The Chair of Voicing CSA attended the Pilot forum as a survivor and released his reaction to the resignation of Justice Lowell Goddard from the Inquiry
“I attended the Pilot Survivors Forum at the invitation of the IICSA on Friday 5th August 2016. Quite rightly I am not allowed to discuss anyone else’s opinions or views expressed at the Forum as I respect the right to confidentiality and privacy as set out by the Code of Conduct for the Forum. I am therefore unable to tag or link anyone into this post as it may be deemed that I am stating they were in attendance. The only views or opinions set out here are the views and opinions of myself only and is not representative of the views or opinions of Voicing CSA as I was invited to attend as myself and not as a representative of Voicing CSA.
Anybody that attended the Survivor Forum and mentions or states their viewpoint on this post does so voluntarily and without any coercion or encouragement from me or anyone associated with Voicing CSA. If you state that you were in attendance at the Forum you are deemed to have said so of your own free will. Please as a matter of importance remember that you are also bound by the terms of the Code of Conduct and do not mention the name of any others present or their input into the meeting except for your own.
The timing and indeed resignation of Justice Dame Lowell Goddard the Chair of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse was most unwelcome and unsettling for survivors and victims of sexual abuse in childhood throughout England and Wales. However, we must work to continue the progress that has been made in the last 16 months. The Inquiry has been given a solid footing with Goddard at the helm and now we must move into a new realm as we await the next Chair. When Goddard accepted the Chair, the inquiry had carried out no work and no direction or course set due to the repeated process of appointing chair after chair. I do question the resignation as I understood that there was a period of 3 months before departure but the resignation and departure has been almost instantaneous
With the captain of the ship having jumped does not mean that the ship had a hole in it and is sinking. It is not sinking and the rest of the crew are still on board and the work continues as we wait for a new ships Captain. Who that will be is solely the decision of the Home Secretary, the Rt. Hon. Amber Rudd MP, who is thoroughly committed to the Inquiry. I hope in her decision making she will consult with survivor groups and organisations to help make the right choice.
A lot of time was given to the resignation of Lowell Goddard as Goddard was supposed to be present and Address those assembled which meant Ivor Franks, Dru Sharpling and Alexis Jay had less time to make their presentations but they each covered one of three main areas of the inquiry, the public hearings project, the truth project and the research project. At the core of that are three guiding principles. Comprehensive (no exceptions), Inclusive (no incident of sexual abuse too small or big to be excluded) and Thorough (no stone left unturned).
The meeting was quite informal and those present were able to ask questions before during and after the presentations which I appreciated.
There was a table discussion and each table had a facilitator and a member of the VSCP at each table and the tree main topics for those present was to discuss the following –
1. How could the Inquiry better engage with Victims and Survivors?
2. What do you think are barriers to engagement?
3. Is the available information about the Inquiry fit for purpose? What do you think of the Inquiry’s
The following responses were given by me
That the IICSA appears to want to set up meetings across the country and engage with survivors and victims to share their experiences with the Inquiry. I declared an interest inasmuch that I was the Chair of Voicing CSA (VCSA) and that we were already doing that as a CIC (Community Interest Company) that was self funded by the Directors. Quite rightly the Inquiry cannot show favour to any organisation but that there could be a criteria set by the IICSA to be supported by them either through funding or in support of funding applications. It shows no favour if an organisation fits and achieves the criteria set. It is a positive method of support for survivor led organisations to engage with survivors and victims for the purposes of the Inquiry.
That there needs to be a hard hitting advertising campaign because it is not just about survivors and victims engaging with the Inquiry but a need for greater awareness as unless you suffered abuse there appeared with the general public to be little or no awareness of the Inquiry or indeed in many cases an aversion to the Inquiry as a whole. I suggested an advertising campaign that was as strong in its approach not dissimilar to the advertising campaign of the 1980s in relation to HIV/AIDS.
Barriers to engagement are that the face of IICSA is not human, that there is little if any communication via social media although the IICSA and the VSCP have Twitter accounts it seems only to send messages out and does not interact with Twitter followers and interested parties and wondered if this was because it was possibly lawyer controlled and that anything posted is checked and rechecked before any information goes out and is being far too cautious.
That survivors and victims of child sexual abuse is classless and most importantly that those on a low income may struggle with costs of sending documents or papers to the inquiry and that they should incorporate a FREEPOST address to further one of their guiding principles of inclusivity.
For the last point I shared these views. That the information going out was fit for purpose but was not readily available and only seen if you seek it out and that booklets should be produced for the health service, prisons and remand centres, addiction organisations, the homeless. The list was endless but that it is not available. That the website needed updating as it was difficult to find new information and that it should have a softer interface with perhaps pop up windows with explanations in a ‘bubble’ stating what each section or posting was about.
My views on the forum itself were of a positive nature though the forum was quite short, some four hours in all and included a lunch break. Perhaps if these forums are rolled out nationally there should be a suggested finish time but that there is a margin of time for questions and answers at the end for those who may not have spoken up and wished to raise issues more privately.
At the end of the day what could have been disastrous due to the resignation of Justice Goddard the Pilot Survivors and Victims Forum turned out in my opinion to be constructive, informative and necessary. Our work goes on.”