe in disclosing the abuse they suffered and confident that they will be believed and that they will not be blamed for the assaults they have suffered.
Dino Nocivelli is a partner in the Abuse team at Bolt Burdon Kemp. If you feel you may have a claim or are enquiring on behalf of a loved one, contact Dino free of charge and in confidence on 020 7288 4887 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternatively, complete this form and one of the solicitors in the Abuse team will contact you. Find out more about the Abuse Team.