Thursday, 29 January 2015

Understanding Anti-Victim Prejudice via @ShyKeenan #AVP #CSA #Victims

Understanding Anti-Victim Prejudice 

AVP exists and can be clearly seen within our child protection services and our Criminal Justice System. We simply need look at the language used in relation to sexually related crimes committed against children by all of the agencies/departments concerned in caring for/protecting them. This issue became transparently clear when Professor Alexis Jay released her Rotherham report. We have been campaigning/lobbying against AVP and for its removal from all organisations/systems for many years.

You might recall that, as part of her report, Professor Jay pointed out that child victims of sexual abuse had been labelled as “troubled” by the various agencies who should have been protecting or supporting those children. There was no reference by agencies responsible for the children which acknowledged or accepted out why they might actually be “troubled”. Had professor Jay not released her excellent and game changing report those children would have gone through life being thought of as “troubled teens” and not as child sexual abuse victims, which is what they actually were. This treatment of victims of child sexual abuse has gone on for decades and the way we view and describe victims of this crime type has, in thousands of cases, seriously prejudiced their chance of ever achieving justice. How they could then be expected to recover and become the people they would have become, had they not been abused first by the perpetrator and then by the systems set up to protect them and support them as victims, is beyond our comprehension.

As awarded advocates we wrote about AVP and the damage it does (not only to the abused children but to the very fabric of our Criminal Justice System itself) in our international best selling books Broken [Keenan: 2008] and Where Angels Fear [Keenan, Payne: 2009]. 

We cannot tell you how delighted we were when Anne Coffey MP recently raised the issues surrounding the phrase “Child Prostitute” in parliament. Changing this prejudicial language is not about being kind to the sensitivities of victims/survivors, though we should certainly be considerate of that. It is about something far greater. If you label a child a child prostitute what are you telling them and the rest of society the child is? If you label them a prostituted child what are you telling them and the rest of society they are? The latter removes all doubt regarding choice, consent and clearly indicates that the child in question is a victim of crime.

Sadly this is not the only phrase that prejudices children who suffer the consequences of these heinous crimes. The top five phrases we would like to see removed from all agencies as soon as possible are:

1. Child Prostitute

2. Rent boy

3. Child Porn

4. Historic Sex Crimes

5. Alleged victim

Children who are being abused should never be labelled “troubled” “attention seeking” “slags” or “slappers” [as identified in various reports] by anyone being paid from the public purse to care for, protect or support them and it is unacceptable that this prejudicial culture has continued for as long as it has. We should never refer to children as being in “relationships” with adult groomers/abusers/exploiters. We should never make note of the fact that we think these children have in any way “consented” to their grooming/abuse/exploitation. They are children, legally they cannot consent.

Until we change this culture the abuse of some of the most vulnerable in our society will continue, unchallenged and unhindered. We firmly believe we handed (perhaps blindly) child sexual abusers a fantastic tool which has allowed them to abuse. We armed abusers with the fact that when they told the children they were abusing “when you tell no one will believe you, no one cares” they were actually telling the children the truth.

This prejudice continues into adult life. An example would be when a mother, abused as a child, decides to finally report what had happened to her she is in danger of Social Services being notified. She then runs the risk of being investigated as though she were the criminal. The worst case scenario when this happens is that children are removed from loving, caring parents and placed in the very institutions that abused their mother. This, despite the fact, that their is no evidence to suggest there is a “circle” of sexual violence. In fact the majority of evidence suggests otherwise. If you knew you ran that risk would you tell? 

When victims know that they will be treated as criminals is it any wonder they do not report? And when they don’t report the people who abused them will continue claiming victim after victim simply because of the way we view and treat victims of child sexual abuse.

For more information on AVP please see

Thank you for taking the time to read this post and we hope, if nothing else, it has opened your eyes to a system that acts prejudicially toward victims of child sexual abuse and makes clear how AVP allows and enables abuse to fester.

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