From care homes to chatrooms; the abuse continues
I attended a very interesting conference yesterday, organised by the charity Enough Abuse, entitled ” Empowering children to resist abuse”. Speakers included experts in the fields of law, social work, criminology and technology and covered a wide spectrum of topics from the early abuse in care homes to the present day grooming and ‘sexploitation’ of children through online chatrooms.
In April 2013, the NSPCC brought to light some harrowing facts: 1 in 5 children are being seriously abused in the UK; in the last 12 months there have been 8 rapes a day of children under 13; and only 1 in 9 children needing protection receive it. What is even more distressing is that these figures relate to reported incidents of abuse only, and bearing in mind the number of unreported incidents, it is not difficult to imagine how prevalent child abuse is in our society.
As a solicitor working for victims of child abuse, I know exactly how long lasting and devastating the impact of childhood abuse can be. I also know how let down my clients feel when looking back they question why those who saw or heard something never did anything to help them. To this end, I was particularly pleased to hear at the conference that some of the leading child abuse charities are working together to push for mandatory reporting in the UK. The violent death of 4 year old Daniel Pelka, which highlighted the opportunities missed by a number of agencies to protect him, has become the driving force behind this.
At present there are no specific mandatory laws in the UK which require professionals to report suspicions of child abuse to the authorities. There are guidelines for safeguarding children from harm but if you fail to report child abuse it is not a criminal offence and you cannot be prosecuted. If passed, the laws on mandatory reporting will change this and I welcome this change.
Whilst we all realise the importance of professionals playing a key role in is field, the clear message from the conference is that children themselves need to be educated to recognise the signs and forms of child abuse. This is an important message given that the majority of victims blame themselves for not realising that what was happening was wrong. Children will always remain vulnerable but by empowering them with the right knowledge we can ensure their vulnerability is not preyed upon.