Are the systems of screening now so advanced, so fearful of letter bombs, anthrax or other nasties, that the possibility of communicating with whoever occupies the highest office is unlikely if not impossible? Because I want to write to the Prime Minister Theresa May. So here goes:
“Dear Mrs. MayAs former Home Secretary, your name is involved in the appointment of Dame Lowell Goddard as the third figure in charge of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA), though she has resigned to your appointee Amber Rudd.
The chair of the home affairs select committee, Keith Vaz, now says it may be advisable to break the inquiry up into separate parts. Recent BBC TV news covered it under some five or six headings and one cannot help but ask why this wasn’t thought of before – by Vaz as the chairman, or Goddard, who commented at the time of her appointment that “the inquiry does not have achievable goals”. Why then was nothing done to render those goals more achievable? Who could have or should have taken responsibility to suggest a commitment to five or six smaller enquiries who would report to a main panel?
It is surely recognisable that the longer one delays over investigation into what is called “historical abuse” the more fraught it is with confusion – memory is less reliable as the years pass. Repetition does not necessarily breed truth. We may recall accurately. We may recall as we wish things to have been, rather than as they were, we may recall only what we said before and hope that repetition morphs into truth and this is the territory of perception, which is exploitable by law. And there are a great many legal minds involved in this undertaking.
Then there is the matter of the Truth Project involving anonymous testimony via a hotline (staffed by whom? Samaritans ? Social workers? Legal interns? And to what purpose?). It is imperative to separate people who want to talk about their abuse from people who want to give evidence, and to recognise that it may be necessary to acknowledge a format whereby one becomes the other. I have no legal background but for many years people spoke to me anonymously about their troubles which included past and current experience of abuse. You could always separate those who wanted to talk about it from those who wanted to pursue some form of legal redress.
The most desperate wish is to be believed. To be believed in law was to give weight and recognition to the pain and wrong you had suffered, even if you decided as a survivor not to continue down that road.
It is a really ugly thought but you will not stop child abuse. No matter how much money has been spent on this project so far (millions) or how much is allocated to it because it’s not going to go away – you will not stop child abuse. Its incidence can be reduced. Its whistleblowers – whether victims or witnesses – can be encouraged to come forward but it will always involve personal conscience and sheer sticking power. And if part of the settlement is financial, there will always be those who don’t care and those who are out for whatever they can get out of it.
I did not vote for you. I have never voted for the Conservative Party. You have made a good beginning at a difficult time in British history. Part of your success has been a colder harder look at the political realities which brought you to power. I urge that cold eye on the IICSA: it needs it if it is not to fall into further confusion and disrepute. Abuse has much in common with slavery but gets much less favourable headlines. People shy away from the realities of it like nervous horses. It smells, it casts a shadow, it is easier to ignore than to confront. Its pain is seminal. Do not confuse or allow all those clever people to conflate the difference between the emotional fallout and the possibility of legal redress. Accept the limitations of what may be achieved rather than allow such a project to fall into an expensive dream, thus abusing the abused all over again.